The last blog ‘Who decides our morals?’ received interesting and constructive comment. We touched on the subject of homosexuality, and John Thomas warned us about possible outcomes:
“Truly-independent studies have shown that the result of many homosexual practices involve disease, pain, suffering and death: are we really “liberal” in believing in an institution (eg. same-sex “marriage”) which promotes such practices, and their results? I doubt it. Maybe the truly “liberal” approach – that which truly frees people – is the one which says “for your own sake, you mustn’t …”
So let’s talk a little more about this since homosexuality has some issues which can help our understanding of Natural Law, as presented by the Church.
Perhaps I should start by saying that I do not question John’s evidence. Rather I welcome it, because it reinforces the nature of homosexuality as a mismatch. That is not a theological conclusion but a factual one: the mismatch is between biology and orientation. And mismatches tend towards problems: try putting a two-pin plug into a three-pin socket and you will see the mismatch straightaway. So we should expect the sort of problem outcomes to which John refers. The Church (CCC 2357) describes homosexual acts as grave depravity, intrinsically disordered, and which can under no circumstances be approved. While ‘disordered’ has the same meaning as ‘mismatched’, it carries more condemnatory overtones.
Clearly we should avoid mismatches as far as practical. But we are told that homosexual orientation is not chosen. It is suggested that it can come through genes, through problems in the womb before birth, or through upbringing. Nor is it curable. Various psychologists, or pseudo psychologists, have claimed that they can ‘cure’ it, but evidence of success is lacking. So we can presume that homosexual orientation in itself involves no moral fault.
But homosexual acts are a different matter. Could there be circumstances in which these might be justified? The answer in Catholic terms is unconditionally ‘no’. The reason is that homosexual acts are judged as intrinsically wrong, so, by definition, they are always sinful. This is an element in Natural Law which holds that God expresses his direct will through the structure he has created. This was understandable up to the 19th century but now we know that, through evolution, the creation of biological structure is indirect. While the outcomes of evolution are generally good since they have supported survival, this is not always so – particularly when conditions change. (A current example is the fertility rate which is about three times too high for modern conditions, and has to be controlled though contraception.)
While we are free to judge homosexual acts as evil, depending on the circumstances, we may no longer claim that they are always evil simply because God was once thought to have proclaimed this through his direct creative act.
It then becomes possible to consider whether two homosexuals who have entered into a committed loving relationship may be behaving virtuously in terms of what is open to them. We might well expect that the mismatch involved could cause problems, although the evidence that this is so in the case of homosexual marriage, is not yet available. I would not call it marriage for semantic reasons, and I would prefer to think of it as a civil partnership, but I should be happy to respect it as a good thing. Would you?