Does marriage of senior adults invalidate a portion of argument against homosexual marriage?


I am in a deep debate regarding with my nephew. He has stumped me with two questions.

Question 1: I’ve argued that marriage and the marital act must always be open to life. However, since the marriage between an elderly woman and man is not, how can we hold the position that all marriages (and marital acts) must be open to life to be valid? Note, he brought this up as part of a response to my arguments against gay marriage (relative to unitive and procreative principles for marriage).

Question 2: If a couple has an licit reason for temporararily avoiding pregnancy (and corresponding intention to have children later), and the couple is in full agreement on this reason (in turn taking away from my argument that the marital acti than turns the woman and/or man into an object for sexual gratification), than why can they not use artificial birth control during that time? What is the difference to using NFP?

Also, related to this, he proposes that the sin of Onan was really about Onan not wanting to have relations with the widow of his brother, and not essentially about birth control - so that the Bible really does not forbid birthcontrol. I realize that the church fathers and constant church teaching have clearly been against artificial birthcontrol.

Thank you for any help (and relevant sources / quotes)


Question 1: A man and a woman, despite not being able to conceive naturally due to age, are still cooperating with the natural way in which God has designed. They are doing all in their power to conceive and are fully open, they are not able to due to another natural part of life. Homosexual relations cannot be open, because the act itself is fundamentally and naturally closed to conception.

Question 2: NFP allows for the couple to still conceive even if they are trying with reason to avoid it. They are still fundamentally open to God blessing them with children, even if the practical chances are the same as contraception, as they are still fully participating in the natural way that leads to conception. The same cannot be said about artificial contraception.

As for Onan, it was Jewish custom to marry the widow of your brother, so your nephews interpretation doesn’t seem likely in context.


Have you heard of Abraham and Sarah and Elizabeth? :wink:


How are marital relations between the elderly not open to life? They might not conceive, but they are participating in an act ordered to procreation and are not taking artificial means to prevent it. Whether it occurs or not is a different story – but they are acting in a way that is open to it.

There is also the unitive aspect of marital relations. Just because procreation will likely not occur (for instance, because it’s not the right time of month for it) does not mean that the spouses are mere “objects for sexual gratification”. Rather, their marital union during this time serves the unitive purpose.

ABC is an artificial means to thwart the natural processes of the body. NFP does not attempt to hinder any natural process; it simply recognizes the way that the human body works naturally.

Does he provide any substantiation for this claim, or is it just an opinion he’s heard somewhere?

To understand the story of Onan, one must understand levirate marriage. Onan was required to provide offspring to his brother’s widow. Once he did, then that child would receive his brother’s inheritance. If he did not, then Onan himself would receive the inheritance. So, what Onan does is doubly bad: he takes advantage of his brother’s widow sexually, not intending to give her children; and he intends to leave her childless and without any means of support, while he takes his brother’s inheritance for his own.

The story of Onan is all about sinful sexual behavior and the attempt to avoid conception.

(Edited to add: there is a passage in Deuteronomy about a man who refuses to live up to his duties to his dead brother’s wife. If Onan merely didn’t want to have sex with her, he could have refused. He didn’t. :wink: )


How is a marriage act between the elderly not open to life?


Same with women who have had a hysterectomy for medical reasons. They may still be of child bearing age but because of the hysterectomy not be able to conceive a child. They must still have marital relations in line with the Church and do so as fully open to life.


Before the marital act can be open to life, the marital act must first be possible. It is only possible between a man and a woman. Two persons of the same gender can never engage in the marital act because they are not sexually complementary. There is no marital act. Conjugal relations are impossible. As a result marriage between two persons of the same sex is impossible.


That is not exact. What the Church actually teaches is that each marital act must be per se ordered to unity and procreation.

Each marital act is per se ordered to procreation, even when infertile due to age, defect, or disease.

Contraception is grave matter against the sixth commandment. Each act must be per se ordered to procreation.

With NFP you refrain from sex or not. If you engage in marital intercourse you take no action to render it sterile. The act is per se ordered to procreation.

The Bible and Birth Control by Charles Provan


Being open to life means that one is doing everything as prescribed by God without intending to obstruct procreation. Being open to life does not mean that procreation must happen, or that procreation has to be likely, or that procreation must be even naturally possible (such as in infertility due to age).

Artificial birth control and NFP are different because ABC is doing the act while intending to obstruct one of its intended ends (procreation), therefore abusing the act, whereas in NFP the couple abstains from the act altogether and therefore does not abuse it.


I thank you and each of the other people in this thread for the thoughtful replies. I appreciate the help. I think I have finally rounded the corner with my nephew. And he is now also reading the book by Patrick Coffin called “The Contraception Deception” which is another very good book on this topic.


My sense is that examining human relationships with such a precise and calculating eye with regard to any particular established framework of rules and regulations runs rather counter-intuitive to how relationships work. If you’re a man or woman who falls in love with another man or woman of the same sex who is of age and who is consenting, well that’s how love happened in your case. Burying all that for the sake of a rule book could extinguish your only chance at happiness. And of course, as we have seen, making such relationships illegal (as they were in the past) only forced many same sex people to take up vocations where they could carry on such things in private out of the public eye. Now that it’s legal, you see less and less people going into those vocations. You may be able to think of some examples. Furthermore, an obsession with things such as contraception could conceivably cause such things as a church that is actively evangelizing Sub-Saharan African countries suffering an AIDS epidemic to instruct people not to use contraception. You may be able to think of some examples of this as well. That is not being “open to life.” It ends lives.

All the best!


Elderly, barren women conceived and bore children in scripture - from Sarah to Elizabeth.

There is no same sex couple anywhere in time or space that has done that.

Marriage is:

  1. Of complementary opposite sexes.
  2. Procreative
  3. Unitive, whether procreative or not.

Same sex can be none of this. It is sterile by design, by intent, by desire, by its very nature.


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