Homosexuality and the Counsel of the Cross: A Clarification

By Crowley, Paul G. | Theological Studies, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Homosexuality and the Counsel of the Cross: A Clarification


Crowley, Paul G., Theological Studies


THE TEACHING OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH regarding homosexuality is found in the CDF's Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (hereafter, Hp). (1) From this document basic principles can be derived for establishing a theological and anthropological foundation for approaching homosexuality as a problem and for understanding the Church's counsel of the Cross, which was the subject matter of my 2004 article. The following are the theological and anthropological principles contained in the Church's teaching that the article presumed:

(1) The teaching of the magisterium is intrinsically connected with tradition and Scripture, through the "supremely wise arrangement of God" (Hp no. 5; Dei Verbum no. 10). One of these elements cannot stand without the others. "The Church's doctrine regarding this issue is thus based, not on isolated phrases for facile theological argument, but on the solid foundation of a constant Biblical testimony" (Hp no. 5) and the tradition of the Church, which are sources of knowledge for salvation. The Church's teaching has as its stated aim not only pastoral care but also the salvation of souls. In that spirit the magisterium offered its teaching in the 1986 Letter.

(2) The theological and anthropological foundation for this teaching is based on the theology of creation presented in Genesis. As the Letter states, "Human beings ... are nothing less than the work of God himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator. They do this in a striking way in their cooperation with him in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other" (Hp no. 6). This statement establishes three theological points about human beings and human sexuality in particular: (a) Human beings, in their totality, are made in the image of God (Gen 1:6-27). (b) Human beings, male and female, cooperate with God through the transmission of life (Gen 1:28) and thus embody God's covenant with the human race. (c) This cooperation with God in the transmission of life and the embodiment of God's covenant with the human race is accomplished through a mutual donation or self-gift of the male to the female, and vice versa. According to this teaching, Genesis 1 establishes, therefore, the "spousal character" of human sexuality and the natural end of sexual relations as originally ordered by God.

(3) In Genesis 3, however, we find that this "truth about persons being an image of God has been obscured by original sin" (Hp no. 6). One result of this sin is a loss of awareness of the "covenant character" of the union of these persons with one another and with God. This loss is reflected in part through the appearance of disorder in the original ordering of human sexuality (see Gen l:16b). In light of this intrusion of disorder, we can understand the condemnations of the men of Sodom in Genesis 19:11-29, and the further condemnations of homosexual relations in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13--all examples of the disharmony within the original order that has entered the world through sin. Paul further develops this view in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1:18-32, and 1 Timothy 1:10. In Romans in particular, "Paul is at a loss to find a clearer example of this disharmony than homosexual relations" (Hp no. 6).

(4) The Church in her practice wishes to honor the original order of human sexuality established by the Creator. The objective complementarity between the sexes and the fundamentally spousal character of human sexuality together ordain men and women toward each other in the sacrament of marriage. Marriage, therefore, is the only sanctioned context for sexual relations, and these undertaken only with an openness to the transmission of human life. "It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally" (Hp no. …

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