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“Ask a Priest: Is There Free Will? And How Can Homosexuality Be a Sin?”
Q: I suppose this question can’t really be answered. God has made humans, but to what end? He foresaw the actions of Adam and Eve and the human race, but still he created us. He knows who will end up in heaven and who will not. So what’s the point of it all? And do we really have free will if God knows everything we are going to do? Even if we were to ponder on a decision, God knows the choice we will eventually make. I am heterosexual; I personally feel that there is nothing wrong with loving someone of the same sex. God teaches us to love unconditionally, and I believe that’s why we were placed on this earth: to love one another. I understand how lying, stealing, murder, etc. are immoral acts and are considered sins, but that’s because there are consequences with these acts and they always involve in hurting an individual, emotionally or physically. But how can homosexuality be a sin when all homosexual couples evoke love for another person, doing exactly what God teaches us to do and hurting no one in the process, unlike the other sins? -L.L.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Thanks for your questions. Let me attempt a few brief replies.
God made us to know him, love him, serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next for eternity. We don’t add to God’s greatness. Rather, he wanted to share his greatness with us. In that sense, God made man for man’s own sake (or end).
Now, let’s assume that God knows who will and who won’t make it to heaven. His foreknowledge is not the cause of someone failing to get to heaven. Here, an analogy might help. Let’s say you see your neighbor throw a glass vase from a third-story window of her house. As you see the vase falling, you know that it will shatter when it hits the sidewalk. Does that mean you will be the cause of the vase shattering? Of course not.
But back to your question: If only some get to heaven and others don’t, what is the point of it all? Well, God desires our love, and if some people don’t want to give it to him, that is their problem. God seemed content with knowing that at least some creatures would respond to his love.
Again, an analogy might help. Let’s say a young woman would like to get married and have a family. One way she prepares for this is by being kind and charitable to the young men she meets. Would we say that she is wasting her time if the first 99 young men she meets ignore her? Maybe that’s their problem — maybe they don’t appreciate a good woman when they meet one. The young woman herself is not to blame. And who knows, maybe the 100th young man will appreciate her goodness and inner beauty. Would we wonder what the point of her efforts were, if she ended up happily married someday, after having been rejected by the other 99 young men?
You are right about being called to love unconditionally. I couldn’t agree with you more. True love, however, implies wanting the best for other people. And the best is that they do God’s will and give glory to him, including through the proper use of their bodies.
This is where marriage between a man and a woman can be a beautiful thing. This is where God’s gift of sexuality is used as he intended. He made man and woman to complement each other. His first command to them is, “Be fertile and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). That implies that man and woman are designed for the potential of bringing new life into the world. That potential for procreation reflects their complementarity and the fruitfulness of their love.
People of the same sex are not capable of this kind of complementarity or fruitfulness. Just about every culture in every age (except ours) has understood this. It used to be common sense that marriage was between a man and woman.
This is not to rule out true love between members of the same sex. We see it all the time, between siblings and friends. But that love does not include sexual intimacy; it is a different type of love. Sexual intimacy has a purpose and a God-given beauty. When we live our sexuality outside of that purpose, it does not lead us toward happiness — on the contrary. The Church would not be sincerely caring for people by pretending that happiness can be found outside of the truth of who we are as human beings created in God’s image.
I would beg to differ that all homosexual couples evoke love for another person and that they are doing exactly what God wants. In fact, their actions are not pleasing to Our Lord. St. Paul wrote of this: “Males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity” (Romans 1:27). The rise of AIDS in the past 30 years is a reminder that nature, too, rebels against certain kinds of behavior.
The Church teaches that homosexuality is both a disorder and a cross for those who suffer from it. Three numbers from the Catechism are worth quoting here:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 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. [end quoted material]
Note that last phrase: It means the Church believes homosexuals are called to holiness and can reach it, with God’s help. That is why the Church is here to assist people with same-sex attractions. But it helps them in the deepest sense, by helping them get to heaven. (For more information on the meaning of sexuality, you might check out the Chastity Project.)
I hope some of this helps. God bless.
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