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“Ask a Priest: Why does God allow same-sex attraction?”
Q: I know my question might have been asked by others many thousand times before, but I fear that I am a homosexual and I am 90% attracted to guys more than to girls. If God wanted people to abstain from sexual immorality or “unnatural desires,” then why did such kind of orientation even exist and allow a number of people to possibly go to hell? Also, why would God allow homosexuality to exist in the animal kingdom as well? Does the Church feel that this kind of deviant sexual orientation is biological or due to personal choice? -K.C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You say that you fear you are “a homosexual.” I would encourage you to remember that first and foremost you are a beloved son of God. You are made in his image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26), and his plan for you is to love him in this world and be with him for eternity in heaven. He calls you to holiness and will give you the grace you need to achieve that goal. In other words, your identity is not something that is based on sexual attractions. Your identity and dignity are linked to your immortal soul and your powers of intellect and will.
True, God wants people to abstain from sexual immorality. But he also wants us to abstain from all kinds of immorality. Your question could be expanded: Why does God allow orientations toward lying, cheating, stealing, laziness, drunkenness, envy? The short answer is: He respects the freedom he gave us. He isn’t happy when we misuse freedom, but he hasn’t taken away that freedom either. He wants us to choose to love him freely.
Now, in the case of homosexuality, or, better stated, same-sex attraction, there are many factors involved. The Catechism offers perspective and guidance on the phenomenon.
As to your question about how the Church sees the roots of same-sex attraction, No. 2357 of the Catechism notes, “Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.” Childhood experiences can play a big part, including one’s relationship with parents.
At a certain point personal choice does become a factor. People can choose to act or not act on impulses and emotions — but this is true of the whole range of human activities.
Your situation is not unique. No. 2358 in the Catechism says, “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.”
No. 2359 adds, “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.”
The above number is one that you want to keep in mind. You are called to a vocation of holiness. It will take work on your part, as it does for all of us. (As for the animal kingdom, that is a different realm. Animals only have instincts. Sexuality is a dimension of persons not beasts.)
It will be helpful to maintain a good prayer life. Stay close to the sacraments, especially confession. Cultivate your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is a great intercessor. Try to get involved in Church projects that will keep you close to a network of good faithful Catholics. Having a community of believers who support us is a great help in the spiritual life.
Try to do some research into the problem of same-sex attraction. Some suggestions are: Fr. John Bartunek’s essay; the Courage website, including its page on Church teaching; and the Catholic Medical Association’s pamphlet “Homosexuality and Hope”. Also helpful might be the book The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-)Therapy for Homosexuality, by Gerard J. M. Van Den Aardweg.
In the meantime rest assured that I will remember you at Mass. God bless you.
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