The orthodox Catholic blogosphere has duly noted the mostly same-sex nature of the scandals plaguing the Catholic Church. Writing for the Catholic Thing, David Carlin expressed the thoughts and pleas of many scandalized Catholics when he declared an “urgent need” for a papal encyclical specifically addressing homosexuality. An affirmative response to these pleas, however, would be mistaken. For the Church to specifically address the issues of homosexuality would only validate a falsehood the Church should dispel—the fallacy that sexuality is an expression of our psyches rather than material, biological fact.
Within that biological fact, varieties of sexuality do not exist. Sexuality is based on the complementary natures of a sperm and an egg bringing different but necessary components together to create a single new life. Without both, new life simply does not happen. Without both and the potential for new life there is no sexuality at all. Sexual acts are those which allow sperm and egg to come together in a potentially life-creating way. Any act which denies this possibility is not a sexual act at all but something else.
In this light, “homosexuality” is not a variation of sexuality but a logical impossibility. Homosexuality does not exist, nor can it exist. Though same-sex attraction is real, the word “homosexuality” suggests a sexuality without complementarity, a sexuality that rejects the very nature of sexuality. It can no more be claimed as a variation on sexuality than a baby doll is a variation on a child. No matter how striking the resemblance, they are two very different things. To talk of the baby doll as if it were simply a different expression of a child will confuse rather than clarify what it means to be a child. Likewise, the term “homosexuality” simply confuses what it means to be sexual.
Whereas “homosexuality” is impossible, “heterosexuality” is abnormal. The word “heterosexual” is abnormal the way “feathered bird” is abnormal. It is the very nature of a bird to be feathered. To insist on including the word “feathered” before bird is an abnormal use of language because all “birds” by their very definition are feathered. Nothing is added to the meaning of “bird” with “feathered” appended before it. To append “feathered” to every instance of bird would indicate that the word “bird” had drifted from normalcy, and that it had become abnormal or corrupted. It would suggest that birds were no longer birds but were something else.
Such is the case with “heterosexuality.” As with “feathered bird,” it is confusingly redundant. “Hetero” adds nothing that was not already there. In fact, its presence is a red flag indicating the meaning of “sexuality” has been corrupted. And such is indeed the case. The abnormal has become the normal because the complementary norm that defined “sexuality” is missing from today’s common use of the term. As understood today, “sexuality” is no longer anchored in any objective reality.
Though my concerns may be dismissed as mere semantics, they are critical to the Catholic Church because the very purpose of the Church is to lead us to truth. Words that have no meaning cannot lead to a god who is the source of all truth. In the very use of the words “homosexual” and “heterosexual” we accept the corruption of “sexual” and “sexuality.” In using these words, the Church succumbs to the very corruption it must address and correct. Rather than a sexuality objectively inherent in the biology of every human being, these terms reduce sexuality to subjective expressions anchored in sexual desire alone. Rather than unite us around something we all hold in common, they divide and reduce us to the smallness of every individual’s imagination. A sexuality whose meaning can vary by the individual has no meaning at all.
Why does this matter? Don’t words change over time? Can’t each and every person decide for themselves what their “sexuality” is and live happily ever after? Can’t we just love one another in our newly found sexualities? No, we cannot because it would not be love. Love and truth are inseparable. Any sexuality divorced from the creation of life is a sexuality separated from truth. When we live lives separated from the truth we hurt both ourselves and others. Most importantly, when we get our sexuality wrong we hurt children. In fact, “hurt” is an inadequate description. More accurately, an enormous number of children are simply killed—before birth—as inconvenient. It is the survivors who are accurately described as merely “hurt.” They will suffer broken families and parents that were never known. Many of them will not know what it is for a man and woman to love each other. Many of them will not know what it means to be born into love. Rather than grow up in a world united by the common desire to see all children conceived in love and born into love, they will grow up in a world divided, a world where every man is lost in a self-centered and futile search for his own happiness. They will grow up in hell with heaven nowhere in sight.
Addressing the problem of a corrupted sexuality can begin with the Church recognizing as false the division between “homosexual” and “heterosexual.” Rather than embracing the idea of multiple sexualities it should assert the truth that everyone of us is simply sexual. All of us are created to create life. This potency and its complementary nature define us as sexual. Whether we are biologically created to sire children or bear children further defines us as male and female. Once we let the simplicity of this definition break down, we are on the path to “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” “LGBT,” “XYZ,” and whatever else we can conceive of. Separated from procreation, today’s “sexuality” is limited only by our imaginations. Disconnected from the sexual triad of mother-father-child, men can now declare themselves “women” and women can now declare themselves “men.” With objective truth no longer defining our sexuality, we have marched past chaos into insanity.
The Church Must Teach Forcefully and with Conviction
Though much remains to be addressed, the Church has not been negligent in asserting the truths about our sexuality. Of particular note is Humanae Vitae, issued in 1968 and followed by the very supportive teachings of Pope John Paul II in both his Theology of the Body and his encyclicals and papal pronouncements. The problem is not that the Church has not promulgated the truth of our sexuality; the problem is that the Church has failed to do it with the energy and conviction required to meet the resistance those teachings have engendered. This is particularly true of Humanae Vitae, where opposition emerged immediately and included many members of the clergy. To this day, Humanae Vitae is largely ignored by an overwhelming majority of Catholics, whether cleric or layman.
Until the Church fully embraces Humanae Vitae nothing can be gained by addressing any of the symptomatic conditions of a corrupted sexuality. In opposing contraception, Humanae Vitae affirmed the essential nature of sexuality itself, recognizing that the unitive and the procreative were two sides to a single coin. Accepting contraception as normal divorces our sexuality from its purpose as the part of us that creates life while simultaneously destroying our complementary identities as men and women. No longer are we intrinsically persons who co-create life with God. No longer do we have to consider one another as male persons and female persons whose very power to participate in the creation of life should place us in respectful awe of one another. The normalization of contraception sunders the procreative and unitive, leaving us sterile, divided, and subject to the whims of sexual desire, unmoored from any purpose beyond personal pleasure. Contraception does not enhance sexuality but disorders it.
For the Church to attack pseudo-sexual acts between members of the same sex as disordered unnecessarily separates one symptom of disordered sexuality from another. Pornography, masturbation, contracepted sexual acts, fornication (sexual acts outside the covenant of marriage), and male/female sodomy are similarly disordered. In distinguishing same-sex disorders from those more common, the Church will divide rather than unite. Rather than addressing a corrupted sexuality, it will merely attack a single symptom of a larger corruption most of us have bought into. In addressing that one symptom, it will simply encourage some to think they are qualified to throw stones at others. Only in knowing that none of us are in a position to throw stones can we begin to unite as a people who all require the grace of God to live our sexuality properly.
Ultimately, our sexuality is not about ourselves but about a child who is made in the image of God to be conceived in love and born into love. To live sexually is to live in the full realization of this reality, a life that ensures every child (not just our own) is born into love. The Church can only lose in treating the disordered acts of the same-sex-attracted as different from the disordered acts of those attracted to the opposite sex or no sex at all. Rather it must help us see that we are all sexual and that we all need God’s grace to live that sexuality to its fullest.