The battle for the sanctity of human life today is not really about the peripheral issues surrounding it. Issues like homosexuality, abortion, and genetic manipulations are only the logical outcomes of the worldview espoused by competing forces. The Christian world view does not see the dignity of the human person in terms of utility or action. Rather, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “the dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God” (CCC, 1700). From this simple distinction, it is not difficult to understand that those holding a purely materialistic and worldly view of man will confront and oppose the Church and her teaching. The secular world view sees man as a means to an end. The end, of course, is self-gratification, whether expressed sexually or otherwise. The secular view is necessarily selfish. It does not seek the good of the other, but demands the natural right to gratify itself at the expense of others and human dignity itself. In order to establish this concocted right, the secular order seeks to sustain its propositions of license under the guise of “liberty”. But authentic liberty can never be sustained without appeal to an objective truth. Without such an appeal, the liberty of one group becomes the tyranny perpetrated against another.
In seeking to defend the traditional Christian teaching on morality, our opponents are not interested in being challenged on this issue. They are not interested in reconsidering their defunct and atheistic world view. They are not interested in the arguments against their position from history, anthropology, physiology, psychology, biology, natural law, moral law, or religion. What they are interested in is maliciously painting everyone who disagrees with their encroachments on common sense as individuals who “hate” them. Consider, for instance, the recent outrageous threats of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties against the Vatican’s rather firm yet balanced approach to the question of homosexual ‘marriage’. If the Vatican can be accused of “hate”, then there is really little hope for the rest of us in engaging our opponents.
This charge “hatred” stems from a distorted view of human dignity. Human dignity is not determined by the sexual act or any act, for that matter. Nor is human dignity predicated on utilitarianism. Hence, any Church criticism of any act cannot be considered as an attack on a person’s dignity. The Church believes that man’s dignity is founded in God:
“The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit…” (CCC,364)
As such, man’s intrinsic dignity is irrevocable regardless of the sin man engages in – sexual or otherwise. This means that the homosexual person has an intrinsic dignity which no one can take away precisely because he is created in the image of God. This is something that everyone engaged in this debate needs to understand so that misconceptions can be allayed. The homosexual must understand that when the Church condemns his sexual acts, She is not revoking or undermining his human dignity. Human dignity is not determined by the sexual acts performed. This is why, whether he is celibate, heterosexually active, or homosexually active, man retains his dignity in the face of the abuse of his sexuality. His dignity remains because he remains created in the image of God. Indeed, it is precisely in the abuse of the sexual act that homosexual acts undermine human dignity, although not removing it completely. In today’s culture, however, since there is no conception or possibility of abuse in the sexual arena – as long as it is consensual – any attack on its abuse is falsely understood as an attack on the person.
This is why the Church focuses the attention on the act and not the person or his dignity:
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.” (CCC,2357)
Although not the basis of his dignity, the sexual act is an expression of how man understands his dignity. When that expression is disordered and against the natural law; when it is against its physiological procreative purpose; and when it is against its moral purpose in affirming the unitive attributes of its essence, then those sexual acts must be rejected and condemned as a grave depravity. Homosexual acts are not life affirming. Neither are they procreative nor unitive. Yet, God is a God of creation and unity. And He has made man in His own image and given him an indispensable part in this noble act of creation.
Physiologically, a penis and a vagina complement one another for the purpose of uniting a husband and wife. They are not merely random biological parts of the body with no substantive purpose. Yet, homosexualism insists that their primary purpose is for sexual self-gratification without recognizing the reality of the procreative element to sex. Our physiology as men and women show us that we are incomplete as a sex without the other. The natural law proves that, in the natural course of human relations, our species cannot survive without conceding our gender limitations. When a man unites himself with a woman, he is implicitly admitting that he is incomplete without her. His completion can only be realized through her affirmation of their union. This affirmation of the heterosexual act is realized through the birth of a child, being the fruit of the union between both persons. It is nature’s way of affirming the inherent goodness of their act. This affirmation is not merely incidental to their union, but in the most profound literal way, a personal realization of that union.
The human person, therefore, cannot divorce the cause of his existence from the sexual act itself. His very existence, his conception is defined by the sexual act of a heterosexual couple. In the natural course of human relationships, no homosexual can define himself other than by the heterosexual act of his parents. He was not, nor could he ever be, called into existence by a homosexual act. Hence, he could never point to the past to justify his act because the act itself denies his very existence, and therefore attacks the dignity of his person in the most grievous way possible. A heterosexual act, on the other hand, can point to the past and to the future and claim its rightful place in human lineage by the natural act of propagation. But the homosexual act cannot point to itself as the basis for the existence of future homosexual persons. In fact, homosexual acts are always dependent on a heterosexual act of creation to sustain their very existence.
Each sexual act is meant to be an affirmation of human existence. Each act affirms the feminine and masculine physical image. Each act is an affirmation of the creation of our first parent and the creation of our last. Each act joins us to history and to all of creation. Homosexual acts are none of these, of course. They do not seek to unite generations. At best, they seek a human unity which cannot survive in the natural order. This is why engaging in contraceptive sex, of which homosexuality is merely a logical corollary, is a contradiction. It is a lie and a self-deception. Intercourse is meant to be an act of total abandonment to the other person. It is meant to be a full and complete sacrifice of self. Yet the object of this complete abandonment and self sacrifice must be capable of receiving the gift of self. Since the human body’s physiology is not merely tangential or incidental to a person or his dignity, man must respect his physical image and the purpose of this physical image in this abandonment.
With this understanding, a man’s total self-abandonment to his wife is correctly ordered since their respective bodies are designed for this self abandonment, and therefore yield the procreative fruit of their mutual self-sacrifice. Homosexual sex, however, is not capable of a complete abandonment because while the emotional and psychological attachment may be perceived to be present, the physical reality points in the opposite direction. The homosexual apologist chooses to dismiss this fact, but in so doing, he only attacks his own person by rejecting his own physiological image and the dignity that such a divine image demands.
Man’s dignity, therefore, has already been established by God. Its foundation rests on man being created in the image of God. This image is reflected in, and expressed by, the complementarity of the sexual act. As such, any proposition which seeks to redefine this truth is an affront to all persons and an attack on the dignity of the human person. By opposing the homosexual act, the Church is affirming its belief in the dignity of all men as created in the image of God. This is the reason the Church can love the homosexual person but hate the sinful act which he engages in. Our intrinsic dignity is not determined by our acts – however good or sinful. It is predicated on man’s immortality as a child of God. Being so ordered, any sinful acts which seek to undermine or negate this relationship can and must be condemned. If any of her children were to abdicate their responsibility to teach this truth, the Church would consider such treason as an affront to the homosexual person who retains their inherent dignity before society and God.