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Religious Tolerance logo

About Natural Law, the Roman Catholic Church, and LGBT topics


Conflicting arguments based on natural
law, for and against same-sex marriage (SSM)

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The acronym "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons.

The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage, often called "gay marriage"
We prefer the former term because some same-sex marriages include one or
bisexuals. Also, "gay" sometimes refers to male gays and sometimes
to both gays and lesbians.

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Quotations showing diversity of beliefs (repeated from this essay's menu):

bullet "...the greater tragedy lies in the future when young men and women come to understand their sexual orientation, and learn that they are truly strangers in the pews who are asked not to tell who they are or whom they love." Dignity/USA, a support group for LGBT Catholics that is not recognized by the Church, and is generally not allowed to meet on church property. 1

bullet "Homosexuality: Sexual activity between persons of the same sex. It is not a normal condition, the acts being against nature are objectively wrong." A definition from the Catholic Encyclopedia. 2

bullet "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, ... tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'. 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." Catechism of the Catholic Church, topic: The Sixth Commandment "Chastity and homosexuality," §2357. 3

bullet "The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity. It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Study after study documents the mental health of gay men and lesbians. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social and vocational adaptiveness all show that gay men and lesbians function every bit as well as heterosexuals." 4

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In the past, the Roman Catholic Church argued against the morality of same-gender sexual behavior, mainly on the basis of scripture -- often using the famous but ambiguous six anti-gay "clobber passages" in the Bible. 5 They supplemented this with the Church's traditional teaching concerning homosexuality. Based on this analysis, the Church has opposed all attempts by state and federal governments to recognize the legitimacy of loving, committed same-sex relationships, either by creating a system of civil unions or by by making marriage available to these couples. They expect gays and lesbians to lead celibate lives, without ever entering into and enjoying a mutually supporting, loving, committed, and sexually active relationship.

However, during late 2012, the church hierarchy appears to have started to emphasize a different rationale for their opposition. Many Catholic leaders now base their conclusions upon Natural Law, either in addition to their earlier arguments, or in place of them.

George Weigel, columnist for the Denver Catholic Register, elegantly described natural law as consisting of universal and fixed:

"... moral truths built into the world and into us -- truths that we can grasp by reason." 6

The essays in this section will describe the Church's interpretation of natural law with respect to lesbians, gays and bisexuals. We will attempt to show how natural law -- which is promoted as generating absolute, universally applicable truth -- is, in practice, unreliable. Intelligent, sincere, thoughtful people with different foundational world views can and do derive conflicting interpretations of natural law. They may be aware that others' interpretations are very different from their own, but rarely have any doubt about the accuracy of their own conclusions.

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Topics covered in this section:

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References used:

The following information source were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Gay Catholics dismayed and angry at Vatican authorities," at:
  2. Robert Broderick, Ed., "Catholic Encyclopedia: Revised and updated edition," Nelson, (1987), Page 272.  Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  3. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," The Vatican, at:
  4. The American Psychological Association's Statement on Homosexuality, 1994-JUL. The APA and other professional associations have published numerous reports and statements since, that follow the same theme.
  5. "Q: What was the point of the Bible texts if not to condemn homosexuality?," Dignity US, 1998-2011, at:
  6. George Weigel, "The natural law = bigotry? Please." National Catholic Register, 2009-NOV-25, at:

Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2013-JAN-08
Latest update: 2013-JAN-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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