Marriage and Family
This essay will examine the article “Marriage” written by Reverend Andrew Greeley. It will begin by finding and stating Greeley’s thesis. Next, this paper will examine the goal Greeley has in writing this article. Following that, this paper will summarize the argument made by Greeley. Once his argument has been presented this paper will analyze the logical consistency of the argument and seek to discover any weaknesses. Finally, this paper will briefly respond to the arguments made in the article. The conclusion of this analysis will be that Greeley’s argument is quite interesting and fairly well-reasoned, though, there are a few interesting implications of his argument.
To begin, Greeley presents a fairly straightforward thesis. His thesis is that humans are meant to have sex and engage in long-term relationships with each other. Furthermore, Greeley contends that the Catholic Church’s past stances and constant encouragement of limiting sex or forgoeing it altogether are incorrect and somewhat harmful. We can infer this thesis from the first question asked in Greeley’s article, “Are human beings biologically and genetically programmed for the marriage bond?” (Greeley 1) Greeley quite readily answers this with a definitive “yes” (Greeley 1). The rest of Greeley’s thesis must be inferred from the rest of his article as Greeley asks and answers several questions regarding the Church’s history on sex. Ultimately his thesis and argument can be easily deciphered.
Greeley appears to have an interesting purpose in writing this article. His goal is the reversal of many of the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex. Greeley appears to believe that the puritanical nature and sinful view on sex are incorrect and harmful. He wants to reverse this by illuminating how beneficial sex is for, not just a person to person relationship, but also to people’s relationship with God. This is in stark contrast to many of the Church’s teachings on sex, which Greeley notes, imply that sex is sinful and the less you have to it the better a Catholic you are (Greeley 7).
Greeley makes an interesting argument which will be broken down below premise by premise in order to allow this essay to examine better it in subsequent sections.
Humans are evolved from animals through sex (Greeley 1).
Sex for humans is often much more involved than in other animals (Greeley2).
This facilitates greater levels of bonding between humans (Greeley 2).
3b. Animals which do not exhibit such complex coupling often have shorter relationships (Greeley 2).
God controlled human evolution (Greeley 7).
Therefore, God wanted humans to have sex as is stated in Judeo-Christian heritage (Greeley 3).
Love between humans is a sacrament and also involves a relationship with God (Greeley 3).
Sex is a key part of love (Greeley 3).
Therefore, sex is a key part of a relationship with God (Greeley 7).
Attempts to “bridle” human passions in relationships are therefore harmful (Greeley 6,8).
Therefore, the Catholic Church should change its position on matters of sex (Greeley 9).
Greeley’s premises are located just slightly out of order and the above is only meant to paraphrase and organize his argument to allow us to examine better the logical consistency of it which this paper will now do.
Greeley’s first point is well supported in science and he cites several studies in its favor. The same is true for the second premise as well and there are numerous examples of it too. Greeley’s third point somewhat builds off his previous points which, otherwise, are fairly independent. The more involved nature of sex for humans does naturally imply that there is some bonding benefit meant to occur. We also have point 3b which is the inverse of points 2 and 3. This point is also fairly well supported by the literature, or at least Greeley contends it is. Moving on to point 4 we have an interesting premise: God controlled human evolution. This is implied early in Greeley’s argument though he does not outright say so until page 7 of his article. This premise is key to his argument. If it is true that God did direct human evolution in the course it took then clearly he meant for sex to be an important part of human romantic relationships as Greeley says in point 5. This point is difficult at best to demonstrate in any meaningful way. Greeley, obviously, seems to believe it is true and he is writing for an audience, mainly other Catholics, who also likely believe it is true. We can, therefore, accept that this is true then because for the audience meant to read this argument, it is true. The second part however, is somewhat more troubling. The notion that sex is supported in Christianity. This has not always been the case. In fact, simply because something is natural and has been supported in the past does not mean it should be supported today. Arsenic, for example, is a naturally occurring element. It’s also very poisonous. Slavery, also was supported in the past by the Church and rules for how to properly practice slavery can be found in the Bible. Greeley indirectly addresses why the Church should be in favor of sex as a sacrament later on in his argument.
Moving on further to point 6, Greeley has somewhat started a new argument based on his previous one. He begins where his last argument left off, that God meant for sex to be a part of human relationships. Now he states that human love is a sacrament of God. This argument he supports as a part of Catholic teachings. From this point, the rest of the argument flows rather naturally. If love is such an important part of our relationship with God and sex, which Greeley states with point 7, is an important part of love then sex is therefore an important part of our relationship with God too as Greeley states in point 8.
Greeley’s article pauses briefly in it’s argument to make a brief defense of his positions. The Church has a reputation of viewing sex as sin even in marriage or as something that should be limited as much as possible, the better to get closer to God (Greeley 4, 5). Greeley notes that in the past the Catholic Church’s position on sex has been mistaken. Sex was viewed as something which got in the way of the divine. Instead, Greeley is arguing that sex is a gift from the divine and something which should be appreciated as such rather than be so obsessively controlled as some in the Church have done. This defense flows into his final two points of his argument rather well. These attempts at controlling, or “bridling” human passion fly in the face of our relationship with God and are therefore harmful. Naturally, the Catholic Church is not supposed to engage in harmful activities and so it should change it’s position on matters of sex and be more open and less constrictive on sex.
Overall, the logical flow of Greeley’s argument works quite well. The only potential problem comes in point 5 as was mentioned earlier. Greeley makes something of a defense of this with the rest of his argument by claiming that because sex is a part of love, and love is a part of our relationship with the divine then sex is a key part of our relationship with the divine. This argument is independent of his earlier points. In fact, his point that sex has been supported and encouraged in the past is somewhat irrelevant given this. Otherwise, the argument is fairly strong.
The author of this paper will now make a few brief responses to the argument. The main one is that Greeley’s argument might do too good of a job. Greeley seems fairly open about matters of sex, while he does not mention gay people in his argument it is not hard to extrapolate his argument to an argument in favor of the Church accepting gays. If you assume that homosexuality evolved much like heterosexuality did then the same argument could be made there. In fact, there is a significant amount of research supporting homosexuality as an evolved or genetic trait. Homosexual behaviors are observed in many other animals other than humans. It is difficult to tell if Greeley wanted to make this argument or would himself make this argument. At the moment, the Catholic Church still frowns upon gays, though not to the degree it has done in the past. It would be interesting to see what Greeley’s response would be to this argument if he has one at all. There are several other implications of Greeley’s argument as well. This was simply one of the most significant ones.
It is unclear as well if Greeley would support having sex before marriage. He makes little mention of marriage being a necessary part of sex as a sacrament and somewhat chides churchmen of the past who view sex as something that is bad but should at the very least be confined to marriage. It is likely that Greeley would argue that a key part of sex as a sacrament is that it takes place within the bonds of marriage. However, he makes little mention as to why sex could only be a sacrament if it takes place within the bonds of marriage. At some points he seems to argue generally against “bridling” passions though he does not outright state which institutions themselves specifically are responsible for this bridling.
The argument presented by Greeley is a fairly interesting one. This paper first identified what Greeley was trying to argue for and then proceeded to break down his argument and examine it point by point. Overall, it was found that his argument is relatively consistent internally. There is, however, an interesting set of implications that come about as a result of Greeley’s argument. It is unclear whether Greeley himself would be in favor of them all or parts of them. Either way they are very interesting along with Greeley’s argument itself.
Greeley, Andrew. “Marriage.” The Bottom Line Catechism for Contemporary Catholics (1982). Print.