Catholic Moral Theology And Homosexuality

A lot of people may think this discourse has something to do with homosexuality…let me be clear, it does!

There is much debate in society about homosexuality (cf. Catholic Teaching, Homosexuality, and American Life; Theology, Sanity, and Homosexuality for previous discussions of the issue). This issue is just as complex as it is emotionally-charged. For our purposes here, I will reserve my subjective emotional experience, and attempt to engage the question objectively from a Catholic moral perspective. To answer the difficult question of homosexuality, one must first address more fundamental questions: What is man? What is the meaning and end of the human condition? What is the eschatological meaning of the body?

In the Catholic tradition, homosexuality in and of itself is not a sin. Sin involves moral choice. It is for this reason same-sex sexual activity – consciously chosen behavior – is sinful. To be fair, no one would argue that a couple of the same-sex does not have a profound friendship, a romantic attraction, and a sincere desire to love. No one can (or would) say that two people in a homosexual relationship do not in fact love one another. However, Christian faith does reveal that whatever the nature of homosexuality and consequent relationships, it is not equal to marital love. Rather, the very act of engaging in a homosexual relationship is both outwardly and inwardly destructive to both involved – therefore, is not a truly loving activity.

A closer look at the very nature of homosexuality confirms this point. The natural law, or the law of human nature, informs us directly of the good or evil of homosexual activity, whether or not there is a “right” to homosexual relationships, and the morality of same-sex marriages.

The most pivotal question, it seems to me, in talking about the nature of homosexuality is in fact its origin. If the genesis of homosexuality is merely psychological, pathological, or even the result of, say, hormonal and chemical imbalances, it logically follows that no one has an inherent natural right to act out consequently because it is not of nature.

As it appears, those who advocate same-sex relationships and marriage in the public square typically believe that homosexuality has a biological, or even genetic, foundation and is a moral good. In regard to their speculation of its origin, there may be evidence that it does. Admittedly, most Christians are not convinced that homosexuality is genetic or biological and those that do usually take the counter extreme and posit the question: if homosexuality has a genetic or biological origin, how can homosexual sex be evil?

Divine Revelation tells us that when man was alone God created woman. Woman is equal to man in dignity, but as a creature she is profoundly different. This mysterious companionship based on compementarity found in Genesis is the basis of marriage in Catholic theology and most religious traditions around the world.

Advocates of same-sex couples – including religious ones – do not deny this fact. They will, in turn, claim that homosexuality has a God-given purpose. It is based on an intellectual error which is very common: that the world is overpopulated. Consider this: the world population has gone from doubling every 400 years to every 40 years, and even in the past 15 to 20 years, the human race has added more than a half a billion to our species. Thus, given the effects of humans on the natural world – ecosystems, resources, etc – homosexuality is a biological “good,” in that it slows the rate of our reproduction, in the same way as natural infertility, and this maintains a balance, as it were, that enables the survival of our species and other organisms – this is contingent on an evolutionary framework and presupposes that natural selection takes into account all the activity that is the nature of our species, including our “bad” choices that harm nature.

For the sake of argument, presuppose there is something to this point and assume that it is in fact true. Therefore, homosexuality is either a genetic behavioral trait, i.e. inborn, or it is a biological predisposition, i.e. the result of biological processes, but not necessarily genetic. If we were to presuppose that this is true in terms of human evolution, this hardly justifies homosexual behavior in terms of moral behavior.

If one were consider what a Christian might differentiate as the creative order (as it was in the beginning) and the natural order (as it is now in the fallen world), one would get a totally different perspective. If it were in fact true that homosexuality serves the biological purpose of preserving a population balance amongst the web of ecosystems, one would have to ask the question: Would these ecosystems not have had a perfect balance to them in the beginning? Why all of a sudden would there be a need for population control?

Sure, this is mere speculation. But presuppose that primitive man – nomads – killed an entire species, which in turn, had a rippling effect throughout all of nature. If animal X eats animal Y and man killed animal X, wouldn’t animal Y grow too large in number and affect the rest of its ecosystem by outnumbering the very food that it preys on? Imagine the state of nature once this happened, perhaps, more than once.

If anything, such action is surely not virtuous and a clear violation of right stewardship given to man in the beginning by God. The entire created world, in a sense, is paying for the fruits of original sin. This arguably is not too far-fetched a notion – if our presuppositions are correct, if God came to reconcile all of creation with Himself as Christian revelation tells us. Therefore, it follows that not everything is necessarily a good, not good in the sense of the creative order because these things are happening in a fallen world. Certainly inborn blindness is not a good thing because it is a handicap – a lacking of a natural human faculty. It would be irrational to conceive that the first of mankind, or any species, came into existence handicapped in some way that would hinder their species incapable of reproducing. The cases of terrible inborn realities confirm this. There are infants born with their esophagus disconnected from their stomach – a result of a pure biological process – yet it does not yield to reason to be an inherent good conceived in the light of our idea of Paradise – a world without sin and suffering.

So, if we were to take the modernist Christian interpretation and say that homosexuality is a biological, or even genetic phenomenon that is the result of the counter-action of the machinery of Nature – under evolutionary orchestration – as a means to repair itself, it still follows that this very repairing is the fruit of sin itself. Homosexuality, in fact, is not the only behavior that exists at various biological levels dealing with the reproduction of a species. In times of unstable population growth creating competition for food, animals kill their young – mothers kill their children. Is this not, in some way, the horror of abortion we face today that some advocate as “population control?” If we’re going to accept homosexual relationships, should we accept the latter practice as well? Sadly, we already have.

Now, the modernist Christian will claim that homosexuality is natural. By this they mean that homosexuality is a natural biological phenomenon and by definition, what routinely occurs in nature, is natural. In fact, there are actually documented cases of homosexual behavior in hundreds of animal species.

However, this is not the Christian theological connotation of the word natural. God creates objectively, that is, toward an objective, toward a goal. We have a purpose, a meaning, our being—our human nature—is aimed toward some objective, an end that we must achieve that will “fulfill” our human nature. Our nature is how God designed us, so what is “natural” for human beings is not what you find some animal doing; it is only what fulfills our design. Cows are different from dog. The nature of a dog is different from that of a cow. A cow cannot live a life as a dog and still be a cow. What is natural to a dog is not natural to a cow. It does not fulfill the cow’s nature. Cows do not go about sniffing and burying things, as a dog would, so, it follows what is “natural” to animals is not necessarily “natural” to humans. In fact, some animals can change their sex. Male seahorses bear life. This is not the case for humans; hence, animals should not be the objective point of reference for human behavior.

Moreover, it seems that not everything that occurs in nature is necessarily apart of God’s creative order – a result of God’s active will. The fall of man – moral disordering – has impacted the order of nature by virtue of man’s free will and his ability to exercise it upon his environment. Even from the modernist interpretation, it is still arguable that the evolutionary rise of homosexuality as a biological trait is a fruit of original sin. If we find no evidence that homosexuality was not present in the beginning, we have little reason to believe God actively intends homosexuality rather than passively allows it – that is, the homosexual sexual orientation is not an alternative condition that God blesses and is an equal expression of sexual identity that manifests some sort of wondrous evolutionary diversity.

It logically follows that if God did not intend homosexuality, it is contrary to the human design and thus, any homosexual relationship and same-sex sexual activity is harmful to the human person on every level. The most obvious would be the physical. How could one imagine that it does not harm a man to suffer rectal trauma because a large object has been repeatedly forced into a bodily opening that is clearly has a radically different function?

To be sure – emotionally and spiritually – the harm is not as self-evident, but just as grave. The emotional harm can be expressed this way: God designed the male-female pair to balance each other. Therefore, two people of the same-sex drive each other to extremes. So instead of balancing one another, they reinforce each other. If we were to say that men generally are more promiscuous than women – given that men tend to be sexually unrestrained in contrast to women whose physiology as child-bearers make them more conscientious; hence promiscuity rates rise amongst homosexual women, who won’t conceive children, over heterosexual women – than it logically follows that unbalanced by women, these inclinations potentially can and do, in fact, lead to anonymous no-brakes promiscuity of men who have sex with hundreds of other men.

The spiritual harm is the gravest. In a homosexual acts, one is seeking bodily and spiritual union with someone who their own mirror image, therefore, the activity itself manifests that the seeker is really trapped in their Self and a reflection of the often hidden pride and self-indulgence innate in homosexuality. It obscures the necessity and power of marital love which goes beyond Self and finds unity with someone who is Other.

If we consider the Theology of the Body, which is effectively Christian theological anthropology, it is clear that a difference in bodies constitute a difference in spirit, that is, the soul is not unisex. Therefore, our bodies just as well as our souls conforms to our manhood or womanhood. This is a rejection of a unisex consciousness and a physiologically male or female body; in other words, it is a rejection of Cartesian dualism which is the implicit presumption of the modernist Christian.

If homosexual activity is contrary to human nature, it should yield very little fruit. To be sure, comprehensive and extensive studies testify to this assertion. In scientific studies – no morals on the table – same-sex relationships show an incredible high rate of infidelity, agreement within relationships for multiple sex partners, high domestic violence rates particularly amongst lesbians, incredible rates of substance abuse, as well as emotional and psychological trauma. To be fair, the reality of homosexuality is not the only factor behind these statistics, but it is telling that the numbers are noticeably different when the study is done solely amongst heterosexual couples.

It is fairly obviously that men and women were designed for one another. The female reproductive organs are a network of muscles made for interaction with male sex organs. Homosexual activity defies this very reality. The colon/anus is an organ which is meant to do basically one thing: absorb. The main function of this organ is to absorb water from fecal matter as it moves through the digestive tract to keep us hydrated. This organ has a simple columnar epithelium which is quite thin and folded in order to increase surface area and thus absorb more. Contrast this with the vagina which has a multilayered squamous epithelium (almost identical to skin whose function is to prevent absorption). Furthermore, the vagina has an acidic pH due to the presence of lactobacillus which forms a protective barrier against infection.

From a public health standpoint, these things are very important to remember. Because the anus is meant to absorb, the rates of STD’s sky rocket in homosexual populations. As a viral or bacterial load is released into the anus, it readily absorbs these things and allows it to colonize there, whereas the vagina has safeguards against this. Combine this with the generally high rate of promiscuity in homosexual populations and you have a very serious problem. The problem only gets worse. It is a frightening statistic that sexually-active homosexuals have a shorter lifespan when compared to heterosexuals (less by approx. 20 years). Homosexual males who engage in sexual acts are also likely to suffer from tearing and stretching of the anal wall – immediate physical and medical ramifications that could possibly have them consigned to a diaper for the rest of their lives. It is self-evident that the human anus has the purpose of excreting, not in-take.

In terms of speculation, to say homosexuality in every case, across the board is genetic or biological presents itself as an oversimplification and a gross misunderstanding of the complexity of human sexuality. Humans are bio-psychological creatures and while there is very likely a genetic inclination, psychological experience is surely a potent factor. One would have to wonder if homosexuality were purely genetic, why the human body did not evolve to accommodate homosexual activity.

Such realizations make a terrible difference to modernist Christian presentations. First, it makes the conscious choice of engaging in a homosexual acts a manifestly irrational act. It goes not only against Revelation but reason itself. Therefore, the active support or choice to engage in such activity is immoral.

The most obvious purpose of sex is procreation. To deny this fundamental fact is like saying that eating has nothing to do with nutrition. This goes well beyond the fact that homosexuality is sterile, but to the implication that sexual activity not only relates to creating human life, but raising it. A child needs a father as well as a mother, hence the natural necessity of the two to co-create new life with God.

Yet, the modernist approach is to give primacy to intimacy. Intimacy closely works with the pleasures of sex, but this cannot be mistaken as the end. God made sex pleasurable and a couple is right to enjoy it, but to assert that pleasure is the primal purpose of sex, to say that is why God invented it, to say that what tells us when sex is right and wrong is quite another matter. We can experience pleasure from misusing God’s gifts as well as using them correctly and that is intricately linked to the question of sin. Some people achieve pleasures through all sorts of perversions, but this does not in any way make them morally permissible.

The male-female pair allows the physical activity of sex itself to be open to new life. An analysis of same-sex sexual activity is quite the contrary. The action itself cannot fulfill the intention – not to create life – but rather to manifest the emotional love the two may have for one another. The activity is a mere isolation of pleasure. If a father, for example, were to hit his son in order to show him love. The action itself is contrary to the intention because the act is harmful. The act is the same here. It is hard to conceive how inserting a penis into an anus demonstrates love considering all the risks involved. Pleasure is the highest good in homosexual sex. In that way, homosexual acts are less like marital love than like masturbation with another body. And that’s the error—you cannot divorce the unitive element of sexual intercourse from the procreative element.

In fact, it is striking the way homosexual couples have implicitly understood roles with traditional masculine and feminine traits being expressed by each member of the couple, one fitting each; this is most manifest in gay male couples where one person is presents himself as a “top” or a “bottom,” that is, a role of playing male or the female; it is an imitation of a reality that neither cannot fulfill and that is arguably the moral frustration of the homosexual condition.

The Catholic position is clear: if an act is wrong objectively, then the subject intention – however, pure – cannot justify it and that is the Christian understanding of homosexuality. Now, modernist Christians reinterpret the scriptures to assert that it is silent on the morality of homosexuality. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus says, “Haven’t you read…that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’…for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?…so they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” It is clear there is no room for homosexual unions in that statement. We learn from Jesus what marriage is and by knowing that, we can discern what it is not. The union of the male-female pair is closely linked to a participation of the marriage of Christ and the Church and the commandment “to be fruitful and multiply.”

The great philosophers of the ancient world noted something very fundamental about the human person. We are beings of intellect and will, reason and desire. The natural order, they believed, is that our reason should govern our passions. Yet, we possess free will and are subject to what Christians have called “concupiscence,” which is disordered desire. Therefore, our passions can make a slave of our reason and we can act contrary to our human nature. And this is what Christians call sin. Homosexuality, whatever it is, whatever causes it, is a clear moral disorder – it is an inclination in the human will, to seek which we can know by reason is against our nature.

Men and women who bears this Cross should be treated respectfully and with great sensitivity since it is a Cross that is almost unbearable, save for the miraculous grace of the Lord. But, tolerance, in the name of comfort, is disrespectful to the human dignity of such men and women – myself included – contrary to human nature and a license to mortal danger that may damn their (our) immortal souls.

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