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
- “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
- “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.