by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
In my preceding articles regarding the cultural debate about state recognition of homosexual relationships as marital unions, I proposed arguments based on science and reason.
In the courts and legislatures, the defense of marriage — as understood universally for millennia to be a public commitment between one man and one woman — must be made from reason, not revelation.
Thus, it is important to realize that the best scientific evidence supports what we perceive to be as our sexual orientation not being biologically determined, but resulting from bonding dynamics with parents, siblings and other significant relationships in our formative years. Same-sex attractions often develop so early in childhood that many individuals perceive their sexual orientation as innate and genetically determined.
The good news is that it is possible for many individuals to overcome same-sex attractions and develop the capacity for healthy heterosexual relationships. This is particularly true for individuals who are open to change and who receive skilled professional counseling and therapy at a young age.
From a purely rational analysis, it is apparent that homosexual activity is flawed because it cannot fulfill the twin purposes for which our human sexual organs are obviously designed: 1) the unique bonding that inevitably occurs from physical union with a complementary body of the opposite sex; and 2) the ability to generate new human life. Not surprisingly, we also find that homosexual behavior results in increased physical and psychological health risks that inevitably arise when we use our bodies in a manner contrary to their design, e.g., the transmission of AIDS, contracting venereal disease, depression, etc.
Similarly, cultures and societies place themselves at risk when they no longer recognize the importance of marriage as an enduring, committed relationship between one man and one woman as the foundation for the family. The principal interest of the state regarding marriage relates to its importance in the generation and healthy development of future citizens.
State recognition of marriage is not exclusively, or even primarily, about the adults, but about the wellbeing of the children who may result from the union of one man and one woman. In most instances, the healthiest environment for children to develop and mature is in the community of the family, where they have the opportunity to experience the love of both a father and a mother.
Children require a huge investment of time, energy and material resources on the part of parents. The proper care and nurturing of healthy children is a huge contribution to society. It is appropriate and prudent for the state to give special benefits to married couples because their relationship is foundational to strong families, which are essential for the well-being of society.
State recognition of homosexual relationships as the equivalent of marriage results in societal validation of the homosexual lifestyle. As we have already seen in Massachusetts, this very quickly leads to government schools promoting homosexual behavior as healthy and normal. This leaves young people experiencing the usual developmental struggles vulnerable to experimentation with homosexual behaviors, despite its health risks.
For the Christian, in addition to the arguments from science and reason regarding the dangers of homosexual behavior, the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Bible is extremely important. Among the ironies of our time is that so many Christian churches, who trace their roots to the Reformation with claims of the Bible as the sole authority for doctrine, are now turning the Scriptures upside down in an effort to conform to the societal pressure to grant moral approval to homosexual actions.
It is important first to note what the Scriptures positively teach regarding the nature of marriage. Already in the second chapter of Genesis, the Bible speaks eloquently of the complementary relationship of a man and a woman (Gn 1: 27 and 2: 21-23). The inspired word of God then describes the nature of marriage: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gn 2: 24). It is this description of marriage from Genesis that Jesus himself cites in his own catechesis on marriage (Mt 19: 4-10).
In addition to its positive teaching on marriage, the Bible also speaks clearly about the immorality of homosexual behavior. One of the best treatments of this matter is a book by a Protestant biblical scholar, Robert Gagnon, entitled “The Bible and Homosexual Practice.”
Professor Gagnon carefully examines the relevant Old Testament texts, regarding Ham, the son of Noah (Gn 9: 20-27); the sin of the citizens of Sodom (Gn 19: 22-25); and the laws in the Book of Leviticus (Lv 18: 22 and 20:13). Professor Gagnon also describes the prevalent understanding of the immorality of homosexual activity in Judaism at the time of Jesus. He also deconstructs the myth created by some modern authors of a “tolerant Jesus” regarding sexual morals. It is outrageous to assert that Jesus approved homosexual actions.
Jesus held his disciples to a higher standard of sexual morality than did contemporary Jewish scholars as evidenced by his teaching on adultery (Mt 5: 31-32) and lust (Mt 5: 27-28). Professor Gagnon concludes: “The portrayal of Jesus as a first-century Palestinian Jew who was open to homosexual practice is simply ahistorical. All the evidence leads in the opposite direction.”
Moreover, the teaching in other parts of the New Testament, specifically St. Paul, clearly recognized homosexual actions as grave sins, e.g., Rom 1: 24-27; 1 Cor 6:9; and 1 Tm 1:10. Certainly, St. Paul based his teachings on the Old Testament, but he also contends that Gentiles without the benefit of divine revelation have sufficient evidence from nature and reason to discern the immorality of homosexual behavior (Rom 1:18-27).
My purpose in writing these articles has not been to increase the pain experienced by those struggling with same-sex attractions. No matter what we experience as our sexual orientation, we are all created in the divine image. Each of us is of such worth in the eyes of God that Jesus gave his life on Calvary.
My desire for those with same-sex attractions is that they experience the abundant life in this world and the eternal joy Jesus promises to his disciples. The path to abundant life and eternal joy will not be found in following the destructive philosophy of the sexual revolution that simply encourages us to indulge our desires and physical impulses.
Authentic and enduring happiness for those with same-sex and opposite-sex attractions is to be discovered by placing God first in our lives and striving to follow the teaching and example of Jesus. Regardless of our sexual attractions, this necessitates for each of us to cultivate the virtue of chastity along with the attendant self-discipline that it requires. Living a chaste life opens up the possibility for beautiful friendships in which we experience authentic love — seeking the good of the other person and not our own gratification.
Courage is a special ministry devoted specifically to helping individuals with same-sex attractions to: 1) experience God’s love for them; 2) follow Jesus; 3) develop the virtue of chastity; and 4) experience the abundant life and complete joy Our Lord desires for each of us. If you are interested in looking into Courage, contact Bill Scholl, the archdiocesan consultant for social justice, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (913) 647-0317
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