Saturday, February 20, 2016

What does the Church say about homosexuality? (With Manny Pacquiao mentioned)

      Manny Pacquiao’s recent statements have opened up a lot of discussions about homosexuality. Biblical views on it have suddenly filled many facebook posts. That’s maybe because Pacquiao himself cited the Bible.
During my not-so-younger years friends and I were reading the Veritatis splendor of Pope John Paul II. At that time a moral theologian was quite widely read. He was Xavier Thevenot. Then also two books came out, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and the Catechism for Adults in France. My friends and I were doing moral theology then so we had to read these documents. Let me recall what I read regarding this topic of Pacquiao…well, no, not Pacquiao himself but about homosexuality. I am here reporting what I recall about the Church stand. The reader may agree or disagree.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) (#2357) states that homosexuality “has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained”. The view of the Church on homosexuality has evolved due to the contributions of the sciences. The sciences, notably the human sciences, have underlined the ambivalence of sexual desires during stages of human psychological development. Theologians of morality themselves try to refine their judgement on this matter. Homosexuality cannot be simply called a “vice”.
The CCC continues to say that there are many with homosexual tendencies, their number “is not negligible”. The inclination is a trial for many. Hence, the CCC states that the homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC #2358).
But then there are the homosexual acts. Note that now it is this time about the “acts”. The CCC states that the acts are “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 complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” [#2357]. The orientation is not a moral fault; the doing of acts are contrary to the doctrines of the Church and therefore “intrinsically disordered”.
Now the word “disordered” sounds harsh. When the CCC uses this word it picks it up from the vocabulary of traditional moral theology. “Disordered” would mean that which deviates from the moral norm. The norm consists of sexual relation with the opposite sex and not with the same sex. To be homosexual is not morally bad; it is not morally good. The homosexual genital acts are the ones that are to be evaluated morally.
Here is a statement from Cardinal Ratzinger himself. “What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Letter of Congregation of Faith, October 1986 #11).
A person cannot be reduced to a definition especially when it is about homosexuality. Even homosexual friendship cannot be denied its value. It is not the person nor the personality that must be considered “disordered”. Both gays and straight people can show true friendship and love.
We do not read in Scriptures about Jesus enclosing people in what makes them suffer even if the suffering is so obvious. We can think of the publican Zacchaeus stuck in his status and the Samaritan woman stuck in her sexual struggles.
Now Xavier Thevenot, if I remember, has something to say here. He (was) a moral theologian and an expert too in the psychological views of Freud and Lacan. He says that a child grows up (obvious ba?) and discovers how to differentiate from fusional relationship. Through socialization the child learns to see how she/he is “different”. A boy sees he is not a girl. A girl sees she is not a boy. A child sees she/he is not adult. Etc. The gradual discovery of differences leads the child to change and to relate with “objects” other that her/his own body. The capacity to be relational as man or woman, in adulthood, depends on how the child in earlier years has integrated the differences. It also depends on how the child in the earlier years has resisted the temptation to return to the fusional pattern.
Homosexuality, for Thevenot, is the resistance to the sexual difference; something happened in the development of the child that may have stopped the child from moving towards heterosexuality.
Hence to say that homosexual practices have the same value as heterosexual practices is to say also that indifference and fusional sexual practices are…well, acceptable. Marriage is founded on difference—there is the man and there is the woman. Will this still be considered a right to be respected in society?
And now the Scriptures, which Pacquiao himself banks on. The Sodom story [seeGn 19/1-29] shows the desire for the homosexual act leading to violation. It is not about homosexuality in general. In Lev19/22 and 20/13 there is a condemnation of homosexual acts. The serious problem is the anti-creational pattern of the acts. Differences are not respected and confusion is sowed in the created world that God ordained. Lv 19/19 symbolically summarizes the issue: “do not breed any of your domestic animals with others of a different species; do not sow a field of yours with two different kinds of seed; and do not put on a garment woven with two different kinds of thread”. In other words do not inject confusion in differences. Lv 18 tells us not to sow confusion with sexual relations with relatives for relatives are of the same flesh.
If all unions are allowed we might sow confusion. Differences disappear, including the difference between man and woman. Scripturally homosexuality is considered “anti-creationist”, so to speak. Thevenot cites Scriptures a lot and he says that if the homosexual act is allowed then we blurr the separations that God placed in the original chaos.
The New Testament continues this line. In St. Paul’s time homosexual acts were practiced, like in Corinth. St. Paul considered the acts as disorders in creation [Rm 1/24-27 ; 1 Co 6/9-10 ; 1 Tm 1/10].
The difficulty with citing Scripture passages lies in the possible condemnation of the homosexual person whereas the passages were really more about the disorder made by the acts. Now, if I remember my reading of Veritatis splendor, there it is said that conscience must be obeyed but conscience can err. If a gay couple in conscience thinks that the sexual act is alright, the couple still needs to see how that act is intrinsically a disorder. 

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