On Catholic Culture, William May has a post discussing the concept ‘No human being ought ever to be unwanted,’ in which he sets out:
(1) to provide the reasons why it is true to say that no human being ought ever to be unwanted; (2) to describe the dignity to which human beings, as intelligent entities capable of determining their own lives through their own free choices, are called; (3) to propose a normative framework for making true judgments and good choices about what one is to do if one is to be fully the being human beings are called to be; and (4) to examine, within this framework, the free choice to exercise one’s genital sexuality.
There are several points relevant to our discussion of marriage and sexuality. I particularly liked his outline of Aquinas’ triple-tiered set of human goods. Today, though, I want to focus on his statement that ‘No sexual partner should ever be unwanted’:
The sex act unites. But if the individuals it unites are not joined to one another already by the consent that makes them spouses and hence irreplaceable and nonsubstitutable in each other’s life, then the choice to engage in it can hardly respect authentic human friendship and the irreplaceable and non-substitutable value of the human person. It is rather the choice to join two beings who are in principle replaceable and substitutable, disposable. It is the choice to use the other as a means, and not a choice to respect the other as an end. It is thus a choice that fails to take seriously into account the irreplaceable value of the human person and the good of human friendship that values the person and wills for the person only what is good. There may be some sentimental affection between those who choose to have sexual intercourse while unmarried, but sentimental affection is by no means the same as human love and friendship.
The sex act is, whether one wants it to be so or not, a life-giving sort of act. It is precisely because it is this sort of act that some people today choose to contracept, for the precise point of contraception is to make the act one chooses to do, i.e., the sort of act open to the transmission of human life, to be a different sort of act, namely, one closed deliberately to the transmission of human life. Yet as we know, all contraceptives have their “failure rates,” due both to the methods, none of which is foolproof, and to their users.
It seems to me that a proper respect for the good of human life itself would require that no one freely choose to have sexual relations unless one is willing to be a mother or father, to care for the life that can be begotten and to care, too, for the person with whom one chooses to engage in the act that is life-giving. One can ask oneself, do I regard the life that this act can bring into being as a human being that ought to be wanted or not? If one is not disposed to accept this human being and to contribute to its bene esse as well as its esse, then one ought not to choose to engage in this act. To do so is to be heedless of and disrespectful to the life that can be begotten.
It also seems to me that a proper respect for the irreplaceable value of human persons requires that one not choose to have sexual relations with a person whom one has not already made, by virtue of the choice that constitutes marriage, irreplaceable in one’s own life. The person with whom one chooses to have sexual relations is, as a person, a being that ought to be wanted and never unwanted. In and through sexual relations one comes to “know” this other in a unique and unforgettable way, and one reveals oneself to this other in a unique and unforgettable way. Our “private parts” are not called such for nothing. As Dietrich von Hildebrand once said, “sex occupies a central position in the personality. It represents a factor in human nature, which essentially seeks to play a decisive part in man’s life. Sex can indeed keep silence, but when it speaks it is no mere obiter dictum, but a voice from the depths, the utterance of something central and of utmost significance. In and with sex, man, in a special sense, gives himself.”
From this it should be evident why the specific teaching of the Church on the morality of sexual coition is a teaching that is rooted in a profound grasp of the goodness of human persons and of the human goods of life itself and friendship. If one freely chooses inwardly to shape his/her choices and actions in accordance with the truth that no human being ought ever to be unwanted, one will choose to engage in sexual relations only with that person who is irreplaceable and nonsubstitutable and with whom one is willing and able to welcome new life and give to it the home where it can take root and grow.