Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church
Today the topic of homosexuality is often a controversial one around the world, but one that arises frequently none the less. It is becoming more and more socially acceptable for people all over the world to be open about their sexual orientations towards people of the same sex. It is now very clear and apparent that homosexuals worldwide come from all walks of life and take on nearly every single occupation and career. Many homosexuals have even come to make life long commitments to a single partner and raise families.
However, homosexuals are repeatedly refused equal rights as heterosexuals, and are often discriminated against because of their sexual preferences. As an America, same sex marriage is a topic I hear almost daily when I am home. People all over my country are refused legal marriage licenses despite the fact that they live very similar lives to heterosexual couples and often raise children. Furthermore, as a Catholic I often hear condemnation of homosexuality, and even hear many people from my religion urging the government to continue to ban same sex marriage.
Having many gay friends and acquaintances, and a homosexual uncle, the actions and thoughts of people in my country often upset me, and my religions teachings towards homosexuality sometimes confuse me. Therefore, I have researched the position of the Roman Catholic Church regarding not only homosexuality, but also same sex marriages. Throughout this essay, I will give an unbiased explanation of the Churches teachings that date back to the time of the Old Testament. The Roman Catholic Church maintains that homosexual orientations are not necessarily sinful, but are “disordered” (Catechism).
However, the church preserves that all homosexual activity is immoral and most often sinful (Catechism). The Vatican uses a very particular theological framework based in scripture to defend its strong stance against homosexuality. While traditionally the Church has adopted a strict policy of total rejection regarding homosexuality, in 1976 the Vatican came to accept that not all homosexuals’ sexual orientations are by choice, but rather many (most) homosexuals are born with their sexual preferences (Pope). Therefore, the church does not condemn sexual orientation without sexual action as sinful.
According to Catholic Doctrine, the stance that the Catholic Church has taken on homosexuality at first glance seems to be contradictory. After all, the Roman Catholic belief is that God created everything that is. Therefore, for those homosexuals who are born with their sexual orientation, did God not create them that way? When confronted with this issue, the Vatican not only acknowledges the fact that indeed God did create many people with homosexual orientations, but the Church also offers recommendations on how such people should live their lives.
The church suggest that all people born with homosexual desires try to “correct” their homosexual “disorders,” by living a chaste life (Catechism). The church teaches that sexuality is a gift from God, and that creating both males and females is an essential part of God’s plan for humans to participate in his divine plan of love and life (Catechism). However, the Roman Catholic Church also believes that just like all gifts and freedoms of God, the sexuality of every person – despite his or her sexual preferences, can be challenged toward good or evil (Congegration).
While chastity may seem to be an extreme alternative, the Roman Catholic Church has very deep beliefs on sexuality based in scripture, and has exceptionally strict rules when it comes to sexual intercourse. However, in order to discuss the Catholic Church’s condemnation of homosexual acts, the Church’s position and beliefs regarding marriage must first be discussed. According to church doctrine, proper marriage only occurs between a man and a woman.
The Vatican believes that a marriage takes place when one man and one woman fully commit themselves independently to each other for the rest of their lives for the purposes of love, support and procreation (Congegration). Because two men or two women are physically incapable of procreation, homosexuals cannot enter into marriage according to the Catholic Church. Therefore, because no sexual act is to be performed outside of marriage, no homosexual acts can be accepted, or even go uncondemned according to the church.
Thus, despite the facts that homosexual orientations are not sinful according to church doctrine, homosexual acts are. The church considers homosexual acts sinful and immoral, and the church considers the free decision to engage in such acts intrinsically evil. Homosexual acts are condemned for the same reason the church opposes contraception, abortion, cloning, stem cell research and the death penalty. All the above-mentioned things are in strong opposition with the church’s belief in natural law – as set forth by the great philosopher Thomas Aquinas.
Aquinas stated that God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community (Yip, 1997). Naturally, the church believes that man and women were made by God to engage in sexual activities not simply to bring pleasure to them, but for the pleasure of bringing new life into the world. The church believes homosexual acts to be inhumane, and animal like because such acts are performed simply to bring pleasure to individuals. The Vatican sees no distinction between homosexual sexual acts and such things as bestiality and masturbation, which it also condemns.
For Catholics, any sexual acts performed outside of marriage without the openness of bringing forth new life are sinful acts. So, is the Roman Catholic Church – my church and the church of many others who accept homosexuality and homosexuals homophobic? While it may seem that the answer is yes because of the churches strict rules against homosexual activity, the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy actually claim to be accepting of homosexuality, and also claim to welcome homosexuals to be members of the church.
However, the church does require that any homosexual member abide by its teaching on homosexuality in order to gain acceptance as a practicing Catholic and receive the holy Eucharist. The church calls all of its members to chastity, not only homosexuals. Even heterosexuals are no acception to the call of chastity outside of marriage and even within marriage if the two partners engaging in sexual activity are not open to the creation of new life. Therefore, the church does not feel that it discriminates against homosexuals.
Church teachings simply state that no sexual act should be performed unless it meets two conditions. The first is that the act takes place within marriage between a man and a woman, and the second is that every act of sexual intercourse must be open to the possibility of creating new human life (Catechism). According to these two statements, the church is in fact not homophobic at all. Roman Catholic doctrine condemns sexual intercourse outside of marriage equally as much as it does homo sexual intercourse.
It is quite obvious that homosexual acts should be condemned by a church who believes that all sexual acts should be performed within marriage, and that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman. Because neither two men nor two woman can fit the description of a proper Catholic marriage, there is no way that the church could ever accept or condone sexual practices between two men or two woman. Doing so would take away from the sanctity of the Roman Catholic sacrament of marriage, and go against fundamental church teachings.
While the church does specifically condemn homosexual intercourse, it is not singling out homosexuals. The church simply states that no sexual act is to be performed outside of marriage without being open to accepting and raising new life. Therefore, because homosexual intercourse falls under such a condemned category, it is apparent that the church is against it. The church is actually very accepting of homosexual persons. The pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, which was released by the Vatican in 1986 states that the human rights of all homosexual persons must be defended and protected (Yip, 1997).
Furthermore, the document goes on to state that every Catholic actually has a responsibility to fight against and injustice, discrimination and violence against homosexuals (Yip, 1997). The church encourages, even orders all Catholics to be accepting of homosexual persons. Just as the church places homosexuals under the same teachings as heterosexuals when it comes to sexual acts, it also places homosexuals under the same teachings as heterosexuals when it comes to the love and treatment of fellow human beings.
Church doctrine states that homosexual persons have the same needs and feeling as all other human beings. Therefore, the church not only states that all of its members should be accepting of homosexuality, but that they should also engage in friendships with such people the same way as they would engage in friendship with anyone else. All Roman Catholics are encouraged to offer their homosexual friends love and support. In addition to the call for all Roman Catholic laity to be accepting and supporting of homosexuals, the hierarchy of the church also requires all riests and religious to offer love and support to homosexuals as well. Priests and Roman Catholic religious people are not only required to be leaders of the church and teachers of the word of God, but they are also supposed to be there to support people in their every day struggles no matter how big or small. They are required to be there for all lay people to offer advice and support. Homosexuals are not to be denied this option for advice and support. The Vatican requires all priests and religious to offer equal love and support to any Catholic person no matter what their sexual orientations are.
Homosexuals living a chaste life are not only fully accepted as members of the church, but are also able and encouraged to be community leaders within the church. However, the church does reserve the right to refuse any person with any sexual preference the right to pastoral care, church membership and church leadership. Therefore, if a person is knowingly in violation of church teachings by engaging in homosexual sexual acts, they may be refused access to any of the rights considered fundamental to all church members just as any heterosexual who is in open violation of church teachings may be.
For St. Paul, and many great church leaders, love is the greatest of all spiritual gifts given by God, and Jesus considered love to be the basis of his two greatest commandments (Pope). The church calls all of its members to love and accept all human beings equally, despite their sexual orientations. While the Roman Catholic Church is often accused of being a homophobic religion, it certainly is not. The church accepts homosexuals in the same way that it accepts heterosexuals. The church also loves all of its members and all humans in the same way, and teaches every Catholic to do the same.
However, the church is adamantly against, and actively condemns homosexual sexual activity because it is in direct violation of church law and church teaching based in scripture. The church does not discriminate against homosexuals, it simply teaches that all sexual acts are to be performed within a marriage between a man and a woman, and are to be open to the possibility of creating and raising children. Because homosexual sexual activity cannot fulfil either one of the requirements, the church strongly opposes it in the same way that it opposes any heterosexual sexual acts that do not fulfil both requirements.
The church offers all homosexuals a plan of chastity, and love and support to complete this plan. The Roman Catholic Church is not homophobic. In fact, it is very accepting of homosexuals, and loves them in the same way as it does heterosexuals. However, it also condemns what it deems sins performed by homosexuals in the same way that it does those performed by heterosexuals.