Responding to Today's Challenging Issues: Is the Church Right?

Authored by William Newton in Issue #6.3 of The Catechetical Review

There are few things more likely to earn one the label of “bigot” than publicly to propose the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality and transgenderism. I take a “bigot” to be someone who tenaciously holds a position but has no sound reasons for his stance and is, additionally, mean-spirited.

Here, I want to show that the Catholic position on homosexuality and transgenderism is not bigoted because there are good and solid reasons for it and, equally important, it is a gentle, if firm position. I will also include here what the Church teaches on fornication, in light of the burgeoning hook-up culture. Many now consider the suggestion that pre-marital sex is wrong as too quaint to be “bigoted;” yet, in professing it, one is likely to be perceived as living in cloud cuckoo land. To that extent it is also portrayed as unreasonable.

What Sexual Intercourse Says

Pope St. John Paul II described God’s beautiful and intelligent design for human sexuality in his Theology of the Body. From this framework, he explains that when a married couple “make love” they are recapitulating their marriage vows. This is because the vows imply a mutual, total gift of self, and sexual intercourse naturally signifies this total self-giving. Considered carefully, the special gift that is given in intercourse is the gift of one’s generative power to another. This is, after all, the unique, intrinsic purpose of that union.

For sexual intercourse to be a gift, one party has to give what the other does not already have. Therefore, there is only a gift when the parties are sexually distinct, i.e. when one is a man and the other is a woman. Only in this situation does each give that element of the human generative power that the other lacks; and together there is mutual completion.

However, sexual intercourse is more than a sign of self-giving: it is an adequate sign of a total self-giving. Two observations are pertinent. First, through intercourse, one gives the very seed of oneself; and, as Cormac Burke notes, “The greatest expression of a person’s desire to give himself is to give the seed of himself.”[1] Second, during intercourse the husband acts quintessentially as man and the wife quintessentially as woman. After all, the husband does what the wife simply cannot do and vice-versa. Now, masculinity and femininity mark all the dimensions of the human person and not just the body, since sexuality marks the emotions, the psychology, the intellectual life, and the spirit—like a watermark running through the entire person. Accordingly, when the husband does the quintessentially male action, he “sums himself up,” so to speak, in an action that can represent his self-donation in a holistic and so total manner.

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This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

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