Monday, 12 January 2009

More on homosexuality

Mme E wrote a long comment to the most recent post, which deserves a full reply. Her comments in italics, mine in normal type.

Thanks for posting this, I read it with great interest as it's a subject I am struggling to come to terms with in the church.

Yes, it is certainly one of the areas where the Church comes into conflict with contemporary wisdom (or is that just contemproary ideas..?) A sign of contradiction...

"the homosexual has no moral right to campaign for acceptance of homosexual behaviour which is intrinsically disordered." It's this idea that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered ('objectively disordered' is the other phrase sometimes used by the church) that I really don't understand at all. I can't see any basis for it being considered disordered in the natural world. My cat is gay (although now he's been neutered he's just a bit fat eunuch rather than trying it on with the tom down the road), I find it hard to believe that is the result of nurture. Although, as you say, the natural world is fallen because of original sin.

Your definition of the purpose of sex to include love (bonding) doesn't seem at all inapplicable to homosexuality. If sex has to include procreation then that also rules out quite a lot of heterosexuals who may find themselves infertile. That's also very harsh.

A couple of issues here: one is that love is a broad term. We are all called to love. But the sexual expression of love is a very specific aspect of that. It is the sexual expression of love by a homosexual with someone of the same sex which the Church (and indeed all of Christian tradition, based on the Bible) says is against God's plan.

And the purpose of the sexual expression of love is clearly procreation and love. Theology and biology agree here: clearly sex is designed by the creator to be the uniting of the male and the female. There is a complementarity about that union which is lacking in homosexual encounters `(I don't want to be more physically explicit than that...). The case of a married couple who cannot conceive is clearly quite different: what they are doing in the marital embrace is precisely what God intended: and of course there is always the possibility of a miraculous conception (there are precedents!)

I find the claim that a person is not homophobic because they do not 'fear or hate' homosexuals somewhat undermined by choosing to compare homosexuality to cancer or pedophilia should a genetic cause be found. As for having gay friends, that doesn't wash; I have met racists married to spouses of a different race.

I may not have made myself sufficiently clear: I was using this comparison solely as an indicator that a genetic pre-disposition (if such a thing exists with regard to homosexuality) is not an indication that homosexuality is natural and therefore right, as the gay lobby claims. And clearly while I find pedophilia abhorrent, I neither fear nor hate those with cancer: both my
parents died of it, as it happens... So I think your point here misses the point.

On the broader question, 'am I homophobic?', I think it depends precisely on how you define your terms. If homophobia is the fear or hatred of homosexuals, I am not (and only I or those close to me are really in any position to judge that). If by homophobia you mean believing homosexuality to be disordered, then I clearly am. But my view is that the gay lobby tries to fudge that distinction to make conversations such as this impossible...

On the other hand, the church definitely teaches that homosexuality is wrong. I suppose my real issue at the heart of this is, what kind of God would say that homosexuality is wrong? I don't think it's an unreasonable question. For example, I have heard many catholics say that they do not believe God would place anyone in a fiery hell because a loving God wouldn't do that. But that's just as much a subjective definition of the parameters of God's love than my question. (I don't know whether you are one of those catholics who believe hell is a 'condition' rather than a place of fiery torment, am just citing it as an example).

I think here you touch on the most profound of all the philosophical questions about God. How do we believe in an all-loving all-powerful God who allows any kind of pain or distress? Many wiser people than me have wrestled with this one. But if one can believe in a God who was prepared to suffer death on a cross...

On the specific issue of 'what kind of God would say that homosexuality is wrong?' I think how one phrases the question does predispose us to view it a certain way. I prefer to look at the love of a God who has created the astonishing gift of sexual intimacy as the special way in which married couples can bond to share in the creation of new life and deepen their love to enable them to stay together to nurture and cherish that new life.

The gift is so powerful and wonderful that it is constantly under attack by the devil, and like all powerful things, when corrupted becomes very dangerous (as does Faith itself - see history, passim, for examples of that...). For that reason, it is important that we are clear about when and how the gift should and should not be used. So the kind of God who says that homosexuality is wrong is the kind of God who wants what is best for us: who loves us.

The challenge to the person afflicted by a damaged sexuality (whether homosexuality, pedophile attraction, temptation to infidelity, addiction to pornography etc etc ...) is to overcome these desires. There are certainly many Christian homosexuals who do so, and I am sure many of them will enter Heaven long before I do.


madame evangelista said...

Thanks Ben for taking the time to answer my comment so comprehensively, I do appreciate it.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for your comment. I should stress that these are my understanding and interpretation of Catholic teaching and tradition, as a reasonably intelligent and moderately well-read lay person.

I'm more than happy to continue the dialogue if it is helpful - and am certainly interested if there are holes in my thinking or a lack of clarity in the line of reasoning.

However, if you want authoritative teaching on this, an orthodox, ordained spiritual director might be more useful.

Anonymous said...

I think you have written well about the topic. there is one thing I would like to add.
The term homosexual encompasses a broad definition. I think the term oversimplifies things a bit. There are those who have a same sex attraction but are celibate. There are others who have a same sex attraction but participate in homosexual sex. Both experience a desire to take part in homosexual sex while only one actually follows through with the action. I see same sex attraction as a disorder. Who knows why it exists it just does. Having a desire like this is not sinful. The problem arises when those desires are acted upon. Homosexual acts are sinful. I don't think God is offended by our desires but God does become offended when we use our sexuality for a purpose it was never intended for.

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks for a useful and important distinction: I fully agree.

Raycol said...

I disagree with your statement that “clearly sex is designed by the creator to be the uniting of the male and the female. There is a complementarity about that union which is lacking in homosexual encounters”.

While male-female sex is obviously the most common form of sex, there is nothing in the Bible to say that it is the only form of permissible sex. If God had intended, from Creation onwards, that sex be only between males and females, one would expect that the prohibition in Leviticus 18:22 on sex between males would be accompanied by a similar prohibition on sex between females. Since there is no prohibition on sex between females, one can’t say that God intended that sex be only between males and females.

This view is reinforced by the fact that same-sex sexual activity has been documented in over 300 species of animals made by God.

In regard to complementarity, this argument fails because the parts still fit in male-male sex. Also, it is likely that gay people choose complementary partners (“opposites attract”) just as much as straight people. This could include complementarity of natures, likes and dislikes, attitudes, etc.

More information about these and similar matters can be seen on

Anonymous said...

The account of Genesis shows, marriage and sexuality were created by God and given to mankind as gifts for our benefit. Scripture records God's statement that "it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gen. 2:18). As a result, "a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). This is the original plan of God for sex.

Two men together cannot capture the fullness of human personhood, and neither can two women; for that, you need one man and one woman. However exclusive, unconditional and permanent same-sex relationships may aspire to be, they lack the complementarity that the deepest fulfillment requires.The love between man and woman is designed to call new human life into existence and in so doing make the shared life of the couple more abundantly fulfilling. It does not always produce new life, but that is what it is designed to do. Homosexual sex is not procreative and thus not life-giving.

Animals respond to thoughtless instinct, people by virtue of their reason, have moral principles attached to each action they do. Animals don't take part in sex to unite the "spouses" closer together.

Ben Trovato said...


Do you think the Bible is authoritative? If so, why?


Thanks for your comments.

Raycol's claim of biblical support for (or the lack of a clear biblical prohibition regarding) homosexual sex is precisely the kind of thing I was referring to on my latest comment on the more recent post.