Thursday, January 10, 2013

Theology of the Body, Talk #8: Does the Church teach that homosexuality is a sin?

Hey everyone, so sorry I’ve been away from this blog for awhile.  I had to pause for the past several months in order to finish some school work from the past.  But, now it’s a new year, 2013 and we can delve into the topic once again regarding a Theology of the Body.  Last time I posted I discussed the problem with sex outside the context of marriage, and opened the door for a discussion on same-sex attraction.  We can pick up on that topic once again with the question:  “Does the Church teach that homosexuality is a sin?”

As we continue this commentary on the late Pope John Paul II’s, Theology of the Body, remember that my goal here is to consider and address many of the common questions young people have regarding human sexuality.  In fact, as you can see, these are simply many of the questions most people have regarding sex.  All of the concepts you are reading about such as the “Spousal or Nuptial Meaning of the Body,” (re: Talk #6) come from Pope John Paul II and have been revolutionizing our Catholic understanding of sexuality and personhood since they were delivered in his Wednesday Audiences from 1979-1984.  We can apply the basic principles of the Pope’s Theology of the Body to all of our questions regarding human sexuality for a more complete and freedom giving understanding that helps us with the reasons behind the answers to our questions about sex.  The Pope’s Theology of the Body, more than ever before in history, has explained clearly the Catholic teaching on sex giving us, the faithful, a deep understanding as to “why” these teachings are moral, freeing, and always respecting the dignity of the person(s); therefore proclaiming, following, and signifying Christ’s love.  Christopher West and Jason Evert both affirm that, of all the things ever written on the topic of sex for Catholics, Pope John Paul II has written two-thirds of it!  It is not that the Pope simply “made up” or “declared these teachings infallible.”  It is not the Pope’s place to simply create the Catholic teaching regarding human sexuality.  God created the Catholic understanding and teaching of sex and He choose to pass it on to us by way of the Scriptures, Tradition, the Apostolic Succession and Petrine Ministry (the succession of Popes, that is) and the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church who “leads us to all truth.” (Jn 16:12-16)  What the Pope can and has done in the Theology of the Body is “en-flesh” or deepen our understanding as to why the Church teaches what the Holy Spirit has given Her to teach regarding sex and marriage.

Does the Church teach that homosexuality is a sin?

First, I want to answer the question clearly.  Then we can look into the Theology of the Body for a deeper understanding as to “why” the teaching stands as it does.  This deeper understanding should always be more freedom giving, signifying Christ’s love for us, his own Bride the Church.  Remember that sex, and the body, is sacramental in that it makes visible the invisible God (Theology of the Body. Intimacy – The Hidden Meaning of Vision. General Audience of January 2, 1980. JPII).

No, the Church does not teach that a “same-sex attraction” is morally wrong or sinful; but that homosexual “acts” are intrinsically disordered and morally wrong.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church. #2357)  The morality of homosexual attraction comes in the “action,” that is, what the person with a same-sex (a.k.a, homosexual) attraction does with the desire for sex.  If a man is attracted to men sexually yet chooses to remain chaste, pure, always reverencing the real meaning of sex (re: Talk #5) for what it is: the complete self-giving love of a man and woman who are consummating their marriage bond signifying Christ’s love for his spouse the Church in the one flesh union, always open to life - then that man is without sin in this case.  Any person with a same-sex attraction who practices chastity is not sinful.  Chastity is the vocation and calling of every person inside and outside of marriage (yes, there is marital chastity too!).  So, if one never marries, then one is not called to the vocation of “the marital act.”  This calling to chastity by God (Mt. 5:27-28; 19; Mk 10:1-16; Gen 2:24; Titus 2:1-6) is for every human person.  Those of you dating, for example, are called to the same level of chastity as a person struggling with same-sex attraction is called to.  For those who are dating and for those attracted to the same-sex, chastity means abstaining from sex for the sake of the beloved.  Otherwise, as we learned in the last blog, sex outside of marriage always communicates an unfortunate lie which happens between two persons and necessarily does harm to the persons involved.  Here we learn that any practice of un-chaste behavior is sinful, harmful and un-loving.  This is true, not only for a person with homosexual orientation, but true also for a person with heterosexual orientation as well.  There is no discrimination in the virtue of chastity!  The sin happens with the action and behavior but not with the orientation.  This is a very important point since the Catholic Church is often misunderstood to teach that homosexual orientation is sinful.  The truth is, however, that the action of un-chaste behavior is sinful holding the same standard for hetero and homosexual orientations.  Since God instituted marriage to be between a man and woman, no homosexual union can be called marital.  In sex (the marital act) there is always a unitive meaning that has to remain connected to the procreative meaning according to God’s design and plan for love and life (Humanae Vitae. #12. Pope Paul VI).

But, Benjamin, holy smokes that’s so difficult!  Who can do that?  Who can remain chaste their entire life?  How can persons with same-sex attraction abstain from sex their whole lives?

Let me tell you a simple story.  I want to mention some holy people I know personally who struggle with same-sex attraction who live the fullness of chastity according to their single state in life!!!  (I’m not going to name them, of course, I just want to mention that these saintly people do exist.)  They take up their cross daily and recommit themselves to the great virtue of chastity . . . which is what we all should be doing.  For them, it may mean an entire life without sex.  They will not die from a lack of sex, as our culture insists will happen.  They also know they are not “entitled” to sex.  None of us are entitled to sex.  Sex (the marital act) is a gift waiting for those called to and eventually given the vocation to marriage.  Sexual intercourse, as we have been talking about, is sacramental in nature.  Just like Holy Orders, not everyone is called to it.  Instead, it is a gift given by God to those men and women called to the one flesh union and complete self-gift of love which signifies Christ’s love for His own spouse the Church.  Those persons with same-sex attraction who strive for chastity daily are models for us to follow in virtue.  They are full of courage, counter-cultural commitment to God and real love.  They have meaningful friendships and are capable of deep, abiding love, joy and another type of fruitfulness that effects many, many lives, proclaims Gospel values and speaks the truthful language of the body.

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