February 24, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Examing our motives in following our biology

The National Geographic cable television channel and magazine recently produced a piece on the elements of heterosexual attraction. That is, what biological mechanisms are responsible for the who, why and what we are attracted to in finding a sexual partner.

They defined three stages of this attraction: lust, romantic love and attachment.

Lust, of course, is the hormonal rush we receive from the smell, the look or touch of another person. It’s the unconscious choosing of a partner who will complement our own genetic qualities in producing a healthy, hardy offspring.

Romantic love is the employment of lust to form a physical relationship; in other words, unconsciously using all this inherent biological information to make a baby.

And finally, attachment is the transformation of lust and romantic love into a stable, ongoing family relationship that permits the nurturing and raising of babies.

All of this biology neatly concurs with the teachings of our Church. We used to call it “natural law,” a concept that we haven’t heard much about lately. But it’s the idea that producing and sustaining life is necessary for human survival, automatically negating other ideas like same-sex marriage or abortion. Or even purposeful childlessness.

This was the point I was trying to make in a recent column that several readers took me to task for. No doubt I deserved rebuke if I sounded mean-spirited, but I thought I’d made it clear that I was talking about those people who deliberately choose not to have children.

This was an option that was not widely available until the past few decades. But with the advent of the pill and other technology, a new challenge to human morality has come about. Now we must examine our motives in following our own biology.

Certainly, not all couples are able to produce their own children. Certainly, some couples marry beyond the age of childbearing. And certainly, some couples understand themselves well enough to know that they should not have children at all, but rather, serve life in other ways. Those are “givens” in the concept of marriage, which is a source of sacramental love to those who enter it—children or no children.

No one must agree with me, but it’s still my opinion that those who remain childless by choice are usually making a mistake. That’s my conclusion after having kids myself, and by observing the experience of others, both those who have children and those who choose not to. We need to remember the Church has taught for hundreds of years that couples enter marriage open to having children. Marriage is part of God’s plan for many of us, and God intended that union to be fruitful.

However much we may hate the idea that we are slaves to our own biology, the fact remains that we are naturally predisposed to reproduce ourselves. It seems to me that, as believers in a loving and gracious God, we must admit not only the necessity, but also the fulfillment and joy of producing children and raising them in faith.

God has created a wonderful natural order in which we are the major participants. God also has given us free will to explore the wonders of the world while trying to determine and follow God’s will. We need to remember that, even in the face of changing times.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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