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Authentic Freedom and the Homosexual Person | Dr. Mark Lowery | Part 2 | Part 1
Couples who struggle with infertility are poignantly aware
of how intrinsic the procreative dimension is for their own commitment. They
are profoundly honest in listening to and responding to the language of the
body, and hence are courageous witnesses of that language. Listen to them: they
tell us that profound permanent unity, valuable in itself, is connected to
children. Some factor from the outside, beyond their control, prevents them
from having children. But their permanent unity is a procreative kind of unity,
their conjugal acts are procreative kinds of acts. (In this sense, their
progeny is procreativity itself.) They could turn to the new birth
technologies, but here too they listen to and affirm the language of the body.
The conjugal act, profoundly unitive, is a procreative kind of act, and the
gift of the child is to be profoundly linked to the spouses' incarnate gift of
self in that conjugal, not merely copulatory, act. Infertile couples can shock
us out of our complacency, our tendency to think of the child as a right. They
know supremely what we tend to see dimly, that the child is a gift. That's how
God works through human nature, and that nature itself is a gift of the
Creator--hence, we say that bodily nature speaks a transcendent language to us.
The infertile couple sees this giftedness all the more poignantly through the
lens of their pain, and hence more boldly than others they proclaim the truth
of participatory theonomy. The homosexual person likewise can profoundly
proclaim participatory theonomy: marital friendship is itself a great gift, not
a right. The fallen condition--which is the root of all disorders--is said to be
somewhat of a felix culpa, a happy
fault; the distortions that result from it make us more aware than ever of the
giftedness of nature. Our fallenness alerts us to and orients us toward
participatory theonomy, the voice of God speaking through nature, a voice
deeply respective of our personal dignity.
Data from Divine Revelation
Thus far we have focused on the natural transcendent
meanings that inhere in the body, particularly in the generative faculties.
Revelation--Scripture and Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium--takes us
a step further by placing the male/female relationship in a liturgical context.
A properly ordered heterosexual relationship is a liturgical event because it
is a mirror image--a sacrament--of the covenant between God and mankind,
between Christ and the Church. Many biblical texts point to this imaging
(Hosea; Isaiah 62:4-5; Jeremiah 7:34, 31:31; Psalm 88:26; Mt 9:15; John 3;
Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 21:2) The unity of the spouses images God's
permanent and exclusive unity with his people, and the procreativity of the
spouses images God's generosity, particularly the outpouring of his own
Trinitarian life into our being (grace). In short, the body speaks the language
of the covenant. Since the covenant between God and man culminates in the
redemptive work of Christ, sacramentally re-presented in the Eucharist, there is a close reciprocity
between marriage and the Eucharist. The Eucharist is marital (God marries his
people) and marriage is Eucharistic (a sacrament of the covenant). The language
of the body is not only natural, it is also sacramental.
It is due to this profoundly personal sacramental meaning
of the body that we find a consistent teaching about homosexuality in the Bible
(Gen 3; Gen 19:1-11; Lev 18:22 and 20:13; 1 Cor 6:9; Rm 1:18-32; 1 Tim 1:10)
and throughout the Catholic tradition, wherein this teaching is infallibly
taught by the ordinary universal episcopal magisterium. But again, homosexual
acts are not wrong because of this consistent pattern of teaching; rather, this
pattern is consistent precisely because homosexual acts are not friendly to our
nature. Our very being partakes in God's loving plan, and his law, rather than
being capricious and heteronomous, reflects that plan. The Judeo-Christian
tradition must be articulated through the lens of participatory theonomy.
It is in this context that the arguments of John Boswell
and others are best met. They argue that there is no ethical condemnation of
homosexual acts in the Bible. Rather, the condemnations must be seen in the
light of ritual impurity--homosexuality is condemned because of its use in
cultic worship practices, as found in Canaanite religions and then imitated in
ancient Israel. The best way to meet Boswell's argument is to grant for a moment
that the Old Testament prohibitions refer to idolatrous worship practices, that
homosexual acts are wrong because they are used liturgically in false worship
of false gods and goddesses. That's just the point--homosexual acts are, in a
sense, in and of themselves "liturgical" acts, inextricably reflective of
idolatry. These acts are wrong precisely because they are "inverted
sacraments." Just as the ethical conduct in an ordered marriage images the
covenant, so too the unethical conduct of homosexuality is a false image for
the covenant, or images a skewed understanding of man's relation to God. The
reason why sexual practices are used culticly (sacramentally) is precisely
because that ordered or disordered ethical activity itself is an image of the
true or false relationship between man and God. In response to Boswell, then,
we can say that the Old Testament does not condemn ritual usage of
homosexuality, leaving other uses to the side. Sexuality speaks a "liturgical"
language, and thus to condemn the ritual usage of homosexual acts is to condemn
homosexual acts in themselves. Most importantly, the condemnation is not a
heteronomous end in itself; it points us, along the route of participatory
theonomy, to the full sacramental/liturgical outgrowth of respecting the
natural language of the body.
The Societal/Legal Dimension
The homosexual rights movement asks, "Why can't you just
let us do what we--consenting adults--want to do? How does that harm you?" Any
criticism of homosexuality is presented as tantamount to unjust discrimination.
You are suddenly committing a crime as heinous as racism or sexism. The answer
to this objection must be made from within the framework of participatory
Although it looks like we are speaking of freely chosen
activity between consenting adults, that is only half the picture. Anyone who
succumbs to activity contrary to the natural law does not, in a certain sense,
really want to do so, and hence he does so "involuntarily," using that word in
the deepest sense. Of course the person has free will, and his act will be
voluntary in the sense that it stems from that will. But he is using his free
will wrongly, not in accord with his nature. This wrong use is in the context
of his disorder--hence, the sense of desperation. He feels he wants to act
contrary to nature, but he doesn't need to; it is not in his best interest as a
person; it can't make him authentically free. That is why we say to our
friends, "You don't really want to do
that" right at the moment they are "voluntarily" doing something contrary to
their nature as persons. Participatory theonomy shatters the illusion by which
we tell ourselves, "Consenting adults can do what they want, as long as its
voluntary and as long as they don't hurt anyone else." It isn't authentically
free, and it is profoundly harmful.
The rewards society offers to married couples must be seen
in this light. As Michael Pakaluk notes: "Because the friendship of marriage
results in children, and it is a burden of sorts to raise children, and because
society benefits greatly if this is done well, it is usual for society to
separate out the friendship of marriage from other friendships, to give it
special recognition, and to award it distinctive benefits."  If society
were to give similar benefits to homosexual persons, then it would have to give
the same benefits to any sets of friends that so desired them! Instead, society
tries to protect what is in everyone's real
To grant a special set of rights to homosexual persons
would work against those real interests. Crimes violating the legitimate rights
of homosexual persons are intolerable. "But the proper reaction to crimes
committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual
condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual
activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to
protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church
nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and
practices gain ground, and irrational eruptions increase." 
As the saying goes, no one has a right to do what is
wrong. "What is wrong" is that which is unfriendly to our nature, that which
short-circuits our full participation in the meaning-laden nature given to us
as embodied human persons. The homosexual person may initially recoil at the
perspective presented here, but that is because he easily confuses human nature
with what "feels natural" or what "comes naturally"--in his case, the powerful
desire to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same sex. He is only
following the cue given by secular culture, which has bombarded him since
adolescence with the view that human fulfillment is tied to whatever form of
sexual "satisfaction" "comes naturally." By habitually following what "comes
naturally" he has used his free will wrongly, and has become enslaved. The path
out of this desperation, toward authentic freedom, comes in participating in
the caring plan that God has built into his nature, and participation made
possible by the shining grace of Christ who has "set our freedom free from the
domination of concupiscence." 
This article originally appeared in Catholic Dossier (March/April 2001).
 The strategy is analogous to that of the pro-life
organization CareNet. Their research found that the excellent arguments offered
by the pro-life cause for the personhood of the human fetus did not meet the
existential situation of many women considering abortion, who perceived the
unborn child, despite his personhood, to be a threat to their lives.
This is the suggestion of Fr. John Harvey, a genuine modern-day hero when it
comes to genuine care for homosexual persons. His most recent book is The
Truth About Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996).
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association reversed its designation of
homosexuality as a disorder, under pressure from the National Gay Task Force.
See Elizabeth Moberly, "Homosexuality and Hope," First Things 71 (March 1997), 30-33, at 30.
William Main, "Gay But Unhappy," Crisis
(March 1990), 32-37, at 36. This is an excellent summary of van den Aardweg's
insights. His most accessible book for the laymen is Homosexuality
and Hope (Ann Arbor: Servant Books).
World, May 20, 2000, 51-54. See the work
of Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), especially chapter 5 on
Jeffrey Satinover, "The Biology of Homosexuality: Science or Politics?" in
Christopher Wolfe, ed., Homosexuality and American Public Life (Dallas: Spence, 1999), 3-61.
See Fr. John Harvey, The Truth About Homosexuality, chapter 4, for an excellent overview of the many
"The Cause and Treatment of Homosexuality," Catholic World Report (July, 1997), 51-52.
See the excellent chapter in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity called "Morality and Psychoanalysis."
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of
Homosexual Persons, no. 11. Hereafter PC.
This realization might play an important role in reparative therapy itself, as
a central antidote to the sense of "self-pity-become-neurotically habitual"
that some theorize is one of the central causes of the disorder. See Main, "Gay
PC, no. 11.
PC, no. 11.
See Veritatis Splendor, nos. 47-53, the
pope's response to those theologians who claim that Catholic teaching regarding
sexual morality succumbs to a brute biologism whereby moral laws are
automatically spun out of mere biological laws. The heart of Catholic moral
teaching does not fallaciously deduce a moral "ought" from only a biological
As Richard John Neuhaus notes ("Love, No Matter What," in Wolfe, Homosexuality, p. 245), most people are disgusted, in an intuitive
and pre-articulate way, by "what active homosexuals do." So too are many among
the 2 percent of the population that is homosexually oriented. (The 10 percent
figure from the earlier Kinsey Report was fallacious.)
 "The Price of Same-Sex Union," Catholic World Report (July, 1997), 49. Also see Family,
Marriage and "De Facto" Unions, Pontifical
Council for the Family (2000).
 PC, no. 10.
 VS, no. 103.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles, Excerpts, & Interviews:
Homosexual Orientation Is Not a "Gift" | James Hitchcock
Can I Quote You On That? Talking to the Media About Homosexuality and the Priesthood | Mark Brumley
The Truth About Conscience | John F. Kippley
Marriage and the Family in Casti Connubii and Humanae
Vitae | Rev. Michael Hull, S.T.D.
Viagra: It's Not Just for Old Guys Anymore | Mary Beth
Practicing Chastity in an Unchaste Age | Bishop Joseph F. Martino
Kinsey: Dedicated Scientist or Sexual Deviant? | Benjamin Wiker
Dr. Mark Lowery
teaches moral theology at the University of Dallas. His articles have appeared in
scholarly journals such as Communio, Faith and Reason, the Catholic
Social Science Review, and the Irish
Theological Quarterly, and in such popular
periodicals as the New Oxford Review, The Catholic Faith, Homiletic
and Pastoral Review, Envoy, and Social Justice Review. He is the author of
Living The Good Life:
What Every Catholic Needs to Know About Moral Issues (Charis, 2003).
the Insight Scoop Blog and read the latest posts and comments by
IgnatiusInsight.com staff and readers about current events, controversies,
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