Magazine | February 21, 2011, Issue

Letters

Marital Goods

Jason Lee Steorts misses the boat when he argues that monogamous same-sex unions and heterosexual infertile unions possess the same kind of value, and that therefore we should have no objections to some form of same-sex marriage (“Two Views of Marriage,” February 7).

I would argue that the value of a heterosexual union is its intrinsic capacity for procreation. A homosexual couple does not have this intrinsic capacity, but an infertile heterosexual couple does.

An infertile couple will admit there is something wrong with them, and it is typically quite sad for all involved. However, there is always hope for the infertile couple — either time or treatment may allow for fertility. There is no hope for a homosexual union’s fertility — it does not have the intrinsic capacity for procreation. While we should not value one marriage over another on its degree of fertility or fruitfulness, a marriage should, at a minimum, possess the basic intrinsic capacity for procreation.

It is completely sensible to me that a “maximal experiential union” with the intrinsic capacity for procreation should get special treatment in society — let’s call it a “marriage.” One man and one woman.

Joe Gustainis

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Jason Lee Steorts replies: No, fertility is not just a matter of degree. For some heterosexual couples, having children is an irremediable impossibility, and there is no sense in which such couples can be said to have an “intrinsic capacity for procreation.” Nor is it true that all married couples who have “something wrong with them” in this way are sad about it, for not all married couples wish to have children. The point is that when you take away marriage’s reproductive facet — the fact of having reproduced, the capacity to reproduce, the desire to reproduce — there remains a great good deserving of protection. Whether by necessity or by choice, it is the only good many mixed-sex couples will ever attain in their relationships, and it is a good equally available to same-sex couples. Let the law protect it, and then protect children by imposing appropriate requirements on those who actually have them.

Reed’s Theodicy

In reviewing City of Man, by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner (“Salt of the Earth,” December 31), Ralph Reed discusses what he calls “jeremiad,” the idea that “national calamity” is to be associated with God and retribution for “collective sin.” Considering that Gerson and Wehner’s title, “City of Man,” is an allusion to St. Augustine’s City of God, I wish Reed had mentioned that Augustine’s work is partly a refutation of the ancient belief that reward and punishment (victory or defeat) in this world come to us because of our virtue or lack thereof. Augustine shows how the Hebrews (the good guys) suffered while their enemies (the bad guys) — Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans — triumphed. One would like to believe that America is uniquely blessed because of its inhabitants’ piety, but Augustine is difficult to dismiss.

Thomas Swanzey

Via e-mail

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