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June 21st, 2012
Is being gay a sin?

Of course not! Both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the U.S. Catholic Bishops recognize that sexual orientation is not a choice and is not sinful: “Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose” (“Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers,” U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1997).

Being gay is not sinful. It is another part of the great mystery of humankind, created in the image of God. But the Church teaches that sexual relations are reserved for the sacramental union of a man and a woman in marriage, where that intimacy has twin purposes: their union, as a couple, and procreation, expressed as openness to the gift of life. Sexual relations between men or between women cannot fulfill both purposes of sexual intimacy. Thus the Church calls gays and lesbians to celibate chastity. Likewise, the Church calls for respect, compassion and sensitivity to gays and lesbians: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358). Gay or straight, every single one of us has the same call: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

from Neela Kale and the Busted Halo Question Box


Today’s homework assignment: Think of groups of people you see discriminated against. What are ways you can live out the call to "love one another as I have loved you"? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Radical Mary (@RadicalMary)

    Mark, there was a lot of fearmongering in that post, and not one reasonable explanation of why the Church’s teaching is justified.

  • Radical Mary (@RadicalMary)

    Alrighty Sean,

    Hmm, I was raised by gay parents, so I really don’t see how that flies in my book.

    I see a lot of non-heteronormative families who have squarely placed God at the center of their lives. What evidence do you have that their love is based in the flesh…anymore than the average het couple? The couples I see sacrifice for the children they have in fact chosen, as well as sacrificed in ways they have not chosen. If that doesn’t say complete self-giving I don’t know what does. So many families longing to adopt, not because they simply want to be self-giving, but because God has clearly graced them with the capacity to do so.

    I think it really shows how homophobic our community is when we have articles on Busted Halo all about heteronormative hookup culture, in a category titled ‘SEX and relationships’, but the idea of even entertaining queer romance or embracing queer visibility is so forbidden that we have like…10 articles about it on the whole website, just like everyone else! There are 4 articles on transgender identity. All of the articles can be summed up in the following way.

    ‘Is it ok for us to be here?’ ‘How can I stay friends with gay people who are not celibate and/or sexually repressed’? (I acknowledge there IS a clear difference between the two).

    I know that’s not the fault of the excellent writers at BH, but it really does suggest that we as a Church can barely walk the talk of the already homomphobic and transphobic teaching of avoiding ‘unjust discrimination’. Most of the time, it masks the reality that people don’t want to avoid it.

    I’d like to say one more thing, especially for anyone who may be reading this and be lgbttqqi2sa.

    I’m not suffering. I’m happily queer, I demand evidence that I should somehow should be because of sins of the flesh and what not. The only thing I am suffering from is the effects of a church culture that is unwilling to admit that it’s teaching is outdated, and that most people are so comfortable with their own homophobia and transphobia, that they are unwilling to question that teaching, and their own attitudes.

  • Sean

    @RadicalMary – I’m no expert in theology. I have not always been a faithful Catholic. As a consequence of my lack of respect, faithfulness, and understanding of what real marriage and real love is, my children will forever suffer from growing up split between two homes. You ask – “Why?” – To answer, I express what I have come to understand…First that marriage is defined by God, not by men or women. Second, that true marriage is founded by love of God and is the earthly reflection of what His perfect love is between man and woman. False marriage – which I believe I was a party to, and which so-called same-sex marriage also is – is based in love of the flesh, not in love of God. If we love God above all, we come to understand how small the pleasures of the flesh truly are, we come to understand that by conforming ourselves to what God desires of us, we become fulfilled. Everything else, whether between man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman, is based in the flesh and is doomed to fail us. God never fails us, it is us who fail Him. May God bless you and send the Holy Spirit to guide you through your struggles to understand His truth!

  • Mark

    This is a very interesting blog on the subject (link below) The bottom line is we need to both LOVE the sinner and HATE the sin…


  • Radical Mary (@RadicalMary)

    Oh, and I’d like to add one more thing. I think we need to talk about gender. If marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. Why? Complimentarity and all that jazz, but what on earth does that really mean anyway?

    When the Church teaching was written we were not having the discussions about gender we are having now. So is the basis for this teaching still valid? and how do we really know that?

    This is a question I’ve been asking for a long time, and I can’t really be satisfied with Church teaching til I get answer.

  • Radical Mary (@RadicalMary)

    I am queer and Catholic. I think that people who write about these issues must be in a tricky position.

    Most people want to share the church’s teaching on the issue, while truly affirming LGBTTQQIA2S identites.

    This kind of impossible.

    The Church does not acknowledge transgender identity, and says transitioning a sin. That’s not o.k.

    Catholics will eventually change the sensus fidelium and the true teaching will be revealed. There are a lot of questions we need to be asking together before that happens. Questions like, if we have transgender identity (or rather, identities), what happens to an all-male priesthood? How do we affirm the committment of non-heteronormative forms of vocation and family?

    Feel the way I do? Follow me!

    Radical Mary

    Radical Means – from the root
    Mary – Mother of God/ used to be a slur for a homosexual

  • Julia Okamoto

    As a member of Rev. Moon’s Unification Church I have received a lot of persecution and have been the brunt of prejudice. In fact the other day a Catholic Priest called me by the derogatory term “Moonie”. As far as the gay question goes I am disappointed that the Catholic Church is so wishy washy on the issue. I don’t believe in being unkind to gays but I also don’t believe their lifestyle is in accordance with God’s natural laws. God created man and woman in his image and a man alone cannot reflect God’s complete image and a woman alone cannot reflect God’s image. A man and a woman united in true and pure love reflects God’s image most closely especially when they become parents because God is a parent and you cannot fully understand His love unless you are a parent and experience love for your children which gay couples can never do. They can have no lineage. Even if they adopt the child is still the result of a union between a man and a women – thats it. God is absolute, unchanging and eternal.

  • Harry

    Adam – well said … I feel the church leadership’s outreach remains very hollow and shallow. Actions speak louder than words and so far the leadership’s actions are very hurtful to a whole class of people.

  • jim

    Note that the Church calls ALL unmarried people, whatever their sexual orientation, to celibate chastit

    • John Brown

      but they still don’t allow gay people to get married… so what do they expect gay people to do? Be together but never have sex? no i don’t think so that’s never going to happen.

  • Steve

    It is important to stress that we are all called to chastity, whether you are married or single, gay or straight.

  • Adam

    Mike, you make a fine point about the Church moving slowly on matters. However your last sentence highlights the reason why so many gay and lesbian people feel that the Church’s outreach to them is hollow. You used the word “disorder.” Do you have any idea how hurtful that is to someone, especially a young person struggling with their sexuality?

    If I said to you, “I love who you are and want you to be that person, but I also think that a large part of you is intrinsically disordered,” does that sound accepting and welcoming to you? As long as the Church continues to see homosexual inclinations in this light, a deficit model wherein homosexuals fall short of the ideal of heterosexuality, their attempts at outreach to the gay community will remain merely words.

  • Mike Hayes

    Natalie, the church teaches that one has to be open to the possibility of procreation. Therefore infertile couples or heterosexuals past the age of childbearing still serve that purpose. They’re open to it even if it can’t happen at that point. Plenty of people found themselves thinking they were past the age that they could conceive and found themselves pregnant.

    Second point here, the church in general is slow to move on any issue that they have historically taken issue with. It’s only in the 20th Century that homosexuality has been able to be studied by scientists openly—so data is limited and the scientific community is far from a consensus on this. There may be a time that the church might look at homosexuality with a different eye, but that would only come when scientists have given a consensus to help inform theology. Until then, the church will continue holding up their position as they have throughout the ages which is that it is a disorder.

  • Edward

    I have to agree with a couple of the other commenters here. The church’s insistence that sex has no place outside of marriage is so restrictive as to be neurotic. Why the giant hangup about sex, anyway? I don’t recall a great deal of sexual botheration in the New Testsment. Jesus left us no word on how he felt about masturbation, for example. Yet people are supposed to feel “impure” about almost everything that comes naturally to us as sexual beings. Is it any wonder that this climate of repression engenders priestly sexual perversion and abuse? I for one can no longer take the church’s sexual obsessions seriously. Telling gay people that it’s OK to be that way, but they’re “called” to forgo expressing their sexual nature even in a loving, stable, committed relationship, and thereby to renounce one of the deepest sources of human happiness and fulfillment, is an example of perverted thinking. But the church doesn’t even live up to the attitude expressed in this article. My local parish had an active gay and lesbian support group. When the old pastor was transferred and his functions were given to the Dominicans, the new head priest sent them a letter denying the group further use of church facilities. One of the men who converted along with me three years ago has not been back since. As for me, I have already left the church in my heart and mind, although I haven’t made a formal statement yet. This institutional obsession with what other people do sexually is one main reason. 

  • Theresa

    I am going to have to agree with Judy and Natalie on this one. If the church teaches being gay is not a choice and not a sin, then what does sex have to do with it?

  • Natalie

    You say the Church teaches that sexual intimacy serves the purpose of both unity and procreation. If that’s the case, will they allow heterosexual couples past childbearing age to marry? What about infertile couples? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that CCC and the USCB are openly showing compassion to the LGBT community. But I feel that the compassion is misguided and that homosexuality is being trotted out like a cancer that needs to be properly treated. How many people here would feel comfortable with their straight-identified son or daughter marrying an “ex-gay”? Think of the potential heartbreak on both sides, especially if a child comes into the picture…

  • Judy

    This is a very mixed message, if you ask me. It’s okay to be gay, just never to have gay sex? Seriously? I don’t understand how celibacy is supposed to be an answer to this. Honestly, the church is still so hung up about sex, it is impossible to take it seriously on these matters. Essentially, you are saying, yes, be who you are, you were born that way, except, don’t express it physically, but that is bad.

  • Joe

    The full text from the Catechism is below and represents Magisterial teaching. The U.S. Bishop’s document is needed pastoral advice but does not carry infallible weight. The Vatican documents and Catechism use better language to describe the phenomenon of same sex orientation, that it is an “deep seated inclination” whose “psychological genesis remains largely unexplained”. This doesn’t mean that there are not external factors which play a part in formation of this inclination thereby reducing culpibility of the person who identifies his or herself as being gay, but the Church does not go so far as to say that free will plays no part whatsoever. For example, the human genome has has been entirely mapped and no “gay gene” was found. We must love homosexuals but remember that the acts of same sex relationships are what is condemned.

    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.

  • Pat D.

    Nice to see the Catholic response laid out so clearly and succienctly. The Church also has an apostolate for LGBT who desire to live in accordance with Church teachings. http://couragerc.net/

  • Diane

    The first group, I think of (because I am ONE) being discriminated against would be older or elderly persons. I see teen-agers making fun of or mistreating elderly. I haven’t experienced it a lot, but I wonder what others my age are dealing with. My grandchildren treat me with lots more respect than even their parents. I think the main reason is because I respect them. I try not to be judgemental of others because I don’t want to be judged. Perhaps they have reasons for why they do certain things and I, too, have my reasons for what I do. I try to love others because I want to be loved. I respect others and their opinions and I don’t know how I would re-act if I were in their position. I worked in social work and I know we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. If parents are without work and money they are upset and lots of time abusive. We never know what another person is living with and we don’t have to know. Just love and respect them for who they are. I love a lot of people and serve every day at the church where I work. May God give me strength to love and serve for a very long time.

  • JT

    I am disturbed by the open acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. This is just one of the many reasons so many are pushed away from the Catholic faith. We are right on track with abortion but this???????????????

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