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St. Paul, Ephesians 5 and Same-Sex Marriage

by Dr. Mary Healy

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  • Description:
    Dr. Mary Healy provides a good exegesis of Ephesians 5 with respect to heterosexuality, homosexuality and same-sex marriage in this article from Homiletic & Pastoral Review.
  • Larger Work:
    Homiletic & Pastoral Review
  • Publisher & Date:
    Ignatius Press, May 2011

Throughout the western world today we are faced with the increasingly aggressive demand that same-sex relationships be granted the legal status of marriage. Advocates of same-sex marriage typically appeal to principles of equality and inclusivity, arguing that it is unjust to deny the social, financial and legal benefits of marriage to some couples based merely on sexual orientation. Such proponents maintain that marriage is a fluid social construct that has exhibited a wide diversity of forms among different cultures and time periods; marriage, therefore, can and should be re-envisioned in contemporary society to accommodate people of diverse sexual orientations. Such arguments are steadily gaining ground in the courts, in legislatures, in the educational system, and in popular culture. This situation presents defenders of the traditional understanding of marriage with a new and unprecedented challenge. Although forms of homosexual practice have existed in nearly all societies known to history, never before have homosexual relationships been viewed as equal to or even analogous to marriage. Thus our present situation forces us to formulate reasons for something that has always been taken for granted, and to do so in a way that will gain a hearing in the contemporary post-modern generation. Since we are truly treading on new ground, let us return to sacred Scripture, and St. Paul in particular, in order to shed light on this contemporary discussion of same-sex marriage.

Since Scripture is a document of faith whose authority is not accepted by all parties, obviously we cannot derive formal legal arguments from it. However, this is not the only role that Scripture can play in reasoning in the public square. Indeed, a recent Newsweek cover story on same-sex marriage,1 which went to great lengths to demonstrate biblical support for gay marriage despite the author's evident disdain for the Bible, illustrates the continuing importance of Scripture in the contemporary marriage debate. I would like to show how Scripture can clarify, deepen and enrich our public defense of marriage by examining St. Paul's exhortation to husbands and wives in Eph 5:21-33. In this richly theological passage, Paul refers specifically to Christian marriage as an image of the union of Christ and the Church. Nevertheless, there are principles that can be gleaned from Ephesians 5 to shed light on the natural law and on all of society's responsibility to protect the nature of marriage. I will first present a brief exegesis of the passage, and will then show how this text, supplemented by other Pauline texts, can help ground a natural law defense of marriage (note: a literal translation of Eph 5:21-33 is provided at the end of this article).

Exegesis of Ephesians 5:21-33

The first thing to note about Eph 5:21-33, an exhortation to husbands and wives, is that, grammatically, its first part continues a single long sentence that actually begins in 5:18.2 The sentence consists of a series of subordinate clauses governed by the main clause, "Do not get drunk with wine...but be filled with the Spirit." Everything Paul says about proper relationships in the family is thus within the context of life in the Spirit–the wholly new way of life made possible by baptism into Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He is speaking of Christian marriage and family life. To abstract what he says about marriage from this context would only result in distortion.

The passage is also closely connected with the two subsequent passages, in which Paul addresses relationships between parents and children (6:1-4) and between masters and slaves (6:5-9). The three units form a whole that belongs to a genre of New Testament passages known as household codes (cf. Col 3:18-4:1; Ti 2:1-10; and 1 Pt 2:18-3:7).

While these texts have certain features in common with ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish household codes, some significant differences arise as well. Most non-Christian household codes took for granted that the paterfamilias (father of the family) had absolute authority over the members of the household. They described how wives, children and slaves should behave toward him, but not how he should treat them. The New Testament texts, in contrast, do not give unlimited power to men, but instead call for a high degree of responsibility and mutual respect among all members of the family. Moreover, they make no mention of an obligation for wives to obey their husbands, nor of a man's natural superiority and greater capacity to make decisions–features that were ubiquitous in pagan household codes.3 It is crucial not to misread Paul's teaching as merely a baptized version of ancient domestic codes sanctioning patriarchal and oppressive family structures.

Ephesians 5:21 begins, significantly, with an injunction to mutual subordination within the Christian community: "subordinating yourselves to one another in reverence for Christ." The Greek term for "subordinate," hypotasso, means literally to "place under." Here it is in the middle (reflexive) voice, with the meaning "subordinate oneself" or "defer to" another. This is significant, because it indicates that Paul is referring to a voluntary self-subordination, not something imposed from without. The governing principle that must shape all relationships within the household is an attitude of humility and deference toward one another, motivated by reverence for Christ.4 Thus the subsequent injunction to wives to subordinate themselves to their husbands5 has to be understood within the context of the mutual subordination of husband and wife.6

Paul then begins to draw an analogy between the wife's relation to her husband and the Church's relationship to Christ: "for a husband is head of his wife as Christ is head of the church" (5:23). In using the metaphor of head and body, Paul is not accenting the notion of authority but rather of profound union and mutual belonging. As Pope John Paul II noted, the precedence suggested by "head" is an order of precedence in the giving and receiving of love: the "husband is above all the one who loves and the wife, by contrast, is the one who is loved. One might even venture the idea that the wife's 'submission' to the husband, understood in the context of the whole of Eph 5:22-23, means above all `the experiencing of love.'"7 The husband takes the initiative in self-donation, the wife receives and responds to his gift. Thus the spousal relation Paul describes "is not command/obedience but generosity/receptivity."8 Paul concludes the part of his exhortation addressed to wives by reiterating the call to defer "in everything," which is not meant to express an exceptionless norm (cf. 1 Cor 7:4), but rather a general principle motivated by the generosity of the husband's self-gift.

The part of Paul's instruction addressed to husbands (5:25-30) is far more extensive, and perhaps more challenging, than that addressed to wives, as it has absolutely no precedent in Greco-Roman or rabbinic literature.9 Here the verb that governs the conduct of husbands is "love" (agapao), which signifies not romantic passion (eros) but a free decision of the will, a selfless desire for the good of the other.10 It is the love so eloquently eulogized in the hymn of 1 Corinthians 13, and its primary exemplar is God himself, who "loved us" (agapaO) with "great love" (agape) by giving up his Son for us even when we were dead in our sins (Eph 2:4; cf. 5:1-2). The paschal mystery is, in fact, the model Paul holds up for the conduct of husbands: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her." As Christ demonstrated his limitless, unconditional love by dying for us on the cross, so husbands are to lay down their lives for their wives by seeking their good, regardless of the cost to themselves (cf. 1 Cor 10:24; 13:5; Phil 2:4). Paul could not have set a more demanding standard. Indeed, as his writings elsewhere (Eph 5:2; Rom 8:3-4; 2 Cor 5:14-15) make clear, it is a standard impossible to meet except by experiencing Christ's paschal mystery as a power at work in one's own life. A person is able to imitate Christ only by participating through grace in the act of love in which he died for us.

Paul continues the spousal imagery as he elaborates on the purpose of Christ's self-gift for the Church (5:26-27). The goal, mentioned twice, is that the Church be "holy," that is, set apart from what is profane, and presented to Christ as a resplendent bride. With the "washing of water" Paul alludes to the sacrament of baptism, envisioning it as a prenuptial bath–only in this case the Bridegroom shows his humility by himself bathing the bride, rather than female servants or family members as was customary. Paul may also be alluding to Jesus' act of humility in washing his disciples' feet before his passion (Jn 13:1-17). This image serves to further illustrate the quality of Christ's love as the model for husbands.

A different but related analogy is presented in 5:27-28, where Paul compares a husband's love for his wife to a person's care for his own body: "for no one ever hates his own flesh but nourishes it and cares for it." The Hebrew notion of "flesh" signifies not merely the physical body but the bond of kinship, which extends to the members of one's family (Gn 29:14; Is 58:7) or tribe (2 Sm 5:1), and ultimately to all humanity (Gn 6:12; Lk 3:6). A husband is to seek his wife's well-being as much as his own because of the intimacy of their kinship bond. It is a specific application of the second great commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lv 19:18; Mt 19:19). Again, the body analogy is conditioned by the Christ/Church analogy: a husband is to do good to his wife not merely out of pragmatic self-interest, but as Christ cares for his body the Church, his physical presence in the world.11 With the word "nourishes," Paul alludes to the Eucharist, by which Christ nourishes the Church with his own flesh (Jn 6:51-58). By this point it becomes evident to what degree Paul is defying rather than accommodating ancient social conventions. His whole exhortation is premised on the fact that the Gospel has power to radically transform the dynamics of family relationships and the social structures marred by sin.

At the climax of his exposition Paul cites Gn 2:24: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh," quickly adding: "This is a great mystery, for I am speaking of Christ and the Church." Paul thus brings the institution of marriage to a completely new level of significance. Marriage is not only part of God's original design for humanity, it is a mystery, a sacramentum in Latin, that from the beginning of time pointed in a veiled way to the fullness of God's plan of salvation. The prophets of Israel had described God's love for his people as that of a bridegroom,12 but Paul invests the nuptial imagery with a deeper import. "Creation itself is a prophecy of redemption. This means that in the corporate reality of man and woman, as Genesis describes it, is already present in a proleptic symbol the unity of Christ and the Church."13 All marriages, whether between Christians or not, are an earthly image of, and in some way participate in, the ineffable mystery of Christ's love for his people.

Genesis 2 and the "spousal attribute" of the body

The quotation from Gn 2:24 plays a crucial role in Paul's exposition, rooting the "great mystery" of which he speaks in the human reality of marriage as part of the natural order. It is worth briefly examining this text in its original context. The quotation is from the end of the second creation account (Genesis 2), which presents in narrative form a concise but profound reflection on humanity created by God, male and female. Whereas the first creation account (Genesis 1) offers a sweeping vision of the creation of the whole cosmos in order of increasing complexity, the second creation account "zooms in," so to speak, to describe from a more concrete and existential perspective the origin of humanity, the crown of God's works. Here God first creates the male alone, and breathes into him the breath of life (cf. Gn 2:7). The divine remark, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gn 2:18) is in striking contrast to the repeated refrain affirming the goodness of creation in chapter 1: "God saw that it was good." It is an emphatic assertion that human beings are not made for solitude; essential to human nature is interpersonal communion. Following this comment, a mini-drama ensues, in which God presents the animals to Adam one by one. Narrative suspense is created, as none of the animals is found capable of the communion for which the man longs. Through this process Adam learns how unique he is among animate beings.

At the culmination of the narrative, God finally acts to resolve the crisis by putting Adam into a deep sleep, taking flesh from his rib and fashioning it into a woman. In a scene with strong nuptial overtones, God presents her to him like the father of the bride, and

Adam responds with an expression of unrestrained joy: "This at last is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh!" (Gn 2:23). As John Paul II taught, this portrays a moment of existential self-discovery: the man recognizes that the woman–unlike the animals–is his equal, a person like himself, to whom he can give himself in love and who can freely receive and reciprocate this gift. He suddenly has a new understanding of the meaning of his existence: he is made for communion, an exchange of love in which the gift of self is freely given and received. In this perspective the meaning of the title used to describe Eve, "helper," becomes clear. Unfortunately, commentators throughout the centuries have at times mangled the meaning of "helper" by reading it as evidence for the wife's role as servant or maid to her husband. But in the Old Testament the term "helper" ('ezer) is most often applied to God himself.14 The woman is man's helper in that she helps the man recognize and fulfill the deepest purpose of his life–namely, to love. The sacred author is affirming that man needs woman in order to discover the full meaning of his existence; likewise, she needs him. They help one another realize and fulfill their call to communion through a reciprocal gift of self.

At this point a question may arise: But what significance is there to the fact that it is a woman and not another man who is presented to Adam? It is often claimed today that the male/female distinction is "a purely contingent fact about human beings, a mechanism devised by nature for propagating the species,"15 ranking in significance with racial distinctions or differences of physique or talent. Would it not have equally served the purpose to depict the second human being as a male, with whom Adam could have enjoyed deep friendship, or even sexual intimacy, and thus experienced the primary meaning of communio even as it exists within marriage, which is love?

But close attention to the Genesis narrative shows that, by accenting the male/female distinction (1:27; 2:22-24), the text conveys that it is precisely through the complementarily of their bodies–their sexual differences that render union possible–that Adam and Eve intuit their vocation to become a communion of persons. The male and female bodies are designed to be perfectly complementary–to come together in a union so potent that it becomes the means by which new human life enters the world. "The helper is someone who matches 'Warn but is not a replica.... Communion is between likes who are yet unlike."16 The gendered body, in its masculinity or femininity, has an intrinsically "nuptial" quality, possessing a unity-in-difference that renders it capable of becoming the vehicle and expression of a total and mutual gift of self. John Paul II calls this aptness the "spousal attribute" of the body: "The human body, with its sex–its masculinity and femininity...contains, 'from the beginning,' the 'spousal' attribute, that is, the power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and–through this gift–fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence."17 Through their bodies, a man and woman each recognize the other as equal and yet irreducibly other. There is an "asymmetrical reciprocity" to their self-giving through the body, in which the gift is given and received differently in accord with their sexual differences.18 It is precisely this reciprocity that Paul later invests with a profound theological significance, as the earthly image of the spousal love between God and his people.

Thus, Paul depicts marriage in covenantal terms–that is, in terms of a kinship bond created by solemn commitment.19 Marriage, the covenant by which a man and a woman commit themselves to one another wholly and irrevocably as a mutual gift of self, is enacted in their sexual union. That which is interior and personal–a communion of persons–becomes outwardly expressed, or enfleshed, in the body. The crucial point to note for our purposes is how Scripture is giving symbolic expression to the truth that is inscribed in our bodies and is therefore in principle accessible to every human being, at least on a basic level: that the intrinsic meaning of sexual union is to embody a spousal covenant, and that therefore marriage is the uniquely appropriate context for sexual expression. Or, to put it another way, sexual union is in its essence not a meaningless bodily activity, on the level of eating or sleeping–a view that Paul refutes in 1 Cor 6:1320–but is essentially the outward sign of a union that takes place on the deepest level of the person, in the mutual self-donation of husband and wife. Sexual union is also uniquely capable of generating life and thus giving rise to the primordial human community, the family. This is why gender is not an accidental human quality like height, eye color or ethnic origin. Every human being is specified as either male or female and thus imprinted with a visible sign of our capacity for, and vocation to, life-giving spousal communion (which can be lived out either in marriage or in consecrated celibacy). One's sexuality, therefore, "reaches to the core of the person, the heart of our identity, and situates it in relationality, aptness for love."20 It is no coincidence that human society, despite all its distortions and injustices, has always recognized marriage as having an inherent and unchangeable structure that corresponds to the nature of the human person, embodied as male or female.

The invention of homosexuality

To return to our contemporary debate, what light do Eph 5:21-33 and Gn 2:24 shed on the issue of same-sex marriage? Let us first note that for Paul, as for Genesis and for human society in general until very recently, homosexuality is a behavior, not an "orientation," much less an identity. The concept of "homosexual" as a category of persons is, in fact, a modern construct, invented by those who sought to overturn sodomy laws in the nineteenth century. We must admit that this movement has been enormously successful in transforming societal perceptions. More recently, a new step has been taken in the use of "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" as apparently symmetrical terms, implying that sexuality is an abstract, neutral concept to which homo- or hetero- are added as equally valid specifications.21 Paul's teaching helps us recognize and resist such ideological manipulation of language. More significantly, it confirms and elucidates what is already knowable by reflection on the human body, and is thus part of the natural law: the obvious though politically incorrect truth that no one is homosexual; no one is intrinsically oriented to the same sex. Sexual union, properly speaking, is in fact physically impossible with a person of the same sex. All that is possible is erotic activity that contravenes the purpose of, and sometimes does violence to, the reproductive organs of the human body.

Here we can anticipate an objection: Then why do some people have homosexual inclinations, even an apparently deep-seated, long-term "orientation" to the same sex (documented from as early as age two)? According to Paul, this disjuncture between one's sexual desire and the sexual orientation of one's body is attributable to the same cause by which we all have disorder in our desires: the cataclysmic decision at the dawn of history (narrated in Genesis 3) by which sin, disorder and corruption entered the world.22 Note that he frequently lists homosexual activity along with other sexual sins and other forms of sin (Rom 1:26-31; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tm 1:10).23 It follows that the existence of a strong, overwhelming or persistent sexual desire is no argument for the rightness of satisfying the desire. Otherwise there would be no moral grounds to judge adultery, incest, bestiality, polyamory, pedophilia or other forms of sexual disorder as wrong.

Secondly, the teaching of Ephesians 5 and Genesis 2 helps us appreciate why any sexual activity that is detached from the context of marital union and its inherently procreative potential is intrinsically depersonalizing.24 Such activity ignores the body's "spousal attribute"–its innate aptness, as male or female, to embody a spousal gift of self–and in the absence of this meaning, inevitably turns the body into an instrument of physical or emotional self-gratification. No matter how well-intentioned the partners or how sincere their affection for each other, in such acts they are using one another as a means to an end and thereby undermining one another's dignity. An act whose intrinsic meaning is to express a total gift of self becomes instead a means of grasping for self. In the case of homosexual activity,

The action is understood apart from the meaning communicated by the structure of the body, subverting the physical dynamism in order that, so it is claimed, a communion might become possible.... Consequently, the bodily encounter lacks its original meaning and is used simply as a means for satisfaction. This is how the acting subject becomes fragmented, which leads to an absorption in cultivating the search for pleasure, and in developing the erotic techniques necessary for producing it. The physical gestures cease to be a means of revealing the persons to each other and become centered instead in the quest for mutual satisfaction.25

Finally, the unique capacity of marriage to mediate the reality of God's love for his people helps explain the close connection Paul frequently draws, so alien to modern sensibilities, between sexuality and religious truth. In Romans 1, Paul describes the negative side of this equation: the refusal to acknowledge the truth about God revealed in creation–or worse, the suppression of that truth–leads by a direct path to sexual conduct that degrades human dignity. Conversely, sexual sin leads to a darkened mind, and the inability to recognize truth about God (cf. Rom 1:18-28; cf. Eph 4:17-20). If the call to communion inscribed in our bodies, male and female, is a revelation of God in the created world, then, as Livio Melina points out, "it is normal to expect the disorder of homosexuality to have a paradigmatic theological significance in the history of salvation."26 And we have reason for concern that the wholesale denial of the privileged status of marriage in society will have long-term and gravely damaging human consequences.27

Conclusion

The above considerations help demonstrate why it is imperative for Christians and all people of good will to oppose legislation that grants to same-sex unions a status similar or equal to that of marriage, as recent Church teaching has frequently emphasized.28 I would like to conclude by briefly summarizing two ways in which deeper reflection on biblical teaching can strengthen our response to the same-sex marriage challenge. First, Scripture illuminates the natural law by articulating truths about human nature and the human vocation to communion that are inscribed in our bodies and thus intrinsically knowable. It uncovers the deep logic by which we recognize marriage as a good to be upheld and homosexuality as intrinsically detrimental to the dignity of the person. Secondly, Scripture offers a vision for marriage and the family that is compelling and attractive in its own right because it corresponds to the deepest longings of the human heart, and thus can speak on some level even to those who do not accept the authority of biblical revelation. If Christians are to gain a hearing in the contemporary debate, it will only be by both articulating and modeling in our own lives an authentic vision for human sexuality–one that is so joyful and life-giving that it exposes unrestrained sexual license for the cheap counterfeit it is. ■

A literal translation of Ephesians 5:18-33:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart,

20 giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father,

21 subordinating yourselves to one another in reverence for Christ,

22 wives to their husbands, as to the Lord,

23 for a husband is head of his wife as Christ is head of the Church and is himself the Savior of the body,

24 but as the Church subordinates herself to Christ, so also wives to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her,

26 in order to make her holy, purifying her by the washing of water through the word,

27 in order to present to himself the Church in splendor, without stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and unblemished.

28 In this way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. Whoever loves his wife loves himself.

29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but nourishes it and cares for it, just as Christ does for the Church,

30 for we are members of his body.

31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh."

32 This is a great mystery: for I am speaking of Christ and the Church.

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself in this way, and let the wife reverence her husband.

End notes

1 Lisa Miller, "Our Mutual Joy," Newsweek (December 6, 2008).

2 Verse 21 serves as a hinge joining the preceding section with what follows. Because it governs the subsequent injunctions to members of the household, nearly all modern translations and commentaries read 5:21 as beginning a new paragraph even though it is also grammatically linked with what precedes. Such intricate literary constructions are not uncommon in Paul.

3 See Francis Martin, Sacred Scripture: The Disclosure of the Word (Naples, Florida: Sapientia Press, 2006), 207.

4 See Phil 2:1-4 for similar Pauline teaching on attitudes within the Christian community; and Mk 10:42-45 for the dominical teaching which underlies it.

5 Verse 22 actually contains no verb; the participle "subordinating" has to be carried over from verse 21.

6 Pope John Paul II makes this point in Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), §24.

7 See John Paul II, audience of September 1, 1982, in Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline, 2006), 485.

8 Martin, Sacred Scripture, 212.

9 Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 748.

10 In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI describes how eros, which is itself a gift of God, finds its fulfillment by maturing into the agape of spousal love.

11 Ibid.

12 See, for instance, Jer 3:20; Is 54:5-7, 10; 62:4-5; Hos 2:16-20.

13 Martin, Sacred Scripture, 218.

14 Nineteen of the twenty-one Old Testament instances of the noun refer to God. See, for instance, Job 29:12; Ps 10:14; 30:10; 54:4; Is 63:5.

15 Crosby, "Complementarity," 43.

16 Martin, Sacred Scripture, 201.

17 John Paul II, Man and Woman, 185-86.

18 Cardinal Angelo Scola discusses this in "The Dignity and Mission of Women: The Anthropological and Theological Foundations," Communio 25 (Spring 1998), 46-47, and in "The Nuptial Mystery at the Heart of the Church," Communio 25 (Winter 1998), 634- 636, 643-647.

19 The terms "bone" and "flesh" in Gn 2:23 allude to the kinship bond formed by covenant; cf. 2 Sm 5:1;19:13.

20 David Schindler, "John Paul II and the `Nuptial Attribute' of the Body: The Family and the Future of Humanity," in The Church, Marriage, and the Family, 363-77; here p. 365.

21 Livio Melina, "Homosexual Inclination as an 'Objective Disorder': Reflections on Theological Anthropology," Communio 25 (Spring 1998), 57-68; here p. 60.

22 The empirical evidence, despite frequent media claims to the contrary, confirms that same-sex attraction results from a complex combination of factors rather than being a genetically predetermined condition. In spite of numerous attempts, no "gay gene" has been found. Even those researchers most frequently invoked in support of a "gay gene" actually refuse to claim it for their own research. Simon LeVay, who studied the differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men, writes: "It's important to stress what I didn't find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn't show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain" (D. Nimmons, "Sexual brain," Discover 5 [1994], 64-67. Researcher Dean Hamer said of his studies attempting to link male homosexuality to DNA, "We knew that genes were only part of the answer. We assumed the environment also played a role in sexual orientation, as it does in most, if not all behaviors...." (D. Hamer and P. Copeland, The Science of Desire [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994], 82). The 2000 American Psychiatric Association Fact Sheet on Sexual Orientation states: "Some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime...to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified." Same-sex attraction has, rather, been linked to a complex combination of factors; cf. the Catholic Medical Association's, "Homosexuality and Hope," available at www.cathmed.org/publications/homosexualityarticle.htm.

23 In the latter two texts Paul coins the term arsenokoites (a man who lies with a male), combining two terms found together in the Septuagint: "You shall not lie (koimethese koiten) with a male (arsenos) as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination" (Lv 18:22).

24 This also holds for practices that were widespread in the ancient world and were not recognized as immoral until later stages of biblical revelation, including polygamy and remarriage after divorce.

25 Jose Noriega, "Homosexuality: The Semblance of Intimacy," Communio 35 (Fall 2008), 451-64; here p. 460.

26 "Homosexual Inclination," 66.

27 See the compelling arguments made by Christopher Wolfe in "Homosexuality and American Political Life," in C. Wolfe (ed.), Same-Sex Matters: The Challenge of Homosexuality (Dallas: Spence, 2000), 3-25.

28 See especially Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (2003). See also CDF, Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons (1992); Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986); and Pontifical Council for the Family, Family, Marriage and 'De Facto' Unions (2000).


Dr. Mary Healy teaches Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She is the author of The Gospel of Mark (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) and of Men and Women Are from Eden: A Study Guide to John Paul H's Theology of the Body.

© Homiletic & Pastoral Review

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