Events of recent memory have left my head spinning in disbelief—“Caitlyn,” same-sex so-called “marriage,” three women “marrying” in South America, and, yes, “gay Catholics” and “chaste gay couples.” With me, you may wonder how all this has emerged in a short few decades of social upheaval.
I may have an answer: Society has constructed an unreal cultural landscape in which things that are not sexuality are passed off as sexuality.
Even a majority of Catholics are, perhaps unwittingly, swallowing this unreality, hook, line, and sinker.
The fabric of this false landscape is language—language that frames everyone and everything in a way that fundamentally relativizes the truth about human nature and God’s real plan for us and our sexuality. I’d assert that this process all started with a single word: homosexuality.
Think about it. By all accounts, the word “homosexuality,” used in contrast to its also-coined counterpart “heterosexuality,” is just about 150 years old. Before this time in human history, there was no such thing as the conceptual construct of “orientation.” Sexual attractions did not define the human person, and people did not presume to assail God’s plan for human sexuality by categorizing attractions in a way that reduces God’s plan to one mere possibility among an ever-growing number of other “identities” and so-called “sexualities.”
A Flash-Flood of Unreality
Fast-forward to the present. The 150-year-old crack in the dam has become a gaping fissure that allows modern minds and hearts to be flooded with some muddied and foul waters. Now everything is up for grabs because both our behaviors and our identities have become as fluid as the floodwater. Culture now grants us absolute permission to equivocate authentic sexuality with myriad counterfeits. This permission is safeguarded by coining even more terminology designed to protect the original insult to truth about sexuality, bringing about deeper and more deadly moral collapse.
This original either/or-ing of human sexuality—“orientation”—has made a mess of things. Now the meaning of God’s original plan for us is obscured and, worse, viewed as pure bigotry. Now it’s absolutely okay to be gay or straight or queer or genderfluid, or, or… Now we deal with sexual “minorities” who claim “erasure,” “homophobia,” and “othering” if you commit the cardinal social sin of … heteronormativity!
Now men who “feel” like women (and vice versa) must be affirmed rather than healed. Now men who know they are men are merely “cisgendered” out of relativistic respect for those who are “transgendered”—all because fluidity—not authentic sexuality—must be maintained at all costs. Now, even “gay sex” is treated as real sex rather than the unreal and aberrant mutual masturbation of deeply confused souls.
By saying all this, by the way, I’m the worst form of “hater”—worthy of condemnation and perhaps prosecution and imprisonment.
Let Sexuality Speak for Itself
Too often, we get caught up in the wrongness of the unreality without focusing on letting the reality—sexuality—speak for itself. It’s time to get back to basics—time to re-set the high bar of God’s plan as a high bar rather than as one mere “flavor” of sexual “identity,” or “orientation,” or behavior among many “okay” options. So, let’s answer this question: To what is sexuality ordered? In doing so, it should become crystal clear why homosexuality is not, in fact, sexuality. In the following assertions you’ll notice that I avoid using the terms “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” in favor of “same-sex attraction” and “sexuality,” for the sake of illuminating the reality of what is described by the terms.
Sexuality is ordered toward complementarity. This is so simple that even the youngest child “gets” this. There are two and only two sexual “identities”—man and woman, boys and girls. And they are made for each other. Complementarity is really complete-mentarity. As a man I do not possess what it means to be a woman, and vice versa. We complete each other. Same-sex attraction involves objective redundancy, not complementarity.
Sexuality is ordered toward total self-gift. Once we understand complementarity, we can understand that this “completion” necessarily involves a covenantal exchange of persons. Sexuality is not merely about an exchange of pleasure, or rights, or services, etc. It’s a gift of self that requires two things. First, self-mastery or self-possession. We cannot give what we do not possess. Second, a capacity to receive the other’s total self-gift. With SSA, “you cannot receive that which you already possess.” A man cannot receive a total self-gift of the person, body and soul, from another man. It’s impossible. The “ache” of sexual desire is the longing for completion that comes from the covenantal, personal exchange of man with woman.
Sexuality is ordered toward consummation. The mutual, complementary, total self-gift finds its fullest expression in the indissoluble unity of body and soul that takes place when husband and wife (not just sex-less “spouses” but male with female) come together in marital relations. With same-sex attraction, no such pathway toward consummation is even conceivable. Sexual acting out between two men or two women is brute parody of the reality of consummation.
Sexuality is ordered toward the good of permanence. The magnitude of the meaning of “consummation” cannot be exaggerated. There is no such thing, this side of Heaven, as a temporary total self-gift. The pathway to permanence arises precisely because a husband and wife (a man with a woman) are capable of willing the covenantal bond that can and must last for as long as they both shall live. It can and must find permanent expression (until death) in the mutual gift of self expressed fully in marital relations. Again, this is utterly inaccessible to two men or two women. Two people with SSA may say they “choose” permanence, but it’s an objectively human-willed and not God-ordained choice because they are incapable of “enfleshing” an authentic and total covenantal exchange of persons.
Sexuality is ordered toward the good of fidelity. Part of the permanence of total self-gift is the exclusivity of forsaking all others. Again, it’s irrational to suggest that someone can make a total self-gift to more than one person. Sexuality is ordered toward “the one.” Thus, another tenet of the unreal secular embrace of “orientation” is exposed here—namely, that sexuality is not concerned with any abstract or generic information about the kind of person that attracts you. Sexuality is about prayerfully discerning who the one real person might be with whom you can mutually make a covenantal self-gift. The abstraction of “orientation” is a distraction from the real purpose of sexuality. SSA again provides no avenue for the exclusivity that total self-gift requires.
Sexuality is ordered toward the good of children. Finally, sexuality offers the human person the possibility of imaging God’s love and likeness in a unique way—through pro-creation, creating “with” God. This is not merely about raising children (though the education of children is certainly just as much a primary end here as is procreation), but about raising up children with God. Our consummation of covenantal self-gift is, like the Blessed Trinity’s own, fruitful, moving beyond the “selves” of husband and wife and toward an immortal form of consummation—a child. In Heaven, by God’s design and plan, there will be one lasting fruit of earthly marital union: our children. Same-sex attraction obviously is utterly sterile, not in any way ordered toward this immensely meaningful finality of authentic sexuality.
Let’s Get Real
Neither same-sex attraction nor the coined term “homosexuality” can rightly be considered either a form of, or a participation in, real sexuality. The reality that is same-sex attraction exists in total opposition to the reality that is sexuality. Perhaps this is why one finds this sentence in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Sexuality is ordered toward the conjugal love of a man and a woman. (CCC 2360)
Maybe this is also why the next paragraph in the Catechism (CCC 2361) quotes a crucial phrase from St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio (FC 11):
Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.
More important: Can we all pray that more people will stop cooperating in the failed social experiment of homosexuality, heterosexuality, orientation, etc.? The only “truly human” way to real-ize (as in make real) our sexuality is when it is properly ordered toward marital love.
Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from “The Marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales” painted by William Powell Frith in 1878.