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“Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
This article has been complete for quite some time now and I was writing it I was having a “discussion” with a reader of the blog that felt more like an attack than a debate about the Catholic position on sexuality in general. Those kinds of things deeply upset me because when I read 2359 I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the call to chastity. I am comforted by the strength and fortitude which it presents and I am unable to see how anyone could want anything less than that. I don’t understand how someone who can love God so much could make excuses for not living this.
Believe me, I am no saint. This call to chastity has hardly been lived by me. I won’t even pretend that it has. But it is a call that is beautiful, and it is something I long to strive for. I can’t imagine giving up on this goal simply because it is too hard, because my wounds are too deep, or my feelings contradict it. Even in my deepest and darkest moments of weariness, I never forgot that this is what my soul desires and that God will help me to accomplish it for his glory and for my sanctification.
I’ve written quite a bit about chastity in the recent past as I am discerning a consecrated vocation, though, since the fit hit the shan when I came out to the world, it’s taken a slight back seat. Chastity is essentially the right ordering of our powers of life and love according to our state in life. Many see it is being about sex and lust. It is. But it is more than that, it is about relating in love to all humankind. How you love your siblings is a part of chastity. How you love the poor is a part of chastity. For most of us, sexual conduct seems to be the primary thing we are concerned about with chastity. So what is sexual chastity?
The over-arching concept is this: that sexual behavior is reserved for the marital bond only, and that within that bond, sexual behavior must always flow from the two obligations of fidelity and fecundity. For the married couple that means that lust after anyone, even their own spouse is unchaste, that use of contraceptives is unchaste, that adultery is unchaste, use of pornography and masturbation is unchaste, as are a slew of other things. The list of what is unchaste could go on, but rather, we should focus on what is chaste: regularly engaging in the conjugal act for the good of the other spouse, being open to the gift of human life in each act whether conception is possible in that moment or not, loving your spouse in spite of all of their flaws as a human person created in the dignity of God.
For the single person many of these same things apply: lust, porn, and masturbation. Indeed, as individuals not given in marriage, any sexual activity with another person is unchaste. For the homosexual person, this call is no different. It may be more difficult because marriage may not necessarily be an option, and we may be called to lifelong celibacy, but the call is still the same. To violate chastity with full knowledge and consent would be gravely sinful.
I make one more note about chastity that is semi-related to homosexuality. Chastity includes loving. It means accepting who we are as God created us, body and soul. There are some people out there who honestly and truly feel that being born in a male body they are actually a female, and vice-versa. God does not make mistakes. God created us as we are. He gave me a male body and a male soul. Nothing I could do can change that, even if I wanted to (which I don’t). The body is the sacrament of the soul. It conveys a reality about my soul. I am a man, not just physically, but spiritually as well. For some people there are a host of issues that could cloud this reality for them, but rather than encourage the confusion we should be praying for them.
Again, I will paraphrase from a homily by Fr. Mike Schmitz: If, as a psychologist, you had a patient come in who firmly believed that they were a tuna fish sandwich what would you do? Would you encourage or enable them to live some absurd fantasy life wherein they are a tuna fish sandwich. Hopefully you would treat them in some way so that they were able to accept the reality that they are a human being, not a tuna fish sandwich. If someone came in believing that their left leg was not supposed to be a part of their body, that in their soul they just knew that they weren’t supposed to have two legs, what would you do? You would help them to prevent harming themselves, and would not cut off their legs. But if a man comes in who believes that he is a woman, current practice is not to help him with this psychological problem, but to encourage him to live as if he is a woman, and if he has the resources, to mutilate his genitals and to take hormones and get implants, etc. Chastity is a virtue that requires us to love the body and soul that God gave us and to take care of it no matter what the cost.
As baptized Christians, all of the faithful have been incorporated into the Body of Christ, and have died and risen with him. This is the reality of the Sacrament. As a part of that Body, we have an obligation to resist evil, and this means being chaste. It means using our God-given faculties properly. No matter what we may want to do with them, we must use them as God intends. For the homosexual, this means that unless a free and valid marriage is contracted with a spouse of the opposite sex (who must, be a very wonderful, caring, and amazing person to share this cross with you), celibacy must be kept.