Today I would like to address a statement that was thrown around after the publication of an article from this blog on the very popular Chastity Project Blog. After reading about my friend Jake, who experiences Same Sex Attraction and has found peace and love in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, many readers felt that it was “so sad” that Jake would be “unable” to “live a full life”, and that the Church was just “so bad” for denying Jake what is clearly a God given right, the joys of a romantic relationship with whomever he should choose.
I’m going to try to make this really clear. I’m even going to put it in capital letters, but don’t feel like I’m yelling at you. I’m not yelling.
BEING GAY IS NOT A SIN. ACTING ON IT IS.
God “makes” people certain ways all the time that he doesn’t want us to act upon. It’s called a cross. In Christian circles, a cross is often referred to as a struggle that one must carry throughout life.
Here are some examples of crosses that many people are called to carry, but called NOT to act upon.
Many people suffer from Depression; it is a combination of life experiences, hormonal imbalances, and natural (usually obsessive or anxious) tendencies that cause depression. Being depressed is not a sin, but committing suicide, or hurting yourself or others, is a sin.
Many people are naturally inclined to anger. Being angry is not a sin, acting out on it in a way that is unnecessary and hurtful is.
Many people (myself included) suffer from Anxiety. Being anxious is not a sin; acting on it in a way that makes one cold, hardened, and controlling, and therefore hurts others is a sin.
Many people struggle with pornography, which is a result of struggling with lust. Desiring sexual intimacy is not a sin, using others in order to gratify your desires is a sin.
God makes people with these crosses all the time. Actually, every single one of us is made with a disordered inclination (or a few) that we need to work our entire lives to control. This is the path to Christian perfection. Just because we are “born this way” (thank you Lady Gaga) doesn’t mean we have the “right” to act on it. A question that I get when I speak to young people about abstinence is, “But haven’t you wanted to have sex with your boyfriends?” The answer shouldn’t be shocking at all. Of course I wanted to have sex with them, that is why I dated them… I was attracted to them, they were attracted to me, I found out they were a good person, they love Jesus…Bam- the recipe for a great potential sexual partner. (aka. Husband)
But here is the catch… just because we want to do something doesn’t mean we should do it. Especially if it would disrespect the dignity of another or myself- and in comes the Catholic definition of chastity:
2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery, which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.126 “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.”127
2349 “People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy, which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single.”136 Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence:
There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church.137
137: St. Ambrose, De viduis 4,23:PL 16,255A.
The above is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and is by far not exhaustive, there are many more passages regarding chastity. However, there is not much regarding Homosexuality. It is treated as any other disordered passion, including lust, pornography, etc. Here is what its says:
Chastity and homosexuality
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 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.
That last paragraph (2359) could easily replace the words “Homosexual persons” with any of our names.
“Janelle is called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teaches her inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, she can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
That is not just for me, or people who struggle with SSA (I dislike defining people by their sexual orientation, or referring to them as gay), this is for each and every one of us. Right now, broader society is really bringing attention to this particular group. Soon I am sure people who struggle with polygamy, pedophilia, and other disordered tendencies will make their rounds much like those who support pornography and prostitution have in the past and still do. It is what it is. Our responsibility is to continue to live out chastity, continue to proclaim the Truth, and continue to hold our brothers and sisters to the highest accountability and respect.
In the same way that the Church and faithful friends help Jake to remain accountable, Jake also helps me, as a woman who experiences sexual attraction, to remain accountable to my vow of abstinence until marriage. None of us is better than the other nor are our disordered inclinations more or less holy. We are all just people dealing with various struggles, and we need to come alongside each other to help bring each of us closer to Christ. This is the true purpose of our lives.
“So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.13For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.14Do everything without grumbling or questioning,15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,among whom you shine like lights in the world,16as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.17But, even if I am poured out as a libationupon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.18In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me” – Philippians 2:12-18