On the Church's Teaching Regarding Homosexuality

| | Comments (7)

Mr. Bogner asks a question below that I fear I do not have the expertise to address properly, but which I feel should be addressed, and so I place it here.

It also reminds me of Catholicism's approach to homosexual clergy - we all know there is a fair number of homosexual priests, but as long as they are celibate then it seems our bishops don't really pay much attention to them. If homosexuality is wrong, then isn't it wrong whether someone is celibate or not? Or is it? I don't have that figured out, not even close to it.

I venture into this area with trepidation, but I am certain that there are many more studied than I am who can correct my understanding of Church teaching. The church teaches that the inclination to homosexuality is intrinsically disordered but not in itself sinful. Just as the inclination to polygamy and promiscuity is gravely disordered, if it is not acted upon, it is not sinful. Homosexuality is not a sin. Being a homosexual is not a sin. Engaging in homosexual acts either physically or, as with heterosexual acts, entertaining thoughts and encouraging them, is sinful. A chaste homosexual is not committing a sin. He is defying no commandment and no law. Just as a person inclined to theft commits no sin so long as he takes nothing belonging to another. To be attracted to something is not in itself sinful--acting on that attraction can be so.

That's how I understand it, and I admit that it is very crude and not terribly nuanced. But the reason bishops care little if a person is a homosexual is that Priests are called to live a chaste life. I introduce this word because often we use celibate, which technically means only unmarried to mean chaste which refers to conduct. It is entirely possible to be celibate and unchaste and uncelibate but chaste. In the Carmelite Order we make promises of "chastity according to station in life." That is a married person is chaste when faithful to his or her spouse. A celibate person is chaste when he or she refrains from indulging the sexual impulse. A chaste, celibate homosexual should present no more problem for a bishop than a chaste, celibate heterosexual. There are theories and expositors to the contrary, but I will not argue that as I am on even shakier ground than this initial discussion. And I do invite those better informed, more aware, or more skillful in conveying proper Church teaching to jump in and help us all understand better exactly what the Church does teach.

Bookmark and Share


Don't apologize. For a thumbnail take on the topic you did well - and with charity!

Hi Steven - I'm aware of the church's teaching, as described in your posting, but I have a hard time with it. It's not something I'm able to formulate right now; I guess the most I can say is that I find it inconsistent. But I suppose far greater minds than mine do have it figured out, hence the Church's teaching on it.

Just as the inclination to polygamy and promiscuity is gravely disordered, if it is not acted upon, it is not sinful.

Sorry if this veers a little off topic, but is the inclination to polygamy per se sinful? Did God actually permit a sinful practice or just a less than ideal one? I hadn't studied the subject in depth, but I thought that marriage was only raised to a sacrament by Jesus and that polygamy and divorce/remarriage were more like imperfections than the sin against marriage that they are for Christians. So I just wondered about the comparison to same-sex attraction.

Dear Davey's Mom,

I used the more common term, technically I probably meant something more akin to the neoconstruction (hideous) polyamory--which must be regarded as uncontestedly sinful.

Don't know about the Church's teaching on this matter--but it would strike me that if promiscuity was regarded as sinful, polygamy which is a kind of legally recognized promiscuity would also be regarded as such, thought honestly I don't know. In my own mind polygamy is a sin and inclination to it, as sinful inclination. (Seems to me that polygamy is simply institutionalized and officially recognized lust--but that's just an uninformed opinion.)



In the discussion of polygamy, there is an unconscious assumption (key to our culture, I think) that marriage is all about sex. Don't get me wrong, sex is important to marriage. But marriage is also about providing a structure that protects men and women (especially women) in order to have a safe place for the begetting and upbringing of children.

Dear Alicia,

Thank you. I think that point is quite important and well made.



Speaking as a sinner, all sins are heinous, starting with our own, particularly mortal sins, such as those against the sixth commandment.

That being said, there is a significant difference between natural vice, such as fornication and adultery (either of whichmay be involved in polygamy) and unnatural vice, such as homosexual perversion.

Thus it would seem that prudence would dictate precluding the ordination of self-professed homosexuals as parish priests even before the present scandal, which--media mythology notwithstanding--is more a problem of homosexuality than of pedophelia.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 4, 2003 8:07 AM.

Christ Altogether Lovely III was the previous entry in this blog.

On the Troubles in the Anglican Communion is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll