Sexual Morality

Blog reader and my friend Phil commented on the post about Proposition 8:

The reason homosexuals are so upset is because you are telling them, to their faces, that they do not experience “real love.” How would you feel if I told you that you and Katie don’t experience real love?

What’s missing from your analysis is the prophetic, faithful witness of homosexuals themselves. This is what makes this very different from pornography or pedophilia. Do you even know any gay people? If you had spent time with faithful gay people in a loving, committed relationship, it’s very hard not to see that they really are in love. Through their witness, and despite the centuries of Church teachings on this subject, we now know that God has created people who only love (and truly love) others of the same sex. Maybe it’s not strictly a marriage because it doesn’t lead to children, but it is unitive love and it does have a place bringing about the Kingdom.

Well, Phil, firstly we are friends, and I know we disagree about this issue.  Let’s strive to see each other’s point of view and with Christ’s help discern if our beliefs and attitudes are in-line with the truth.

I know many people who struggle with same-sex attraction; I worked with such a person in the same group as me for years.  However, I have not been close or best friends with such a person.

Nonetheless, I do not think that using that argument tactic is a valid one.  Have you ever been a woman?  Then how can you possibly say to a woman that aborting her child is wrong?  Or even if you are a woman, if you have never had to consider aborting a child, then “you don’t know what it is like, so don’t even talk to me,” etc.

I don’t have to be a woman to have formed an understanding of whether abortion is right or wrong and in what circumstances.  This argument is made against Catholic priests because they are celibate: How dare they tell us married people what is right or wrong in our bedrooms?  What can they possibly know about it!?  Yet the one man who made the greatest contribution of the last century to marriage and love was Pope John Paul II, a celibate man.

Okay, your point is that seeing two people in a same-sex relationship can show that they are “in love” with each other.  And if two people love each other, then how can anyone say that their relationship is immoral?

That is the crux of it I think.  Can two such people love each other with holy, “eros” love (agape: Godly love, philia: brotherly love, eros: marital love)?

I want to use an analogy again to consider this question in a broader context of sexual morality and love.  Jake is a husband and father married to Jane.  Their marriage is having problems; Jake is attracted to one of his coworkers, Matilda.  They have secret dates; he sends her flowers; they are sexually intimate; their relationship is offering him so much more than his marriage emotionally and physically, and he feels even spiritually he was meant to be with Matilda and that he made the worst mistake of his life marrying Jane.

Jake believes that he loves Matilda, and she believes that she loves him.  Jake no longer loves Jane.  Anyone who was around Jake and Matilda would see the love between them, so I ask you: Do they love each other?

I would say: No.  Our culture only has one word for love and also has slowly attempted to redefine it as a feeling and not an act of the will.  The feeling is a good one and includes romance, joy, and pleasure.  When those feelings fade, as they often do in a relationship, the people feel that their “love is dying” or that they “fell out of love” with their spouse.  So “yes” they think they love each other with their misunderstanding of what love is.

But in God’s eyes do they love each other?  Love is an act of the will and is made up of concrete actions over time that involve sacrifices for the other person.  It also has prerequisites.  A person cannot love a dolphin (in spite of what this poor woman thinks), so two human persons are required for love.  You agree with that.

But is it any two persons?  Is it possible for a man and a woman to love each other?  Yes, it is possible, but as we see with Jake and Matilda, just being a man and a woman is not enough.  The type of relationship between the two persons must be good, morally speaking.  I assert (and will discuss later on) that the relationship between Jake and Matilda is adulterous and therefore they do not love each other, even though they think they do and to external appearances it seems they do.

In an adulterous relationship, the foundation is morally evil.  It begins with a lie, for one person had committed to another for the rest of his life in marriage and then broke that promise in starting a relationship with another.  Jake doesn’t want what is best for Matilda (a definition of love) because if he did, he would know that forming a relationship with her in betrayal of his wife would hurt Matilda.  He is instead acting selfishly, making a vow with his body when they are sexually intimate that says “I give myself to you totally and faithfully” when in fact he has already made the sincere gift of himself to Jane.

“But his relationship with Jane is miserable!  She’s a witch, and Matilda and Jake are perfect for each other–anyone can see the love they have for each other.”  And yet it doesn’t matter what it looks like externally nor even what they, in their confusion, think is love, but rather what God thinks of it, the objective truth of the situation.

Okay, Phil, you are being patient with me if you have read this far.  I know that an adulterous situation is not the same as a same-sex one, but they are analogous to a degree, so bear with me.  I have sought to present an example that you agree with that is different from the emotionally charged one of two same-sex persons.

Take a step back with me now: I asserted with no proof that an “adulterous” relationship is morally evil.  A person could very well challenge that assertion, especially in a case like the one above with Jake, Matilda, and Jane.

On what basis do I believe that adultery is morally wrong?

Firstly, I believe it’s wrong because my conscience has told me so.  I believed it was wrong even as an atheist before becoming a Christian.  Being faithful is hard; breaking your promises is easy–the heroic stories of courage and fidelity, in all areas of life, are the good ones and the ones that inspired me both as a Christian and as an atheist.

Secondly, I believe because Christ said so.  Christ condemned adultery in the Bible as evil.  After becoming Catholic, this belief was further confirmed by the authority of Christ’s Church and her unchanging moral teachings.

I want you to ask youself the same question: On what basis do you believe that adultery is morally wrong?

Okay, so now let’s broaden the questions.  On what basis do I believe that:

  1. Pornography is wrong?
  2. Divorce is wrong?
  3. Non-marital sex is wrong?

Answer: The same as the reasons I gave above.  What is your answer?  Or in your mind are all of these wrong?

Do you think some of them are good?  Why?

Are same-sex relationships morally good or evil?

  • What does your conscience say?
  • What does the Christian faith say (Scriptures and Church teaching)?

What if your conscience says one thing and the Bible and the Church say the opposite?  Which do you think is right?  Why?

When a person in a same-sex relationship tries to give himself sexually to the other man, is it the same sexual act as between a man and a woman?  Is he able to give himself freely, faithfully, fully, and fruitfully, as is required for a morally good marital embrace?  If it is ontologically impossible for them to even be married, can a sexual act between two men ever be morally good?

Photograph by : Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
Photograph by : Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

This post is open to anyone who wants to comment, but those comments must be charitable.  That means that we can debate the issues and ideas but not attack the persons making them.

Christ be with you!