To accept the orientation and not the sin, Christians must walk a delicate tightrope

By David Morrison

Many people in society, both Christian and non-Christian, seem uncertain and confused about how to respond to the movement for the so-called rights of homosexuals.

As a former advocate of those same rights who is now a chaste Catholic, I am often perplexed at the course of the debate. On the one hand, many well-intentioned people feel embarrassed and even repulsed by inconsiderate zealots who picket funerals of AIDS casualties with signs reading “God Hates Fags.” They don’t agree with the signs, and yet they are loath to do anything that could bring more suffering to folks who, in their opinions, have likely suffered enough. Celebrity same-sex couples appear in the media proclaiming their love and asking the public, in effect, “Why can’t you be happy for us?” The question resonates with mainstream Americans. After all, who wants to seem to deny people living with same-sex attraction something that millions of other Americans enjoy in their lives?

Not like us

On the other hand, many people feel uncomfortable with propaganda that suggests equivalence between heterosexuality and homosexuality— the “see, we’re just like you” approach to the issue. Mainstream Americans don’t hate those who live with a degree of same-sex attraction, but neither do they feel comfortable celebrating same-sex sexuality or endorsing the claims of a movement that places such emphasis on sexual identity or expression. At the heart of this misunderstanding is a deep confusion: Although we might believe we should accept people who may experience some same-sex attraction (or even define themselves by it), we do not want to give any appearance of condoning same-sex activity. Generally, we’re not comfortable with men and women whose primary emotional and sexual desires are for their own sex, but we are willing to make room at the table for them. Among Catholics who are familiar with it, for example, there is widespread support for the distinction made in the Catechism of the Catholic Church between temptation and action. Behavior is where we can and should draw the line in public policy. Americans will not, and should not be expected to, endorse as true something they know to be a lie. On their most basic and raw level, the reasons same-sex expression is not equivalent to heterosexual expression, particularly in marriage, cannot be adequately discussed here. It must suffice to say that married sexual expression, particularly when the couple leaves it open to life, lacks the one-sided, damaging and selfish nature of same-sex acts. It’s true that simple heterosexuality does not render married couples immune to any of these ills or to other sexual sin. But these errors are not part of the very nature of married sexual expression the way they are in homosexual acts. Sexual intercourse should not by its very nature cause physical or emotional damage to its participants. Married sexual expression generally does not do so, while sexual expression between same-sex partners does.

Policy matters

Public policy should reflect the understanding that moral sexual expression exists both to edify a married couple’s love for each other and to provide for possible procreation. Christians, therefore, should oppose social mandates that appear to approve of sexual activity between same- sex partners.
Sexual orientation has no bearing on the matter; actions should make the difference. Acceptance that some people have same-sex temptations must not be allowed to slide into approval of actions that mainstream Americans of all religious persuasions know to be wrong.

David Morrison is the author of ‘Beyond Gay’.
Copyright Our Sunday Visitor, Feb. 5, 2006