Throughout the United States, and in major urban areas around the world, June is “Pride Month,” with parades to celebrate the movement that began with the “gay liberation” protests of 1969. “Pride” is now endorsed by leaders of government at every level as well as major corporations, and promoted by all the mainstream media. But for Christians to support or participate in the events of “Pride Month” is to abandon the teachings of our faith, which “Pride” regards as instances of intolerance, bigotry, and fear.
If you were to ask readers of the New York Times or listeners to National Public Radio what most puzzled them about Catholicism, they might mention the Church’s teachings about sexual morality. Even if they happen to be Catholic, “enlightened” and “progressive” people tend to judge these teachings to be archaic and repressive at worst, or (at best) unrealistic. They might be surprised to learn that even Sigmund Freud thought that any kind of sexual activity that was not potentially procreative was a perversion. (See Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 1905.)
For no doubt different reasons, the father of modern psychology would have had no argument with the Church’s basic principle: that sex is the exclusive privilege of married people provided they do nothing to prevent conception. In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, there is a reason given for this seemingly severe restriction: The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body (1 Corinthians 6:13). This means that our bodies do not belong to us to use as we wish, but to the Lord who created them and promises to raise them up in the end. We who are Christian have been joined to Christ as members of his body; our bodies are dwelling-places of the Holy Spirit. We are not our own.
Such deep thoughts obviously need more than a little space to explain, but at least we can say this much:
First, reason shows that the reproductive organs of our bodies are designed for the continuation of our human family. The use of them of course brings pleasure, and can foster loving union; but to use them exclusively for that in a way that circumvents their natural design, is to misuse them—indeed, to abuse oneself. So, as St. Paul says, the immoral person sins against his own body (I Corinthians 6:18). That is a religious way to make Freud’s point that anti-procreative sex is a perversion.
Second, Christian teaching carries this point further. Our bodies are more than simply part of the created order, subject to the laws of nature. They are the means by which we are united to God, who united himself to us by taking to himself a human body. The body of our Lord was given up for us upon the Cross, and is given to us in the Holy Eucharist. Our bodies are incorporated into his, to die with him so as in the end to be raised up with him. Therefore, we are not our own, but his. We are to use them in the way that he exemplifies, as instruments of love: Through the actions of our bodies, we make the gift of self to one another.
These two principles, one from the order of nature and the other from the light of faith, are what underlie the Christian tradition that sees same-sex attraction (homosexuality) and the desire to change one’s sex (transgenderism) as disorders, to be suffered along with all the many other disorders that affect us in this fallen world, and by the grace of God, with time and patience, to be healed.
Christian sexual morality, strict though it may be, is neither repressive nor unrealistic. It is not repressive, but preventative—for there are many sad consequences in the sexual realm which result from human choices that are purely self-regarding and self-serving. It is not unrealistic, but wise—for there are great rewards in using any of our human faculties according to their natural design, and even more as instruments of love, in union with the Lord who so loves us.