Mercy and defending life

My dear friends in Christ,

The inauguration of the Year of Mercy should be for all apostles and defenders of human life an impetus to live more faithfully and fully the message of the Gospel of Life in which Christ our Saviour calls us to be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.  (Lk.6:36)

Whenever one faithfully practices the Christian life by acting mercifully towards one’s neighbour, one’s concern actually encompasses Christ personally (Mt.25:40).  As such, any act of mercy becomes fruitful and blossoms into eternal life.  In order to be merciful, it is necessary to know specifically in what mercy consists.  St. Augustine defines mercy as a “heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to help him if we can.”

By exhorting us to be as merciful as is our Heavenly Father, Christ invites us to take a path, which is intrinsic to the nature of mercy, that is, a path leading to divine greatness manifested by our generosity in dealing with others.  A simple act of mercy, then, may bring solace in a time of great need. (Prov.22:9)  Since this generosity is, however, a characteristic chiefly belonging to persons of influence, authority or power, it is a distinctive feature of God, who being all powerful, manifests His goodness by being, Himself, all merciful. (Ex.34:6-7)

The ultimate formula for governing our lives is found in God’s greatest commandment, which obligates us to love Him above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. (Mt.22:35-40)  The guidelines for keeping this greatest commandment are the avoidance of doing evil by observing the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-17) and earnestly doing good by practising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  St Paul, while encouraging the performance of the works of mercy, nevertheless, pointed out that they should originate from a love for God Himself: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”.  (Col.3:12-14)

This love for God, which consists in keeping His commandments (Jn.14:15) finds concrete expression in the seven corporal and in the seven spiritual works of mercy.  These specifically are

The corporal works of mercy

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To shelter the homeless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To visit those in prison;
  • To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To comfort the sorrowful;
  • To exhort sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.

Both the natural and the divine positive law impose a strict duty on us to carry out the works of mercy.  Whilst the natural law requirement is based upon the principle that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us (Mt.7:12), the positive divine law comes from Christ under the supreme penalty of eternal damnation (Mt.25:41).  The corporal works were each directly and explicitly stated by Christ.  The spiritual works, however, are all implied in scripture and deal with a distress whose relief is of even greater imperative as well as more effective for the grand purpose of our creation, which is, eternal life.

The intrinsic character of both the spiritual and corporal works reveals that ‘we are our brother’s keeper’. (Eph.4:25)  In the case of the spiritual works, Christ enjoins fraternal correction (Mt.18:15) as well as the forgiveness of injuries (Mt.6:14).  A certain degree of tact and prudence is required in fulfilling the first four of the spiritual works as each case depends largely on the degree of distress to be aided, and the competency or condition of the one to whom the responsibility falls. (Col.4:6)  However, the last three, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly and to pray for the living and the dead, are within the reach of all and, consequently, one may not dispense oneself on the plea that one lacks some special array of gifts required for their observance.

In this Year of Mercy, all of us, as apostles for the Gospel of Life, are invited to redouble our efforts in order that the teachings of the Gospel of Life may bear greater fruit.  For example, today, there are many people in our world who are genuinely misled the ignorant in regard to the life issues; they are unable to accept that abortion is nothing other than child killing and, that euthanasia, fatuously called called mercy killing, is murder in disguise.  Imbued with a love of God, we must courageously embrace the task of instructing and guiding our ill-informed brethren.  Likewise, we should counsel the doubtful, that is, those, for instance, who are considering IVF or surrogacy and are uncertain as to what is the correct thing to do.  True compassion requires that we give comfort to those who are depressed or are grieving because of mistakes they may have made, such as those, for example, who are contemplating suicide, or whose suffering arises from post abortion trauma or a broken marriage. (2Cor.7:10)  It is always difficult to call sin by its proper name but, in charity, we must encourage the sinner who may be trapped in a situation of sexual cohabitation, of a same sex relationship or, of pornography addiction to look to Christ as their model and move towards a life of virtue (Jam.5:20).

In bearing witness to the teachings of Christ, we should be prepared to bear opposition patiently and, no doubt, we will suffer misunderstanding, abuse and even persecution for our witness to the Gospel of Life. (2Tim.2:10)  Whatever offences and injustices we experience we should, in imitation of Our Lord (Lk.23:34; Acts.7:60), forgive readily and willing.

The application of the teachings of Christ in regard to the corporal works of mercy may include contributing to or providing a safe refuge or home for women in a crisis pregnancy situation.  Equally, by visiting and praying outside places where pre-born children are killed is a work of mercy, regardless of the outcome.  Praying for the living and the dead includes those who, while living are spiritually dead. (Apoc.3:1) That is, we should pray for the conversion of those working in the industries that promote the Culture of Death.

In all of this, it must not be forgotten that Mercy is Love’s response to suffering and that the works of mercy demand more than a humanitarian basis if they are to serve as instruments in bringing about our eternal salvation.  For the works of mercy to be salvific for us, their animating spirit must belong to the supernatural order, that is, must be rooted in the love of God above all things.

May the Mother of mercy and Refuge of sinners intercede for us that we may in this Year of Mercy courageously live the message of the Gospel of Life more faithfully and fully for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. (Is.56:1)

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI in Eucharistic AdorationMonday’s news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation of the papacy was for me, as indeed for many others, a bombshell. I candidly admit that news of his death would have been less shocking.

I remember very well the elation that swept over me on hearing the news that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected by the Conclave and that he had taken the name Benedict XVI. It was a case of hope against hope.

The media moguls and liberals were less enthused and on them a deep gloom settled: “definitely no change” they grumbled. They were not slow in chiding the new Pope for what they perceived as his naivety as in the case of the Regensburg address, which, raising Muslim ire, provoked unbelievable demonstrations in Islamic countries worldwide. The Holy Father by simply quoting the 13th century Byzantium Emperor Michael Paleologus who charged Islam with unreasonableness, allowed the reaction to prove the charge. Brilliant, I thought. The attempt to implicate him in the homosexual paedophile scandal failed miserably as it emerged that he, in fact, had done more than any other to tackle the issue. The condoms in Africa issue was another tinderbox from which he emerged as a master strategist. Pope Benedict’s defence of life and of the true meaning of human sexuality has been clear, consistent and unequivocal. For courageously calling abortion a “crime against society that kills the child and destroys the woman”, Planned Parenthood declared him a dangerous enemy. His statements, undoubtedly, angered the enemy outside the Church of which he is the Supreme Pastor.

The Holy Father provoked the enemy within by calling for an interpretation of Vatican II that is based upon a “hermeneutic of renewal in continuity”, that is, “what was sacred before the Council is sacred today.” He crystallised this call with the document Summorum Pontificum in which he declared that the Traditional Mass had never been abolished nor Latin forbidden. Suffice it to say that the reaction bordered on the hostile. In the words of Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Church’s highest judicial authority after the Pope “There’s no question that there remains in certain places a resistance to what the Holy Father has asked, and that’s sad. It’s sometimes even an expression of disagreement with the Holy Father’s discipline and even an expression that this is harmful for the Church.”

The Holy Father’s attempt to establish continuity in a decree lifting the excommunications from the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X resulted in a pillorying by modernists within the Church, in a collaboration with secular Jews. In a letter to the world’s bishops, the Holy Father expressed sincere shock at the lack of fraternal charity on the part of those whom he naively assumed had reverence for his office and for himself. The betrayal by his own butler in the Vatileaks affair indicates how close the enemy inside is.

Pope Benedict cited “advanced age” and a lack of “strength of mind and body” as the factors that led him to conclude that he is incapable of “adequately fulfilling” the Petrine ministry. While he certainly is of advanced age, I think there are deeper reasons for his resignation. Pope Benedict is a master strategist. He has already set the Church on course. What is required now is a successor of the calibre of St Pius X, or St Gregory VII, or even St. Leo the Great or St. Gregory the Great, who will mete out the firm discipline that is necessary to protect the Faith and faithful from those who openly resist the corrections that are needed to avert the present day crisis.

Papal resignations are rare but not new. There have been four in history and all made for the greater good of Christ’s Church. The third century pope, St Pontian was the first Bishop of Rome to resign. During the persecutions of the Emperor Severus, he was arrested and sent to the salt mines in 235. He resigned his office in order that a successor could be elected in Rome. Pope St Martin was arrested by the emperor Constans because of his refusal to approve the Monothelite heresy. He resigned in 654 so that the Church could be free to elect his successor. St Celestine V, a hermit elected because of his personal holiness, found himself unsuited to the task and so, in 1294, resigned for the good of the Church. The last pope to step down was Gregory XII, who did so in 1415 in order to end the Great Western Schism. These four popes, like Christ who loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Eph.5:25), all relinquished the Supreme Office for the good of the Church. Pope Benedict, for the good of the Church in a “world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith” has done the same.

No doubt, hopes are raised that the next pope will approve contraception, abortion, same sex marriage and other such like inanities. It will not happen, because the Lord Jesus has promised that gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. The next pope, regardless of the Continent from which he comes, will teach the perennial truths of faith. As people of faith in unseen realities, we must pray for Pope Benedict XVI and even more for the Conclave that will elect his successor.

The Church and the Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions

This article is the final installment of a five-part series written by Fr Linus Clovis.  It should be read in the context of his previous posts on Same Sex Attraction.  You can read the previous parts to this series by following these links:  Homosexual Struggle; Categories of Homosexuality; Same Sex Attraction:  A Catholic Perspective, Homosexuality is Destructive to the Individual and Society. 

The Catholic Church is the only institution that can and has confronted and challenged the presuppositions of the ideological constructs on which modern secular society is built.  This becomes more evident as the media, universities, governmental and international bodies such as the UN and legislatures push an agenda calling for homosexual marriages.

It is true that private individuals and many religious communities are and have opposed this call but their stance is generally on grounds of faith which, of course, has no traction with non-believers.  This is not to deny that there are also secular bodies and non-believers who see the call for same sex marriage as the iceberg on which the social Titanic might well founder.

The Catholic Church, basing her argument firmly on the twin pillars of divine Revelation and the Natural Law that is written on every human heart (Rom.1:20), issued a document in 2003, entitled Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons.  In §2, the Church noted that, since the Creator has established marriage with its own nature, essential properties and purpose,

“no ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.”

Thus, the Church proclaims the certainty that no ideology can ever abrogate what God has imprinted in the human nature to the extent that humanity would doubt that marriage could be anything other than between a man and a woman.  She also espouses the altruism of the personal gift of self to the other that bears fruit in the emergence of another and utterly new being, who is so alike and yet different.

Mining the rich deposits of Revelation, the Church discerns in the creation account of Genesis the three fundamental elements that constitute a true marriage.

The first is sexual complementarity where each sex supplies to the other those things the other lacks.  Man who is created in the image of God, was created “male and female” (Gen 1:27), so that men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and female. Sexuality is something that pertains to the physical-biological realm yet, it has been raised in human beings to a new level – the personal level – where nature and spirit are united.

The second is the formation of a new community.  The Creator instituted marriage as a form of social life in which by use of the sexual faculty a communion of persons is achieved. This truth is expressed in the declaration “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen2:24).

The third element of a true marriage is that of fecundity, in as much as God has willed to give the union of man and woman a special participation in his work of creation. Thus, he blessed the man and the woman with the words “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator’s plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness, whether potential or actual, belong to the very nature of marriage.

Furthermore, Christ elevated the marital union of man and woman to the dignity of a sacrament, so that Christian marriage might be efficacious sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church as is expounded in the Letter to the Ephesians (5:32).

The document concludes that, in light of the constitutive elements of marriage, there “are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”   The two cannot even be compared since homosexual acts not only “do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity” but they actually “close the sexual act to the gift of life.” Additionally, given the sacredness of human life and the Creator’s blessing upon its font, the contrast between the holiness of marriage and homosexual acts, going as they do against the Natural Law, is stark and consequently, “under no circumstances can they be approved.” §4

There is a radical difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a foreseen and lawfully approved relationship in society where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure.  The Church in addressing the issue of the legal recognition of homosexual unions notes that “civil laws are structuring principles of man’s life in society, for good or for ill.”   Law is an ordinance according to reason promulgated by one in authority for the common good.  Basically, this means that to be just and therefore lawful and valid, a law cannot benefit a minority at the expense of the majority.  Further, as the document notes laws “play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behaviour.”

There is therefore reason to be concerned when the institution of marriage, which is available to every man and woman, is tampered with to accommodate the lifestyle choices of a few, that is, less than 2% of the population.  The law is also didactic to the extent that, in general, people conform not only their external behaviour but also their attitudes, values and opinions to them, which in turn impacts on the wider society.  Again the document neatly sums this up in §6 as

“Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation’s perception and evaluation of forms of behaviour.  Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.”

The continued existence of the human race, as with every other species on earth depends absolutely and uniquely on procreation and so, from both a biological and anthropological perspective, the homosexual lifestyle is untenable since “such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race.” §7  Further, the document continues “Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage” and the “legal recognition of homosexual unions would redefine marriage by disassociating it from the procreation and raising of children to the grave detriment to the common good.” §8.

The State’s interest in marriage arises from its concern for the rearing of children on which its own future depends.  Thus, despite the fact that some couples are infertile, or have no intention of having a family, the State has always heavily regulated marriage, for the very simple reason that stable families are beneficial to it. So historically, whether for the tribe or for the most sophisticated state, marriage had very little to do with love or sex, and everything to do with society’s stability.

The strong link between marriage and procreation, however, has been broken with the advent of the contraceptive pill and its accessories.  The downplaying of the procreative aspect of marriage has resulted in the happiness of the married couple, rather than the good of the children or of the social order, becoming marriage’s primary end, with disastrous consequences. When married persons care more about themselves than their responsibilities to their children and society, they become more willing to abandon these responsibilities, leading to broken homes, a plummeting birth-rate, and countless other social pathologies that have become rampant over the last 40 years. Homosexual marriage is not the cause for any of these pathologies, but it will exacerbate them, as the granting of marital benefits to a category of sexual relationships that are necessarily sterile can only widen the separation between marriage and procreation.

From a legal aspect, the Church points out that “because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition.” §9   Homosexual unions, however, do not contribute to the future and so, in the final analysis, State recognition would merely “sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to protect personal goods.”

The greatest danger homosexual civil marriage presents is the enshrining into law the notion that sexual love, regardless of its fecundity, is the sole criterion for marriage. If the State must recognize a marriage of two men simply because they love one another, upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example, or a brother and sister who claim to love each other? Homosexual activists protest that they only want equal treatment for all couples. But why is sexual love between two people more worthy of State sanction than love between three, or five? When the purpose of marriage is procreation, the answer is obvious. If sexual love becomes the primary purpose, the restriction of marriage to couples loses its logical basis, leading to marital chaos.

The Church’s teaching on the Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions is expressed in the conclusion that states

“respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.  The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society.  Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.  The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.” §11

A person is more than his or her sexuality.  The Church, recognising that sexuality is an essential part of the person but not the sole defining element of the person, tells us authoritatively that “the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation.”

Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God, and by grace, His child and heir to eternal life.

Documents issued by Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Homosexuality is Destructive to the Individual and Society

This article is part four of a five-part series written by Fr Linus Clovis.  It should be read in the context of his previous posts on Same Sex Attraction.  You can read the previous parts to this series by following these links:  Homosexual StruggleCategories of HomosexualitySame Sex Attraction:  A Catholic Perspective.

In a world that elevates the individual at the expense of the community, the title may appear exaggerated.  In a world where the particular lifestyle choice of minorities overrides that of the majority, it may even seem unreasonable. To the myopic always ready to compromise, it is extreme.

Active homosexuality is not an alternative lifestyle but an abnormal lifestyle that has been traditionally condemned by most religious and civil authorities.  It has been judged immoral by the majority of people, though in modern times, where freedom is sometimes equated with licence, that is, freedom to behave without restraint, the media argues that morality should not be legislated.  In fact, while not all moral values can or should be legislated, there is nothing to legislate but morality.   A speed law is a moral legislation: “thou shalt not drive so fast as to endanger life and limb.”

Since religion seeks to uphold God’s law and civil society the common good, they must both be necessarily seriously concerned in promoting a morally sound and healthy sexual conduct.

The Webster New Collegiate Dictionary defines sex as “the sum of the structural, functional and behavioural characteristics of living beings that subserve reproduction by two interacting parents and that distinguish male and female.”  In sheer pragmatic terms, sex is nature’s way of replenishing life.  As food maintains the existence of the individual, so sex ensures the continuance of the species.

As reason and experience have clearly shown, normal heterosexual activity is the only form of sexual activity that can guarantee a future for human life on earth and equally, heterosexual marriage is the only sexually active lifestyle that promotes the health and good order of human society.

The sacredness of human life implies that sex, its origin is sacred and should be protected and defended from corrupt and/or irresponsible use.  This principle has been recognised by every society and hence the taboos, laws and regulations that have surrounded sexual activity from time immemorial.

In general, homosexual acts are unnatural, sterile and destructive of the natural relationships between the sexes.  This is obvious from the fact that heterosexuals reproduce their kind by the use of sex, while active homosexuals multiply by the abuse of sex, by moral contagion and by seduction.

In particular, homosexual acts are contrary to the Law of God, to Catholic teaching, to life in the Spirit of Christ and to the good of the individual.

In regard to the Divine Law, it is to be noted that Sacred Scripture nowhere condemns the homosexual person but, in both the Old and New Testaments, it condemns homosexual acts. This is because, as was shown in my first article, no one can be held culpable for their orientation, but only for their freely chosen acts. It follows then that homosexual acts, being a choice, are contrary to the law of God, to the law of Christ and consequently to the Christian faith.

Homosexual acts are contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church, which was established and commissioned by Christ to guard and interpret Revelation and the Natural Law.  Through its supreme teaching Authority, the Church has, over two millennia, consistently condemned homosexual acts as being a clear violation of Divine Law as is affirmed by the Scriptures and can be known through reason.  Homosexual acts, therefore, are against the Catholic faith.

Equally, they are contrary to the Spirit of Christ speaking not only through the Scriptures, but also through the hearts of holy men, women and children who, through the ages, have regarded the homosexual act with horror.  Among those of special mention are St Bernard, St. Catherine of Siena and the children of Fatima.

Homosexual acts are certainly against the good of the individual, since with rare exceptions such as the eating of pork, God forbids a thing because it is evil in itself.  When a person does something that God has forbidden, he sins not only in disbelieving and disobeying Him, but also by harming himself through an act that is inescapably harmful.  In technical terms, Biblical morality is intrinsicist, not nominalist, that is, a particular act is good or bad in itself and not because God says it is good or bad.

It may be helpful at this point to examine the essential elements of a right ordered love between sexual beings.

The friendship between persons of opposite sexes finds it high point in mutual enrichment through heterosexual marriage.  This mutual enrichment, blossoming at several levels, is best summed up by Adam’s gasp of wonder on seeing Eve: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Gn.2:23  This wonder, lying dormant in every human heart, awaits the kiss of love to awaken it to a “self-liberating opening out to one of the opposite sex, who is so much like oneself and yet so different.”  It offers also the possibility of going beyond one’s own psychological perceptions to new perspectives that a person of one’s own sex cannot provide.  The sexual differences provide a complementarity that can be compared to a hand and glove, where two different things enhance each other to form a balanced whole, unlike the foot and sock.  There is a psychological complementarity that is experienced even during courtship when the stirrings of a deep physical and biological complementarity, calling for further and more intimate complementarity, are sensed and felt.

Melting is a primary characteristic of love as is declared in the Song of Songs “My soul melted when he spoke.” (5:6)  Before a things melts, it is hard and bounded together in itself but, when it melts, it is diffused and extends itself to another thing.  Heterosexual love demands the renunciation of one’s own self in order to embrace a self-giving union that enriches both the beloved and the self through the married state and the marriage act from which the gift of life beyond their own shared lives is received.  The mutual enrichment of heterosexual marriage consists also in nurturing that new life in the family circle, and giving now not only to the children but furnishing society itself with its basic building block and its future.

Two friends of same sex rightly express their friendship by a love that treats the other as an “other self.”  Integral to this is a respect for the mystery of the friend’s openness to the heterosexually complementary other self, that is, the friend’s wife or husband.  A true friend would not wish to exploit or corrupt the sexual powers, which are destined for the mutual enrichment of the friend and the friend’s present or future heterosexual marriage partner.

Homosexual liaisons, on the other hand, and the homosexual act itself deprive their devotees of these creative, integrative, self-liberating and mutually enriching experiences.  The liaison of a homosexual couple attempts to mimic marriage, but it cannot be a marriage since it lacks psychological complementarity found only in a healthy heterosexual relationship.  Further, it lacks sexual complementarity and so can neither signify healthy union nor give life.  The physical homosexual union offends both biology and reason and can never be anything but sterile, nor can it enrich society by providing future citizens, society’s basic building block.

The homosexual act comprises the worse of the other sexual abuses because, like premarital sex, it does not provide familial circumstances for enduring love or nurturing of children and, like contraceptive intercourse and heterosexual anal intercourse it is sterile.  Unlike these disorders, which can be corrected, the homosexual union cannot be corrected and, being unnatural, the only corrective is to abandon it.

The homosexual liaison and act, corrupting its practitioners at many levels, condemns them to a life of emptiness, depression and loneliness as George Eliot noted “No evil dooms us hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no effort to escape from.”

It corrupts spiritually because, rejecting the law of God and of nature, and seducing others into doing the same, it impedes the human growth necessary to support spiritual development.

It corrupts psychologically because, instead of working toward healing, it accepts and reinforces a condition of psychologically conflicted sexual energies and rejects the rich promise of heterosexual love.

It corrupts intellectually because it ignores and even denies the clear biological evidence that the act is perverted, and the psychological evidence that this sexual relationship with one of the same sex cannot provide the psychic complementarily which nature provides through a heterosexual mate.

It corrupts socially because not only does it fail to produce children, the building blocks and the future life of society but it also establishes a false lifestyle whose existence adds confusion to sexual roles and corrupts the morally weak, especially the young who are not yet firmly established in a normal sexual orientation.  It also adds insult to injury by casting suspicion on one of the best of all values, a close and devoted friendship between two persons of the same sex.

Homosexuality is morally corrupting for all the foregoing reasons and, therefore, is destructive of the individual and the society.  Consequently, it is religiously condemned, spiritually corrupt, ontologically absurd, psychologically conflicted, intellectually indefensible, procreatively impotent, sexually deviant, socially disruptive, maritally impossible and so, for the liberation of those trapped in it and for the sake of the common good, it should be returned to the closet.

Same Sex Attraction: Homosexual Struggle

This article is part three of a five part series on Same Sex Attraction: A Catholic Perspective, and should be read in that context.  You can read the other articles in this series by clicking on the following links:  Same Sex Attraction:  A Catholic Perspective; Categories of Homosexuality; Homosexuality is Destructive to the Individual and Society.

Deep within each and every one of us, a personal struggle exists; a struggle eloquently described by St Paul in his Letter to the Romans (7:14-23)

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.  I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate….  I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.   For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  …   For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.

There are few of us who have not had and therefore cannot identify with this experience.  We know we were created to live like angels but, left to ourselves, we behave worse than beasts.  God’s grace, however, is always available for those who call upon Him as Augustine of Hippo discovered.  Struggling constantly against the diktats of an immoral life, he became not only a most worthy bishop of Hippo but also the greatest of the Four Doctors of the Western Church.

It has already been established that no one is culpable for a psychological condition towards which one did not contribute, yet it must be clearly stated that a psychological condition gives no one the right to engage in sinful actions.  The short tempered person needs to avoid anger and violence, no less than the alcoholic drink, the kleptomaniac theft, those “in love” fornication and adultery and the homosexually oriented homosexual actions.   “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  1Cor.6:9-10.  We are not responsible for our unprovoked impulses to sin, but we are responsible for our sins.  The former are only evil inclinations, but the latter are willing acceptance of evil acts.  The corollary follows that those who did not contribute to their condition are not sinners but victims of sin.

If we can grasp the situation of a man who does not intend to get drunk but does, or the boy and girl who intend only to kiss and end up doing what they never intended, we will understand that, in moments of passion, homosexual persons too act impulsively.  Objectively, there is sin but subjectively the guilt is lessened because of lack of full consent of the will.  Even apart from moments of passion, many, if not most, homosexuals are driven to compulsive neurotic homosexual acts which they would be only too happy to stop if they were free to do so.  A compulsion is an impulse to engage in an act which one cannot simply will to go away.  The impulse is neither desired nor accepted.  Although the act may temporarily bring relief of what seems unbearable tension, it makes the compulsive person fearful, anxious and depressed because he feels out of control.

Whilst recognising the possibility of the compulsive nature of homosexuality, the Church wisely warns against exaggeration: “What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable.  What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterises the human person and gives him his dignity be recognised as belonging to the homosexual person as well.  As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God’s liberating grace.”

For homosexuals, the common human struggle is particularly acute because what is claimed is the right to sexually engage another person of the same gender.  However, the fact that the more sex he gets the less fulfilling it becomes suggests that the homosexual is searching for something that lies outside the realm of physical sex per se.  Indeed, the psychoanalysts, Drs. Karen Horney and Clara Thompson hold that homosexuality is fundamentally a symptom of “character problem,” that is, it is a consequence of unresolved problems of dependency, aggression, and early familial disturbances, all covertly expressed through same-sex relationships.  Other professionals see homosexuality as a search for and a struggle to achieve a more adequate masculine identity.

Contrary to popular opinion most homosexuals are not gender confused.  They do not want to be women, nor lesbians men.  They know they are men and they are content being men, but at the inner core of their being they feel weak, inadequate and incomplete as a man. Hence their fruitless search to find in another man the “missing” part of themselves.  Even though, physiologically speaking, the homosexual is quite capable of engaging in normal heterosexual intercourse, emotionally and mentally he feels he cannot compete with other men in the sexual sphere and in the world at large.  This is revealed in the homosexual drive for anonymous sex that has nothing to do with genuine sexual attraction between compatible people, but rather, manifesting unresolved power issues, the relationships tend to be structured in terms of dominance and submission.

The homosexual struggle is also with and against the society, which is now being coerced into accepting as natural an act that cannot benefit it with new members.  No nation has ever claimed the homosexual orientation for itself. The Spartans blamed the Dorians, the Athenians the Spartans.  Both claimed it originated in Crete. The Persians ascribed it to the Medes and the Romans referred to it as the Greek vice. The West blamed the East, the Crusaders the Muslims, the Anglo-Saxons the Normans, the Dutch the French, the French the English and, dare I say, blacks the whites?  Traditionally, homosexual acts have been viewed as one of the many deviant acts any man is theoretically capable of performing.  When viewed historically, homosexual practices in a given society have generally coincided with periods of political, social, familial and economic upheaval and instability, conditions normally associated with wars or natural disasters.

Like everyone else, homosexual persons are called to holiness.  Through a heroic struggle to please God homosexual persons can, despite their psychosexual orientation, become saints and even great saints.  If those struggling with a homosexual orientation were to embrace St Augustine’s great insight that God permits evil because He is powerful enough to bring great good from it, then the light of Him who takes “no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but rather in the sinner’s conversion, that he may and live” (Ezek.33:11) would illumine their lives and fill them with hope of a final and lasting victory as He brings good, and indeed salvation, out of what is a greatly distressing psychosexual evil.  Our Christian duty demands not only that we offer support, understanding, encouragement and help to our struggling brothers and sisters but that we also speak the truth in charity (Eph.4:15).

Same Sex Attraction: Categories of Homosexuality

This is the second part of Fr Clovis’ paper on Same Sex Attraction:  A Catholic Perspective.  To read the first part of his paper “Is Homosexuality a sin?”  please click here.

B.  Categories of homosexuality

The desires and experiences of individual human beings, like the ideologies and history of the human race, are not black and white and hence, it is always necessary that circumspection be paramount in the approach to resolving controversial issues.

Whereas President Barack Obama has claimed an evolving understanding of the homosexual phenomenon, the Church, combining the accumulated wisdom of two thousand years with the scientific discoveries of modern times, has a developing socio-psycho-pastoral approach emerging from a theological understanding of this most controversial issue.

Specifically, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church’s official voice on all theological matters, in addressing the issue of homosexuality notes that a distinction can be made between two categories of homosexuals.  Namely, between

  1. “homosexuals whose tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable;” and
  2. “homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.”

Scientific research has identified some of the formative factors that are likely to lead to the development of a homosexual orientation.  The teenage years can be a stage of great insecurity for some people and more so with the capricious energies released by hormonal changes.  It is already recognised that sex education that presents the mechanics of sex devoid of morality, far from reducing promiscuity, in fact, encourages it, hence the emphasis is now more on avoiding the consequences rather than cease the activity.  A false education that presents sex as a purely recreational activity can open the way for a person to indulge in homosexuality. This is so because familiarity with and sympathy for the homosexual lifestyle can lead to a personal acceptance of it.  As the poet Alexander Pope sagaciously observed and lyrically expressed:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,

As to be hated needs but to be seen;

Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,

We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Equally, a person may be seduced or recruited into homosexual activity by predatory homosexuals as many case studies have shown.  For the young the danger lies in curiosity and lust, which also opens them up to prostitution.  Pornography, which is not only addictive but also is progressively more demanding in the type of material required for satisfaction, is another important factor in the life of homosexuals.

In line with the latest authoritative scientific research, the CDF notes that a homosexual orientation can in some cases be altered.  Indeed, there are now numerous organisations, religious and non-religious, such as Courage and Exodus International, in existence to help homosexuals overcome their orientation.  The Church equally recognises that just as not all physical, emotional and psychological disabilities can be cured, so also there are cases of homosexuals with a pathological condition that, at present, cannot be altered.  This group ought to be of particular concern in any authentic Christian pastoral activity.

In developing a sound Christian approach to homosexuality, it is necessary then to distinguish between those who

1.      have a homosexual orientation;

2.      believe that homosexual acts are sometimes morally permissible;

3.      perform homosexual acts;

4.      are pederasts (i.e. who practise homosexuality with boys);

5.      promote homosexuality.

In the first part of this paper, the question of the sinfulness of homosexuality was examined and a distinction was made between the orientation and the act.  Whilst the homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful, the acts are.  Human compassion clearly demands that help, sympathy and support should be offered to those suffering from such an orientation and are struggling against it.

Regarding the other positions, attitudes and actions listed above, the Church clearly states that these are immoral and must in no way be condoned since they pose a serious threat to both the individual and society.  Homosexual acts are by their very nature sinful, whether performed by homosexuals because of orientation or by heterosexuals for money or because of circumstances such as imprisonment.  Regarding children, there are at least three categories of child abusers.  First, there is the paedophile who is an adult with a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, usually of the opposite sex.  Second, the pederast, literally a boy lover, is an adult male who is attracted by prepubescent boys, while the third, the ephebophile is attracted by post-pubescent boys.  Thus, the recent clerical sex scandal in the Catholic Church is not due to paedophilia but to pederasty.  That is, since the vast majority of the boys attacked were teenagers, the scandal is homosexual in nature and in origin.  This reveals two things: first, the colonisation of the Catholic priesthood by homosexuals and second, what can be expected to happen in the general population should homosexuality become socially acceptable.  These two issues will be explored in subsequent articles.

The bottom line is that all sexual acts outside of marriage are sinful including homosexual acts of which pederasty is particularly heinous.  While those who promote homosexuality or believe homosexual acts can in certain circumstances be morally permissible may not themselves be homosexual, their attitude, according to St Paul, makes them culpable sharers in the sin of homosexuality: “Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.” Rom.1:32.  The correct attitude is to point out the sin, to instruct, to advise and to warn, even at the risk of being called judgemental, for St James tells us that “My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” Jam.5:19-20.

Click here to read part one of Same Sex Attraction:  A Catholic Perspective.

Same Sex Attraction: A Catholic Perspective

Extract from a paper delivered at the Family Life International annual Conference held in London on 28 April, 2012.  This is part one of five and should be read in that context.  You can read the other parts by clicking on the following links:  Categories of Homosexuality; Homosexual Struggle; Homosexuality is Destructive to the Individual and Society.

A.  Is homosexuality a sin?

Many things in life are not black and white and so, in answering this simple question the tradition of St Thomas will be followed: seldom affirm, never deny and always distinguished. 

The idea of sin is alien to the modern mind.  In fact, for the modern world, the only sin is to be politically incorrect, which is sometimes referred as being judgmental.

However, regardless of what we choose to believe, sin is the deliberate and free commission of a thought, word or action that we know to be wrong.  In theological language, sin, being an offence against reason, truth, and right conscience, is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbour caused by a perverse attachment to certain created goods.  Consequently, it wounds a person’s nature and injures human solidarity.

St Augustine defines it as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law” and the Scriptures declare it to be an offence against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” (Ps.51:4)  Every sin, like the first sin, is disobedience, a revolt against God through the desire to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil for ourselves.  Sin is thus nothing other than the love of oneself even to the point of holding God and His law in contempt. 

As a deliberate transgression of the law of God, every sin carries four essential components.  First, a law is involved.  Whilst physical laws, such as gravity, operate with necessity, moral laws, such as the obligation not to lie, can be disregarded by human beings.  Second, sin offends God, so the divine dimension is never absent from any sin: “Hear ye, therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also?” (Is.7:13).  Third, sin is a transgression since grace is resistible and the divine will can be disobeyed.  Fourth, the transgression is deliberate and committed with knowledge and freely.

Now Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines homosexuality as

  1. An atypical sexuality characterized by manifestation of sexual desire toward a member of one’s own sex. 
  2. Erotic activity with a member of one’s own sex.

This double definition imposes on us the obligation of distinguishing between a psychosexual condition in which one finds oneself and an erotic activity in which one freely involves oneself.

Applying the dictates of reason and the declarations of revelation, the Catholic Church offers guidance to this issue in its 1975 Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.

Specifically, the Church teaches that homosexual acts are wrong even for those who are homosexually oriented by “some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.”  This may be compared in some way to drunkenness, which is wrong even for the alcoholic who has a pathological predisposition to abuse alcohol.

Yet, as the promoter and defender of authentic human rights, the Church recognises and proclaims the inherent dignity of every human being, and seeks always to ensure that their legitimate needs are met and their rights respected.  Hence, in her pastoral concern, she states categorically that homosexuals “must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society”.  Like the alcoholic or kleptomaniac, “their culpability will be judged with prudence”.   Then distinguishing between the condition and the acts, she warns that “no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people.”

Therefore, as a condition, homosexuality is not a sin but a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”  It is a heavy cross through which the believer can complete the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of the world.(Col.1:24).  As a deliberate free action, however, homosexuality is a serious sin that requires repentance and forgiveness from God. 

Though the modern world disregards the seriousness of sin, we need to remember that all unrepentant sin is punished, if not in this world then most certainly in the next, as Christ warned: “For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mk.14:21) 

All serious sin, such as immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft, gluttony, drunkenness, revelry, violence excludes us from the kingdom of God. (1Cor.6:9-10).  While charity obliges us to be sympathetic and supportive of those who carry heavy crosses such as a homosexual inclination, we can never approve this sin or any sin, for to do so would not only confirm our brother or sister in error but also bring down God’s condemnation on ourselves. (Rom.1:32). Since we are all sinners, our only hope lies in acknowledging our own personal sins and appealing for mercy from Christ Jesus who “came into the world to save sinners”.  (1Tim.1:15)

 

Documents issued by CDF: