Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Meaning of “Intrinsically Disordered”

There is widespread misunderstanding about what the Catholic Church teaches with regard to same-sex attraction. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding—which often construes the teaching as “offensive”—tends to isolate men and women who struggle with their sexual identity. They often feel ostracized at a time in their life when they need love from the people of God. This reception to Church teaching can be avoided by proactively offering a clear explanation of the Church’s teaching concerning homosexuality, and in particular the judgment about the sexual attraction to persons of the same sex.

The Church’s document, The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, notes that sexual attraction to persons of the same sex is “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” The Catechism uses nearly identical language: “Exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex … is objectively disordered.”

Chaste men who struggle with same sex attraction have conveyed to me that this choice of words, particularly the technical and precise phrase “objective disorder,” is “offensive,” “hard on the ears” or “disrespectful.” It makes many feel like a diseased outcast. I am sincerely empathetic to this reaction, as I know they face challenges everyday and do so with persistent faith and prayer. I am also sincerely convinced that the negative reaction to the Church’s language is primarily a case of misunderstanding. Therefore, we have an opportunity to bring clarity to others about the Church’s teachings regarding same-sex attraction and use of the term “objective disorder.”  (more...)

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