Fact: The Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality is anything but popular.
It’s something we as Catholics shy away from talking about. Maybe that’s because it makes others uncomfortable, or maybe because often we don’t truly understand it ourselves. The fact is that I can sit here all day and tell you that my stance against same-sex marriage is not born out of hatred, bigotry, or ignorance, but the majority of people would probably not believe me. When it comes down to it, this issue isn’t going to be solved in political debates. It’s far too personal.
So rather than getting into a lesson on Catholic moral teaching (though feel free to contact me if you want me to cover that later), or talking about homosexuality in the abstract (creating hypothetical people and hypothetical situations), I thought I’d refer you to an article written by someone who understands the Church’s teaching on homosexuality far better than I do, because as a Catholic who happens to be gay, he is choosing to live it.
[I have never met this man. I found the following post on the blog, Little Catholic Bubble. Apparently, though, he recently went public with his own blog, as well.]
I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same church?
When I go to Confession, I sometimes mention the fact that I’m gay, to give the priest some context. (And to spare him some confusion: Did you say ‘locker room’? What were you doing in the women’s…oh.) I’ve always gotten one of two responses: either compassion, encouragement, and admiration, because the celibate life is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural; or nothing at all, not even a ripple, as if I had confessed eating too much on Thanksgiving.
Of the two responses, my ego prefers the first — who doesn’t like thinking of themselves as some kind of hero? — but the second might make more sense. Being gay doesn’t mean I’m special or extraordinary. It just means that my life is not always easy. (Surprise!) And as my friend J. said when I told him recently about my homosexuality, “I guess if it wasn’t that, it would have been something else.” Meaning that nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: “The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?”
Ok— maybe I’m not honestly planning on having 17 children. Actually, I’m not thinking about having children at all right now (due, of course, to my unmarried state).
I do, however, come from a family of 5 children—which for many people is a lot of children, especially given the fact that we are all within 2 years apart from one another. Every one of my 4 siblings is married with at least 1 child, giving me a grand total of 8 adorable nieces and nephews. And wanna know the “crazy” thing?
None of my siblings (nor my parents) practice artificial birth control. And if/when I get married, I won’t either.
Call it what you will. Irresponsible. Insane. Outright disturbing. I’ve heard it all before, and it only makes me more proud to be a part of a family that lives out and takes seriously this most controversial teaching of the Catholic Church. It’s not that I enjoy controversy for controversy’s sake. No—it’s that I wholeheartedly believe that a fuller truth, a truer happiness, and a more authentic love are on our side when it comes to the stance my family takes on using artificial contraception.
Why? Because I believe in marriage, and I believe in love. I believe the most perfect expression of the love between a husband and wife is the sexual union. And I unreservedly reject anything that seeks to cheapen or distort that expression of love and turn it into something it is not. To me (and I believe to anyone who really sits down and reflects on it with an open mind for some time), contraception is one of those things.
My family believes (as the Catholic Church teaches) that the purpose of sex within marriage is twofold: 1) for the unity of the couple, and 2) for the procreation of offspring. Don’t misunderstand my meaning. This DOES NOT mean that I think every time a married couple has sex that they need to be intending or trying to have a child. It simply means that the married couple needs to be open to having children as a result of their union.
It’s pretty clear why the unitive aspect of sex is so important to a married couple; but to our modern society, it’s far less clear why it matters that a couple be open to having children every time they engage in sex. Simply put, the reason is: love.
Life-giving Love: Sex is supposed to be a total gift of yourself to your spouse. The act of sex renews the wedding vows, to hold nothing back from your partner. Using contraception, we close off a part of ourselves from our spouse, cheapening the authentic expression of total, life giving love that sex is meant to be.
Respect: Because contraception rejects the life-giving aspect of the sexual union, I believe that it is a form of disrespect to the body—making the body little more than a mere instrument used for sexual pleasure. Of course, it is not at all that I think that most couples that use birth control are doing so with the intent of using one another, but I do think that, over time, it can be an unintended, and undesired effect (even if the couple cannot specifically point to birth control as the reason for their eventual emotional distance).
Come on, Get Real
I do realize (as does the Catholic Church) that often times there are legitimate reasons to space out or delay pregnancy within a family. In those cases, it is still not ever a good idea to contracept, because all of the negative effects that come with it still apply. However science has made great strides in a natural way for couples who need to either delay or achieve pregnancy. It’s called Natural Family Planning, and it has a near 99% success rate.
Rather than unnaturally altering or inhibiting the proper functions of the body, NFP requires the couple work with the woman’s body to achieve the desired result (it involves charts and temperature taking and all that jazz. Of course I’ve never done it, so I can’t really tell ya from experience). I can tell you that couples who practice NFP have a divorce rate less than 1% (fact). Though it’s important to realize that it’s not necessary for every couple—I believe that if you have the means to support a family and don’t have a good, non-selfish, reason for delaying children, there is no need to practice NFP in order to delay pregnancy. Love can’t be selfish, so neither can sex, right?
A Final Word on Children
People are uncomfortable with large families and lots of kids. I’ve never understood why. Though children are often messy and difficult to control, any mentally stable person who has children will tell you without hesitation about the joy that children bring to a life and to a marriage. Is raising a family easy? Hardly. Does the love they bring to a family make up a hundred fold for all of the struggle? Drawing from my own experience growing up in a larger family and from literally anyone I have talked to about their children, you better believe it does.
A little over a week ago, I posted a poll on this blog asking for feedback about your thoughts on pornography.
As of yesterday, an overwhelming percentage of you believed that looking at pornography is always wrong, no matter the circumstance. (Of course, these results are likely more so a commentary on the mentality and values of the people who read this blog than they are an accurate and scientific representation of what the average person today thinks of pornography.)
11% of you yesterday believed it depended on the person/circumstance.
6% saw no problem with it whatsoever, thought that it is sometimes healthy and/or necessary for a person, and is only wrong if in a committed relationship or married.
3% of you had no opinion.
The reality is that if you are reading this and are over the age of 11, chances are you have been exposed to pornography at least once already in your lifetime. And if you are a young adult male reading this, chances are extremely high that you regularly view pornography at this time in your life (statistically speaking, anyway).
Alright, but what’s the big deal? I mean, provided you’re not in a relationship or keeping it a secret from your significant other or anything. We are human, after all. Sex isn’t dirty or wrong; and we should all be free to give into our natural desires. We have “needs”, right?
Pornography as “Healthy”
This kind of mentality about sex is nothing particularly new. It goes back as far as the 1930s, and even earlier than that. In 1936, a German man named Wilhelm Reich wrote a book called The Sexual Revolution. In it, he wrote that:
“Sexuality…is the productive vital energy, simply speaking. Its suppression leads not only to medical damage, but also quite generally to damage in the basic functions of life. The essential social expression of this damage is purposeless (irrational) action by human beings: their insanity, their mysticism, their readiness for war, etc…The core of life’s happiness is sexual happiness.”
What is Mr. Reich saying in the above quote? Essentially, if we suppress our sexual desires, we are more likely to be unhealthy, uptight, angry, and violent people.
…Sound familiar? It’s the mindset of most of the popular shows we watch on TV today. The character who plays the president of the chastity club is an uptight prude (and usually a cheerleader?? I’ve never quite understood that…but I digress). The characters that engage in sexual activity are often portrayed as more mature or wise. The thought goes something like this: “We need to be able to do things like look at pornography. It keeps us healthy. It makes us happy. It keeps us sane.”
No Such Thing As Selfish Love
But does it really? Interestingly, most of you who believed that pornography is sometimes healthy or necessary actually thought it was NOT ok within the context of a marriage or committed relationship. Why? Presumably because the thought is that, within a relationship, you should be fulfilling each other’s needs, and that pornography within that relationships is, in the very least, “emotional cheating”.
Let’s think about that for a moment, though. Do you really think of a person you are making love to as just “fulfilling a need” of yours? I honestly think that most reasonable people (religious or non-religious) would say no. Sex with someone you love is supposed to be more than that. It’s supposed to be about love—an expression of that love— not mutually using one another.
If we really believe that sex is about more than using someone else to fulfill a need, then looking at pornography can never be ok. Why? Well, as we have just shown, pornography trains those who look at it to view sex as absolutely nothing more than selfish gratification (read: “fulfilling my needs”). It’s naive (read: “wrong”) to think that your mindset will just magically change when you enter into a committed relationship.
I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that love cannot be selfish. It has to be selfless. Begin training yourself in love today. Waiting for tomorrow may be too late.
Last week, the Philadelphia Public Health Department launched a new campaign encouraging teens to “take control of their health”. The website, TakeControlPhilly, educates teens on the importance of condom use, and invites children as young as 11 to request to have a package of condoms mailed to them—completely free of charge! Yippee!!
When asked by members of the public if perhaps giving condoms away to 11-year-olds wasn’t such a good idea, the City Health Commissioner, Donald Schwarz replied:
“Clearly, we don’t think it’s OK for 11-year-olds to be having sex,” says Schwarz. “But we don’t have the infrastructure in place to fix [that] problem fast. We can, however, make condoms available fairly quickly to whoever needs them.”
Schwarz wasn’t the first to use this talking point, and he won’t be the last. For some reason, people actually believe that giving away free condoms without discretion actually solves more problems than it creates. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that using condoms doesn’t help to stop the spread of certain diseases (though just a fun fact for you: HPV is the most common type of STD and the condom is useless against it). I’m saying that arguing that giving condoms away doesn’t encourage more people to have sex is like trying to argue that little kids won’t eat cookies that are placed right in front of them. …Which reminds me of a video I saw on YouTube a while back…
Ok so you get the point. These kids were even given a real incentive for not eating the cookie right away…they would get another cookie! And even then some couldn’t do it. Can you blame them? The cookie was right there, and no real consequences threatened them if they decided to eat it.
Obviously we’re talking about something much more meaningful (and much more appealing) than cookies, here. And what is the incentive that the city, who is giving the 11-year-olds condoms, giving them for not using them? “Only use these if you need them”? What does that even mean to an 11-year-old? Giving condoms away doesn’t really solve any real problems. It’s like settling for putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.