What to think of the new forms of cohabitation

Besides the marriage-families constituted in the socio-juridic and sacramental framework, more and more appear families of simple cohabitation and free unions that are mutually agreed outside the traditional framework that exist as long as the consensus lasts giving origin to the common law non conjugal families.

All over the world grow unions of homoaffective persons, (man-man and woman-woman), who struggle for the creation of a juridical framework that guarantees them stability and social recognition.

It is not licit to pass ethical judgement about these forms of cohabitation without having tried before to understand the phenomenon. Concretely, how to think of the family seeing all the varied forms in which a family is presently being structured?

Marco Antonio Fetter, a Brazilian specialist creator of the first University of the Family, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, that offers all the academic degrees, defines family this way: «the family is a unit of persons with common objectives and with links and strong emotional bonds each one of them with a defined role, where naturally appear the roles of father, mother, children and siblings»(Correio Riograndense, 29/10/2003,11).

On the other hand, an important transformation has happened in the family with the apparition of preservatives and contraceptives, now already incorporated into the culture as something normal and that help avoid AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, with preservatives and the pill, sexuality has been separated from procreation and from steady love.

Frequently now, sexuality and marriage as well are seen as opportunities for personal realization, without including procreation. Conjugal sexuality gains intimacy and spontaneity because with contraceptives and family planning is liberated from non desired and unwanted pregnancies. The children are wanted and decided in common agreement.

The emphasis in sexuality as personal realization has made possible the apparition of forms of cohabitation not strictly matrimonial. Expression of this are the consensual and free unions without any other compromise than the mutual realization of the partners or of the homoaffective cohabitation.

Such practices, new as they are, must also include an ethical and spiritual perspective. It is important to care that they are expressions of love and mutual trust. From a Christian point of view of the phenomenon, if there is love, has to do with God, because God is love (1John 4,12.16). Hence, neither prejudices nor discrimination are correct. Better, there must be respect and openness to understand those facts and also place them before God. If the persons in the compromise do it this way and assume that relationship with responsibility, religious and spiritual relevance to that relationship can not be denied. An atmosphere that helps overcome the temptation of promiscuity appears, stability is enforced and social prejudices diminished.

If there is sex with no procreation, procreation without sex can exist. Is the complex problem of in vitro procreation, of artificial insemination and of the «uterus for rent». All this question is extremely polemic in ethical and spiritual terms, and there seems not to be consensus.

The official Catholic position often tends to a naturalist vision that demands, with respect to procreation, the direct sexual relationship of the spouses when, in fact, is reasonable to admit the legitimacy of the union of an ovule of the wife with a sperm of the husband in an artificial form; and later to implant in the uterus the fecund ovule, as long as such procedure is justified by love.

About this complex question we rely on the opinion of a Catholic Dutch specialist:

«The technification of human procreation is not free of problems. Artificial insemination in its different forms, the fecundation in vitro and the transplant of embryos permit us to have a pregnancy out of the security frameworks of the traditional marriage. Thus, is possible that a woman gets pregnant by the artificial insemination of the sperm of an anonymous donor; sperms and ovules can be unified in vitro, and later implanted them in the woman, a child can be had through a «mother of rent». These technical means are not at our disposal in a neutral form, as a capability merely instrumental: an ethical responsibility must be present in their utilization» («Concilium» magazine, 260, 1995, 36). These are means at the service of parental love.

Is not enough artificial procreation. The human being has the right to be humanly born, from a father and a mother that in love desired him. If for any problem a technical intervention is used that never has to lack a true human inspiration and a well based ethical purpose.

The son or daughter born that way must be able to have a name and last name and be socially welcome. The social identity, in these cases, is anthropologically more important than the biological identity. Moreover, is important that the creature is included in a familiar environment so that, in the process of individuation, the complex of Electra in relation to the mother or of Oedipus in relation to the father, can successfully be realized. This way irreparable damages are avoided.

Finally, life must be always understood as the culmination of the cosmogenesis and the best gift of the Creator.

Leonardo Boff Eco-Theologian-Philosopher Earthcharter Commission

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, alfaro_melina@yahoo.com.ar.

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