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A clarification of Catholic sexuality

| Monday, September 19, 2016

I would like to begin by thanking Bryan Ricketts, former student body president, for his recent letter to the editor entitled “A Catholic case for same-sex marriage.” While I do not agree with the conclusions of his letter — as I will make manifest later in my own — I think it is important for Catholics to recognize, confront and interact with the areas of the faith where they have difficulties. Letters like these help facilitate interactions, as they demonstrate areas of questions and misunderstandings. It is my hope that I may be able to meet his inquiry, which is undoubtedly shared by others, with a greater understanding of Catholic teaching on the subject.

On to my contentions: the argument of the letter falls largely on his interpretation of the “reciprocal self-giving” and “transmission of life” components of the marriage. In short, the argument is that LGBTQ people have the same capacity of self-giving and life-bringing acts of love as heterosexual people do. Here, the author is unequivocally right. A person’s sexual orientation in no way inhibits one’s ability to love his or her neighbor, and the Church would agree. My attractions, be they to a man or a woman, do not affect my ability to support those suffering with AIDs, comfort those confronting hatred and bullying, or serve in any other capacity to those in need. In these ways, all relationships can be a gift of self to the vivacity of others.

Marriage, however, is not simply a relationship of ministry to each other and to others — it requires sexual activity. This is where the issues of unity and procreation take a different level of importance, an importance I believe the “Catholic case for same-sex marriage” fails to fully recognize. Because marriage is a sacrament deeply connected to sexual union (the Sacrament of Matrimony is completed and renewed with consummation), the nature of sexual activity is inherent to the nature of marriage. Homosexual sexual acts do not have the potential for procreation; this is a biological fact. For this reason, homosexual sexual acts do not reflect the nature of marriage because they do not expand procreation from solely charity, which is life-giving, to marital love, which is life-generating.

As for the argument that there are men and women who are married for whom sexual activity is not procreative, i.e. the infertile or the elderly, there is also an explanation. The sexual act must be open to the procreative, just as all social interactions should be. However, not all expressions of the sexual act result in life, just as not all actions of ministry, service or care lead to successful promotion of life. The importance is that the sexual act holds the potential for the creation of life: this is obviously true for fertile, young people, but even infertile or elderly couples still have potential for life in their sexual act — for examples of this, one could read the Bible, or look up news of miraculous or extraordinary pregnancies.

Finally, I would like to discuss a myth that members of the LGBTQ community are the only people affected by this teaching of the procreative sexual component of marriage. In section 1084 of the Code of Canon Law, it is stated that “Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman … nullifies marriage by its very nature.” Though this can be a difficult teaching to accept, because it affects people on grounds uncontrollable by themselves, it offers for those confused with Catholic teaching against gay marriage a possible consolation: the obstacle for Catholic same-sex marriage is not one of sexual identity or orientation, but rather a consistent and holistic understanding of the marital act being open to life both socially and sexually.

I hope that this letter might add some clarity for those who are struggling with this teaching of the Catholic Church. I will admit, it is a difficult one, because it so drastically impacts us, whether we are a member of the LGBTQ community or simply love one who is. That difficulty, however, is all the more reason for us to enter into dialogue of it; it is only in entering dialogue in connection with our continual prayer that we can grow in our understanding of the issue and our ability to catechize, evangelize and love all our neighbors. This is the method by which all of us, regardless of our sexuality, marital status or vocation, can share in the life-giving, self-sacrificing love so prized by Bryan Ricketts, myself and all of the Catholic Church.

Evan Holguin
Sept. 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Thank-You, Evan, for the letter.

    So, in regards to “Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman…nullifies marriage by its very nature”, then I guess my marriage was nullified on my wedding night and has been nullified hundreds of times since according to the methodology, Natural Family Planning, taught to me in my CCD classes growing up as well as to me and my spouse during Pre Cana. I guess we should contact the IRS and amend all our tax returns as we’ve been filing jointly married for decades.

    Lastly, to the Editors: Can you make a permanent style sheet and place AIDS at the top of that list? It’s not AIDs, it’s Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – AIDS.

  • NDaniels

    All of us have disordered inclinations of various types and degree, some more difficult to overcome than others. Our call to Holiness has always been a call to overcome our disordered inclinations so that we are not led into temptation but become transformed through Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy. Assigning personhood to sexual desire/inclination/orientation, which sexually objectifies the human person, who is not, in essence, an object of sexual desire/inclination/orientation, but a beloved son or daughter, is a violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery, and serves as a denial, not an affirmation of Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

    • “All of us have disordered inclinations of various types and degree, some more difficult to overcome than others.”

      You’re going down that 1950s road as your lead? Really?

      Wow. Now my Monday is really ruined.

  • Brendan

    Thank you for taking the time to respond, Evan. The previous article could have been very confusing for Catholics. Great work!

  • João Pedro Santos

    Don’t try to hide it. You’re a homophobic student. Admit it.

    • Robert Jones

      Your comment is unacceptable–anyone willing to present a logical argument deserves more than mundane name calling. Your cheap hack at this intellectually well thought-out article is despicable

      • João Pedro Santos

        I’m not name calling, I’m stating a fact. If you don’t like being called a homophobe, maybe that’s because you’re a homophobe.

        • Bruce Lee

          as the old adage goes, “he who smelt it, delt it”; maybe you’re the homophobe for saying he’s the homophobe. food for thought

          • João Pedro Santos

            How great, elementary school reasoning!

        • Robert Jones

          No actually you are mistaken–probably due to your close-mindedness. According to the dictionary, a person who fears or hates homosexuals and homosexuality is a homophobe. There is no hate in this article

          • João Pedro Santos

            There are several kinds of hate. Hate isn’t just physical violence. Maybe if you were a bit smarter you’d realize that. And yes, I’m close-minded with bigots. People deserve respect. Opinions… not necessarily.

          • Robert Jones

            Ad hominem attack man. Clever way to divert an argument when you’ve lost

          • João Pedro Santos

            Don’t use the word “ad hominem” if you don’t know what it means.

          • Robert Jones

            Took Latin for 4 years bro. I know what ad hominem means.

          • João Pedro Santos

            I don’t know you from anywhere to call me “bro”. Besides being an homophobic troll, you’re also very arrongant and disrespectful.

  • what no really

    “or look up news of miraculous or extraordinary pregnancies.”

    The fact that this is the last remaining argument is pretty telling.

    • João Pedro Santos

      I agree. The other arguments aren’t much better though.

  • João Pedro Santos

    Homophobia disguised as “nice words” is still homophobia.