Many people are embarrassed to talk about sexuality, yet our culture surrounds us with references, jokes and outright displays of sexual behavior. The media portrays sex as recreational and impersonal, and homosexuality as “not that there’s anything wrong with it.”Sexuality will be debated in Harrisburg this fall. One legislative proposal adds “sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited categories of discrimination in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). The other is a constitutional amendment to prevent courts from redefining marriage.
These proposals leave us no choice but to talk about sexuality.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) opposes the PHRA change. It could affect the Church’s employment practices, foster care, adoption or other Church operated ministries. The proposal would expose the Church to litigation for acting in a manner consistent with Church teachings. The bill could also expose public school children to mandated instruction about homosexuality, bisexuality and gender identity or expression that may run contrary to the beliefs and values of their parents.
The PCC supports the Pennsylvania Marriage Protection Amendment. Same sex marriage is a judicially forced reality in Massachusetts and civil unions and other same sex partnerships are legal in a number of states. Amending Pennsylvania’s Constitution will preserve the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman and prevent recognition of relationships which mimic marriage.
PCC’s position to support the Marriage Protection Amendment is based on Church teaching which presents a more dignified view of sexuality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) explains that sexuality is to be expressed within the “matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, that is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (CCC 1601). The Church sees sex as much more than an impersonal, recreational act of carnal pleasure.
Homosexual acts, by nature, are outside the matrimonial covenant. “They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complimentarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC 2357)
The Church teaches, “(Persons with homosexual inclination) must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” (CCC 2358). We must remember having homosexual inclinations is not immoral; homosexual acts are immoral.
Proposed changes to the PHRA and judicial threats to redefine marriage do not distinguish between the homosexual person and the sexual acts he or she commits. Many believe a person who has homosexual inclination also has the right to fulfill those desires and no one has the right to tell them they are wrong. In the face of these challenging opinions, the Catholic Church cannot abandon its principle of “loving the sinner, not the sins.”
These issues are difficult to consider and sometimes embarrassing to discuss, but we must speak the truth. The Church must support laws that promote family and public morality, and oppose those that do not.
PCC Column September 2007 by Amy Beisel, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.