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Immorality of Same-Sex Marriage

Bp Gerald John Mathias Bp Gerald John Mathias
20 Mar 2023

The Supreme Court of India has decided that a batch of petitions demanding legal validation of same sex marriages will be taken up by a Constitution Bench, even as the Union Government has opposed the plea.

The Centre in an affidavit in Supreme Court said that legal validation of same-sex unions could cause “complete havoc” as most religions and Indian society at large recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman, two persons of complementary sexes and not of same sex. Being a delicate issue needing much debate the Centre wants the legislators (Parliament) to handle this issue and said it is “impermissible” for the apex court to decide on a policy that is embedded in religious and social norms and would undermine the stability of the age-old Institutions of marriage and family. The RSS has also endorsed the stand of the Union Government.

In 2018 the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality by scrapping the colonial era law. But the members of LGBTQ community are not content with that but want equal rights like heterosexuals namely that their unions/marriages be legally recognized as valid. 
What the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will decide is crucial and will have wide ranging repercussions on the traditions, practices, personal laws, religious beliefs and moral values of most people. Let us keep our fingers crossed.

Pope Francis has also made some comments on homosexuality, same sex unions and LGBTQ. Some have misunderstood him and have thought that Pope has changed or going to change Church teaching on homosexuality. That is not the case. 

It is true, when a journalist asked him sometime ago in an interview about gay priests, he replied “Who am I to judge?”  On other occasions and in a recent interview with the Associated Press, Pope Francis has condemned criminalization of homosexuality as unjust and wrong. That does not mean that Pope is approving homosexual behaviour or same sex unions. 

Pope Francis is only asking the Church and Society to have a merciful and humane approach to and treatment of the LGBTQ people. They are to be respected like anyone else. All are God’s children with same dignity. They cannot be treated as criminals, or excluded from the Church. He has, however, clarified that Church teaching on homosexuality has not changed. “Homosexuality is not a crime but homosexual acts are sinful,” he said.

There is still much confusion in the minds of many people on this issue. Let me try to clarify and present here the official teaching of the Church on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

A judicious and well considered approach is necessary. Life of human beings is to be ordered not just by legality but also by morality. Human beings are not just a bundle of flesh, but embodied souls. God has endowed us with reason and free will and also the conscience to make right judgments. It goes without saying that in order to make right judgments, conscience has to be rightly formed. Human behaviour cannot be governed by pure instincts and feelings, but by objective judgments of right and wrong. And that is not always easy for individuals, especially in difficult and conflict situations. Hence, we need the help of Sacred Scriptures and religious and moral teachings. 

In order to understand the right and wrong of homosexuality, it is important to make a distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts. This distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts is a very essential distinction to be kept in mind while evaluating the morality of homosexual acts. Homosexuality is not merely a matter of legality but also of morality. Unfortunately, the Delhi High Court while decriminalizing homosexuality by repealing the section 377 of IPC as discriminatory, went beyond its competence to give license to consenting adults to engage in homosexual acts. 

It is true no one can be held culpable for having a homosexual orientation, if it is innate and permanent. They should be treated with respect just as any human being and certainly not as criminals. It has to be borne in mind that all homosexuals who have this tendency are not born homosexuals. While some may be born homosexuals, others acquire this orientation due to external environmental factors, especially in early childhood. 

While homosexuals may not be personally responsible for having a homosexual orientation, they are responsible for the sexual acts which they indulge in. All homosexuals have a moral obligation not to indulge in homosexual acts because these are contrary to the inbuilt meaning of human sexuality and marriage. Remember that all unmarried persons, whatever their sexual orientation, are morally obliged to live a chaste life without engaging in sexual activities.

Right reason and natural law would teach that there is an “inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive (love-giving) meaning and the procreative (life-giving) meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman”. 

Any sexual act in order to be in keeping with the order willed by God, and therefore morally right, must respect at the same time both these inseparable aspects or finalities. Homosexual acts are incapable of achieving the finality of procreation. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is “a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage.” Same sex marriage and homosexual acts, therefore, are contrary to nature as designed by God. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches: “Basing itself on Sacred Scriptures, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (cf. Gen. 19:1-29); Rom 1:24-27; 1Cor. 6:10; 1Tim 1;10), 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” (CCC No. 2357).

The institutions of marriage and family are crucial to the stability and welfare of the society. These must be safeguarded with utmost care. 

The often-cited argument that heterosexuals have sexual outlet therefore homosexuals also should have sexual outlet in homosexual acts, does not hold water. Heterosexuals too cannot arbitrarily engage in sexual activity with any person. Heterosexual acts are morally permitted only among lawfully married partners. Adultery, rape, premarital sex, pornography, bestiality, masturbation, anal sex, etc. are wrong for all, even heterosexuals. The full purpose of human sexuality can be achieved only in heterosexual marriage and family. Same sex marriage is contrary to nature and God’s design for humanity. 

It is also argued that prohibition of same sex marriage or sexual activity among homosexuals is discriminatory and goes against human rights. An impotent person cannot claim the right to marriage because he is incapable of placing the conjugal act. Similarly homosexual acts are incapable of respecting the procreative finality of human sexuality and therefore not morally permissible and cannot be claimed as a right. 

Permitting homosexual activity, even among consenting adults, does have far reaching consequences on the society. It questions the age-old institution of marriage and family and militates against the right order willed by God by creating human beings as male and female (cf.Gen.1:27-28). It creates a whole permissive and promiscuous mentality which is detrimental to the welfare of family, children and the entire society. Let us also not forget that homosexual activity is one of the major causes of spread of HIV/AIDS. 

Many get confused between legality and morality. What is legal is not by that very fact also moral. Abortion and euthanasia, for example, are legal in many countries. That does not mean that they are morally acceptable and permissible. Similarly, even if homosexuality is decriminalized and same sex marriage may even be legalized, yet it does not mean that they are morally right. Anyone entering into same sex union and engaging in homosexual acts will be culpable of serious moral evil. As good human beings we are expected to obey not only the law of the State, but also the law of God or Natural Law. 

(The writer is the Bishop of Lucknow)

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