Catholic Virtues
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The Single Vocation - VII -  Objections

‘Conception through the Word Is
against Natural Law’

Atila S. Guimarães
I continue responding to objections to the idea that virginity is a higher vocation than marriage. What triggered this discussion were words of St. John Chrysostom eulogizing virginity in comparison with marriage. He made a pedagogic exaggeration and affirmed that marriage as we know today did not exist in Paradise. Instead, our first parents were virgins and this brought them a great deal of happiness. Only after their sin, the Saint affirms, did marriage with its present day characteristics come forth.

engraving st john

St. John Chrystostom wrote much on marriage and virginity

I passed those texts of St. John Chrysostom to our new writer Salwa Bachar, who commented on them in some articles (here and here). Her articles produced a storm of opposed reactions. Married women became furious: “St. Chrysostom is wrong;” “Salwa is arrogant in trying to teach us about virginity;” “TIA is spreading error;” “We demand those articles on virginity be removed from the website.”

In my first article of refutation, I showed that most probably St. John Chrysostom was referring to other hypotheses, which affirm that marriage would have been different than it became after the fall.

To validate those opinions, I noted that the conception of Our Lord Jesus Christ took place in a different way: The Angel Gabriel appeared to Our Lady and invited her to be the Mother of God; after some hesitation she accepted, and the conception took place through the word of the Angel and her Fiat, duly blessed by the Holy Spirit. I wrote another article on the topic answering other objections to this thesis.

With the following Fourth Objection, I will close my responses to objections about the conception through the word. From the Fifth Objection on, I will provide answers to several other topics.

Fourth objection:

1. The conception of the Divine Word through the word of the Angel, duly blessed by the Holy Spirit, was an extraordinary and miraculous fact that occurred in the supernatural order;

2. Now then, the normal conception of children should not be part of the supernatural order, but the natural order;

3. Therefore, to affirm that in Paradise all conceptions would take place like the one of the Divine Word is contrary to the natural order.

Answer to the fourth objection:

1. Human nature is composed of two elements: the spirit or soul, which makes us similar to the Angels, and the body, which make us similar to the animals.

2. It is according to the natural order for man to teach others. Teaching is a transmission of knowledge that proceeds from the mind of the one who is more learned, who instructs through the word the one who is more ignorant. When the latter is opened to receive the message of the former, his mind is enlightened by the words of the latter.

wind pollination

Examples of pollination of trees and plants by the wind and by insects

insect pollination
In his soul a seed of a new light is planted, starts to grow and to have its own life. This is the normal process of teaching-learning that has existed since the world began. It obviously gives an improvement to the human soul, which is according to the natural law.

3. This natural process of transmitting and conceiving new ideas is quite similar to the process through which the Divine Word was conceived. So, the objection that the way the Divine Word was conceived is against natural law is not sound.

4. In nature there are some processes of physical reproduction that follow a pattern similar to the spreading of knowledge through the word. For example, the trees do not have physical contact in order to reproduce and conserve their species. Their fecundation is made by the pollen of the flowers of other trees, which is transmitted to them by the wind, bees or birds to fecundate their blossoms in order to produce fruits and preserve their species.

5. So also, we see that in the physical realm this same pattern is normally used as a way of reproduction for a large part of the vegetal kingdom.

6. Further, the process of reproduction through the word before the fall has three parallel arguments of convenience that make it more suitable than reproduction through sexual intercourse in a legitimate marriage:
  1. In Paradise death did not exist and, therefore, the need to have children in order to conserve mankind, which would have eternal life, would be less imperative.

  2. Since death would not be present, the mandate to populate the earth would be achieved much sooner than the period required after the original sin. After death entered the world, there was a need to have many children to replace the deceased. Before, many fewer than needed today would have been required to populate the parts of earth that were still empty. That is, the need for children would not be as pressing as it became after death was introduced as a consequence of original sin.

  3. In Paradise the couples would not have the consequence of concupiscence, which remains even after Baptism. Therefore, one of the ends of present day marriage, which is to be a remedy for the concupiscence of the spouses, would not have a raison d’être. This should also considerably reduce the need for carnal relations.
Therefore, the process of reproduction through the word, besides being in accordance with natural law, would seem to be more convenient than the present day process.

7. Having seen that the process of generation through the word is according to natural law, let us go on to study whether the process of carnal relations is exempt from any miraculous action.

8. As a matter of fact, in present day marriage, although the spouses create the body of the child-to-be, when it comes to the creation of its soul, a clear doctrine of the Church teaches us that God infuses a new soul into that body. Since this occurs by a direct divine action, we see that in the process of conception a miraculous action occurs in the creation of every soul. So, the argument that this process is exempt from miracle is baseless.

9. As a conclusion we see that in both processes – through the word or through carnal relations in a Catholic marriage – there is a miraculous action of God either allowing the body to be created without corporal contact of the parents or allowing the soul to be created without the involvement of the parents.

10. The argument is, therefore, baseless in its major premise – that conception through the word is against natural law – and in its minor premise – that the existence of a miraculous action of God is not part of today’s normal process of reproduction.

You Are Wrong and Offensive to Say that Reproduction through Sexual Relations Is Something Prosaic that Man Has in Common with Animals

Fifth objection:

1. Man is created in the image and likeness of God;

2. As such, everything in man is elevated to a higher level of dignity;

3. Therefore, to compare the sexual relations of man in marriage with those of the animals affronts his dignity and is offensive.

Answer to the fifth objection:

1. Man is considered to be made in the image and likeness of God because he synthesizes all of Creation: its highest spiritual part, the Angels; and its material part composed of the elements of the three kingdoms: animal, vegetal and mineral.

2. If someone were to simplify this reality and assert that man is merely spiritual, he would err, because he would be omitting the material part of men. Likewise, if someone were to consider man as exclusively a material being, he would also err, because he would be omitting man’s spiritual part. Therefore, man has both a spiritual side and a material side, one common to the Angels, the soul, and another common to the animals, the body.


An icon showing the angels and man as the crown of God’s Creation

3. To say that the present day process of reproduction of mankind is similar to those of most animals is an obvious statement accessible to the observation of anyone. It is not open to discussion. What can be discussed is whether or not this similarity bears in itself consequences of original sin.

4. If someone adheres to the thesis that conception and birth before the fall were different, he may believe that the change is due to a moral fault. Consequently, he may think that the present day process of reproduction is tainted with signs of corruption.

5. Independent of what one thinks of the process of conception and birth before the fall, let us investigate whether or not the marital act as such bears in itself consequences of original sin.

6. In his treatise on Chastity, St. Thomas explains clearly: “‘Pudicitia’ is derived from ‘pudor,’ a word that signifies shame. For this reason pudicitia must deal with those things of which man is ashamed, such as the venereal acts. And this is so much so that even the honest conjugal act within the marriage is not devoid of a certain shame. And this is because the movement of the organs of generation is not subject to the command of reason, as are the other movements of the other external members.” (Summa Theologiae, II, II, q. 151, a.1, respondeo)

7. In his treatise on Lust, St. Thomas observes that this lack of subjection is due to the original sin: “The fact that the concupiscence and the venereal pleasure are not subject to the command of reason is due to the punishment of the original sin: the rebellion of the flesh is a deserved answer to the rebellion of the mind against God, as Augustine explains in De Civitate Dei, lib. 13.” (Summa Theologiae, II, II, q. 153, a. 2, ad 2)

8. Thus, we see that according to the Catholic doctrine, the marital act as it is today does in fact bear the consequences of the original sin: the lack of control of movements of the sexual organs is qualified by St. Thomas as shameful, which implies a moral taint, while in our article it was described simply as prosaic, which is less condemnatory than shameful. The marital act itself, insofar as it escapes the control of human reason, as St. Thomas declares, becomes similar to that of the irrational animals as a punishment of original sin, as we affirmed in the text.

9. We see, therefore, that the argument of the Fifth Objection is not sound.

In the next article I shall continue refuting the many other objections we received, with the hope of making the topic of virginity more timely.



Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted March 12, 2018