The Bioethics of Fertility & Gender

By Gardiner, Anne Barbeau | New Oxford Review, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

The Bioethics of Fertility & Gender


Gardiner, Anne Barbeau, New Oxford Review


THE BIOETHICS OF FERTILITY & GENDER Fertility and Gender: Issues in Reproductive and Sexual Ethics. Edited by Helen Watt. Anscombe Bioethics Centre (www.bioethics. org.uk; phone: 011-44-01865610-212). 220 pages. $25.

Fertility and Gender consists of fourteen solidly Catholic essays from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Britain. Its authors include theologians, philosophers, and economists. By defending to the hilt the Church's perennial moral teachings, they have produced a highly controversial book.

In the introduction, Anthony Fisher, O.P., bishop of Parramatto, Australia, reminds us that an abortion occurs every twenty-five seconds in Europe and is the main cause of death on the Continent In succumbing to "socially condoned depravity," Europe has dismissed the Church's teaching as interfering with consumer choice. Sexual identity is seen as "chosen, socially invented or medically manufactured." The Church stands as a bulwark against this madness, insisting that sexual identity is ontologica], a permanent "biological reality informed by a rational soul in each person."

The first four essays in the book under review are on marriage. Paul Mankowski, S.J., shows how the Old Testament's overriding concern for fecundity entailed arisk that the family would become God's rival. This is why Jesus used strong language against idolizing family ties (Lk. 14:26) and elevated spiritual allegiance over tribal loyalty (Mk. 3:32-35) . In the Old Testament, too, making a gift to God of "the sexual potentiality of married love" was impossible because it was not yet "a sacrifice acceptable to God, in the manner of a lamb 'without spot or blemish.'" Jesus paradoxically made this sacrifice possible by His teaching and, as Fr. Mankowski says, by "the emphatic example of his own celibate life/7 As St. Paul recognized, the union of man and woman has been made sacred by its new relation to the "mystery of Christ and the Church." Now "fruit" may be generated "by martyrdom and virginity as well as the marriage bed."

Alexander R. Pruss describes romantic love as "a form of love, defined by a particular kind of union" - not a merely biological union but one "that does justice to a form of interpersonal love" which stretches across time through the "uniquely personal act" of a lifelong commitment in marriage. When sexual acts are not part of this deep personal union or open to life, they deceive our yearnings for love.

Luke Gormally , former director of the Anscombe Centre, argues that politics today is governed by the ideology that sex is a private choice unrelated to procreation. In reality, sex cannot be detached from procreation; sexual complementarity exists for the reproduction of the species. A man has "only half the capacity to reproduce and needs the "complementary capacity" of a woman in order to form a union "apt for reproduction." The proper object of political action, therefore, should be to uphold "the good of marriage for the sake of the good of the child" in order to avert societal suicide.

Yet, once a population has embraced "a rationale for non-generative kinds of sexual activity," there's no reason left "to limit sexual activity to a marital relationship, the relationship which uniquely serves the good of the child." Sodomy is especially subversive of marriage: "a homosexual lifestyle," Gormally writes, "being radically unchaste and conspicuously hostile to the good of marriage, must be judged to have no reasonable claim to a place in society. Political authority with a sound conception of the common good of society, far from recognizing homosexual unions, would criminalize public manifestations of homosexual behavior, and otherwise would support efforts to help those with homosexual tendencies to live chastely." Indeed, it would grant "no legal recognition of homosexual partnerships, as in civil partnership legislation." Fifty years ago, this statement wouldn't have raised an eyebrow, but today it's downright explosive. …

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