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The Roman Catholic Church and Homosexuality

Homosexual teachings and beliefs based on
the Bible, church tradition, and natural law.
Part 2

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This is a continuation of a previous essay

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Chastity and homosexuality:

2357: "Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, [140] tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."[141] They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved." 4

Interpretation:

Re: Condemnation based on Sacred Scripture: The scriptural basis for their statement that "homosexual acts ... [are] acts of grave depravity" is found in footnote 140 which refers to a single passage of six verses in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. The King James Version translates this passage from the original Greek as:

15-17: "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit."

 18-20: "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

However:

  • Verses 15 to 17 refer to sexual activity with a prostitute. This would seem to justify treating same-sex behavior as a gravely depraved sin when it is part of a commercial transaction with a same-gender sex worker. But it does not appear to include in any way consensual sexual behavior within a committed same-sex relationship.

  • Verses 18 to 20 refer to fornication: sexual activity outside of marriage. However, many loving, committed same-sex couples enter either:

    • A civil marriage by a judge or town hall official,or

    • A religious marriage by a liberal/progressive faith group.

As of early 2012-JAN, same-sex couples can marry in the District of Columbia, in nine U.S. states, anywhere in Canada and in about ten other countries.

So, this passage would seem to imply that because the Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex marriages performed outside their denomination, and does not permit same-sex marriages within their denomination, that all same-gender sexual behavior is an act "of grave depravity." That conclusion is thus grounded in the Church's policies concerning marriage and not "Sacred Scripture."

Since Article 2357 bases it condemnation of same-gender sex on only this one passage of "Sacred Scripture," it would appear that there is little or no justification for their stance that all same-gender sexual behavior by persons with a homosexual orientation is condemned by Scripture. Rather, it seems to be based on the church's marriage policies.

Later in Article 2357, they do bring in four other biblical passages which they imply condemns same-gender sexual behavior:

  • Genesis 19: This is the story of the destruction of Sodom. However, most biblical commentators, with the exception of some extreme conservatives, suggest that this passage has absolutely no connection to consensual same-sex behavior within a loving committed relationship. The passage deals with male-on-male rape -- an act of violence and gross humiliation.

  • Romans 1:24-27: This passage describes how a group of heterosexual, formerly Christian, men and women became so inflamed with lust during Pagan sexual orgies that they violated their basic sexual nature by engaging in same-gender sexual behavior. Again, this is has no direct connection to same-gender sexual activity by loving, committed same-sex couples in private. In fact, it could be argued that this passage would imply that it would be a great sin for persons with a homosexual orientation to violate their basic sexual nature by engaging in opposite-gender sexual activity.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:10: This contains a list of behaviors that exclude a person from Heaven. Unfortunately, it includes the Greek word "arsenokoitai" whose exact meaning has been lost. It seems to have been a term created by Paul for this verse. If Paul wanted to refer to homosexual behavior, he would have used the word "paiderasste." That was the standard Greek term at the time for sexual behavior between males. Since"arsen" refers to males only, this passage cannot logically be used to condemn lesbian sexual behavior.

  • 1 Timothy 1:10: This contains the same untranslatable word as does 1 Corinthians 6:10.

Here, the Catholic church agrees with two beliefs of conservative Protestant denominations and many other religious conservatives:

  1. That the term "homosexuality" refers to sexual behavior, not sexual orientation or feelings of sexual attraction.
     
  2. That the Bible interprets same-sex sexual behavior as seriously depraved. Other secular and religious groups and individuals interpret the Bible's famous six "clobber passages" as being silent on same-sex behavior within a loving committed relationship. Rather it condemns:

    bulletIn the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament):
    bullet Anal rape, and uncaring treatment of strangers.
    bulletSame-sex prostitution in pagan temples.
    bulletIn the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):
    bulletMen sexually abusing boys,
    bullet Heterosexuals who violated their fundamental nature by engaging in same same-sex acts during orgies, and
    bullet

    Men engaging in bestiality by attempting to have sex with a non-human species: namely angels.

Clearly, sincere, intelligent, thoughtful and devout people can interpret the Bible in different ways. The meaning of the Bible is clearly ambiguous.

However, the Catholic church acknowledges that such same-sex behavior is caused by a person's homosexual or bisexual orientation. Conservative Protestant denominations frequently do not stress this point; the latter often imply that it is a choice and/or an addiction and/or a disorder caused by a poor relationship with the same-sex parent.

Re: "The gift of life:" The Catechism also condemns same-sex behavior because it cannot initiate a pregnancy. In the same way, opposite-sex sexual behavior using NFP (Natural Family Planning) or artificial birth control could also be condemned because both approaches are claimed to be about 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. Yet the Church allows NFP and condemns condoms and "the pill"  -- even if the former is sometimes needed to prevent the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted disease.

Re: affective and sexual complementarity: Finally, the article points out that same-sex sexual activity, by definition, cannot be grounded in a real emotional and sexual interaction as it can be between two persons of different genders. This is a belief not shared by many lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, or by professional psychiatric or psychological associations.

This teaching by the Catholic Church can be considered as conflicting with the biblical interpretation of Genesis 2:18. God is quoted there as saying that It is not good that the man [Adam] should be alone. This implies that it would be good for Adam to have a partner that he could join with physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Adam was apparently heterosexual or bisexual, because he and Eve are said to have had at least three children: Cain, Abel, and one or more daughters who continued to procreate through incestuous relationships.

If Adam had a homosexual orientation, then he would only have been attracted to another male. The verse is unclear whether God would have considered such a relationship to be "good." One might argue that a same-sex loving committed relationships are good for homosexuals and bisexuals as an opposite-sex loving committed relationship is good for homosexuals and bisexuals. Apparently, the Catholic Church believes that God would not have considered the Adam being sexually attracted to another man to be good.

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The nature of homosexuality:

2358: "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." 4

Interpretation: The Church often avoids the use of the term "homosexual orientation," preferring instead to refer to "homosexual tendencies" or "homosexual condition." They recognize the findings of numerous human sexuality studies that homosexual orientation is not a choice. The implication is that a homosexual orientation is unchangeable. These are beliefs that the Church does not share with the vast majority of fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians and other religious and social conservatives who believe that homosexuality is a choice and is changeable, in spite of a considerable body of knowledge indicating the opposite.

The church opposes "unjust discrimination" against gays and lesbians. This implies that there are just forms of discrimination that can be used to oppress homosexuals that are moral and acceptable -- like:

  • Denying loving committed same-sex couples and their children the status and protection of same-sex marriage,
  • Denying them access to adoption services, and
  • Denying them access to assisted fertility service,

so that they can raise a family securely.

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Homosexuals are called to celibacy:

2359: "Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection." 4

Interpretation: The Church teaches that only married heterosexuals and those bisexuals who are married to a person of the opposite sex can legitimately express their love physically to each other. The Church expects homosexuals to remain celibate and thus to remain lonely without a life partner for the rest of their lives.

This raises an interesting point: if sexual orientation is not chosen, then most Catholics would assume that it is determined by God. Thus, God creates about 5% of humans as homosexuals 5 and then tells them -- through the church -- that they must remain single for the rest of their life without the joy of being in a committed, loving relationship. Yet God apparently does not create any mechanism by which people can change their sexual orientation. This suggests a degree of meanness and lack of caring that is not normally considered two of the God's attributes.

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References:

  1. Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985, Final Report II B a, 4
  2. Richard McBrien, Vatican II themes: the people of God," National Catholic Reporter, 2011-JUL-25, at: http://ncronline.org/
  3. "Natural law: Its essence," Catholic Encyclopedia, at: http://www.newadvent.org/
  4. "Article 6: The Sixth Commandment," Catechism of the Catholic Church, at: http://www.christusrex.org/
  5. Some lesbians and gays estimate that 10% of humans have a homosexual orientation. Some religious and social conservatives estimate 1 or 2%. Five percent appears to be an accurate estimate.

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Site navigation:

 Home > Homosexuality > Rel.Groups > Churches > Catholicism > here

or Home > Christianity > Denominations > Catholicism > Homosexuality > here

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Copyright © 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-DEC-30
Author: B.A. Robinson
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