Homosexual “Love” a Gift?

Eduardo J. Echeverria


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6 min

In his recent book, LIFE: My Story Through History, Pope Francis advocates for legal support of same-sex civil unions of “[homosexuals] who experience the gift of love.” In what sense, if any, is homosexual love a gift?
The mind of the Church is that it certainly cannot be a gift of God, neither natural (creational) nor supernatural (sacramental). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the ultimate source of love is God himself. Quoting John Paul II’s 1981 Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, the Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts:

God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion [eternally united in being, relationship, and love]. Creating the human race in his own image . . . , God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman [Genesis 1:27] the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.
Francis’ remark, on its face, does not seem to regard homosexual “love” as an inherently disordered form of love. Does he think that the homosexual is able to live the vocation to chastity, and hence, of love in a same-sex relationship? How could the homosexual do so? The vocation of chastity involves sexual differentiation between a man and a woman, which according to Christian anthropology, means “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.”
The Catechism explains, “Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.”
Chastity, therefore, presupposes the sexual differentiation of male and female, such that only a sexual union of male and female persons makes bodies in any real sense “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), with the latter organic bodily union being a necessary condition for the existence of authentic conjugal love.
Homosexual love is not a gift, indeed, it is a false love, because it is incapable of fulfilling the vocation to chastity, of perfecting the being of the person and developing his existence; and hence of being ordered to the natural law, the order of Creation, and hence to God. As a disordered form of love, it not only lacks integration but is a counter-integration by virtue of being an offense against the vocation to chastity, making it unable to realize the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift of self.
Christian anthropology must consider the reality of the human person, of man and woman, in the order of love. Why? Because, as Karol Wojtyla rightly states in his philosophical magnum opus, Love and Responsibility, the “person finds in love the greatest fullness of his being, of his objective existence. Love is such action, such an act, which most fully develops the existence of the person. Of course, this has to be true love. What does true love mean?”

The two angels visiting Lot’s house in Sodom strike blind the rapacious mob outside, engraving by P. Galle after Anthonie Blocklandt van Montfoort, c. 1580 [Wellcome Collection, London]
Love is an analogical concept, meaning thereby that there are different kinds of love: paternal love, the love of brothers and sisters, friendship, and, last but not least, the love between a man and a woman. (“The love of a man and a woman is a reciprocal relation of persons and possesses a personal character.”)
Briefly, love involves attraction to the sensory-sexual values, and spiritual or moral values, of the other person, for example, says Wojtyla, “to her intelligence or virtues of character.” There is also “need love,” or love as desire, and “benevolence.” “Need love” desires “the person as a good for oneself.” Love as benevolence is about desiring the other person’s good. “Benevolence is simply disinterestedness in love: ‘I do not long for you as a good’, but ‘I long for your good’, ‘I long for what is good for you’.”
Wojtyla then turns to the problem of reciprocity, which brings about a synthesis “of love of desire and of benevolent love.” Reciprocity involves the relation of “I” and “we.” And hence where an interpersonal community is formed:

Love finds its full being not merely in an individual subject only but in an inter-subjective, inter-personal relation. . . .The transition from “I” to “we” is for love no less essential than transcending one’s “I” as expressed through [attraction], love of desire, and love of benevolence.
Being inherently disordered, homosexual love is unable to form an inter-personal community where unity is manifested in the mature “we.” Finally, Wojtyla sees the fullness of love as gift love, or what he calls spousal love, which is giving oneself to the other person, entailing the reciprocal self-giving of persons. He adds, “The concept of spousal [gift] love possesses a key meaning for establishing the norm for all sexual morality.”
Since man – male and female – is created in and for love, accordingly, sexual ethics is unintelligible without love. This crucial point about finding in love the greatest fullness of his being must be applied to love between a man and a woman.
“Love is a union of persons,” says Wojtyla, an objective union in which a man and a woman constitute “one subject of action,” in a sense “one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) This union may not be detached from its biological foundation in the organic differences between the sexes. This objective union is born of “a common good,” an “objective good,” that is, the good of the human persons, and a common end,” which binds [them].”

This end is procreation, progeny, the family, and at the same time the whole constantly growing maturity of the relationship between both persons in all the spheres brought by the spousal relationship itself.
Consequently, when the Catechism asserts that homosexual sexual acts are closed to the gift of life, it is because such acts do not have an objective union in the sexual differentiation of a man and a woman. “Under no circumstances can they be approved.” Such acts are “sin gravely contrary to chastity.” Hence, homosexual love is not a gift.

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Eduardo J. Echeverria

Eduardo J. Echeverria is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. His publications include Pope Francis: The Legacy of Vatican II Revised and Expanded Second Edition (Lectio Publishing, Hobe Sound, FL, 2019) and Revelation, History, and Truth: A Hermeneutics of Dogma. (2018). His new book is Are We Together? A Roman Catholic Analyzes Evangelical Protestants.
Homosexual “Love” a Gift? - The Catholic Thing