The recently concluded Vatican summit on clerical sexual abuse did not prove disappointing to the many Catholics who had no expectation that it would address the main source of the problem: active homosexuality among clerics. There were a few uncomfortable moments for the summit’s organizers, however, when a journalist or two boldly ignored the embargo on the forbidden topic. When silence or evasion could not save the day, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta provided us, perhaps unintentionally, with a preview of the approach to the homosexual issue that seems to be taking shape at the Vatican. It can only be realistically interpreted as pro-gay.
The Church’s core teaching on homosexuality is expressed concisely in the following text from the CDF’s 1986 Letter to the Bishops On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons: “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder” (para. 3). Apparently caught off guard when, during a summit press briefing, Italian journalist Sandro Magister inquired about the glaring absence of the word “homosexuality” on the summit’s opening day, Archbishop Scicluna flagrantly contradicted the irreformable truth of the Church’s teaching on the subject. Virtually equating homosexuality and heterosexuality, he asserted that these are both “human conditions that we recognize, and that exist, but that aren’t something that really predisposes to sin.”
It is not clear whether Scicluna was referring, in his declaration, only to sexual inclination (be it same-sex or opposite-sex), or whether he also meant to include the sexual activity by which people express their “sexual preference.” Given that he was compelled to pontificate on the matter in reference to the Church’s clerical sexual abuse problem, and given his more explicit remarks three years earlier, I would venture to say that Scicluna intended the terms “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” in the full sense—that is, as a lived out inclination. Indeed, how could one avoid this conclusion in view of the unequivocal understanding of homosexuality advanced, on his behalf, by his priest delegate on a televised talk show less than two weeks after the Vatican summit ended? At that time, Fr. Kevin Schembri of the University of Malta made the blasphemous claim that homosexuality was a creation of God.
We will examine the content of Scicluna’s assertion by focusing, first, on the anthropological basis of the heterosexual inclination, followed by a brief consideration of how our natural constitution as persons has been damaged by the consequences of original sin. In this way, we will establish the necessary foundation for understanding homosexuality in the full sense of the term.
Is it true that the heterosexual attraction to the opposite sex is merely a “human condition”? The very term “heterosexuality” implies something more. It recognizes, necessarily, the two distinct forms in which God created the human person: God made them to be male and female (Gen. 1:27), so that the two would—and could—become “one flesh,” and also to “be fruitful and multiply,” that is, procreate (Gen. 1:28). Being either male or female belongs, therefore, to the concrete existence, or ontological constitution, of every human person.
In the broadest sense, the nature of man and woman, as specifically human, is the same: it is formed of the union of body and soul. Immaterial in itself, the human soul, or spirit, does not have a sex. Still, the soul is the substantial principle (or “form”) of the body with which it is united. This means that as the soul enlivens and constitutes the body, the faculties of the soul are reciprocally either directly or indirectly dependent, in their exercise, on the body’s structure and functions. What is more, the soul must also express its distinctively spiritual, or personal, nature through the body by consolidating all its activity in the body—on the levels of sense, feeling, emotion, self-awareness, and thought—into meaningful, specifically human actions governed by the intellect and will.
In consequence, the soul cannot but bear the impress of its relation to the body, which stamps, as distinctively male or female, the various levels of activity to which the soul gives rise therein. That is, the body, in its maleness or its femaleness, is essential to one’s personal, ontological identity. It is out of this identity that one’s personal sense of identity—one’s psychological personality—develops. One becomes self-present (i.e., aware of oneself) precisely as either a male or a female person.
When the psychological self does not experientially, or subjectively, identify with the ontological self, which is constituted objectively as either male or female, it means that one’s consciousness—or way of perceiving, experiencing, and thinking about one’s own reality (and, accordingly, certain aspects of external reality as well)—has become distorted. We are then dealing with a psycho-emotional pathology. Gender dysphoria is one such example.
According to God’s creative and redemptive plan, the two, equal ways of being a human person—male and female—establish the objective basis for the mutual complementarity of man and woman. This includes, but is not limited to, their sexual complementarity. As indicated above, the whole complex of the human person’s somatic, cognitive, emotional, psychological, intellectual, and even spiritual development is rooted in, and conditioned by, the existential state of being either male or female. This is why man and woman are naturally complementary on each of these levels. Attraction to the opposite sex is likewise the natural, complementary expression of normal sexual development in the male and the female person.
We must therefore conclude that heterosexuality, as a sexual inclination toward the opposite sex, is not merely a human “condition.” The sex in which one is created is naturally ordered toward it, for heterosexuality issues from, and participates in, the immutable, ontological ground of one’s being either a male or a female person. Belonging, as it does, to the right order of nature—to the created order of reality established by God—heterosexuality, in terms of both sexual inclination and sexual activity (i.e., natural, uncontracepted sexual intercourse between a married man and woman), is a natural, human expression of one’s personal being (Gen. 2:23-24). Morally enacted, it perfects one’s being and orders one to God; therefore, heterosexuality does not, in itself, predispose to sin.
Scicluna got the last point right about heterosexuality not predisposing us to sin, but for the wrong reason. For he regards heterosexuality as merely a human condition. But a “condition” (e.g., sunburn, blindness, or schizophrenia) is not something that belongs integrally to the natural structure of the person who has the condition, whereas heterosexuality is grounded integrally in the personal structure itself as male or female.
The Sin of Omission
Ironically, Scicluna is overlooking, or perhaps consciously ignoring, a rather obvious human condition to which he ought to be paying more heed: our nature has been seriously wounded by the consequences of original sin. Because of this sin, Adam and Eve lost the perfect integration of soul and body that they had enjoyed in their original state of grace, and they transmitted their compromised condition to us.
In weakened human nature, therefore, the spontaneous demands of our somatic and psychical energies tend to assert themselves over our higher, spiritual faculties of intellect and will, by which we are supposed to integrate the natural sensations, feelings, emotions, instincts, and drives that we experience into personal actions that accord with the objective truth and goodness of our own nature (and of the natural order as a whole). In other words, God created us as free, moral beings—as persons—to fulfill the vocation to love God, self, and neighbor in spirit and in truth, but the partial disintegration of our natural unity makes it difficult for us to govern ourselves accordingly—or even to want to do so in the first place.
It is due to this compromised condition of our nature—which baptism does not take away, but over which we can be victorious by the grace of Christ—that heterosexuality, though not in itself predisposing us to sin (since it accords with human nature as God created it), can nevertheless dispose us to sin. Urged on by concupiscence (the inclination toward sin resulting from original sin’s disintegrating our natural soul-body unity), we might gratify our natural attraction to the opposite sex in a way that contravenes what we rationally know—or are obliged to know—to be the true moral good. By acquiescing thus to the demands of the sexual desires generated spontaneously by our bodily and psychical energies, our actions do not reflect, uphold, and foster our intrinsic human dignity, or that of the person whom we have consequently, and selfishly, come to regard solely as the object of our desire.
Unlike heterosexuality, which has an objective basis in our natural existence as a male or a female person, homosexuality, or same-sex attraction, is indeed a human condition, as Scicluna stated. But it is a fallen and unnatural one, which he implicitly denied by juxtaposing it with, and thus degrading, heterosexuality. The homosexual condition is ultimately the result of the soul-body disintegration consequent on original sin and of its exploitation (whether intentionally or unintentionally) by personal agents, both human and demonic.
Even so, the male or the female ontological structure abides as the ground and the marker of complementary, sexual normality, regardless of any unnatural condition that might manifest itself from within (such as same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria), or be imposed on it from without (by sodomy, “sex change” surgery, or even contraceptive devices, for example). For that reason, “homosexual” persons remain naturally heterosexual. They are sexually complementary only with persons of the opposite sex, and naturally ordered toward experiencing and expressing themselves as such, even though this ordering might never be actualized in them because of powerful forces impinging on them from within and without.
Whereas the heterosexual inclination allows a man to integrate his given maleness in a way that naturally complements the opposite sex, the homosexual inclination toward a person of the same sex is disordered, precisely because it has no objective basis in the ontological constitution of the male or the female person. The sodomitic activity toward which a man tends because of his confused sexual inclination can never, therefore, contribute to his personal perfection in either the natural or the supernatural sense. Given its radical unnaturalness, this activity can only detract from and prevent his perfection in the order both of nature and of grace.
For this reason, homosexual activity does affect a man’s being in a profoundly negative way. To choose this activity, which is intrinsically evil, the man has to conform his will to the evil value that it necessarily represents, whereas it is something radically contrary to the true good of the human person, and hence is contrary to genuine love. “Sincerity” of intention alters neither the evil nature of the object willed, nor its inherently destructive consequences for the persons who will it (which is also true of male-female sodomy). In thus making his will evil, the man himself has become evil and therefore less fully actualized as a person. By frustrating the meaning and purpose of his own existence in this way, he has simultaneously frustrated his natural, spiritual trajectory toward God, who graciously offers himself to each of us as the supreme goal—as the supernatural meaning and purpose—of our existence.
Though a man diminishes his own being by engaging in homosexual activity (or any other moral evil), he does not thereby alter his fundamental, ontological structure as a naturally heterosexual person, created by God in the divine image for a supernatural end. While seriously disfiguring that image by his decision to conduct himself in a sexually perverted way, he can never fully efface it. For this reason, he remains morally accountable for his actions—but also redeemable, should he repent of his sins and amend his life, by the grace of God.
To the extent that his will remains corrupted, however, the man will be inclined to choose evil. Contrary to Scicluna’s claim, therefore, homosexuality, in reference to sodomitic behavior, does predispose the sodomite to further sin.
Though the spontaneous, same-sex inclination is not itself a sin, it is nevertheless a serious psycho-emotional disorder. As noted earlier, this disorder is related (1) to the disintegration of human nature due to original sin, (2) to personal sins (whether proximate or remote, whether the individual’s or another’s) that exacerbate this condition, and (3) to the demonic exploitation of human nature thus weakened. The homosexual inclination does, therefore, predispose one to the sin toward which it tends, just as the Church teaches. Scicluna has it wrong in this regard, too.
To sum up, heterosexuality is not a condition, and it does not, in itself, predispose to sin. Homosexuality is a condition, and it does predispose to sin. By contriving a false parity between heterosexuality and homosexuality, Archbishop Scicluna has muddled the issue so as to suggest that, if neither the opposite sex attraction nor the same-sex attraction predisposes to sin, the latter attraction must, like the former, belong to the right order of nature. It would then follow that the sexual act toward which each of the two attractions tends is not sinful either, but rather accords with nature as a good that perfects it. And if both heterosexual acts and non-procreative homosexual acts are good, then neither attraction on which these acts are based can predispose us to sin. In a word, God is as much the author of homosexuality as of heterosexuality.
With just a few words, Scicluna managed to deny the empirical and statistical fact that the crisis of clerical sex abuse in the Church is due mainly to active homosexuality. This blatant denial of truth on his part and that of his colleagues at the Vatican summit would be incomprehensible, unless they were preparing to impose on the Church a subversive plan to advance the gay cause therein. Scicluna has hinted at the “doctrinal” underpinnings of that plan.
(Photo credit: Daniel Ibáñez / CNA)