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Catholic teaching on sexuality asks the same of everyone

    The 'Prince's' recent flood of opinions on human sexuality echoes a growing national interest. The Vice-President of the Pride Alliance argued that homosexual acts are natural, since they occur in animals, while Nicholas Kristoff of The N.Y. Times reported that a new study may have discovered a gay gene, suggesting that sexuality is as genetically determined as eye color. From the premise that homosexual characteristics are "determined," many make the unwarranted leap of asserting the moral legitimacy of homosexual acts. Alcoholism, for example, is often claimed to be genetic, yet its being genetic does not mean it is good. Certainly we know people who are "by nature" gentle or violent, honest or dishonest, prudish or licentious. But we don't assume every action is determined by one's genetic composition. We neither excuse the crimes of a pedophiliac priest for genes that attracted him to children, nor do we dismiss the generosity of someone like Mother Teresa as the consequence of her biological makeup. We have good and bad desires, and likewise we have orientations that may incline us toward good or bad. These desires and orientations, however, are not morally important; only our actions and intentions are. Regardless of our "natural" yearnings, we are called to the good.

    As the Catholic Church is often seen to be the most vocal opponent of same-sex unions, I'd like to clarify the Church's position. While this limited space doesn't allow me to explain fully the Church's philosophy, I can state parts of its teaching. Human sex can be a fully unitive, self-giving, reciprocal act of love — biologically, emotionally, and psychologically. This only occurs, however, through penile-vaginal acts within the permanent, stable, monogamous relationship of marriage. The primary purpose of marriage and sex is both procreation and unity, which are necessarily intertwined. The Church even says that sex within marriage can be intrinsically worthwhile. The interpersonal unity experienced in marriage, however, can only be physically realized in heterosexual, genital acts — a two-in-one-flesh union, necessarily open to life. In response to dissent, the Church has steadily reasserted the true potential for human sexuality, rejecting non-unitive sexual acts, whether homosexual or heterosexual. Thus regardless of context, anal sex, oral sex, premarital and extramarital sex, contracepted sex, and masturbation are objectively immoral. Human beings are dynamic unions of body and soul, so even acts motivated by self-giving love must have the right biological framework to truly unite the persons.

    Catholicism does not deny holiness or God's kingdom to anyone. Heterosexuals and homosexuals are the same in the eyes of God. All people, regardless of their genetic makeup, orientation, or "natural" urges, are called to be saints. No one is excused from living out his or her calling in the realm of sexuality — not the womanizer, the "easy" girl, the engaged couple that just can't wait, the porn enthusiast or the sexually active gay couple. All are called to sexual purity, and with Christ's help, all can live it. Christ did not condemn the prostitute at the well, but He did tell her to "go and sin no more."

    Being homosexual is not a sin, and hopefully the above list shows that homosexually active people do not constitute any special category of "sinners". It is unacceptable for anyone, especially Christians, to so treat them. All humans, regardless of race, gender, orientation, or creed, are created in God's image and likeness, and deserve the utmost dignity and respect. Those who are morally opposed to random hookups, premarital sex, and divorce don't mistreat their friends who go out Thursday night looking to score, professors who are divorced, or roommates who routinely spend the night at their girlfriend's place (though they may express dissatisfaction with their friends', professors' or roommates' actions). For those morally opposed to homosexual acts, why treat homosexually active friends, professors, or roommates any differently?

    The Catholic understanding of human nature, free will, sin, and sexuality is often misrepresented and misunderstood. The Church teaches that no one is excluded from God's grace, love, and forgiveness, or is born into a situation destined for sin or damnation. While some argue that all homosexuals are bound for hell and others claim that those with a particular gene must act upon their urges, the Catholic Church has constantly taught that every individual can freely respond to God's call to holiness. I would hope that LGBT student services helps students wishing to live out this understanding of sexuality. All humans, heterosexual or homosexual, struggle with sexual purity and with loving those that they deem to be "sinners." But if no one is excluded from God's love, no one should be excluded from ours either. Even in these struggles, with God all things are possible.

    Ryan Anderson is a senior music major from Baltimore, Md. He serves as a Ministry Assistant with the Aquinas Institute.

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