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The Roman Catholic Church and Homosexuality

Homosexual teachings and beliefs based on
the Bible, church tradition, and natural law.
Part 1

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Some teachings of the Catholic Church about homosexuality:

According to Catholic Answers, which is an authoritative source for accurate Catholic teaching:

"Every human being is called to receive a gift of divine sonship, to become a child of God by grace. However, to receive this gift, we must reject sin, including homosexual behavior -- that is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. The Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law."

"Homosexual desires, however, are not in themselves sinful. People are subject to a wide variety of sinful desires over which they have little direct control, but these do not become sinful until a person acts upon them, either by acting out the desire or by encouraging the desire and deliberately engaging in fantasies about acting it out. People tempted by homosexual desires, like people tempted by improper heterosexual desires, are not sinning until they act upon those desires in some manner. ..."

"Many homosexuals argue that they have not chosen their condition, but that they were born that way, making homosexual behavior natural for them.

But because something was not chosen does not mean it was inborn. Some desires are acquired or strengthened by habituation and conditioning instead of by conscious choice. For example, no one chooses to be an alcoholic, but one can become habituated to alcohol. Just as one can acquire alcoholic desires (by repeatedly becoming intoxicated) without consciously choosing them, so one may acquire homosexual desires (by engaging in homosexual fantasies or behavior) without consciously choosing them.

Since sexual desire is subject to a high degree of cognitive conditioning in humans (there is no biological reason why we find certain scents, forms of dress, or forms of underwear sexually stimulating), it would be most unusual if homosexual desires were not subject to a similar degree of cognitive conditioning.

Even if there is a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality (and studies on this point are inconclusive), the behavior remains unnatural because homosexuality is still not part of the natural design of humanity. It does not make homosexual behavior acceptable; other behaviors are not rendered acceptable simply because there may be a genetic predisposition toward them.

For example, scientific studies suggest some people are born with a hereditary disposition to alcoholism, but no one would argue someone ought to fulfill these inborn urges by becoming an alcoholic. Alcoholism is not an acceptable 'lifestyle' any more than homosexuality is." 1

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About the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Catechism is a collection of teachings prepared by the Church's teaching authority -- the Magisterium -- and intended for the guidance of individual Roman Catholics. It aims to present:

"... an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church's Tradition. Its principal sources are the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and the Church's Magisterium. It is intended to serve 'as a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are composed in the various countries'." 2

Articles 2351, 2357, 2358, and 2359 of the Catechism mention the teachings of the church which may deal with homosexual orientation and behavior. These articles are listed below, along with analyses of their content reflecting a variety of viewpoints.

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Does the view expressed by the Magesterium and Catechism reflect the view of the People of God?

It is important to realize that official Roman Catholic teachings represent the beliefs of the Magisterium of the Church. They do not necessarily agree with what "The People of God" believe -- that is, the opinions of the "whole community of the baptized" which consists of the laity and the ordained members of the Church. 3

On matters related to human sexuality, there are often differences between the two groups. One example involves birth control. It is condemned by the magisterium, but has been used in the past by approximately 98% of Catholic women and is currently used by about 70% of Catholic women.

Another difference involves homosexuality:

  • The magisterium is absolutely opposed to marriage equality i.e. changing laws so that marriage becomes available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. During 2008, in close cooperation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the Roman Catholic magisterium authorized the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars to promote ads in favor of Proposition 8. That was the citizen initiative that narrowly passed and has at least temporarily banned new same-sex marriages in California. (It has been declared unconstitional by a federal district court and is currently under appeal.)

  • A national poll by ABC News/Washington Post and released on 2011-MAR-18 showed that 53% of American adults of all faiths and of no religious affiliation favored marriage equality. This represents an increase of 21 percentage points since 2004 -- 3 percentage points per year.

  • The same poll showed that 63% of white Catholics favored the availability of same-sex marriage. This is an increase of 23 percentage points since 2004 -- more than 3 percentage points increase per year. This poll indicated that Roman Catholics are more supportive of marriage equality than are the average American by a full ten percentage points! 4

With close to 2 out of 3 of white Catholics rejecting the magisterium's position on human sexuality, one might ask who truly represents the will of the denomination?

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Offenses against chastity in the Catechism:

2351: "Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes." 5

Interpretation:

This article implies that people may have a combination of up to three reasons for engaging in sexual behavior:

  • Seeking pleasure,

  • Attempting to initiate a pregnancy, and/or

  • Increasing the closeness, bonding, and intimacy of the relationship.

The article condemns any sexual activity which is sought only for pleasure.

The church regards such activity as an offense against chastity, and as a morally disordered behavior. This article of the Catechism is generally applied to homosexual behavior because sexual activity between persons of the same sex cannot be procreative. They view same-gender sexual behavior as a violation of their interpretation of natural law. The Catholic Church teaches that God has prescribed for our conduct certain eternal laws that are found in nature itself. Those human actions which conform to this natural law lead humans "... to our destined end, and are thereby constituted right and morally good; those at variance with our nature are wrong and immoral." The church interprets its concept of natural law as condemning non-procreative sexual activities, like masturbation, sexual intercourse between a man and woman using artificial birth control, and same-gender sexual activity. 6

If a person is aware of the churches teaching on non-procreative sex, and is choosing that activity freely, then they are guilty of a mortal sin. They have lost their salvation, and are destined to hell. However, they can obtain absolution for their sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, often called confession.

However, article 2351 appears to be ambiguous:

bulletIt may mean that sexual behavior is only acceptable when it is linked to both procreative and unitive purposes.

bulletIt may mean that such behavior need only be linked to one of the two purposes to be acceptable.

If the latter is correct, then there are two more options:

bullet Within a loving, committed same-sex relationship or marriage, many people believe that sexual activity has the same unitive force that it provides in an opposite-sex relationship. Article 2351 thus might not apply to sexual behavior by a loving, committed same-sex couple, particularly if they are married.
 
bullet However, some religious and social conservatives -- typically those who do not have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbians -- believe that persons with a homosexual orientation are incapable of truly loving another person. To them, all same-sex sexual behavior is based solely on lust. Thus, article 2351 would definitely condemn all same-gender sexual behavior.

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This topic continues ....

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References:

  1. "Homosexuality," Catholic Answers, at: http://www.catholic.com/
  2. Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985, Final Report II B a, 4
  3. Richard McBrien, Vatican II themes: the people of God," National Catholic Reporter, 2011-JUL-25, at: http://ncronline.org/
  4. "Support for Gay Marriage Reaches a Milestone," ABC News, 2011-MAR-18, at: http://abcnews.go.com/ This is a PDF file.
  5. "Article 6: The Sixth Commandment," Catechism of the Catholic Church, at: http://www.christusrex.org/
  6. "Natural law: Its essence," Catholic Encyclopedia, at: http://www.newadvent.org/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-SEP-19
Author: B.A. Robinson
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