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Theology of the Body and Homosexual 'Marriage'
By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
May 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The Church's "yes" to authentic human marriage and its incalculable value to the spouses, to family life, and to the common good, compels her to say "no" to cheap imitations. All that glisters is not gold, especially if it already shows signs of rust and tarnish. The Church knows the gold of human sexuality that is open to the gift of children expressed between a man and woman within marriage, and can therefore recognize the alternative visions--the base metals--of human sexuality that present a corrosive human sexuality that is not ordered to life or to any authentic human good.CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Homosexual sexual activity is expressly condemned by the Scriptures honestly interpreted. (See Gen. 19:5-8; Lev. 18:22-23; Lev. 20:13; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; Rom. 1:26-27; Jude 7) It follows that, from a Scriptural standpoint, any institution--such as same-sex "marriage" or civil unions--which encourage or advance such activity is against the common good. This is also the fixed position of the Church's Magisterium. See, e.g., the CDFs Homosexualitatis problema and Persona humana, and the PCFs, Family, Marriage, and 'De Facto' Unions.
But the Church's stance against homosexual activity and same-sex "marriage" is not only, or even principally, based upon the "no" to homosexual activity in Scripture. That is like saying that the heart of the city of Jerusalem is its city walls. Walls define and protect a city, but they are not the city.
Rather, the Church's stance against homosexual activity and same-sex "marriage" is based upon an absolute and uncompromising "yes" to the reality of marriage presented in both Scripture and nature. In other words, it is based upon reality, moral reality. She sees something her opponents either do not see, or refuse to see.
It is the Church's resolute "yes" to conjugal love, the spousal meaning of the body, and the meaning of the complementarity of the sexes, to its ordering to pro-creation, that necessarily requires a "no" to homosexual activity. It is this truth--this reality which is freeing and which all refusal to abide by it is enslaving--that the Church's jealously protects from those intent to breach its walls.
The least bit of a "yes" to homosexual sexual activity--even a "maybe"--would necessarily mean a less-than-absolute "yes" to marriage as nature and nature's God intended it to be. It would be a breach in the walls of the city, the poisoning of the city's wells. It would be moral apostasy, and a capitulation to moral barbarism. It is not the first time the Church has set itself against the barbarian and sided with civilization. It is not the first time that she has been attacked or ridiculed for it.
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth," wrote Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical Fides et ratio. Faith and reason are likewise the two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth in marriage.
Those who advance homosexual "marriage" as a plausible reality are either being irrational or unfaithful to God, or both irrational and unfaithful to God. It is impossible to advocate same-sex "marriage" and be both reasonable and faithful to God.
Same-sex "marriage" is not about equality, because authentic equality has to be based upon reality. An equality based upon unreality is ideology. "One law for the lion and the ox is oppression." One marriage law for the heterosexual and the homosexual is oppression. Homosexual "marriage" is not about equality, but about oppression.
The Church's "yes" to authentic human marriage and its incalculable value to the spouses, to family life, and to the common good, compels her to say "no" to cheap imitations. All that glisters is not gold, especially if it already shows signs of rust and tarnish. The Church knows the gold of human sexuality that is open to the gift of children expressed between a man and woman within marriage, and can therefore recognize the alternative visions--the base metals--of human sexuality that present a corrosive human sexuality that is not ordered to life or to any authentic human good.
Saying "yes" to the gold standard requires saying "no" to lesser, inferior, even counterfeit standards that are found in premarital sex, masturbation, contraceptive sex, adultery, polygamy (serial and parallel), and sodomy. There is nothing irrational in the Church wanting all her children--indeed all of humanity--to buy happiness with the gold dubloon of marriage, than to try to buy it with the lead slug of some alternative sexual counterfeit. On marriage, the Church--like the Father her founder, Jesus, revealed--will not equate stone for bread, or a scorpion for an egg. (Luke 11:11)
In his encyclical Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI affirmed the Church's long-standing prohibition against artificial contraception. This proscription was a "no" to protect a greater "yes" to authentic spousal love, and was based upon the "two wings" of faith and reason. "It is impossible to understand the Church's teaching in this regard . . . unless we have an integral vision of man and of his vocation, not only his natural and earthly, but also his supernatural and eternal vocation," wrote Pope Paul VI. HV, No. 7. We can know the "natural and earthly" by reason. We know the "supernatural and eternal" by faith.
One such "integral vision" of man and his vocation, in particular as it comes to human marriage, is found in the remarkable series of 129 catechetical addresses given by Blessed John Paul II between September 1979 and November 1984. These were based upon earlier talks on the subject by John Paul II when he was Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow.
In these talks, drawing from Scripture and Thomistic realism to find an objective anchor in revelation and creation, and recruiting the phenomenological method and its personalist and subjective emphasis, Pope John Paul, in what only can be called a tour de force, puts forth an "integral vision" of man and woman and human sexuality. This "integral vision" is popularly given the name "Theology of the Body."
We might invoke Cardinal Newman. The Theology of the Body, like Catholicism, "is a deep matter, you cannot take it up in at teacup." One cannot give even a reasonable synopsis of John Paul II's Theology of the Body and what it may mean in the context of same-sex "marriage" in a three-page article, and do it justice. Michael Waldstein's splendid edition of Pope John Paul II's talks adds up to more than 700 pages. At best, one can only introduce the subject, and encourage others to pick up Waldstein's edition of the Pope's talks and read. Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege! Take up and read! Take up and read!
Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body is built upon solid, incontrovertible foundational piers. First, he relies on the teachings of Jesus found in the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. To answer the question of divorce, Jesus turns to the question of what is marriage. Jesus goes "to the beginning," and points to creation as the source for answering questions about marriage.
"Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matt. 19:4-5; see also Gen. 1:27; 2:24)
We might distill the importance of Jesus' teachings by focusing on the italicized terms. We have to go to the beginning: at creation, to how man was before the Fall. Then we have to relate this to man as we find him after the Fall. We have to realize that at the beginning mankind is one, but also two: male and female. We have to see that one-man-in-two-sexes was, and still is, part of the Creator's plan, and this plan is fulfilled in the personal joinder of man and woman which culminates in the conjugal act, the sexual act within marriage, where they become "one flesh." Intrinsically connected to the conjugal act is the power of pro-creation. "Be fruitful, and multiply!" (Gen. 1:28)
These truths helped Jesus show his questioners why divorce was wrong. These same truths help us see why same-sex "marriage" is wrong.
The differentiation of the sexes was part of God's original intent. It is part of the gift of creation. The gift of mankind--the image of God--being divided into male and female raises the question: What is the purpose, the giver's intention, behind this gift?
The gift of the complementarity of the sexes is intended to promote communion. (That is why Scripture uses it as an analogy for the relationship between Christ and his Church.) The natural result of that communion is participation in God's creative powers--pro-creation. The gift of sexual complementarity found in Creation is therefore tied to the gift of pro-creation inherent in the sexual act, so that any severance between the nuptial act and its various purposes or meanings, in particular the procreative meaning, is an abuse of the gift. There is, therefore, a nuptial, pro-creative meaning behind our sexual differentiation as male and female. This feature of our existence is called the "nuptial meaning of the body."
Really, if we would just listen to the message of our bodies (instead of trying to justify our lusts, our disordered desires, or our life choices, or jumping on a political bandwagon), we would "hear" that the differentiation of the sexes and their natural complementarity just screams "nuptial love." Our bodies have this message written all over them, and where the body is there is the person. If we cannot see this, we are morally blind. If we do not "hear" this, we are morally deaf. If we are not capable of "reading" this message, we are morally illiterate. We need some serious moral remedial education, one generally brought about only by grace and conversion.
Using our bodies, in particular their sexual faculties, for something other than expressing this "nuptial love" within marriage is an abuse of the gift, a refusal to acknowledge the Giver and his intent behind the gift, and so is, and must always be as long as we live within reality, seriously sinful. It is a grave act of ingratitude.
"In all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you all." (1 Thess. 5:18). Giving thanks to God for the gift of sexuality means that we will never entertain its abuse, and if we do, that we ask God's forgiveness. The Church teaches these things "that you may not sin," but "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the just." (1 John 2:1)
Same-sex sexual desire is--by definition--not ordered toward nuptial love and not possibly ordered to being pro-creative. For that reason, the Church teaches that the desire itself is disordered, not a positive good but a privation or lack of sorts, and that acting out that desire--by knowing and voluntary homosexual genital activity or even by internal consent to such--is in each and every case, a mortal sin.
Of course, homosexual desire is not the only sexual disorder from which men and women suffer. There are disordered sexual desires of all kinds, affecting men and women of all stripes. It should be no news to the person suffering from homosexual desires that he or she, like his or her fellows, may be caught up in a web disordered sexual desires. Welcome to the club of Fallen man!
But fact that we humans to greater or lesser extent may suffer from disordered desires, including homosexuality among others, does not justify our acting upon them. The only human response, which is to say, the only Christian response, is to ask God's grace to overcome these dispositions and to strive, through spiritually-disciplined life, through prayer, sacraments, and proper spiritual and psychological guidance, toward a life of virtue. Welcome to the club of the Redeemed!
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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