By DR. BERNARDO VILLEGAS
This discussion of the counterproductive nature of the proposed SOGIE bill will not be complete if we do not bring up some philosophical and theological principles that are based on the Christian faith to which the great majority of Filipinos belong. From the very beginning, it must be stressed that what the Catholic faith condemns as sinful is the homosexual act, the sexual act between two persons of the same sex. It does not and will never condemn same-sex attraction itself which may or may not be self-inflicted. There are persons who feel same-sex attraction through no fault of theirs and who struggle against it by exerting the necessary human effort to avoid indulging in homosexual acts and, in case of the practicing Catholic, having constant recourse to the help of grace through the Sacraments, especially those of the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. This is how we should interpret the oft-quoted reply of Pope Francis when asked about his view of gay persons. His reply was “Who am I to judge?” No one, not even the Pope, can know the innermost condition of the soul of a person. Someone who is publicly known as a gay person (having “come out of the closet”) may be living a chaste life and not indulging in same-sex intercourse precisely by having a strong spiritual life. We can never be judgmental of other persons, especially of the homosexual.
The Catholic Church maintains its stand that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” This does not imply a “mental disorder” but a “sexual identity disorder.” We can read in the Old Testament that from the beginning, God made human beings male or female. This is also imprinted in nature in the fact that the male chromosome (XY) is clearly distinct form the female chromosome (XX). According to Catholic doctrine, a person is only either a man or a woman. Any deviation from one’s biological sex and the normal attraction to the opposite sex constitutes a disorder. This disorder is a product of a person’s total experience—with family, friends, institutions, and society as a whole, and can be corrected in many cases with appropriate actions and therapy. It is also admitted that in some cases the homosexual condition may last for a lifetime and may be incurable. This does not mean that in this case, the homosexual will now have the license to engage in homosexual acts. This moral prohibition does not single him out. The same prohibition applies to every heterosexual person who is tempted to have sex outside of marriage or, even within marriage, to have sex that is not open to life through the use of artificial contraceptives. With a supernatural outlook, a person who is incurably a homosexual should consider his condition as a cross he has to carry in an analogous way to persons who are born sexually impotent or in circumstances which prevent them from getting married. All these persons should use both human and supernatural means to remain chaste, which is always possible with the help of grace.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes that there are persons who are attracted towards the same sex or have same-sex orientation. Paragraph 2358 of the Catechism states: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.” There are many attempts to explain sociologically and psychologically why this number may be growing exponentially in many societies. There is no one exclusive explanation. Some consider this phenomenon as a product of a culture of individualism and moral relativism. Gay activists attribute the increasing number of homosexuals to a society that is becoming more “open” to accepting the gay culture. It is, however, a chicken-and-egg problem. It may be the gay culture that is becoming prevalent that influences society to conform to its relativist ways. There are messages such as “It’s OK being gay,” or “Gay is happy,” that are inundating mass media and subconsciously entering the minds of people, especially the youth. This ever-active advocacy (e.g., the Rainbow movement, Gay Pride parades, etc.) may explain why more and more individuals experiment with a new-found “alternative” lifestyle and get caught up with the gay culture. In the Philippines, with the proliferation of gay workers in the booming BPO-IT sector, a serious threat to public health is the epidemic proportion of HIV cases resulting from anal sex. This is clearly a bane to the public good coming from the gay culture. That is why one cannot say that one’s decision to engage in homosexual acts is completely a private matter. It has very important repercussions on public order or the common good.
It cannot be denied, however, that there are clear instances of discrimination against persons with same-sex attractions in Philippine society. Because of a limited understanding of the nature and dynamics of homosexuality, there are families who disown their members who experience same-sex attractions. As mentioned above, in some schools, boys with feminine behavior are often subjected to bullying. On the positive side, however, there are many Philippine institutions that are very welcoming to persons with same-sex attraction or manifest behavior of the opposite sex. They can rise to the top of such professions as media, theater, movies, fashion, the culinary arts and other professions or occupations that require a great deal of creativity. Because of the prominent role they play in key professions or occupations, it would be an unwarranted generalization to say that there is widespread discrimination against the LGBT crowd. It would also be unfair to accuse the Catholic Church of condemning homosexuals as people who will surely go to hell. The Church has always seen the homosexual condition as a sharing of a person with the sufferings of Christ. The Catechism states that “this inclination…constitutes for most of them a trial… These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition (CCC, 2358).
We must insist again and again that the Catholic Church considers the condition of the homosexual as an instrument for them to attain salvation. Like every other human being, a child of God and redeemed by the blood of Christ, the homosexual is also called to the fullness of Christian life. Persons with same-sex attractions are also called to holiness just like everyone else: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
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