• RSS Queering the Church

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS Spirit of a Liberal

    • Ten Questions for Trump Supporters May 6, 2019
      If you’re a Trump supporter, here’s a quiz for you in the quiet of your own thoughts. Don’t be defensive; dare to think long and hard and ponder the questions seriously. 1)  Why did Russia want Trump to win? 2)  Why do black voters overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump? Hispanics? LGBTQ? Women? 3)  Why does Trump […] [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my […]
      Obie Holmen
    • Ancient History Made Contemporary and Compelling May 4, 2019
      Colleen Kwong is a pastor and an artist (potter). We began bumping into each other and exchanging our work a few years ago at church conventions. My fingers trace her clay labyrinth that sits on my desk. I sent her a proof copy of Wormwood and Gall, and she soon replied that she “devoured” it […] [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full l […]
      Obie Holmen
  • RSS There Will be Bread

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS The Wild Reed

    • Recognising and Honoring Australia's First Naturalists May 24, 2019
      (Part 8 of Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019)NOTE: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this post contains images and names of people who are now deceased.While recently perusing Port Macquarie's one and only bookstore, I came across a title that instantly caught my attention: Australia's First Naturalists: Indigenou […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through” May 22, 2019
      (Part 7 of Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019)One rainy Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago I drove down to Guruk's Shelly Beach to watch the ocean waves. On the way I stopped and bought a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald and a packet of the iconic Australian snack, Twisties (cheese-flavored, of course!).After spending time listening to Enya […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
  • RSS Bilgrimage

  • RSS Enlightened Catholicism

  • RSS Far From Rome

    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • In The Closet of the Vatican: New Investigative Study February 22, 2019
      In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy - just published today, February 22nd, 2019.Thanks to Kittredge Cheery of the wonderful gay Christian blog,  QSpirit Blog, for the heads up about the publication of this major new investigative study into the secret homosexual double lives of many priests (and bishops and cardinals) in the vatican […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Richard Demma)
    • Wanderer by Sarah Leon: Gay Debut Novel of the Year February 11, 2019
      A very young Sarah Leon published this heat-wrenching  love story in French in 2016 when she was barely twenty years old. Three years later we are blessed to have this exquisite English translation of the work  by John Cullen, a translator of note with many books to his name. It is one of the most affecting love stories you will ever read.Wanderer has alread […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Richard Demma)
  • RSS The Jesus Manifesto

    • Another World is Neccessary: Anarchism, Christianity and the Race from the White House July 30, 2008
      I’ll be presenting at the upcoming Jesus Radicals conference in Columbus, Ohio. My session (on the relationship between Church and State) will be on Friday afternoon. If you’re in the area, drop by. I’d love to meet some of the folks who frequent this site. Here’s the info: August 15-16, 2008 St. John’s Episcopal 1003 W Town Columbus, OH [...]ShareThis […]
      Mark Van Steenwyk
  • RSS John McNeill: Spiritual Transformations

  • RSS Perspective

    • WP interview with Pete Buttigieg May 23, 2019
      He's asked about a lot of issues, and I have to say I agree with pretty much all of his opinions. Enjoy ...
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)
  • Advertisements

Aquinas, “Nature” – and Sex.

Thomas Aquinas and Natural Law are often trotted out by the rule-book Catholics alongside the half-dozen clobber texts as a supposed justification for denying respect and equality to sexual minorities. I have absolutely no expertise in Thomist theology, but was intrigued by this observation, in a longer article (“The Other Side of the Catholic Tradition”), at the Washington Post.

Thomas Aquinas, who followed a century after Hildegard, wrote commentaries on 10 works by the greatest scientist of his day, Aristotle, even though the pope had forbidden Christians to study Aristotle. So controversial was Aquinas in his day that the king of France had to call out his troops to surround the convent where Aquinas lived to protect him from Christians aroused by fundamentalist clergy. For Aquinas, “revelation comes in two books—the Bible and Nature” and “a mistake about nature results in a mistake about God.” Aquinas insisted that one is always responsible to one’s conscience, more than to any other authority (emphasis added).

There are clear echoes of this in the modern world, where so many religious reactionaries insist on ignoring the clear findings of science, inserting instead their own established prejudice. If we accept Aquinas’  thesis that “a mistake about nature results in a mistake about God”, the implications for Catholic sexual ethics are profound. The first of these would have to be a recognition that same-sex attraction is tu entirely natural and non-pathological dominant sexuality for a small but distinct minority of people, and  a smaller part of the sexual make-up of many more. This much is familiar, as is the knowledge that many animals (possibly even all or most mammals, but also birds, reptiles and insects) also practice degrees of homosexual activity.

No species has been found in which homosexual behaviour has not been shown to exist, with the exception of species that never have sex at all, such as sea urchins and aphis. Moreover, a part of the animal kingdom is hermaphroditic, truly bisexual. For them, homosexuality is not an issue.

Medical News

But even more important, and not nearly as well-known, are the findings from science that natural sexual activity, as observed in the animal kingdom, is not after all solely geared to procreation. This has been the traditional assumption, but thanks to empirical evidence, we now know better. In several animal species, an extraordinary range of non-procreative sexual activities occur.

  • In some animals, sexual intercourse begins as much as a year or two before physical maturity and the onset of fertility – and so with no prospect of procreation.
  • Some species practice anal intercourse. or conventional intercourse without ejaculation, or intercourse outside of the estrus period.
  • Many species engage in masturbation, alone, or with others of either sex. Where they lack hands they use alternative strategies.

Autoeroticism also occurs widely among animals, both male and female. A variety of creative techniques are used, including genital stimulation using the hand or front paw (primates, Lions), foot (Vampire Bats, primates), flipper (Walruses), or tail (Savanna Baboons), sometimes accompanied by stimulation of the nipples (Rhesus Macaques, Bonobos); auto-fellating or licking, sucking and/or nuzzling by a male of his own penis (Common Chimpanzees, Savanna Bonobos, Vervet Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Thinhorn Sheep, Bharal, Aovdad, Dwarf Cavies); stimulation of the penis by flipping or rubbing it against the belly or in its own sheath (White-tailed and Mule Deer, Zebras and Takhi); spontaneous ejaculations (Mountain Sheep, Warthogs, Spotted Hyenas); and stimulation of the genitals using inanimate objects (found in several primates and cetaceans)

-Bagemihl, Biological Exuberance


  • dolphins engage in non-procreative sex that has no human counterpart. They use their partners’ blowholes as additional orifices available for penetration.
  • Some species practice oral sex – including oral self-pleasuring (“auto-fellatio”)

Animals of several species are documented as engaging in both autofellatio and oral sex. Auto-fellatio or oral sex in animals is documented in goats, primates, hyenas, fruits bats and sheep


  • Remarkably, some primates even make their own sex toys, fashioning dildos out of liana vines, and masturbation aids from suitable fruits.
  • Chimpanzees and penguins have been found to engage in forms of prostitution, exchanging sexual favours for food (chimps) or pebbles used in nest-building (penguins).

The implications for sexual theology are profound.

To forestall the standard reaction to this argument, I am not arguing here that because these sexual practices are found in nature, they are therefore acceptable. Animals also engage in incest, intercourse with juveniles, and necrophilia – none of which I recommend. What I am suggesting, is that we must remove the argument from nature in deciding on sexual morality. Much of the traditional Catholic theology on sex derives from Aquinas’ concept of “natural law”, which he in turn derived ultimately from his reading of Aristotle. We now know conclusively that whatever his value as a philosopher, Aristotle has no value whatsoever as a natural scientist. By Aquinas’ own reasoning, to follow Aristotle’s mistakes about nature is to make mistakes about God. To be really true to the spirit of Aquinas, we must therefore reject his own conclusions about nature in the light of the scientific evidence, and find alternative sources on which to base our sexual ethics.

What other sources are there? Traditionally, these have been the Bible and the early Church fathers to go on. Modern Biblical scholars are finding that many of the traditional interpretations of Scripture on sexual matters are flawed, while the ascetic elevation of celibacy as a Christian ideal, and the accompanying disapproval of all sexual acts, was based on a belief in the parousia – an imminent second coming of Christ.

If the traditional sources are now shown to be flawed, what else is there? The example of Aquinas in fact, helps us here, but pointing to his commitment to studying the best scientists of his day. We too can learn (and the Vatican agrees) from the best scientists of our day, not in the field of animal behaviour, but in the modern discipline of human sexuality and related fields. The findings by these scientists are that sexuality is a fundamental part of our human make-up, that diverse orientations are entirely natural, that a healthy and active sexual life can contribute directly to both physical and mental health,  and that sexual expression serves many more purposes than simply procreation alone.

Probably the majority of Catholic theologians already accept this. It is time that the Vatican paid more than lip-service to its claim that we must take seriously the findings of natural and human sciences, and did so too.

Books:

Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity

Roughgarden, Joan:Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: