Summary Against Modern Thought: The Consent Fallacy Applied To Fornication And Sodomy

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Consent Fallacy Applied To Fornication And Sodomy

Previous post.

Our good saint did not use the name Consent Fallacy, but we see it in the first argument. No real comment is necessary here: the saint’s words are plain.


1 From the foregoing we can see the futility of the argument of certain people who say that simple fornication is not a sin. For they say: Suppose there is a woman who is not married, or under the control of any man, either her father or another man. Now, if a man performs the sexual act with her, and she is willing, he does not injure her, because she favors the action and she has control over her own body. Nor does he injure any other person, because she is understood to be under no other person’s control. So, this does not seem to be a sin.

Notes All the problems and questions we believe are new and modern have always been with us.

2 Now, to say that he injures God would not seem to be an adequate answer. For we do not offend God except by doing something contrary to our own good, as has been said. But this does not appear contrary to man’s good. Hence, on this basis, no injury seems to be done to God.

3 Likewise, it also would seem an inadequate answer to say that some injury is done to one’s neighbor by this action, inasmuch as he may be scandalized. Indeed, it is possible for him to be scandalized by something which is not in itself a sin. In this event, the act would be accidentally sinful. But our problem is not whether simple fornication is accidentally a sin, but whether it is so essentially.

4 Hence, we must look for a solution in our earlier considerations. We have said that God exercises care over every person on the basis of what is good for him. Now, it is good for each person to attain his end, whereas it is bad for him to swerve away from his proper end.

Now, this should be considered applicable to the parts, just as it is to the whole being; for instance, each and every part of man, and every one of his acts, should attain the proper end. Now, though the male semen is superfluous in regard to the preservation of the individual, it is nevertheless necessary in regard to the propagation of the species. Other superfluous things, such as excrement, urine, sweat, and such things, are not at all necessary; hence, their emission contributes to man’s good.

Now, this is not what is sought in the case of semen, but, rather, to emit it for the purpose of generation, to which purpose the sexual act is directed. But man’s generative process would be frustrated unless it were followed by proper nutrition, because the offspring would not survive if proper nutrition were withheld. Therefore, the emission of semen ought to be so ordered that it will result in both the production of the proper offspring and in the upbringing of this offspring.

5 It is evident from this that every emission of semen, in such a way that generation cannot follow, is contrary to the good for man. And if this be done deliberately, it must be a sin. Now, I am speaking of a way from which, in itself, generation could not result: such would be any emission of semen apart from the natural union of male and female. For which reason, sins of this type are called contrary to nature. But, if by accident generation cannot result from the emission of semen, then this is not a reason for it being against nature, or a sin; as for instance, if the woman happens to be sterile.

6 Likewise, it must also be contrary to the good for man if the semen be emitted under conditions such that generation could result but the proper upbringing would be prevented.

We should take into consideration the fact that, among some animals where the female is able to take care of the upbringing of offspring, male and female do not remain together for any time after the act of generation. This is obviously the case with dogs. But in the case of animals of which the female is not able to provide for the upbringing of offspring, the male and female do stay together after the act of generation as long as is necessary for the upbringing and instruction of the offspring. Examples are found among certain species of birds whose young are not able to seek out food for themselves immediately after batching. In fact, since a bird does not nourish its young with milk, made available by nature as it were, as occurs in the case of quadrupeds, but the bird must look elsewhere for food for its young, and since besides this it must protect them by sitting on them, the female is not able to do this by herself. So, as a result of divine providence, there is naturally implanted in the male of these animals a tendency to remain with the female in order to bring up the young.

Now, it is abundantly evident that the female in the human species is not at all able to take care of the upbringing of offspring by herself, since the needs of human life demand many things which cannot be provided by one person alone. Therefore, it is appropriate to human nature that a man remain together with a woman after the generative act, and not leave her immediately to have such relations with another woman, as is the practice with fornicators.

7 Nor, indeed, is the fact that a woman may be able by means of her own wealth to care for the child by herself an obstacle to this argument. For natural rectitude in human acts is not dependent on things accidentally possible in the case of one individual, but, rather, on those conditions which accompany the entire species.

8 Again, we must consider that in the human species offspring require not only nourishment for the body, as in the case of other animals, but also education for the soul. For other animals naturally possess their own kinds of prudence whereby they are enabled to take care of themselves.

But a man lives by reason, which he must develop by lengthy temporal experience so that he may achieve prudence. Hence, children must be instructed by parents who are already experienced people. Nor are they able to receive such instruction as soon as they are born, but after a long time, and especially after they have reached the age of discretion. Moreover, a long time is needed for this instruction. Then, too, because of the impulsion of the passions, through which prudent judgment is vitiated, they require not merely instruction but correction.

Now, a woman alone is not adequate to this task; rather, this demands the work of a husband, in whom reason is more developed for giving instruction and strength is more available for giving punishment. Therefore, in the human species, it is not enough, as in the case of birds, to devote a small amount of time to bringing up offspring, for a long period of life is required. Hence, since among all animals it is necessary for male and female to remain together as long as the work of the father is needed by the offspring, it is natural to the human being for the man to establish a lasting association with a designated woman, over no short period of time.

Now, we call this society matrimony. Therefore, matrimony is natural for man, and promiscuous performance of the sexual act, outside matrimony, is contrary to man’s good. For this reason, it must be a sin.

9 Nor, in fact, should it be deemed a slight sin for a man to arrange for the emission of semen apart from the proper purpose of generating and bringing up children, on the argument that it is either a slight sin, or none at all, for a person to use a part of the body for a different use than that to which it is directed by nature (say, for instance, one chose to walk on his hands, or to use his feet for something usually done with the hands) because man’s good is not much opposed by such inordinate use.

However, the inordinate emission of semen is incompatible with the natural good; namely, the preservation of the species. Hence, after the sin of homicide whereby a human nature already in existence is destroyed, this type of sin appears to take next place, for by it the generation of human nature is precluded.

10 Moreover, these views which have just been given have a solid basis in divine authority. That the emission of semen under conditions in which offspring cannot follow is illicit is quite clear. There is the text of Leviticus (18:27-23): “You shall not lie with mankind as with womankind… and You shall not copulate with any beast.” And in 1 Corinthians (6:10) : “Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind… shall possess the kingdom of God.”

11 Also, that fornication and every performance of the act of reproduction with a person other than one’s wife are illicit is evident. For it is said: “There shall be no whore among the daughters of Israel, nor whoremonger among the sons of Israel” (Deut. 23:17); and in Tobit (4:13): “Take heed to keep Yourself from all fornication, and beside Your wife never endure to know a crime”; and in 1 Corinthians (6:18): “Fly fornication.”

12 By this conclusion we refute the error of those who say that there is no more sin in the emission of semen than in the emission of any other superfluous matter, and also of those who state that fornication is not a sin.


  1. Michael Dowd

    “Hence, after the sin of homicide whereby a human nature already in existence is destroyed, this type of sin appears to take next place, for by it the generation of human nature is precluded.”

    A somewhat weak argument, in my opinion, against masturbation. I see it as a better argument against contraception and any form of birth control including the so called rhythm method.

  2. Zundfolge

    If one reduces the sin of fornication to nothing more than ejaculation without reproduction than lesbianism is not a sin.

    I don’t believe that fornication is a sin because it doesn’t produce offspring, I believe that when we leave our parents, cleave to our partner and become “one flesh” that for reasons beyond sex and procreation we are creating a more complete form of human. Its what is in our hearts and minds that makes fornication (and homosexual sodomy) sinful.

    Jesus even said that you’ve committed adultery if you merely look on a woman with lust … no semen required.

    So this notion of reducing sex to nothing more than the procreation of the species denies the powerful emotional, psychological, civil and spiritual bonds it creates. Bonds that are intended to be only between one man and one woman for life (for reasons far beyond the merely physical).

  3. Ye Olde Statistician

    Don’t forget that Thomas did not define a sin as a violation , akin to a crime or a tort, but simply as ‘defectus boni,’ a deficiency in a good. And a ‘good’ is that which completes and perfects. (Think what we mean by ‘a good painter’ or ‘a good general.’) We Late Moderns cannot help but think of ‘sin’ in a legalistic context.

    Also, because Thomas gives one reason why something is a deficiency does not mean that there are no other reasons why it is so; or that a thing might not be a deficiency with respect to misuse of semen but might well be a deficiency on other grounds. While some Late Moderns get their knickers in a knot because in another Quaestione, Thomas says that rape is less bad than masturbation because the former could result in conception while the latter cannot, they often overlook the fact that he does not regard rape as a sexual sin at all. He regards it a sin of violence or assault. (In the same way one model of automobile may be better than another on the grounds of gas mileage while providing less protection against collisions.)

    Similarly, lesbian behaviors may not score on the loss-of-semen scale, but may on the no-father-in-household scale.

  4. Michael 2

    From this argument it is evident that once a man’s wife has entered menopause and cannot produce more children, what he does with his semen becomes irrelevant and inconsequential.

  5. Dave

    In any survival situation, you must first apply Liebig’s Law of the Minimum and ask which of the things you need to live is in least abundance. Three minutes without oxygen, three hours without warmth, three days without water, three weeks without food. Each in that order, and if one is plentiful, ignore it and move on to the next.

    To avoid extinction, we need semen and fertile young women. The former is stupendously abundant — every year from age 12 to 80 a man produces enough seed to quintuple the world’s population. A man wasting sperm is like a person who lives next to Niagara Falls wasting water.

    The critical resource is fertile young women, and it’s being wasted by fathers sending their daughters off to whore school a.k.a. college. Men therefore have a duty not only to secure a woman for themselves, but to raise chaste, obedient daughters for other men to marry.

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