Catholics are often accused of being ‘homophobic’–the new curse word that means we are afraid of homosexuals. I don’t think I’m afraid of homosexuals, although when someone comes on my combox and says that they want to stand on my head and not take their foot off until they have ‘squeezed some sense into it’ I have to admit that I get a little bit afraid. When I see what homosexuals have done to the good name of Senator Rick Santorum that makes me a little bit afraid.
But I’m not really afraid of homosexuals. I am, however, disapproving of homosexuality. This is not simply because I find sodomy repulsive. I disapprove of homosexuality because I approve of marriage. So instead of blasting homosexuals and homosexuality I wish to defend, support, explain and uphold the truth and beauty of sacramental marriage.
In order to do this, one needs to understand the fully Catholic teaching on marriage. Marriage, for Catholics, is a sacrament. It is a visible means of grace. In other words, through the physical actions and commitment of marriage God’s saving grace is active in our lives. Marriage is, if you like, a ladder to heaven. It is one of the ways we participate in our salvation. St John teaches us that “those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.” The human covenant of marriage is the most sublime and complete way for most people to experience the love of God. In fact, it is the most urgent and active and obvious way for most people to experience and participate in the grace-filled action of God’s salvation.
This sacrament–this means of grace–is something permanent and precious and life giving. It is a path to that self sacrifice that leads to eternal life. Within marriage God’s life and love exists in and through and with our human love sealed and made permanent through marriage. Like all the sacraments, it is, by its very nature, life giving and healing and forgiving. Through the sacraments our broken humanity is ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven. This is especially true of marriage with it’s drama of joys and sorrows spread over a lifetime. It is also especially true of marriage since only through marriage do a man and woman participate with God in the creation of new human souls.
Because marriage is such a beautiful, eternal, precious and fragile sacrament we love and cherish it. We also oppose everything that would break this precious, fragile and life giving sacrament. Divorce breaks marriage. Adultery breaks marriage. Pornography breaks marriage. Co habitation breaks marriage. Promiscuity breaks marriage. Contraception breaks marriage. Abortion breaks marriage. Child abuse breaks marriage. Homosexuality also breaks marriage.
The proponents of homosexuality will argue that it is all about ‘love’. However, their definition of love is “the freedom to have sexual relations with whomever I experience erotic and romantic emotions toward.” They may add to this an idea of “commitment” or even “lifelong commitment” but a moment’s reflection will show that these subjective and sentimental notions of ‘love’ can just as easily be claimed by the adulterer, the child abuser, the co habiter and the divorcee. The adulterer will claim that he did not love his spouse any more and loves his mistress more. The co-habiter will claim to be in love with the person he or she is living with. Indeed, the child abuser will claim to love the child and may even claim to ‘be in a loving relationship’ with the teen they are abusing. The promiscuous man about town may claim to ‘love’ each woman with whom he has a one night stand. The couple who are using artificial contraception will claim that they are doing so because they love one another and ‘can’t afford’ a child. Abortion has even been rationalized through ‘love’ by claiming that the person choosing abortion is doing so ‘because they love the children they already have.’
Therefore, some other criteria for ‘love’ must be established, and a Christian society has recognized that bona fide relationship to be the thing we call marriage. In marriage love is objectified and strengthened and clarified by a life long sacrament.
Does this mean that we must hate homosexuals? Some homosexuals may be aggressive and ugly in their campaigning. Some may be disgusting in their promiscuous and degrading lifestyle. They’re pretty easy to dislike, but there are heterosexuals who are disgusting in their promiscuity and degrading lifestyle. If we find some homosexual practices repulsive we also find some heterosexual practices repulsive. So that’s a red herring.
On the other hand a homosexual person may be gentle, loving, restrained and disciplined and loyal to one partner. This homosexual seems more acceptable and less repulsive. He or she seems like ‘such a nice guy’ or ‘a wonderful gal’. But a person’s niceness is not the criteria for moral judgement. Plenty of adulterers, divorcees, child abusers or mass murderers were charming and polite and ‘nice’. This again is a subjective, sentimental judgement and therefore a red herring.
Instead we return to the objectivity of natural law and conclude that the sexual organs are designed for a certain purpose and to use them otherwise in any way is deviant. Homosexual acts are therefore, objectively disordered, and according to this argument, so are many other sexual behaviors–of which we also disapprove. Marriage is objectively a sacrament, so likewise, any behavior which breaks marriage is something of which we disapprove. We do not wish for homosexual people to re-define marriage on their terms, but we also disapprove of the re-definition of marriage that has occurred de facto through contraception, no fault divorce, re-marriage, widespread promiscuity and co habitation.
Our response is to note all of these crimes against marriage objectively and then accept on equal terms all people–no matter what their sinful condition. Do we find some of their behaviors repugnant? So be it. However, our natural repugnance does not mean we should hate those people or deny them human rights. We still see each person as a son or daughter of God and we hope to offer to them, as we do to all sinners–the heart of compassion and the chance for redemption, forgiveness, healing, peace and life.
For that is what we wish for ourselves, who are also sinners and in need of the same.