A clarification of Catholic sexuality
Letter to the Editor | 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.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.