This week, I thought I would offer my analysis of the Christian majority teaching on homosexuality via breaking down what it says in the Catholic catechism. I have chosen the Catholic Church as an example here for two reasons. 1. They are the oldest and largest denomination within Christendom, and have the longest tradition of homophobic teaching. 2. The teaching on homosexuality found in the Catholic catechism is in-line with most of the Christian majority, making it a fair representation.
Before delving into this, we must first understand that the Christian majority view of homosexuality is entirely relevant and responsible for discrimination and action against LGBTQ people in North America. The society in which we live was founded upon Christian values. Our laws and Human Rights codes have been influenced heavily by Christian understandings of natural law, and our cultural paradigms have been shaped by Christian values and ideals still found embedded within our cultural discourse. To say that Christianity has not influenced every aspect of North American society is to deny the very foundations of our civilization.
When it comes to the LGBTQ community, the Christian influence on the cultural discourse has resulted in tragic consequences. The discrimination, harassment, and violence committed against LGBTQ people is perpetrated as a result of bias against them. Throughout my research, I have not once encountered an argument against homosexuality that cannot be traced back to fundamental Christian values (indeed most arguments do not have to be traced back, as they are outwardly Biblical in nature). I have written a detailed analysis on 11 passages of scripture that are said to be condemnations of homosexuality, and I will soon be making those publicly available. At this time, however, let’s look at what the Catholic catechism has to say.
In part 3, section 2, chapter 2 of the Catholic Catechism, we find their teaching on homosexuality. Paragraphs 2357, 58, and 59 all give the church’s official stance. In a nutshell, and you can find it for yourself on vatican.va, the Catholic tradition views homosexual acts as “acts of grave depravity,” and “intrinsically disordered.” They refer to homosexuality as a “condition,” and claim that “homosexual persons are called to chastity.” The paragraphs are as follows:
2357: Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women
who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons
of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries
and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of
grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are
intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the
sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective
and sexual complimentarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358: The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual
tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered,
constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect,
compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their
regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in
their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s
Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359: Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery
that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship,
by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely
approach Christian perfection.
In paragraph 2357, we see a misunderstanding based upon the difference of the sexual act. Homosexual persons are not defined by a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex, they are attracted in all ways – emotionally, romantically, and sexually. To say that they are defined by a sexual attraction is to reduce their humanity and define them as creatures controlled by carnal instinct. As far as the psychological genesis, this is not a concern for science; or anybody for that matter. It has always been within humanity, as it has always been among most mammalian species.
Finally in paragraph 2357, we see the reference to “natural law.” This is a reference to physical complimentarity which allows for procreation. The fact of the matter is that homosexual activity is seen within tigers, elephants, chimpanzees, a variety of monkeys, whales, dolphins, lions, and and many other species of mammal. Of all of these examples, the numbers are generally the same – between 1 – 7% of the population. Not only is homosexuality natural (found in nature), but it never occurs on a scale that could possibly threaten the survival of a species. As a final note on this, I must mention that the worldwide human population is currently over 7 billion and rising. This is not sustainable.
Paragraph 2358 contains within it another misnomer. Aside from the comment about homosexuality being “objectively disordered (patently false considering the fact that is found all throughout the natural world),” this paragraph claims that it “constitutes for most of them a trial.” This could mean one of two things. It could mean that (A): Homosexuality is a time of confusion and experimentation, a time when a person is uncertain of who they are, or (B): that it is a God-given test of character. Either way the notion of homosexuality as a trial, let alone a trial for “most of them,” is demonstrably wrong.
The remainder of paragraph 2358 is seemingly pleasant, promoting respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Unfortunately, it finishes with the identification of homosexuality as a “condition.” What this paragraph boils down to is the ever-belittling “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Any difficulties people encounter due to their sexual orientation come about due to the view that something is inherently wrong within their very personhood. It is not an internal conflict, but an external lack of understanding and an inability to accept diversity.
The beginning of paragraph 2359, “homosexual persons are called to chastity,” recommends a denial of the most intimate act of love that two people can engage in. What is being said in the remainder of the paragraph is that through discipline, support, prayer, and the grace of God, a homosexual person can be “cured” of this “condition,” come out of homosexuality, and live a happy Christian life.
This idea that homosexuality can somehow be “cured” has caused a lot of damage. Organizations like the “International Healing Foundation” and “Exodus International” have been responsible for causing a lot of internal conflict and confusion among people who had no issues before being subjected to the idea that they were somehow mentally ill. Although great for therapists, this teaching has damaged far too many people; and people are starting to realize it. Just this year (2013), Exodus International issued an apology to the people they hurt and closed their doors, and the Pope recently proclaimed that we do not have the right to judge. Things are progressing, and although we have a long way to go, it is time for the church to change their doctrine from one of exclusion to one of inclusion.
The truth is that things are starting to change. Many Christians are coming out as allies, some as LGBTQ, and the teachings on homosexuality found in the catechism are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The more we learn, the more we realize that they are also inaccurate and false. It is time to stop belittling and dehumanizing our fellow human beings. It is time to recognize and accept diversity. It is time to practice love. Most of all, it is time for humanity to actualize its true potential, begin listening to each other, begin trying to understand, and move forward together.