I was very disturbed over the recent letter "Always Our Children." It seems to make homosexuality accepted. Has the Church changed its teaching concerning homosexuality?
Before addressing the moral issue of the practice of homosexuality, we must first review some basic truth principles: First, each of us, whether male or female, is made in God's image and likeness (Gn 1:17). We must be ever mindful of the inherent dignity of each person, a dignity heightened by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Second, in accord with God's plan, the union of man and woman as husband and wife in marriage is a sacred covenant of life and love (Gn 1:28, Mt 19:3ff); the complementarity of the sexes reflects the inner unity of the Creator ("Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," #4). Third, the conjugal expression of love in marriage is both unitive and procreative: a sacred symbol of the two who have become flesh and a sacred expression which may bring human life into this world.
Given these principles, the practice of homosexuality — "relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex" (Catechism, #2357) — is considered "intrinsically disordered" ("Declaration on Certain Problems of Sexual Ethics," #8). An "intrinsically disordered" act defies both the goodness of God's design for how life ought to be lived and the dignity proper to each person. Please note that a distinction is made between the homosexual condition or tendency and the practice of homosexuality; the practice or act is what falls into the realm of sin.
Why does the Church preach that the practice of homosexuality is a sin? The answer is first based on the revelation found in Sacred Scripture. In Genesis, we find the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (18: 16-19:29), a place where "their sin was so grave" (18:20); here, Lot has to protect his two male visitors (not knowing they were angels of the Lord) from the townsmen who desired "intimacies" with them. St. Paul also condemned the practice of homosexuality: "God delivered them up in their lusts to unclean practices; they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies, these men who exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creatorâ¦.God therefore delivered them up to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and the men gave up their natural intercourse with women and burned with lust for one another. Men did shameful things with men, and thus received in their own persons the penalty for their perversity" (Rom 1:24-29). In other letters, he also condemns the acts of "sexual perverts" (1Cor 6:10 and 1Tm 1:10). Sadly, some individuals would like to contort these passages to say they really do not condemn the practice of homosexuality but rather some other problem; such a reading is erroneous and defies the consistent teaching of the Church.
While these explicit condemnations exist, the teaching of Sacred Scripture which extols the sanctity of marriage between male and female as husband and wife and their marital love clearly provides the foundation for prohibiting the homosexual action. Secondly, therefore, the answer is based on the principles established at the outset of this article. A homosexual union defies the union of husband and wife as designed by God. Such a union cannot capture the symbolism of the two — male and female — complementing each other and becoming one flesh: In such a union they cannot be God's instruments in bringing human life into this world through the normal act of marriage. Even using our reason alone, without any reference to divine revelation, we would have to conclude that the practice of homosexuality is contrary to the natural law.
Recent attention has focused on the relationship between parents and their homosexual children. While not providing a critique of the letter "Always Our Children," I think the purpose was to highlight the parent's need for compassion and mercy while upholding the truth of our faith. Parents must love their children, but not the sin of their children. The Church in no way condones the practice nor accepts that the practice can be regarded as a morally neutral "alternate lifestyle." In no way can the Church judge a quasi-marital lifestyle between two people of the same sex as something equally good as heterosexual marriage. Parents have to take strong positions to defend the truth in order to save the souls of their children. Without tolerating the sin, parents must help their children by praying for them, exhorting them to a chaste lifestyle, and directing them to proper counseling or other help — actions parents should follow for any child whether of this orientation or not.
Parents and all of the faithful must be compassionate in reconciling any sinner to the faith. I think of one case where a man had entered a homosexual union, cut off all ties with his family, contracted AIDS, and was dying. Sadly, his family refused to visit him in the hospital, saying, "He's no longer our son," even though he had been reconciled back to God and the Church. The parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us to act differently. Yes, condemn the sin, but always seek to reconcile the sinner back to God.
In all, the Church does challenge homosexual persons to live a chaste life. Like any Christian, these persons must adhere to God's plan, strive to fulfill His will in their own lives, and unite themselves in their interior suffering to Christ. They too must embrace the cross.
Saunders, Rev. William. "Homosexuality." Arlington Catholic Herald.
This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.
Father William Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope parish in Potomac Falls, Virginia. He is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns, and Straight Answers II.Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald
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