A Recent Contrived Controversy
Recent comments made by Pope Francis about same-sex unions have raised quite a stir. In a new documentary ‘Francesco’, about the present Pontiff’s life, Pope Francis says, ‘homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it’; and he follows this up saying, ‘what we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered’. As with anything the Pope says we ought to interpret it in light of the tradition of the Church – as far as possible. It is not worth spending too long discussing what the Pope has said or implied – he, no doubt, will clarify what he meant. Instead, it is certainly worth reiterating the stance of the Church on same-sex relationships.
According to Catholic teaching to engage physically in same-sex relationships is ultimately ‘disordered’. In Genesis we see man and woman made to have a natural complementarity which is pointed towards a unique self-giving. The relationship between man and woman is naturally ordered towards procreation. This is the only relationship that be fruitful in that sense. God, in his infinite wisdom, has elevated the sexual union to something higher still. Through the sacrament of matrimony, the sexual union is not simply an act of procreation, but it becomes an act of love and total self-giving as two are made one. Marriage is the only appropriate context in which sexual union can be fully realised because marriage orders sex to its proper ends: love and procreation. Any sexual relationship that denies these ends – heterosexual or otherwise – is considered ‘disordered’. To deny the validity of same-sex marriage is, therefore, to affirm Catholic doctrine that demands of us a life of total self-giving. Benedict XVI pointed out that although homosexuals can certainly be generous and loving people, ‘when they engage in homosexual activity, they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent’. To have homosexual inclinations is no sin as such. Like any other ‘disordered’ inclinations it becomes a sin only if and when the inclination is indulged.
A homosexual act, therefore, is not the sole element in the set of the ‘disordered’. Many sexual acts are considered ‘disordered’ by Church teaching: for example, pre-marital sex, the use of artificial contraception and adultery. All deny the proper ends of sexual union in some way. The Catholic conception of sexual morality is not, then, homophobia, but rather ‘the Church in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood’. Everyone is called to reject natural inclinations to sin, and that includes those with homosexual tendencies.
In ‘The Art of Friendship’ we some time ago outlined what true friendship was. True friendship is putting the good of the other before all else. The denial of homosexual relationships is not a denial of the dignity of the person – it is rather a great act of love. If we examine our actions in the light of truth, we realise that to be uncompromising in this area is a great act of love. As children of God those with a homosexual orientation have an inherent dignity and must be loved. Catholics cannot, however, advocate same-sex unions and to do so would be a grave lapse in responsibility to the good of our fellow men.