Marriage & Same Sex Attraction (10)

(Frequently Asked Questions Part 10 of 11: Questions 57 to 59)

Background Information
Catholic Church Teaching on Homosexuality


57. The Catholic Church Understanding of Same Sex Attraction & Homosexual Behaviour

58. What is Pope Francis saying about the pastoral response to people living with same-sex attraction?

59. Where can I find more about the formal Catholic teaching on homosexuality and on same-sex attraction & marriage

 

 


 

57. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH UNDERSTANDING OF SAME SEX ATTRACTION & HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOUR

 

In talking about same-sex attraction, the Church carefully distinguishes between:

  • The person who has homosexual desires or tendencies;
  • An inclination or tendency to perform homosexual acts; and
  • A homosexual act.

The Church “refuses to consider the person as a ’heterosexual’ or a ’homosexual’ and insists that every person has a (more) fundamental identity: a creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.” Every person is created in the image and likeness of God, redeemed in Christ, invited to grace in this life and glory in the life to come. No person is ’intrinsically disordered’.

When it comes to sexual ’inclinations’, Jesus made it clear that every person, married or unmarried, is called by God to have complete and unwavering mastery over every desire for sexual contact or enjoyment outside of marriage (Matt. 5: 27). In reality, all of us are damaged by original sin and have desires that are disordered in various ways. Such disordered desires are not sinful. Only when we act out that desire, freely and with deliberation, do we sin.

Finally, basing itself on Sacred Scripture which presents homosexual acts as sinful [Cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10], the Catholic Church has always declared that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” . That is, homosexual acts undertaken with free will and deliberation, are sinful and fracture one’s relationship with God.

In its official doctrinal documents, the Church uses technical theological language because it is addressing Catholics of many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds and over the centuries. In this it is akin to the technical legal language of Acts of Parliament, which similarly must be precise and which differs from common daily speech. In the theological terminology used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, homosexual acts are called “intrinsically disordered”. In the theological language of the Church, all sinful acts are “intrinsically disordered”. As noted above, persons are never “intrinsically disordered”, only sinful actions.

The Church recognises that some men and women have deep-seated homosexual tendencies. They did not choose those strong tendencies. The Church teaches that such people “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” In this vein, Pope Francis has spoken of the need not to judge persons with same sex attraction who genuinely seek the Lord and possess a good will and that the whole person needs to be looked at and not simply their sexual orientation. The Church emphasis mercy and healing of our sexuality

The Church rejects the two false alternatives that men and women with same-sex attraction are presented with: either radical isolation or entrance into the gay lifestyle and embracing that ’so-called’ gay identity. These are false choices that do not do justice to the dignity and potential of the person.

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58. WHAT IS POPE FRANCIS SAYING ABOUT THE PASTORAL RESPONSE TO PEOPLE LIVING WITH SAME-SEX ATTRACTION?

 

In 2013 Pope Francis made comments about homosexuality in two separate interviews which received significant world-wide media attention. The first was an informal interview to journalists on his return flight after World Youth Day in which he said: “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will—well, who am I to judge him?” He went on to say that homosexuals are “our brothers and sisters” who “should not be marginalized.” These informal comments reflect and present in a very personal way the Church’s official teaching contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “They [homosexuals] 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.”

The second interview was given by Pope Francis to Fr Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal, and published simultaneously in Jesuit journals around the world in 12 different languages. Many media outlets simply, and somewhat inaccurately, reported that Pope Francis had said that the Church should not be “obsessed” with issues like abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. In fact, he said something far more profound and helpful. When speaking of homosexuals and the Church, he began with their own experience, and with his as a pastor: “In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ’socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this.” Instead, he explained that the Church, like God, wants to love them: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”

Pope Francis described himself in the interview as a “son of the Church” and clarified that he is not seeking to change the Church’s teaching on these matters which he says are “clear”. Rather, he is seeking to guide the Church in its pastoral response to people who are suffering. In these circumstances, he says, the Church needs to do two things: proclaim the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ and heal the wounds of all who suffer: “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.” “I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity ….. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

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59. WHERE CAN I FIND MORE ABOUT THE FORMAL CATHOLIC TEACHING ON HOMOSEXUALITY AND ON SAME-SEX ATTRACTION & MARRIAGE

 

The official (Magisterial) teaching of the Catholic Church on Homosexuality and Marriage is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) , and in three documents of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

    • Declaration on Certain Questions of Sexual Ethics 1975 (Latin title: Persona Humana) ;
    • Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person (1986) ;
    • Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (2003)

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List of Abbreviations

CA – Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991)

CCC – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (2000)

CDF 1986 – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual persons (1986)

CDF 1992 – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons (1992)

CV – Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009)

CSDC – Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004)

DH – Second Vatican Council, Declaration Dignitatis Humanae (1965)

FC – Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1982)

GS – Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (1965)

LF – Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families (1994)

LL – USCCB, Pastoral Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009)

PP – Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967)

RN – Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891)

TOB – Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006). Other English versions are available online at EWTN’s website and at the Vatican website.

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Key References

The official (Magisterial) teaching of the Catholic Church on Homosexuality and Marriage is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) , and in three documents of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Sacrament of Matrimony
Download from link: CCC – The Sacrament of Matrimony

Catechism of the Catholic Church:  The Sixth Commandment (Especially Paragraphs 2357-2359)
Download from link: CCC – The Sixth Commandment

Declaration on Certain Questions of Sexual Ethics: (CDF, 1975)
Download from link: Declaration on Sexual Ethics

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person (CDF, 1986):
Download from link: Pastoral Care of Homosexual persons

Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (CDF, 2003)
Download from link: Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions

 

In May 2015, the Catholic Bishops of Australia issued a Pastoral Letter “to all Australians” on the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Debate, entitled “Don’t mess with Marriage”. This summarises why the Catholic Church opposes moves to broaden the legal definition of marriage to include ‘same-sex’ relationships.

A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia to all Australians on the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Debate
Download from link: ‘Same-sex’ Marriage Pastoral Letter

 

The following submissions by the Catholic Church in Australia to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 also elaborate on Catholic Church teaching on marriage and same-sex attraction.

Submission 113: His Eminence Cardinal George Pell AC, Archbishop of Sydney
Download from link: (PDF 4791KB)

Submission 5: Opening Statement tabled by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at public hearing on Thursday 3 May 2012
Download from link: (PDF 1073KB)

Submission 234: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
>Download from link: (PDF 113KB)

 

Catholic Teaching on Marriage is summarised in the following “Frequently Asked Questions” Booklet.

Marriage in the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, 2006.
Download from link: Marriage in the Catholic Church
Other Non Catholic Church References

Regnerus, Mark: How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Science Research 41 (2012) 752–770.

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