The Boundaries Of The Loves
There are four kinds of love: Agapic, Platonic, Romantic and Erotic.
Agape is the best kind of love: it is the kind of love embodied by Christ on the cross, it is the love which lies at the essence of divinity. Agape is a love that we are called to extend to literally everyone – including our enemies. This love has the purpose of producing a just, stable, ideal society.
Platonic love is the love between friends. It occurs between people of any gender. Platonic love is ordered towards the individual enrichment of each of the friends. Friendships may arise and dissolve spontaneously as time goes by.
Romantic love is for committed lovers. The lovers may be of any gender, male/male, female/female or male/female. Speculatively, it may be possible between more than two people at once. This love is ordered towards the vocation or mission of the people involved: they are dedicating their lives to their partners. Vows and formal promises may be made, binding the partners together. In principle, these relationships are dissolvable, however this requires official process and dispensation, and ideally the promises are adhered to for an entire lifetime.
Erotic love is reserved for a man united to a woman in marriage. It is ordered towards the creation of children, and the strengthening of the indissolvable bond that exists between this married couple. Divorce is not possible; once a marriage has been contracted, it can never be dissolved (even if all the different loves involved become absent).
Does Catholic Moral Theology Allow For Same-sex Marriage?
- Everything has a purpose. To thwart something’s purpose is to sin.
- The purpose of erotic love is to create children and bind married spouses together. Anything which thwarts this dual purpose is sinful.
Catholic Sexual Ethics Summarised As Five Simple Rules:
- It is sinful to ejaculate outside a vagina
- It is sinful for a person to engage in erotic stimulation if they do not also have the intention and ability to engage in completed copulative sex (ie. ejaculation inside a vagina) some time in the future.
- It is sinful to engage in erotic stimulation with someone to whom you are not married.
- Sodomy (erotic anal stimulation) is always and everywhere sinful.
- Only a committed relationship between a man and a woman can be referred to as a marriage.
Implications Of These Rules:
- The sort of romantic commitment embodied in marriage is forbidden between no two people, regardless their of gender, age, race and so on (That is, there is no Catholic moral principle preventing such love): Men can romantically commit to men; women can romantically commit to women. The only restriction is that of mental and emotional maturity and rationality being possessed by both parties entering into the relationship. The church needs to recognise this and make allowances for official, formal, liturgical vows of public commitment to be made between same-sex couples. We also need some new terminology to describe such relationships: they are not marriages, but they are not mere friendships either; perhaps “Consecrated Romance” would be appropriate.
- Erotic stimulation is forbidden between same-sex couples, as these relationships do not amount to marriage.
- Masturbation is sinful (rules one and two).
- Condoms are sinful (rule one)
- Romantic physical signs of affection between same-sex couples are fine. For example hugging, hand holding, kissing on the cheek and briefly pecking on the lips are all permissible.
- Erotic stimulation between same-sex couples is forbidden, so french kissing is not permissible in public or in private and genital stimulation is strictly out of bounds.
- Oral sex is permissible, but only in the context of foreplay between a married couple.
- Erotic stimulation is something that should only occur in private. French kissing in public is inappropriate even if the couple are married.
- Same-sex attraction is not a disorder unless it strays into eroticism. It is perfectly ok to feel romantic attraction to someone of the same sex.
The Bottom Line:
Same-sex marriage is possible so long as you don’t call it marriage and the couple doesn’t have sex.