On Wednesday June 26, 2013 the United States Supreme Court struck down, as unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal benefits. Under DOMA, same-sex marriages performed in states where same-sex marriage is legal were not recognized by the federal government. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supported DOMA and called the Supreme Court decision “…a tragic day for marriage and our nation.”
How do I feel about this as a Catholic? I have a lot of trouble with it. As I’ve been on my journey back to the faith, I have delved into the Catholic Catechism, I have read about the lives and devotions of the Saints, I have witnessed the love of Christ in the tireless and fearless work of missionaries around the world. I know that I have barely scratched the surface of Christianity, but I cannot help but find great inconsistency between the Church’s message of love and the bishop’s adamant opposition to the union of two people of the same gender. Furthermore, to call the Supreme court decision on DOMA (and the decision not to decide on California’s Proposition 8), “tragic” is to elevate homosexuality to the same level of unholiness as abortion, rape, torture, abandonment of the poor, denial of healthcare to the sick, and the denial of human rights to immigrants. If, for the sake of argument, homosexuality is a sin, I would say it ranks rather low on the list of harmful consequences.
In the Mass readings for this coming Sunday, St. Paul reminds the Galatians “…the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:14) He did not add “unless your neighbor is gay.” The extreme rhetoric used by the bishops to denigrate the love between two people of the same sex will only serve to alienate a full ten percent of God’s children from the love offered to everyone else by the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:
In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective “perfections” of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband. (CCC 370)
The first half of that paragraph gives us reason to accept the love of two people of the same sex. The second part gives us reason to validate opposite-sex relationships exclusively. I have yet to hear this contradiction addressed. In order for an act to be a sin, the one committing the sin must be fully aware that the act is wrong. The “imperfect” state of homosexual unions presupposes that homosexuality is a moral, conscious, choice on the part of the homosexual. Science has proven this notion to be false. The Catholic Church has long upheld the validity of scientific discipline. The Church willingly accepts scientific theories on the evolution of man and the origins of the universe as being in harmony with the Christian belief in God as supreme creator. When science and scripture apparently contradict, the common truth is always found. For example the theory of evolution is compatible with the story of the fall of man in Genesis when you consider the “biting of the apple” to be a symbol of man’s decision to trust in himself rather than in God. The moment the first homo sapien had the notion that he did not need God to survive, he conferred on all his descendants the taint of original sin. One might argue that homosexual activity is a moral, conscious choice. But so is heterosexual activity. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful because sex is the deepest and most profound physical expression of love between two people. If the supreme act of love is performed in the absence of the irrevocable commitments made in the sacrament of marriage, then the act constitutes a lie. Nonetheless, temptations to heterosexual activity, inside or outside of marriage, are considered natural. Temptations to homosexual activity are deemed by the Church to be unnatural under any circumstance, by virtue of the fact that such activity cannot lead to procreation, which is God’s ultimate intention for the gift of sexual love. This leads to the often asked and, as yet, unsatisfactorily answered questions,”Why are infertile heterosexual couples allowed to marry? Why is intercourse between men and women who have no hope of conceiving not considered sinful? Why is sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who purposely time their activity to lessen the possibility of conception no longer considered sinful?” These are tired old arguments, but I have yet to hear good answers to them.
This brings me to the biggest question on my mind: Why does God continue to create homosexuals? Their existence defies all principles of natural selection. Whether or not you believe that evolution is a natural process guided by God, homosexuality should have been bred out of the species thousands of years ago. They are far less inclined to reproduce and the prejudices against them by the other ninety percent of humanity has given them a pretty hefty survival disadvantage. Yet they continue to comprise roughly the same percentage of the population generation after generation. Why would God continue to create people condemned to a life of mandatory celibacy? Even the celibacy of the priesthood is a voluntary discipline.
One can point to scriptural passages that clearly refute the validity of homosexual love in the same way devout people of the past pointed to scripture to justify slavery, the spiritual inferiority of Jews, and the “evil” implications of being left-handed. In the last three instances, the Church’s interpretation of those passages evolved as its understanding of God’s world grew. I believe that the teaching on homosexuality has room to evolve. I pray that the Holy Spirit open the heart of the Church I love and enable it to love and embrace all of God’s children so that no one is given reason to avert their eyes from the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is Jesus Christ.
Have a Blessed Week!