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Column: All of us are called to live the virtue of chastity


by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

The last two weeks, I have devoted this column to examining some of the ramifications of the state recognizing same-sex unions as marriage.

To review, the main points from the previous columns:

1) Much of the support for the recognition of same-sex unions is well-meaning and laudable as it springs from a desire for individuals experiencing same-sex attractions to be happy and to experience love.

2) The “sexual revolution” has misled many into believing that sexual intimacy is necessary for happiness and is essential for love and friendship.

3) It is wrong to ridicule or to show disrespect for those who experience same-sex attractions.

4) Ironically, under the banner of tolerance, some advocacy groups and media outlets engage in name-calling and other bullying tactics in an effort to silence those who question the advisability of state recognition of same-sex relationships as marital unions.

5) The scientific research has been misrepresented in order to mislead the general public into believing that same-sex attractions are genetic and innate.

6) Many young people experience quite normal challenges with forming opposite-sex friendships and otherwise struggle with their sexual identity. The societal endorsement of the gay lifestyle leaves these young people vulnerable to being drawn into behaviors that place their physical, emotional and spiri- tual health at risk.

7) Heterosexuality is not a virtue, nor is the experiencing of same-sex attraction a vice. Chastity is a virtue that every human being is called to practice in accord with our particular state of life.

Last week, I drew upon an article by Dr. Michelle Cretella, who in medical school was led to believe that same-sex attractions were genetically determined. Several years into her medical career, after personally studying carefully the scientific research, she discovered the opposite was true. This week, I want to examine what I consider some other common logical flaws in the reasoning of those who support the recognition by the state of same-sex relationships as marital unions.

One of the most common arguments supporting so-called same-sex marriage and the societal promotion of the gay lifestyle as an equally valid and moral alternative to heterosexuality is that our sexual orientation is an essential part of our identity or nature. From this premise, some make the logical leap that to reject homosexual activity as immoral is to reject the person.

Everyone of us is biologically flawed in some way. There are no physically perfect human beings. In Catholic theology, we believe this is one of the consequences of original sin, of the rebellion against God by our first parents. Regardless of the cause, there is unanimous acceptance that we all have some biological flaws.

For instance, I am nearsighted because of a congenital condition. Yet, I would not claim that my nearsightedness is an essential component of my identity. Nor would I reject as a violation of my true identity the opportunity to improve my vision by glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Just the opposite, I am grateful that science and technology makes it possible for me to enjoy normal vision.

Let us consider an even more universal example. I have what seems to be a natural inclination toward selfishness — to view the world as revolving around me. This appears to be a near universal flaw in the human heart.

The most beautiful children from the most loving of families eventually have
to be taught the importance of sharing as opposed to demanding constantly to be provided what may give them momentary pleasure. Yet, I doubt any of us would argue that being selfish is who I am. It is part of my DNA.To reject my selfish behavior is to reject me.

Most of us crave things — e.g., sweet foods or alcoholic beverages — which are not bad in themselves, but can impair seriously our health if consumed to excess. Some of us may even have what appear to be genetic addictions. For others to encourage us to exercise a prudent discipline in satisfying these appetites is not a form of disrespect for our identity, but expressions of love and concern for our well-being.

With regard to our human sexuality, our bodies are designed for the possibility of physical union with the complementary body of the opposite sex. This physical union of the male and female body was also designed to make possible the conception of a new human life.

Moreover, sexual intimacy between a man and a woman is designed to create a bonding that is unique and is important not only for the adult couple but for any children conceived from their union. Heterosexual physical intimacy outside of marriage is reckless and harmful — not only because it places a child at risk to being born into an unstable environment, but
it places adults at risk of the emotional trauma and heartbreak of this natural, powerful bond being broken.

Homosexual activity is properly called disordered because it is incapable of fulfilling either of the purposes for which our sexual organs were designed: 1) the actual physical union with another human body; and 2) the engendering of new human life. The sterilization (the denial of the life-giving component) of heterosexual activity by the widespread use of contraceptives is one of the reasons that many in our culture are unable to recognize any difference between sexual intimacy between members of the opposite-sex and the same-sex.

In a culture that considers sexual intimacy as merely recreation and a source of pleasure for the adults, then why not equate homosexual and heterosexual activity? In reality, what is engraved upon the heart of the human person as reflected in our biology, is sexual intimacy involves so much more than gratifying an animal instinct for pleasure.

Both those with opposite-sex and same-sex attractions harm themselves and, in the case of heterosexual couples, possibly place a child at risk, when we act in a way that is contrary to the design God has given to our human sexuality. Those experiencing same-sex and opposite-sex attractions are both called
to develop the discipline necessary to live the virtue of chastity — namely, to use the gift of our human sexuality in a manner that respects and
is consistent with its twin purposes.

Next week, I will conclude this series of articles by reflecting on what the Bible teaches us about these important moral issues.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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