Homosexuality and Catholics
THE HOMOSEXUAL PERSON
The following quotation sums up the problems & frustrations of a homosexual: “Homosexuals have been frequently told by their families that they don't belong to them; by their Church that they are desperate sinners; by medical doctors that they are sick; and by the law that they are criminals.”
What is homosexuality? How do you describe or define it? There are so many degrees of homosexual attraction that it is very difficult to describe or define it.
The term "homosexuality" is derived from the Greek word "homos"-- the same-- and the Latin word "sexus"-- sex. Thus, the word "homosexuality" literally means "the same sex" or "the same sexuality.”
We have to distinguish between the homosexual orientation and homosexual activity. I feel that that is a very important distinction. The homosexual orientation is one thing; homosexual activity is another thing.
Homosexuality is anything but a simple or easy phenomenon to describe. Homosexuality is usually defined as the psycho-erotic attraction towards members of the same sex. Thus, a homosexual is one who is psycho-sexually aroused by persons of his own sex and who usually, but not necessarily, engages in overt sexual relations with them. The true homosexual is not only not attracted to the complementary sex, but may have a positive disgust at the thought of sexual intercourse with them.
We should always remember that homosexuality is a way of thinking and feeling before it becomes a way of acting. One performs homosexual acts because one thinks and feels homosexually.
A. Causes Of Homosexuality:
What are the causes of homosexuality? Why are some men homosexuals?
Nobody knows how or why some people become homosexuals. Despite all the research that has been done, no one can say, with certainty, whether homosexuality is biologically or psychologically determined; whether it is hereditary or environmental.
One author states that homosexuality is an arrested state of psycho-sexual development. The normal child first relates to the mother, then to the father and then to both equally. The homosexual gets a fixation on the father and never reaches the next stage.
The Medical Profession has officially stated that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Homosexuals are neither emotionally sick nor psychologically disturbed.
B. Not a Chosen Orientation:
It is important to keep in mind that homosexuality is not a chosen orientation. The person's sexual orientation is already decided before he is old enough to have any say about it. Most psychiatrists say that a person's sexual orientation is determined very early in life--some say that our sexual orientation is already decided by the age of two or three.
In other words, a person's sexual orientation is formed before he/she has the capacity to make any personal decisions or choices. The person, at a certain point in life, merely discovers that he is a homosexual. He discovers an already existing condition. If we say that we don't know the ultimate causes of homosexuality and if it is true that homosexuals did not choose their sexual orientation, the conclusion to be drawn is that homosexuals are in no way responsible for the fact that they are homosexuals.
We have to clearly distinguish between a person's sexual orientation and his acts. As we've already seen, the homosexual is in no way responsible for his homosexual orientation. At a certain point in time, the person discovers that he is a homosexual. He discovers an already existing condition. However, like the heterosexual, the homosexual is responsible for his sexual activity.
C. Homosexuals Can Change Their Orientation:
One of the misconceptions about homosexuals is that they can change their orientation, if they wish to do so. The true homosexual, however, can no more change his sexual orientation than can the true heterosexual. True homosexuality is, for all practical purposes, irreversible. A true homosexual can modify his behaviour but not his psychic responses, erotic attractions and fantasies.
HOMOSEXUALITY IN SACRED SCRIPTURE
The Judaeo-Christian tradition has always taken a very negative attitude towards homosexual activity. The traditional Christian approach to homosexuality is negative because it is based on a very negative approach to homosexual activity in Sacred Scripture.
A. Homosexuality in the Old Testament:
There is no doubt that the Old Testament severely condemns homosexual practices.
In Leviticus, homosexual activity is viewed as a crime worthy of death:
"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination". (Lev. 18:22).
Homosexual activity is even more strongly condemned a few chapters later on:
"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them should be put to death; since they have committed an abhorrent deed, they have forfeited their lives”. (Lev. 20:13).
The prohibition of homosexual activity in Leviticus influenced the approach of the early Church to homosexual activity. It certainly influenced St. Paul.
B. St. Paul and Homosexual Activity
Homosexual activity is mentioned in 3 places in the Letters of St. Paul.
In 2 passages, homosexual activity is simply listed along with vices rampant in 1st. century Corinth and Rome; ICor. 6:9-10, Tim. 1:9-11.
Romans 1:18-28: In his Letter to the Romans, we have the only extended reference to homosexual activity in the New Testament. In fairness, it must be pointed out that homosexual activity is not the principal concern of St. Paul in this passage. The real object of St. Paul's attack is idolatry.
This passage is directed towards Gentiles. Paul maintains that God can be known, through the aid of natural reason, from reflection on the things He has created; but Gentiles preferred idols to the God of creation.
Like all the Jews of the first century, St. Paul would see a link between idolatry & the sexual depravity of the Gentile world.
Paul uses homosexual activity to illustrate the chaos that results from idolatry. Pagans exchanged the true God for a false one. The punishment for this idolatrous behaviour is a corresponding sexual misbehaviour, whereby unnatural sexual relations were exchanged for the natural.
Paul's mention of women in v.26 is the only reference we have in the Bible to Lesbianism.
Many authors say that Paul is here speaking of the pervert--the heterosexual, who deliberately indulges in homosexual activity. Obviously, Paul would know nothing about inversion or constitutive homosexuality. St. Paul would regard all homosexual behaviour as a perversion.
Like the people of his time, he would not be able to distinguish the homosexual activity of the invert from the homosexual activity of the pervert.
It is my belief that we must keep modern psychiatry’s findings with regard to the homosexual orientation in mind, when we are interpreting these passages from Sacred Scripture.
C. Sexual Abuse In Sodom And Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-29):
But none of these texts had as much influence on the attitude of the Church towards homosexual activity as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, Sodom and Gomorrah are frequently held up as the symbol of moral depravity. So great was Sodom's sinfulness that it merited complete destruction.
Although the story of Sodom deals with sexual violations, it is clear from the context that the primary concern of the author is not homosexual activity as such but the terrible violation of the ordinary laws of hospitality. The men of Sodom threatened to sexually abuse two visiting angels, who were guests in Lot’s house. (v.8). Since the angels are God's representatives, there is a direct sin against God Himself.
Although the Old Testament & the Gospels refer to the sinfulness of Sodom, they never make any direct connection between the sin of Sodom with homosexual activity.
Jeremiah (23:14): Ezekiel (16:49-50): Wisdom (19:13-14) & Quoheleth (16:8) associate various types of evils with Sodom. (Th. Sts. Dec. '87).
Christ refers to the proverbial wickedness and punishment of Sodom but he never indicates what their sin actually was. (Mt. 10:14-15, 11:23-24: Lk. 10:12, 17:29).
It is only in the late New Testament Books of Jude (6-7) and 2Peter (2:4, 6-10), that an explicit connection is made in Sacred Scripture between the sin of Sodom and homosexual activity.
One author says that, by the end of the 1st century A.D, the sin of Sodom had become widely identified among the Jews with homosexual activity. This identification of homosexual activity with the sin and punishment of Sodom had immense influence on Christian tradition and legislation thereafter.
The Fathers of the Church maintained that the city of Sodom was destroyed because of the sin of homosexual activity. They saw the destruction of the two cities as a positive sign of God's utter disapproval of homosexual activity.
One thing we must always keep in mind about St. Paul & the other Sacred Scripture writers is that they would know nothing about the homosexual orientation or constitutive homosexuality. They would not have been able to distinguish the homosexual orientation & the free choice of 2 heterosexuals to engage in homosexual behaviour.
As the text stands we are dealing with perversion--2 heterosexuals engaging in homosexual behaviour.
It is my belief that we must keep modern psychiatry’s findings with regard to the homosexual person in mind when we are interpreting these passages from Sacred Scripture.
Homosexuality is anything but a simple or easy phenomenon to describe. Homosexuality describes psycho-erotic attraction for one's own sex running all the way from the most fleeting inclinations in teenagers to permanent and deeply rooted homosexual preference in mature adults.
- God created mankind, in his own image & likeness, male and female He created them. He created man and woman to complete and complement each other emotionally, psychologically, biologically, etc.
Because human sexuality can only be properly understood in terms of the love union of male and female, heterosexual relations must always be given priority & preference over homosexual relationships.
- There are two elements to the genital dimension of our sexuality -- the unitive and the procreative. Complementarity & the procreative element are missing in homosexual relations.
That is why homosexual activity can never be considered sexual activity at full term. It is for the same reason that the human race can never feel fully comfortable with homosexual activity.
- The homosexual is in no way responsible for his homosexual orientation. A person's sexual orientation is formed before he/she has the capacity to make any personal decisions or choices. At a certain point in life, one merely discovers an already existing condition. However, like the heterosexual, the homosexual is responsible for his homosexual activity.
- You may have noticed the heading of this article–The Homosexual Person. The homosexual is first and foremost a person. We are all persons, who are sexual. The human being is first of all a person and it is as a person that he or she is male or female. As a person, the homosexual is entitled to the same respect, consideration, and treatment as the heterosexual. There should never be any discrimination, prejudice, and certainly no violence against persons merely because they are homosexual.
- In 1977 our American Catholic Bishops wrote a Pastoral Message to the parents of homosexual children. I like the heading of the Pastoral Message, “Always Our Children.” Homosexuals & lesbians are, first of all, our children or our brothers & sisters.
The fact that they are our children or our siblings should always dictate how we relate to them.