Homosexual Marriage And The Catholic Church Imagine you were born into a world where being straight was taboo. You were raised by same sex parents, as all of your friends. Fornication of the opposite sex was merely to have children, but a relationship between the two was virtually unheard of. It was believed that same sex parents provided a better home for children. Love between a man and a man (or a woman and a woman) was believed to be the perfect love because it was loving an equal.
If one should love the opposite sex it was believed that they secretly wanted to be that sex. Everything you have ever known and been taught was based around same sex relationships. When you watch television every program along with every commercial is same-sex oriented. After a short period of time, at a relatively early age, you realize that there is something a little different about you. Think of the isolation you would have felt when you found yourself walking down the street and instead of turning your head at the same sex, your head was turned at the opposite.
A feeling that you might be straight in a homosexual world would be terrifying. You know if you were to ever express your attraction to the opposite sex you would be outcast, beat up, made fun of, or maybe even disowned by your own family for being different. These are the kind of fears homosexuals must face in our heterosexual world. It is our lack of compassion that has chosen to outcast them instead of trying to understand why they are the way they are. Sexual orientation cannot be chosen, yet still small minded people discriminate against homosexuals. The Catholic Church does not condone homosexual activity, but she also does not condemn homosexual orientation.
Instead, the Catholic Church encourages celibacy with the help of various support groups. Homosexuals are persons who find themselves attracted to members of their same sex. The terminology generally used for male homosexuality is “gay.” In the same, homosexual women generally prefer the term “lesbian.” Before one can understand homosexuality, the person must first understand sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is one of the four components of sexuality and is distinguished by an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectionate attraction to individual of a particular gender. The three other components of sexuality are biological sex, gender identity, and social sex role. Three sexual orientations are commonly recognized.
These being : homosexual; attraction to one’s own sex, heterosexual; attraction to the opposite sex, and bisexual; attraction to both sexes (Clausen 25-27). The way a particular sexual orientation develops in an individual is not well understood at this point. Various theories have proposed different sources, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors and life experiences during early childhood. Many scientists share the view that sexual orientation is shaped for most people at an early age through complex interactions of biological, psychological and social factors. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience.
Psychologists do not consider sexual orientation for most people to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed. Some people report trying very hard over many years to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual with no success (Blumenfeld 122-133). Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professional agree that homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder, or emotional problem. Homosexuality was thought to be a mental illness in the past because mental health professionals and society had biased information about homosexuality since most studies only involved lesbians and gay men in therapy. When researchers examined data about gay people who were not in therapy, the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness was found to be untrue. Then in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association confirmed the importance of the new research by removing the term “homosexuality” from the official manual that lists all mental and emotional disorders. This helped end the idea that the homosexual orientation is a mental illness (Genovesi 449-451).
Even though homosexual orientation is not a mental illness, some therapist believe they can still change the sexual orientation of a homosexual person to that of a heterosexual person. Some therapist have reported success in these types of treatments, but in 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good. Changing one’s sexual orientation is not simply a matter of changing one’s sexual behavior. It would require changing one’s emotional. romantic, and sexual feelings, reconstructing their own self-concept and social identity. There are many up-to-date sources of the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality, but homosexuality can be found even mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. In Leviticus 18:22 it states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination.” Homosexuality has been an issue since the beginning of sexuality itself. Homosexuality is also found in the animal kingdom. Unequivocally, homosexuality is an issue that is impossible to ignore.
The human race is at the point that homosexual issues enter world news daily. In 1976, the American Catholic bishops in their pastoral letter, To Live in Christ Jesus, wrote a concise, yet understandable and balanced view of homosexuality from a Catholic perspective. In it they wrote: “Some persons find themselves, through no fault of their own, to have a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community. Homosexual activity, however, as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong. Like heterosexual persons, homosexuals are called to give witness to chastity, avoiding, with God’s grace, behavior which is wrong for them, just as non-marital sexual relations are wrong for heterosexuals.
Nonetheless, because heterosexuals can usually look forward to marriage, and homosexuals, while their orientation continues, might not, the Christian community should provide them a special degree of pastoral understanding and care.” The Catholic Church does not condemn homosexual orientation. It condemns the homosexuals activity, as it condemns premarital sex. The Catholic Church encourages homosexuals to pick up their cross, despite its difficulties, and strive to live a Christian life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: ” Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” The Catholic Church has not always been so understanding of the homosexual condition. Their first recognition of the need for Christian support of homosexuals was in 1969, when an organization called Dignity was begun.
It was the first spiritual support group for lesbian and gay Catholics. As Dignity spread it forced church hierarchy to deal with the issue of homosexuality. By 1982 eight dioceses had established some official outreach to the lesbian and gay community (Blumenfeld 187-189). In 1977, another organization was founded. The group called themselves, New Ways Ministry. It provided the non-gay community education enabling them to learn more about the hidden minority within our Church and society.
With the increase of education about homosexuals and the rise of support groups for them, there was evidence of an attitudinal shift in the Catholic Church by the 1970’s (Blumenfeld 187-189). Despite the advance of information available about homosexuals, there will, unfortunately, always be controversy and discrimination. The general prejudice against homosexual people has come to be called homophobia. Homophobia literally translated means “fear of the same.” Studies have revealed that individuals who manifest homosexual prejudice also exhibit other attributes. Generally such people tend to be “more authoritaria …