June 17, 2013

A Fortnight with Civility and for Clarity

By Jason Godin *

The Fortnight for Freedom begins on June 21. For the secondtime in as many years, prayers and activities will seek to educate Americansabout current challenges to religious liberty.

One such contest surrounds calls for redefining marriage toinclude homosexual unions. With dimensions that illuminate the broader subjectof sexuality in contemporary culture, the latest push to legalize gay“marriage” presents an opportunity in the days ahead to discuss specificallywhat the Catholic Church can contribute on the topic, with civility, and forthe sake of clarity.   

“An Apprenticeship in Self-Mastery”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that sexualitybecomes “personal and truly human” when “it is integrated into the relationshipof one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man anda woman” (CCC, 2337).

Appreciated in these ways, the moral virtue of chastityemerges as a vocation that challenges us all to enter freely into “anapprenticeship in self-mastery” mentored by graces of temperance that strive“to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason” (CCC, 2339,2341). Chastity calls for an entire lifetime – and by no means an easy life –of striving for greater self-knowledge, discipline, adaptation, obedience, andprayer in the face of “stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin”(CCC, 2340, 2342-2343). It also “presupposes respect for the rights of theperson”, particularly “the right to receive information and an education” that“respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life” (CCC, 2344).

“Intrinsically Disordered”

It is within this context of Christian charity that we mustview the issue of homosexuality, which is a “sexual attraction or orientationtoward persons of the same sex and/or sexual acts between persons of the samesex”. Although encountered in a diversity of forms, cultures, and historicaleras, the Catholic Church has always taught through the eyes of SacredScripture and with unequivocal clarity that homosexual inclinations andactivities of any kind are “intrinsically disordered” because they: “arecontrary to the natural law”; “close the sexual act to the gift of life”; and“do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity” (CCC,2357).

Centuries of study and reflection by the Church have led toa rich treasury of observations and experiences that must be heard fully in thepublic square. Chastity proposes perfection for a person of any sexualorientation. It sees the sum total of all that humanity is, that humanity hasto share, and all that humanity could be tomorrow. It celebrates sexuality asresponsible love incorporating body and soul. Homosexuality, with the movementto legalize gay “marriage” its latest form, rejects the same criteria. It palesand fails in comparison, and it is destined to lead to disappointment.

Yet each man and woman, regardless of professed sexualidentity or orientation, deserves respect, compassion, and sensitivity (cf.CCC, 2358). Each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God, and we allfall short of that perfection. But any understanding of the human person basedexclusively upon sexual identity is unacceptable. If our world is to nurtureand support stronger marriages, flourishing families, and true human liberties– worthy goals for us all – we should ponder during this fortnight for freedomthe necessary relationship between chastity and homosexuality, present Churchteaching with humility and civility, and do so for the sake of clarity and thecommon good. Christ’s charge to practice charity rules out making a chargeagainst others.

Jason Godin teaches United States history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas. You can find him on Facebook here.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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