Natural Law and the Homosexual Inclination
The Natural Law; Biologic Design.
In addition to the conclusion based on Scripture and Tradition that homosexual acts are
sinful, the Church has also deemed such acts to be wrong because they are in breach of the natural law. This relates to the
facts of our anatomy and the physical and affective complementarity of the sexes mentioned above. Homosexual acts are
contrary to how we are objectively meant to act according to our physical and psychological design. Take human males for example. we know that there is a
general category of creatures called human males that are defined by the certain physical
and to some extent psychological characteristics that they have in common. These
characteristics in most cases work together to lead to certain ends, e.g. a sexual
union between a man and a woman. This tendency toward sexual union with a female, who usually provides on her part a tendency to
commitment in relationships, production of offspring and an aptitude for the nurturing of a
family, leads to marriage and a stable family life. All this clearly is
beneficial to the persons involved, to humanity at large, and is part of God's larger plan for the human race. Some of us
males have the physical and psychological characteristics, but for one reason or another they do not lead toward the same
great and good end that they usually do in the case of most human males. The homosexual
inclination is thus a breakdown in the sense that we with this inclination have some but not all of the elements that someone in the general
category of human male normally would have to achieve the above-mentioned good end. Even if homosexuality were found to be caused
genetically, it would still constitute such a breakdown. There are such things as genetic birth defects in which
an object in nature may not possess all the elements that an object of that type normally would have. While there may be
other things that someone with a birth defect may have that a normal person would not, perhaps even tremendous and unique
gifts, it is nevertheless true that they do not have everything that a normal person has.
Moral Dimension of the Natural Law.
However, the natural law is more than just a factual statement that we
have some but not all of the things that make up a great good that most others in our group normally have. It also has a
moral element, since it tells us that in this situation, while we may not be capable of acting against our inclinations to
obtain the ordinary end (e.g., force ourselves to sleep with the opposite sex), we should at least avoid following our
inclinations and acting contrary to our physical and psychological makeup. This makes sense in that acting toward ends to
which our physical and psychological makeup are not geared may be harmful to ourselves and to others. Even if the harm is
not readily apparent to our subjective vision, we should be open to the possibility that we may not always see the objective
harms wrought by our acting on our subjective desires. Moreover, we may not always appreciate the benefits accruing from
resisting our subjective desires. The natural law is not about what actually occurs in nature or about what subjectively
feels "natural", but about how persons ought to be and act in order to reflect the purpose of their design and in order to
maximize the goodness and limit the harm in the case that not all elements of the ordinary design are in place. We know that
what we like to do is not always the same as what we ought to do. One may not feel like treating a certain person justly,
doing one's homework or performing a certain contract, and one may
subjectively feel like raping a woman, child or animal, but one is morally bound to do the former and abstain from the latter just the same. Finally, remember that
the natural law applies even if an action affects only ourselves and/or a consenting partner. Just as God does not want us
to commit suicide, so God does not want us to act in contravention of our physical and psychological design, even if we feel
so inclined and don't hurt anyone but ourselves and/or a consenting partner in the process. God values us more than that,
and we should too.
Both Activity and Inclination Disordered.
The Church teaches that both homosexual activity and the inclination
to such activity are disordered. The inclination to such acts is a disorder because it is an inclination to an action that is
both a sin (a breach of God's law) and disordered (a breach of the natural law). However, the inclination is not itself a
sin, since sin requires volition, and people do not choose what thoughts come into their heads (although they do have a
choice about what to do with such thoughts once they are there). The term disorder tends to rile people up, and certainly to
the extent that it leads people to call others unkind names like "freaks" or worse, such
anger may have some justification. Use of the term disorder to justify abusive language and
treatment of people is uncharitable and is unbecoming of Christians. As the Catechism says,
those with this condition must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity. However, if we
view the Church as merely making the objective and logical conclusion that an inclination to a sinful and disordered act is
itself disordered, and saying it in a dispassionate and clinical manner, or hopefully even a sensitive and charitable manner, then I think use
of the term "disorder" is justified.
Disorder as Inclination to Sin - Similar to Concupiscence Generally.
To the extent that we view the
inclination as disordered because it is an inclination to sin, then there is truly no justification for those without same
sex attraction to use the concept of disorder in an abusive way. The disorder is just like any other inclination to sin, be
it an inclination to commit fornication, adultery, gluttony or what have you. The objective disorder is akin to a character
flaw, such as irascibility, alcoholism, etc. In this broader sense, homosexuals are in no different a position from almost
all other humans, since all subject to original sin have warped wills and a tendency to sin in one way or another. Keep
in mind that baptism takes away the guilt of original sin, but does not take away the propensity to sin, or concupiscence,
that is the effect of original sin. Consequently, those who wish to lord it over those with same sex attraction on the
basis that the latter are disordered would do better to "cultiver son jardin", as Voltaire put it. All sons and daughters of
Adam and Eve are in the same boat. Let he who is without sin (or a tendency to sin) cast
the first stone.
Disorder Not Defining.
Another reason why the disorder of same sex attraction should not cause people to be
treated with disrespect is that the disorder is not the summation of who we are as individuals. Our flaws do not define who
we are. We are so much more than the impure thoughts that come into our head. Our character comes from how we react to those
impure thoughts, as well as from all the other multitudinous and unrelated facets of our personality. We each have our own
peculiar talents, virtues, capacity to love and to help others, etc. Each one of us is a
treasure chest of riches and a child of God made in his image and likeness. In charity, we should
not simply judge people based on their sinful inclinations and activities. In line with the ever-central maxim "love the
sinner, hate the sin", we must not let homosexual activity or inclination blind us to the dignity and worth of those who do
or have such, just as we must not deny human dignity and respect to a criminal and make his crime or his inclination to crime
the sole identifying factor of his personality.
Reason and Ethics Uniquely Human, Not Sex Drive.
Humans are most uniquely human in their capacity for reason
and ethical behavior. This is what distinguishes man from the rest of the animal kingdom. Having a sexual drive is nothing of
which to be especially proud. An ideology that makes one's primary identity pride in the ability to have sex is an ideology
for beasts, not humans. We are not simply animals rutting away in the fields! The gay ideology of pride in one's sex drive
reduces the fullness of our human personality and can lead to utterly degrading behavior. How can marching down a city street
naked or nearly so in order to show "pride" in one's animal passions do anything but diminish our dignity as humans? As
mentioned above, active sexuality can only be holy and beautiful in the context of a committed lifelong marriage between a
man and women in an act that is potentially open to life and that combines the unitive and
procreative aspects of the sex act. "Street theater" involving sexual acts is nothing but
lust and public indecency. Those who are vowed to celibacy or
other persons who for whatever reason are in circumstances where chaste singlehood is required should honor sexuality with
forebearance and redirection of sexual energy into pure love and good and healthy works and away from selfish sinful pursuits. This
redirection of energy is not a bad thing, pace all the decriers of "repression" in our society. This
energy, properly channeled in healthy directions, is in fact the foundation of civilization. The latter would fall apart if
everybody were to devote all of their energy to the satisfaction of their carnal lusts.
Diversity of People with Same Sex Attraction.
A propos to the fact that same sex attraction cannot define
one's fundamental identity, I would like to make a plea for recognition of true diversity among those with same sex
attraction. Not everyone with this condition fits a stereotype of what a "gay" person is supposed to be like, nor is there
such a thing as a homogeneous "gay" community. People with same sex attraction are individuals with personalities as varied
as those of heterosexuals and deserve to be treated as such. Some certainly are very loud and confrontational and toe the
politically-correct party line and have built up an ideology to justify homosexual behavior, including even the most
promiscuous type of behavior. Others are quieter, but with various points of view on the
acceptability of homosexual acts. Some do in fact remain chaste from religious or moral principle, and some there are who are able to perform heterosexual acts
and are married. Some have significant feelings of other sex attraction and some very little. Some are open to all and sundry
about their inclination, others have exercised their inalienable right either to tell only a few close friends and relations
or to remain silent in public about their sexual inclinations. (On the issue of telling
others about same sex attraction, I just want to say that the involuntary "outing" of others or pressure on others to
"out" themselves is a form of emotional terrorism that cannot be condoned. It is a Robespierrean, Leninist political tactic
that sacrifices the happiness of others to achievement of a political agenda. And it is unfair because a person may in fact not wish
to have his or her primary identity be based on his or her sex drive. One quite legitimately may desire to be treated as a unique person instead
of as a label.) Not all those with same sex attraction are activists, nor are they all "liberal" in their political or social
views. In the 2000 presidential election in the United States, around 25% of those self-identifying as "homosexual" voted for
the Republican ticket. If those who are not public about their inclination were included, I daresay the percentage might even
be higher. This statisic is not mentioned to endorse any political party, but rather to highlight the fact that the gay
activists do not speak for all those with same sex attraction and that the homosexual "community" is far from monolithic.
A Note on Terms.
At this point I should probably add a note on the tortured issue of terms used to describe
homosexuality and homosexuals. I purposely have not used in this text the term "gay" as a word to describe those that
experience same sex attraction because I believe the term "gay" as used in our society implies an acceptance of the entire
culture and political agenda that has developed around the homosexually active lifestyle. It is unfair to label persons in
this way because, first, not all persons that have same sex attraction subscribe to the ideology or practices of modern
"gay" culture. Second, some persons may not want to be identified simply by their sex drive, but wish to be treated with
respect as an entire and unique person with multiple facets, attributes and talents. Third, the term as used by "gay"
activists often is used in a way that suggests that the degree of same sex attraction cannot vary within persons, a
conclusion that has not yet decisively been proven by science. Fourth, to the extent the
term is used to identify a purported culture, the term promotes ghettoization of those with
same sex attraction apart from the mainstream of society. The term "homosexual" is far superior to "gay" in the sense
that it is a more neutral clinical term, although it certainly has a certain amount of negative cultural baggage. "Same sex
attraction" is thus the ideal term in my view, and thus I have used it here.
Disorder as a "Gift" and a Means of Holiness.
If we utilize our sexual energy in licit and healthy pursuits,
then that energy, even if it is disordered, can in some sense be viewed as a "gift". With this energy, we can accomplish more
things that help ourselves, others, society, the world, the Church and God. It may be that having this inclination encourages
a certain amount of creativity and "thinking outside the box" that may in many ways be
valuable for society at large. Another way in which the disorder might be viewed as a "gift" is that it is a challenge and a thorn in our sides that can
goad us to greater holiness and purity of life. With the sufferings from our disorder, so
akin to the "happy fault and necessary sin of Adam" mentioned in the Easter vigil, we can grow spiritually closer to God. Moreover, we can
combine the struggles we face with the passion of Our Lord on the cross and offer them up to the Father as part of Christ's
sacrifice. In this way, we are allowed to participate as part of Christ's body in the redemption of the universe. If we truly apply ourselves to
growth in holiness, always invoking the aid of God's grace of course, then our disorder can
truly be both an iniquity and a gift without contradiction.
One Among Many Challenges to our Free Will.
A fact that we must face is that we do not live in a perfect world
here below. We humans are confronted in our lives with all kinds of challenges and contingencies, both relating to our
internal psychological makeup as well as our external circumstances. Some of these phenomena have biological causes (such as
genetic defects), some result from experience, some may result from a mixture of both and some are seemingly random
occurrences. In any event, they are the cards that we have been dealt, and we must deal with them as best we can. Catholics
believe that God has caused us to live in a contingent world in which we have the moral freedom to choose God and goodness
and cooperate with his grace or reject the same. Just as it makes sense that God created us with a certain amount of free
will with which to choose either to respond to him or not, God, without performing any evil act, allowed us to exist
in world where challenges would arise to confront us. Of course he could have created us all perfect and happy and in a
marvelous environment all the time, but then we would not have the opportunity to grow. Why do we recognize the need for
practice and experience in order to become better in other walks of life when we do not
similarly see the need for practice and experience in order to grow closer to God in holiness?
God's Gift of Freedom Reflects His Love.
We should value the freedom we have been given by God, since it is an
act of purest love. Love involves forbearance and giving the beloved "space" and allowing them to "be themselves". If God were
to preprogram our environment, thoughts and behavior, how would our life be truly our own and how would it have any meaning? Also, God wants us
to love him truly and of our own volition. A mechanical love offered by puppet creatures would mean nothing to him or us. He truly wants us to be free and to embrace
goodness and himself in freedom. But God is not a sadistic monster by placing us in a world
with challenges and evil. He freely offers us the help of his grace and mercy, but it is not imposed. That is one of the
messages of the cross. And God chooses goodness to operate like leaven in the world, slowly, silently and steadily working away
for the ultimate triumph over evil. God does not always choose to intervene in a heavy-handed way to confront the evils of
the time, but certainly there are positive as well as negative forces at work in the world,
and the roadmap to the kingdom is there for all to see if they would but look. In justice to God,
we should keep in mind that there is a lot of good in the world as well for which we are not thankful enough, and that we can through
our own actions increase the amount of goodness and love in the world. And we know that
since he is good, God will not allow evil to triumph over us forever, regardless of how bad
it might seem. Remember that the Christian revelation posits
an afterlife -- a realm beyond our current physical environment -- so we really cannot see the full picture or understand the
full meaning of all the bad things that happen in this life. At this point, we must have faith in God, though we see but
through a glass darkly.
Source of Inclination Irrelevant.
Because the Lord allows challenges to exist in our lives, I personally do
not see any potential discovery of a "gay gene" or other genetic origin for homosexuality as necessitating the change of one
iota of the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. Since homosexual behavior has been condemned by God, the source of the
inclination simply should not matter. Regardless of how it arises, it exists and is strongly felt in many people, as the
Catechism acknowledges, and all such are called to chastity regardless of whether the origin is nature, nurture, childhood
social experience, a mixture of any of these factors, some other factor or even different
factors for different people. Of course the issue of the origin of homosexuality is related
to the vexed issue of its mutability. But whether mutable or no, all those with this
condition are to live in a state of angelic purity.
Change of Orientation.
Perhaps a few things ought to be said here about the controversial issue of change of
sexual orientation. Courage is not a change of orientation ministry and has always stressed with the Church that the call to
chastity is the primary duty of all those with same sex attraction, as it is indeed of all humans, even those within
marriage. However, modern-day "findings" about the supposed biological origins of same sex attraction and the supposed
inability of any person of same sex attraction to ever change are of questionable scientific basis, and certain contrary data
are perhaps being ignored or suppressed for political reasons. Many of the "professional" groups and individuals that issue
conclusions on this issue seem driven more by politics than by objective science. As the Catechism recognizes, the source of
homosexuality has not yet been satisfactorily explained by science, and I for one am happy to leave it at that. Furthermore, even if
it is scientifically proven that the bulk of people with strong same sex attraction and weak "other sex attraction" are not
likely to be able to change through therapy, how can one be sure that change is not possible in any individual case? Nobody
can speak with absolute scientific accuracy that any particular individual may not be able to change. Each person is unique
and should be taken on a case by case basis. Finally, I would note that even if a scientific proposition is widely accepted
by scientists, that does not mean that the proposition is necessarily true. Science has often had to change hypotheses and
theories in light of new evidence and new paradigms. Even Galileo was not entirely correct in his model of the solar system and needed refinements from Kepler
to render his theories a more accurate reflection of physical reality. Especially in the field of behavioral psychology, I am
skeptical that science can do anything more than propose theories rather than state iron-clad facts that would be absolutely
true in every single case. And it seems quite conceivable to me that different instances of homosexuality could have different causes. For instance,
while many with same sex attraction may have been abused by their father in childhood, this
is not universally the case (it was not true in my case).
Given that there is no definitive scientific conclusion on the origins or the mutability of the
homosexual inclination, why should reparative therapy not be available on a voluntary basis to those who wish it? Of course
chastity is what we need to practice in order to be perfect, and we will not be any less valuable in God's eyes with the
disorder than without it. Nevertheless, people with same sex attraction, and particularly young people for whom psychological
patterns may not be rigidly fixed, should be allowed to try reparative therapy if they wish
to and have the money to spend. Of course I would hope that all those who undergo therapy, while being open to the grace of change if the Lord wills
it, not be upset or angry with God if the therapy does not seem to be working. It may be that the Lord does not will that the
challenge of chastity be taken away from a specific individual at a specific time. (I also would point out to those in therapy of any
kind that a therapist ethically should not belittle the religious and moral beliefs of the patient or impose
their own beliefs on the patient. Please be wary then if your therapist, knowing of your religious beliefs to the
contrary, tells you that homosexual acts are permissible, or that chastity is only a second-best "halfway house". They may be
committing an ethical breach by abusing a position of authority.)
Prayer is Free and Miracles Always Possible.
Beyond change therapy
specifically, all certainly have the freedom to pray not only for chastity but also to be released from the disorder of same sex attraction, if it be God's will. We
should not put limits on what God can do, regardless of the science involved. With God all thing are possible, and he has on
several occasions as described in the Bible intervened in the natural world to make the barren woman a happy mother of children. Of
course, our prayer at all times should in essence be that we have the grace to know, accept and do God's will. So pray by all
means, but don't be overly disappointed if God does not immediately take away this thorn from one's side.
May my prayers
rise up like
incense to Thee,
oh Father of