In the first column of this series, I wrote about living as a Catholic with same-sex attraction and contemplating the Church's teaching about the greatest good of sexuality as an image and participation in God's love. The column discussed how God's love is the total gift of His very self to us, given in absolute freedom, in uncompromising fidelity, and in a life-giving way that bears fruit.
Although each of these things are important, it was this last part that I identified as a critical point of understanding for those of us who experience same-sex attraction, because the human potential for bearing fruit via new life is a direct consequence of sexual complementarity between the sexes. When we're aware of all the goods that are apparent even in a same-sex relationship, it can be challenging to see why this particular good of complementarity is so essential. The key to understanding this is found in what the Church understands about God.
God's Life-Giving Love
Referring again to the Psalms, we hear that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” And again, Genesis tells us that God created everything and saw that all He had made was good. This living goodness of creation is a testimony to the goodness of God. But why did God create anything to begin with?
The very first paragraph of the Catechism says, "God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life." (1) In fact, "St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things 'not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,' for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness… " (293)
In other words, this gratuitous creativity flows from the goodness of God's very nature.
This life-giving creativity is an integral part of that life of God that He means for us to share. Fecundity is not just reflected in His actions but is an aspect of His very being. Jesus tells us that, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me… ” (Jn 14:11) In the Catechism we learn that the Father has “given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father… ” (246) And “Jesus, the Son to whom the Father has given all things, has given himself wholly back to the Father… ” (2749)
And these aren't just one-time gifts. The Nicene Creed tells us that the Son was “born of the Father before all ages… ” So the Father has been giving everything to the Son for all eternity. Pope John Paul II says in his encyclical “Dominum et Vivificantem”, “It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons and that through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift.” (DV 10)
The interior life of God is the exchange of mutual love between the Persons of the Trinity and from this gift of love derives “the gift of existence to all things through creation; the gift of grace to human beings through the whole economy of salvation.” (DV 10)
God's Love Imaged in Sexual Complementarity
Returning to the image of God's love in our sexuality, the Catechism says, “The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator's generosity and fecundity … ” (2335) Our sexuality, insofar as it images the communion between the persons of the Trinity, shows forth the communion of persons in a visible way between husband and wife. And as a result, a whole new person – a baby – can be given life from this relationship.
The Catechism points out that neither this idea of the communion of persons nor of the life that comes from it can be separated from marriage without drastic effects. "The spouses' union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.” (2363)
Although the most obvious example of separating conjugal love from the transmission of life is contraception, a separation of sexuality from life also occurs in homosexual acts which by their very nature are between two people who lack sexual complementarity. Therefore, the Catechism could have also said as a corollary in relation to homosexuality that we cannot separate the notion of complementary sexual natures from sexuality without altering our spiritual life.
Homosexual acts prevent us from imaging God's fecund nature with our sexuality and therefore work to contradict the image of God in which we were created and meant to live.
Openness Vs. Fertility
Sometimes objections are raised to the necessity of the openness to life in sexual relationship by noting particular situations in heterosexual relationships. Women are only fertile at certain times and they eventually progress past their childbearing years. And some people are not physically capable of having children at all. How can we say relationships with these situations reflect the openness to life that images God's fecundity in a way that homosexual relationships do not?
As in the first column, a rough analogy may serve to shed some light on this subject. Consider that man creates light bulbs and light sockets in order that electricity might flow from one to the other and that light might be generated as a result. During the normal cycle of day and night, we sometimes find power flowing through these connections that results in the generation of light, but sometimes we do not. Eventually light bulbs burn out. Occasionally there are power outages. Given the right conditions, a particular light bulb or light socket may be manufactured in such a way that it may never be able to complete this connection or generate light.
Understanding all these various situations that sometimes occur, we could not legitimately conclude that two light bulbs or two light sockets are just as well suited for pairing as one light bulb and one light socket. Even with several different types of individual circumstances that result in a particular bulb and socket not completing a connection that generates light, we cannot say that the light that often shines as a result of this type of union was not the intention of man when creating these pieces that fit together.
If we did, we would indeed be living in the dark.
What then can we draw from this analogy? It is not the individual natural circumstances of particular persons in a relationship but rather the type of relationship between persons that determines whether we image God's fecundity by being open to life.
Heterosexual relationships, when not deliberately frustrated by acts such as contraception or sterilization, are by their very nature open to life by virtue of the sexual complementarity of the persons involved, whether or not that life actually comes into existence. Homosexual relationships are by their very nature closed to this life by virtue of the lack of sexual complementarity.
Sexual Complementarity in the Words of Jesus
Finally, it has often been claimed that the Gospels and Christ never addressed homosexuality. Although not explicitly mentioned by name, it is implicitly addressed nonetheless in a response by Jesus to a question about divorce in which He mentions sexual complementarity.
In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus says, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
This is a very important verse which is expounded upon by John Paul II in his Catechesis on Human Love. Notice that Jesus is pointing out that the Creator said we shall be joined together by God in the one-flesh conjugal union of marriage precisely because we were created as two sexes. “From the beginning”, it was God's plan for sexual union and marriage to be a result of our creation as two complementary sexes.
God's desire is for us to be drawn into the life of the Trinity – into life-giving communion with Him and with each other, and to reflect this life with our sexuality. Even though we might experience same-sex attraction, we cannot ignore God's invitation and the image of His life present in our sexual complementarity.
This does not mean that all people are called to marriage, however, and I will discuss this further in the next column.