What does the Catholic Church teach about Homosexuality?
Homosexuality, or same-sex attraction, is not new. But it has become more prominent because of the sexual revolution.
We cannot deal with this important topic at length this book, nor can we deal with the many questions that arise when we broach the topic. A good article to read is “The Origins and Healing of Homosexual Attractions and Behaviors,” by Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons.
Perhaps many of us know men and women who have a homosexual orientation. Perhaps they form part of our family. The situation can be very painful indeed, and an open and frank discussion can prove difficult. I will make a few observations here that may be of some help.
Some people choose to be homosexual, while others do not. The two groups should be distinguished. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, has said that those who do not choose to be homosexual are in prisons not of their making. That is, there is some cause – cultural and/or familial – beyond the control of the person that disposes them to be attracted to a person of the same sex. The article referred to above is particularly good on this issue.
What may be helpful in trying to reach some clarity is the fact that we are born either male or female, but a task remains ahead of each of us. The task for a male is to develop and cultivate a masculine personality. The task for a female is to develop and cultivate a feminine personality. For various reasons this can prove to be a difficult task. Failure to cultivate the masculine or feminine personality can result in homosexual attraction.
In light of the Theology of the Body, we can see that the attraction to someone of the same sex is not part of God’s original plan. God intended that men and women would be sexually attracted to each other. Men and women are meant for each other. Their bodies and their persons are complementary. They literally fit together – they become one.
The homosexual person, therefore, is confronted with two great pains. First, he or she has the pain of being attracted to a person of the same sex. This real pain causes a feeling of dislocation. In a sense, the person suffers the pains of a lack of personal identity. ”Why,” asks the homosexual person, “am I attracted to someone of the same sex, when most other people are not?”
Second, the homosexual person has the pain of knowing that homosexual sex can never be a “one-flesh” union. Homosexual sex will never fulfill them. A “one-flesh” union occurs when two people face each other, express their love, and then unite physically. This is impossible in the homosexual act. Two men (or two women) cannot face each other, unite together, and become “one flesh,” since their sexual organs cannot be united. This is critically important, for as we have seen, the body is symbolic. The body unites us both physically and spiritually.
The Church teaches, therefore, that the inclination to homosexuality is disordered and that homosexual acts are sinful. The Church also teaches that this inclination that the homosexual person experiences “constitutes for most of them a trial” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358) Homosexual persons must strive to live a life of chastity by refraining from homosexual acts. In addition, the Church teaches clearly that homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
Is there any therapy that will help the homosexual person? Much study and work have taken place in the last twenty years. The article recommended above not only deals with the causes of homosexuality, but also documents the healing and therapies that have been successful in helping homosexual men and women. Becoming aware of this research, based as it is on experience, will give you some wisdom in helping friends who may be experiencing and struggling with same-sex attraction.
We should not underestimate the struggle and pain that are part of homosexuality. In our current culture, chastity is difficult. But it is not impossible, for as Jesus told us: “For men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
Regular prayer, the confession of one’s sins, and frequent reception of Christ’s body and blood will be a great help in redeeming the body from the trials of homosexuality and struggles with unchastity in general. In addition, persons with homosexual attractions can see their particular difficulties as a cross that is intimately united to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Just as Jesus offered up his sufferings, so, too, persons with homosexual attractions can offer up their sufferings.