“Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
– Pope Francis
Many of us, even if we do not ourselves experience same-sex attraction (SSA), will know of someone who does. Individuals with SSA have often faced much discrimination or prejudice in their lives, and our natural instinct, shaped by the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us, is to love, welcome, support and understand them. The challenge that our Catholic faith therefore presents us is this: How can we look at individuals or our loved ones who are struggling with SSA, with the eyes of Christ? How can we love and support them in the way Christ would?
The Christian faith is truly beautiful and liberating. Its teachings on the human person and sexuality are not meant to restrict or condemn us, but to give us life. The first thing we must remember about persons with SSA is that they are made in the image of God; each person is unique and of infinite worth, “chosen by eternal love” to exist. By Baptism we become children of God, and the Church reminds us that this is our “fundamental Identity”: we are, “by grace, God’s child and heir to eternal life”. We cannot reduce a person to his or her sexual orientation, and see someone as simply “heterosexual” or “homosexual”, for that is not their deepest identity. To see persons with SSA with the eyes of Christ is to see them first of all as someone loved by God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, our fellow child of God.
Christ loves the person with SSA just as he loves us all. Hence, we must make a distinction between the person who experiences sexual attraction to persons of the same sex and acts of a homosexual nature. The person is not a sinner simply because he or she experiences SSA. It is neither a sin nor a curse from God to have SSA. But it can often be a trial or a struggle for many, and they need our love, support and prayers.
Video Feature: Does the Catholic Church practice bigotry or discrimination against people with same-sex attractions? Chris Stefanick explains that the Church merely speaks the full truth about who and what man is and what he is called to.
Loving in Truth
“I know many of you truly love Christ and His Church, and seek to be faithful to the Gospel… I am deeply edified by your courage and perseverance in spite of the challenges you face. Many of you are generous, caring and contribute to the common good of humanity by your good works. Some of you are amongst the most loving and lovable people I have come across.”
– Archbishop William Goh
Catholic teaching on homosexuality is not rooted in any hatred whatsoever of persons with SSA, but is based rather in God’s plan of sexual love for men and women. Our love and support for persons with SSA must be rooted in truth, if we are to love and support them like Christ. The human body, created by God, is not an accidental reality but has its own language and meaning; it is ‘a sign and place of relations with others’. The sexual differentiation of the human body expresses male-female complementarity. Pope Saint John Paul II hence spoke of the body’s “nuptial meaning”, the capacity that the human body with its sex has to express love through the gift of self. The sexual act between man and woman is thus the expression of loving self-giving through the language of the body, and the meaning of this expression is derived from male-female complementarity. Separated from this context of complementarity, the sexual act loses its meaning. Furthermore, sex by its nature cannot be taken apart from its life-giving and creative potential. Hence, the Church teaches that sex is has a twofold purpose: to unite, and for procreation. The only place in which the sexual faculty can be validly used is marriage, where man and woman freely and mutually give of themselves to each other.
In the light of this vision of nuptial love, we can understand better why homosexual acts are not in line with the redemption of the body and the Sacramentality of Marriage. God’s plan of nuptial love is a positive one, but such a plan necessarily excludes those acts that do not validly express the meaning of human sexuality, such as homosexual acts, which are not based on sexual complementarity and are closed to procreation. As Christians we are always called to love in truth, and our love for persons with SSA must therefore not be confused with the condoning of homosexual acts.
Video Feature: Did Pope Francis change the Church’s teaching on abortion, gay marriage, contraception? No. But he IS reminding us of the big picture. The context of every Church teaching, in one word, is this: LOVE..
Freedom to Love in Christ
Does this make the person with SSA somehow less free to love than others? By no means! Sexual love is not the only means of expressing love, and is only meant for this world. The value of disinterested friendship – that is, friendship not based on erotic or romantic attraction – is often disregarded today, and thought of as inferior to romantic or sexual relationships, but in reality it can be a source of deeply fulfilling love, and is in no way a second-class form of relationship. And of course, above and beyond earthly relationships is our friendship with God, whose love satisfies every need. With the support of disinterested friendship and a life of prayer and the Sacraments, the person with SSA is excluded neither from genuine human love nor from divine love..
We are all called to love, and the virtue of chastity cannot be ignored if we are to learn to love in the way Christ wants us to. All of us, with or without SSA, are called to chastity, and the particular expression of chastity for each of us depends on our state of life. For the person without a marital context, chastity means abstinence from all sexual relations. This abstinence is not something negative; the physical expression of sexuality is only this-worldly, and a renunciation of sexual relations can help open up a deeper spiritual relationship with God, as well as allow disinterested friendship to bear greater fruit. The virtue of chastity helps to perfect us as we pursue the path of love, whatever the circumstances.
Who do we see when we look at persons with SSA with the eyes of Christ? We are simply looking at our fellow children of God, called to be saints, just as you and I are, each with their own unique struggles, as all of us have. They require our loving friendship, our prayers, and our generous welcome, especially because of the misunderstanding, abuse and unjust discrimination they often have to face. They are our fellow pilgrims on our journey towards holiness, and whatever we face in this journey, we know that God’s love and grace are sufficient for us.
Video Feature: A remarkably thoughtful documentary film presented primarily through the eyes and words of several Catholics who have experienced same-sex attractions for most of their lives, and touches on the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding Homosexuality.
Resources and Articles
- Desire of the Everlasting Hills
A documentary film on three intimate and candid portraits of Catholics who try to navigate the waters of self-understanding, faith, and homosexuality.
- Same-Sex Attraction and the Catholic Church
Fr. Paul Check, executive director of Courage International, frames the narrative in Christ and authentic human identity.
- What does the Catholic Church teach about homosexuality?
Fr. Paul Check explains Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
- Does the Church condemn people with homosexual inclinations?
Fr. Paul Check explains the distinctions in Church teaching when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.
- Why the Church Cannot but Buck the Trend as Far as Sexual Moral Norms are Concerned
Fr. Luke Fong shares his thoughts on our Church’s morality and how it is and has always been set by the unchanging essence of God’s love.
- Answering the Call to Greater Love
A Singaporean with same-sex attraction shares his experiences and relationship with God.
- Living with Same-Sex Attraction
Five young Catholics describe joys and struggles of embracing chastity an in interview-based article.
- After Coming Out, I Came Home
After being raised Catholic, Richard left the Catholic Church from ages 15-49, becoming an Evangelical minister and eventually a gay activist. This is the story of Richard’s departure and return to the fullness of the Catholic faith.
- A Masculine Response to Same-Sex Attraction
A Catholic man with SSA shares his experience of healing through authentic masculine friendships.
- On the Debate About Homosexuality
Rev Fr David Garcia, OP, a moral theologian based in Singapore, comments on the issue.
Websites and Documents:
An international Catholic apostolate to help Catholics live in accord with Church teaching.
- Vatican Document on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons
A letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, written to the bishops of the Catholic Church.
- Pope St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
A collection of the General Audiences by Pope St John Paul II between 1979 to 1984 on the Theology of the Body.
Individuals or families who feel the need for counselling can call Family Life Society at
+65 6488 0278. Visit www.acf.org.sg to learn more about the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family.
Written by VITA Scribes. Photo credit: Papist