Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Questions from Credo ... What's the difference between an attraction and an action?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. So, it's okay for a person with homosexual tendencies to like people of the same sex, but not for them to act on it?

A. This is a great question that involves making some important distinctions.  We talked on Saturday about the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says that homosexual actions are "intrinsically disordered."  In discussing that paragraph of the Catechism (2357), we defined disordered.  According to dictionary.com, it means, "lack of order or regular arrangement; confusion."

Let's just review what we said about this on Saturday: Our sexual difference is about our "otherness" which allows us to see the fruitfulness of unity and difference.  Our sexuality is a reminder of our call to give of ourselves to one who is different than us, and yet shares the same gift of humanity, and to receive them.  It points to our call to be united with God, who created us in His image and likeness and yet is vastly different and "other" than us."  So, same-sex actions lack this order or purpose.  They confuse the sexual act, which is meant to be a uniting of two who have unity and difference, loving each other by willing what is good for the other, and which includes the goodness of becoming a mother or a father.  

But what about an attraction to someone of the same-sex?  Because of all that we have said about the nature of sexuality and the purpose of our masculinity and femininity, the Church says that a same-sex inclination or attraction is also "objectively disordered."  

What does that mean?  For one thing, it's very important to note that the Church is not saying that a same-sex attraction is a sin.  A same-sex action is a sin, but the attraction is not.  However, the attraction is still considered disordered because it confuses the authentic meaning of sexual attraction (as summarized above). 

Bl. John Paul II once wrote that we are not responsible for what happens to us in the realm of sexuality (having a particular desire, for example), but we are responsible for what we do in the realm of sexuality.  

A lot of your question depends on what you mean by "like" and what you mean by "okay."  There is a difference between experiencing an attraction to someone and "feeding a crush" or actively engaging in an attraction to someone.  Since same-sex attractions do not affirm the fullness of the meaning of our sexuality, it's best to strive for keeping the "liking" on the level of something that happens to me, rather than something I choose to engage, pursue or seek.

Once again, though, it's important to recognize that the Church affirms the dignity of all human persons, regardless of their sexual attraction.  Experiencing an attraction that is disordered does not demean the dignity of the person. 

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