HOMOSEXUALITY AND CONCUPISCENCE
In this space last month we published an essay on homosexuality as it relates to the Natural Law. The point of that article being that through revealed truth, reason, and the natural law one can determine that the practice of homosexuality is intrinsically disordered. The Catechism spells it out clearly, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”. (CCC2357). What was not addressed was whether the inclination towards homosexuality is in itself sinful.
First we must address the Church’s teaching on this topic as expressed in the Catechism. Concerning the deep-seated homosexual tendencies, and those afflicted with them, the catechism explains: “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial”.(CCC2358) The operative phrase in the above is “objectively disordered”. The inclination, the desire, the propensity, is itself objectively disordered.
Is the inclination of the homosexual sinful in and of itself? Let’s look at what the venerable fathers at the Council of Trent had to say about inclinations in Session V (June 17, 1546) in the Decree On Original Sin:“But this holy Synod confesses and perceives that there remains in the baptized concupiscence of an inclination, although this is left to be wrestled with, it cannot harm those who do not consent, but manfully resist by the grace of Jesus Christ. Nay, indeed, "he who shall have striven lawfully, shall be crowned" [2 Tim. 2:5]. This concupiscence, which at times the Apostle calls sin [Rom. 6:12 ff.] the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin, as truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is from sin and inclines to sin. But if anyone is of the contrary opinion, let him be anathema.”
The Council of Trent as shown above, informs us that all humans have a tendency to sin. This tendency towards sin in general (concupiscence) is not sinful itself but only a part of our fallen human nature. Concupiscence, one of the “temporal consequences of original sin,” (CCC1264), moves “...the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason.” (CCC2515). Concupiscence moves us toward what we view as pleasing and away from what we view as painful, without regard for reason.
We should now consider what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" of 1986 has to say."Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not."
You may recall that The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has been headed for many years by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and is part of the Magisterium.
The CDF’s letter of 1986, is in complete agreement with the Catechism and the Council of Trent. Concupiscence, which is not a sin, is the tendency to go to what ever the imagination sees as desirable without regard to reason. In the case of homosexuals, the imagination sees as desirable an objectively disordered, intrinsic moral evil. Having only a tendency, or inclination toward this particular sin is not a sin. The object of the tendency’s desire, however, is a sin.
How then did the imagination of homosexuals ever get so disordered? While the answer is not completely within the realm of moral theology we can say one thing for certain: they are not born that way. Many these days are convinced that they are homosexual because they were just born that way. This is not the case. This argument was only advanced in recent years as an excuse by unrepentant homosexuals in an attempt to justify their sins. There have been other, subsequent attempts to justify sinful heterosexual behavior in men and women based on the idea that we are just born that way. These attempts would be irrelevant to discussions of morality, even if they weren’t the result of junk science.
The end result of these attempts to explain that people are “born that way” is to come to believe that one’s entire identity as a human being rests with one’s sexual inclination. Nothing could be further from the truth. The human person is more than the sum of bodily urges. This false joining of sexual identity and personhood also leads to a certain level of complacency. This surface complacency prevents them from acknowledging the difficult alternative: that they suffer from a disordered desire which they must resist with constant vigilance.
Before we smugly look down our noses at such transparent delusions and rationalizations, we must pause to relook at the Catechism’s statement on this topic. This inclination “constitutes for most of them a trial”. (CCC2358) Many homosexuals were probably the victim of sexual abuse or neglect. The Catechism acknowledges that this disorder is “deep-seated”. (CCC2358) They have received little or no help from the medical community which has shirked its responsibility to help these people.
Before casting stones we must also take a hard look at our own rationalizations. It is not merely the homosexual who will create an artifice to wed himself or herself to sin. It is for each of us to look into our own heart, and see our sinful nature honestly. Having done that we must rely solely on the ocean of mercy in Jesus for our salvation.
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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, February 2002.