Where do we stand?

Homosexuality is a tricky subject to tackle. It is so sensitive that people of all orientations can be offended, even when no offence is intended. But I take my chance because it is important to develop our understanding, through discussion.

The Catholic Catechism, while insisting that we should be courteous and respectful in all situations, condemns homosexual acts as inherently evil. They are, in short, a violence against God’s creation of human nature in terms of gender. And this application of natural law is fortified by strong references in Scripture. Perhaps a more clement account would speak in terms of a mismatch (rather than a disorder) between sexual orientation and gender – in this instance easily inferred from the structures of sexual biology.

The cause of this mismatch is hard to pin down in any particular case. It may result from genes, or from irregular hormones in pregnancy, or in upbringing. Or, perhaps a combination of such causes. And, notwithstanding the verdict drawn from biological structures, the homosexual may claim that it is natural to him or her.

However we should expect that a mismatch, innocent or otherwise, would provide difficulties. For instance we know that homosexuals have a higher rate of promiscuity, which is accompanied by a higher level of infection. We might also want to argue that a homosexual couple lack the complementarity of the two genders, and are therefore prone to being unsatisfactory parents. Similarly, homosexual couples would find it difficult to maintain stable, long term, relationships. But it is hard to know whether promiscuity is inherent, or comes about because of the disapproval of society. We simply don’t know whether the children of homosexuals are in fact disadvantaged, nor how stable formally married homosexual partners may turn out to be. We will have better statistics in a decade of two; but such early indications as I have seen do not support these criticisms.

Scripture is certainly clear about the condemnation of homosexuality (visit http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-homosexuality/ for a quick overview. But then we remember that Scripture must be taken in the context of the time. It was assumed that homosexual activity was an expression of rampant carnal lust. Does that really include that same-sex couple, around the corner. who have lived together in a loving, and sexual, relationship for twenty years? Don’t walk too close to their house, you may get hit by the brimstone of God’s fury.

The older I get the more I think we have got morality wrong. We start off by making laws: this is wrong, this is right, this is mortal, this is venial. But surely we should start with love – and then try to identify the how we promote and how we damage love. Of course we will formulate some principles to which we must attend, but these are the servants of love not the masters. Our question must be: is this the loving thing to do? I think we might get some different answers.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Moral judgment, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Where do we stand?

  1. Helen says:

    I have a possible yardstick by which to judge sexual mores. Which behaviour which is most likely to lead to a woman in her 60s, 70s and 80s having access to experience fulfilling sex? My guess is that it is necessary to have a monogamous, committed long term relation – in other words marriage. I might go further and say that a lot of experimentation, while fun at the time, closes the door on long term sexual activity. The church teaches early self discipline and then total openness in marriage and it seems to me that it is inherently aimed at the long term good of the matriarch. And if she is happy then by and large everyone else is happy too!
    If homosexual couples were good at fidelity then why was it left out of their marriage contract? My children are interrupting this little entry. Do reply.

  2. John Thomas says:

    You’re very brave, Quentin getting involved in this one! I would only offer: Not everything that is ‘natural’, of nature, is good; our present fallen state is ‘nature’, ‘natural’. Peter Tatchell himself has said that there are many factors that cause a person to be homosexual. Just love, love, love doesn’t make anything/everything (eternally) right. A society that introduces, or thinks it can create, same-sex ‘marriage’ (meaning …?) has lost all connection with reality. To suggest that wrongness and rightness are governed by, and can be changed by, the present nature of society, is a very dangerous path to go down (isn’t that among those things that Benedict called “The tyranny of relativism”?). Very brave – but necessary.

    • Vincent says:

      I agree that homosexual ‘marriage’ is not properly called marriage because it is not a relationship formed around reproduction. Nevertheless i do not see why it should not be celebrated — if only as a public statement of the commitment.
      ‘Love’ can be used in many ways. But Christian love is founded in reason. By its nature it must be directed at the good. And we recognise the good through our reason.

  3. Horace says:

    When I was at school (a boys only boarding school) I only heard the word ‘homosexuality’ mentioned once or twice and then not taken seriously!
    There were some boys referred to as ‘effeminate’ – similar but not quite the same thing.

    Probably the best definition of ‘homosexuality’ as sinfulness is the last quote from Quentin’s reference.
    “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. “
    but this does not mean that having an ‘effeminate’ nature is in any way wrong.

  4. Hock says:

    Attitudes to homosexuality have certainly changed to what they were only a few decades ago. When, and I write as a man with no homosexual feelings whatsoever as I can detect in myself, one learns more of the agonies that many of these men went through, it seems only just that we now have more liberal attitudes to the whole matter of sexual orientation but we have moved from acceptance to a new kind of intolerance.
    When a party political leader of Christian declaration is cornered by a reporter ( probably acting under orders from her supervisors,) into his views on the sinfulness of homosexuality, we have moved from condemnation of homosexuals to condemnation of Christians. The former of this these two condemnations is tantamount to political suicide and the latter to a justified and long overdue activity.
    The Church draws, I think , a distinction between homosexuality and homosexual acts. Society at large does not see that distinction which makes it harder (impossible really,) for Christians in the public square to speak out.
    We should not be afraid to point out that the human body was not designed for homosexual activity. Such acts are dangerous, unnatural and can have far-reaching problematic medical issues.

  5. galerimo says:

    Thank you Quentin for pointing out the moat in my own eye when you observe, “The older I get the more I think we have got morality wrong”. That is true for me.

    I was baptised, churchified, made a penitent and first communicant long, long before I was evangelised. That’s not to deny the blessings of cradle catholicism. But its been a bit like doing the journey back to front. My moral satnav continues to annoy me on this journey with its constant message “turn around when safe to do so”.

    I agree – the real need is to first establish the basis of a loving relationship with God and from this foundation to navigate my way through maturity and growth as a human being. Sometimes I think we forget incarnation in our rush towards salvation. I studied the catechism before the Gospel.

    I can say that choosing a homosexual life style or engaging in homosexual acts would be sinful for me. I know that God’s love and grace would be sufficient for me in my repentance.
    I know this to be true because I am aware of my true sexual identity and sexual living – poor and often lacking in virtue though it is. It would be a violation of the truth of who I am. So I continue to pray “lead us not into temptation” – as I believe myself capable of doing anything any other human being can do.

    So far, in life, no one has ever asked me “Galerimo, do you think it is right for me to be a homosexual?” or “do you think it would be right for me to commit a homosexual act?”. So when you ask me “where do you stand?, I have to say – with Jesus, I hope.

  6. Barrie Machin says:

    Quentin IS being brave in raising the question in his blog today simply because only a very few years ago the legal position was VERY clear in law and thus was not a question anybody felt they had to raise and that was that. In today’s view of things it is still a thing that is not questioned any more but rather is tolerated – perhaps reluctantly – but it is accepted.
    Quentin raises the question of happily ‘married’ homo sexuals so I pose another question.
    Are we happy to accept as Quentin has discussed in past blogs the fact that many ‘regular’ marriages end in divorce and broken homes and relationships or are the cause of child abuse (which we all abhor).
    Which would you prefer the regular married scenario or the happy homosexual relationships that desire and have childen of their own that they have go to enormous lengths both personally and financially to achieve? One doesn’t see the latter kinds of associations in the courts accused of child abuse yet the former are making the headlines and the legal profession a very great deal of work.
    Or is love something to do with it?

    • galerimo says:

      Thanks Barrie – this is a fair question in light of the material from this blog.

      I think it is always preferable to have a stable and lasting relationship for the nurture and support of children. There is no doubt in my mind that such a relationship exists between people of the same sex in their parenting role.

      I am still unable to see how that relationship constitutes a marriage according to my understanding of marriage – and my gay friends, and some Catholic friends are not a bit happy with me.

      • G.D. says:

        Galerimo, I too get into trouble from friends for the same reason.

        If they want to express sex as they do, let them deal with it. But that doesn’t mean i should agree wholeheartedly with sanctioning it. Nor express my views if i so wish.
        It’s certainly not marriage as i understand it either.

        Maybe it’s a ‘need’ to justify gay relationships?
        An overreaction to perceived persecution, (internals projected?) and being in denial that there is any difference between heterosexual sex (obviously biologically compatible and naturally life producing) and same sex relations. If the differences were acknowledged – wholeheartedly – there is a risk that same sex would be seen as inferior – intrinsically ‘barren’ physically as it is. That’s not to deny the love that does exist between many in homosexual partnerships. Some may not be sexually active i would surmise.

        Think i’ve said on previous posts .. To my way of seeing, homosexual activity is in the same category as ‘disordered’ heterosexual activity – any sex outside marriage.
        But, i don’t see, in both cases, it is as ‘damnable’ as most seem to do. Disordered yes, (and better not to ‘indulge’ in my opinion!), but an understandable symptom of our ‘sinful’ state. A sign of still ‘wanting’ a true union even!?
        (Not denying, nor blind to, the many varied and atrocious social ills & perversions unbridled lust brings in it’s wake though).

        I speak as a celibate heterosexual male, with a rampant ‘disordered’ sexual past. (Long past!). A ‘state’ fought for long and hard, and i can honestly say preferred.

        Reminds me of the novice monk who asked a 75 year old brother “Oh, when will i be rid of the urge for sex?” The brother replied “I’ll let you know later; when I’m rid of it myself!”.

  7. Hock says:

    Barrie,
    There is not the slightest bit of evidence to show that an homosexual relationship is somehow superior to a heterosexual one or , as is often quoted, that homosexuals have inherent good qualities that are absent in heterosexual men.
    The incidence of crime is the same ratio for both groups. As for the value of relationships it is impossible to draw parallels when the kind of homosexual relationship you quote is so minimal in the wider context of relationships, probably a fraction of 1%.

  8. galerimo says:

    Thank You G.D. You are very clear in your thinking and I find what you say to be very helpful. This is a complex issue that has no quick or easy solutions.

    I would also like to hear more female perspectives from within the Christian ethos on the matter – there is something powerful about their ability to accommodate competing values as well as an ability to wait for a long time for outcomes.

    Also I congratulate on your life choices – celibacy is a very admirable and rich life style while by no means being an easy one.

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