Catholic Ethics: LGBT — Q and A

* Can gay couple, cohabitating or married, be in the state of grace?

Yes. Some objective mortal sins are not also actual mortal sins, due to a lack of full knowledge of the grave immorality of the act. God judges each person based on their own conscience.

* Can an LGBT person go to Heaven, if they die without repenting of their objectively grave sins?

Yes. Everyone who loves others, truly and selflessly, is in the state of grace and on the path to Heaven. There are certainly many LGBT persons who love others and so are in the state of grace. However, God is the judge over every soul, and not everyone is in the state of grace.

* Is it a sin for a Catholic to attend a gay wedding?

Not always. Attendance does not necessarily indicate approval for the particular union, nor for same-sex marriage in general. If your friend or family member is getting married, it is not intrinsically evil for you to attend, though you should avoid scandal by making it clear that you believe what the Catholic Church teaches.

* Is it a sin for a Catholic to provide services for a gay wedding?

Not usually. Providing cake, catering, music, flowers, photography, venue, or other services to a same-sex wedding is not intrinsically evil, since the acts of the person providing those services are not inherently contrary to the love of God and neighbor. Providing those services does not indicate approval for the particular union, nor for same-sex marriage more generally, nor is it a type of formal cooperation. Providing those services is remote material cooperation, and so it can be moral (depending on intention and circumstances).

* Is it a sin for a Catholic to officiate at a gay wedding?

Yes. Performing the marriage ceremony itself expresses approval for same-sex marriages. Therefore, this type of act is formal cooperation with the same-sex wedding. It is a sin of perpetration, not merely cooperation, since the person who officiates is either simulating a Sacrament (in some cases), or falsely declaring a (non-sacramental) marriage.

* Is it a sin for judges or other government officials to perform same-sex marriages?

If their primary role is not officiating at same-sex marriages, and they function merely to recognize a legal marriage, it is not necessarily a sin for them to officiate or to issue the marriage license. For they are stating that the State recognizes the marriage, which it does, and they are not personally stating any position on the topic. However, they should avoid officiating at same-sex weddings, unless absolutely required by their job.

* Are sexual acts between persons of the same sex intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral?

Yes. These types of sexual acts are contrary to natural law and are therefore termed unnatural sexual acts in Catholic moral teaching. These acts are unnatural because they are not inherently procreative. They are also not the type of union intended by God for human persons, so these acts are also not inherently unitive (even if the acts include a type of mere physical union). And since two persons of the same sex cannot be joined in a natural or sacramental marriage, the sexual acts are also non-marital.

The only moral sexual act is natural marital relations open to life. To be moral, each and every sexual act must be marital, unitive, and procreative.

* Are unnatural sexual acts between a Catholic husband and wife intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral?

Yes, for the same reasons. These acts are neither procreative, nor truly unitive.

Each and every sexual act in a marriage needs to be open to the possibility of conceiving a child. Even if the spouses are infertile (for some reason beyond their control), they can only morally engage in sexual acts that are inherently ordered toward the marital, unitive, and procreative meanings of the act. Unnatural sexual acts do not become moral if used between a husband and wife, or if used for the purpose of foreplay, or if used in a difficult circumstance. Unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. The Catholic Sacrament of marriage does not transform intrinsically evil acts into acts that are good or moral.

* Who sins more: a same-sex married couple, or Catholic spouses using abortifacient contraception and unnatural sexual acts in their marriage?

The latter sin more. Their use of abortifacient contraception kills their own children in the womb, while the same-sex couple use neither contraceptives nor abortifacients. And the use of unnatural sexual acts by the Catholic spouses is more sinful, since it offends, not only by the deprivation of the unitive and procreative meanings, but also as a sacrilege against the Sacrament of marriage.

* Should LGBT persons be permitted to receive Communion, if they are in good conscience?

Current discipline permits divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion, if they are in good conscience. A consistent discipline would then also permit any Catholic to receive Communion, on the same basis, including cohabitating persons, gay couples, and anyone guilty of an objective mortal sin, who does not believe that these acts are grave sins. However, I disagree with current discipline.

My preference for discipline is that persons who are guilty of any objective mortal sin should not receive Communion, until they repent and confess. But this discipline would have to be consistent across all types of sin, including every kind of sexual sin, contraception, abortifacients, abortion, heresy, schism, and so on. If such a discipline were enacted and followed, the vast majority of Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics would no longer be able to receive Communion. Most are guilty of heresy, at least objectively. Most are guilty of sexual sins and/or contraception. And many other grave sins are also far too common among Catholics in the pews. And they are manifestly unrepentant. The lines for Communion are long, and the line for Confession is short.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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16 Responses to Catholic Ethics: LGBT — Q and A

  1. Matt Z. says:

    “Current discipline permits divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion, if they are in good conscience.”

    To me this sentance seems a little misleading. Would not a person who is divorced and remarried and receivng communion, they wouldnt be in good conscience, they would have an erroneous conscience or a hardened conscience?

    • Marco says:

      Well, maybe they seeked spiritual advice and the priest gave them absolution for he came to the moral certainty that said person isn’t subjectively guilt.

      Let me make an example: many marriages are null, mostly thanks to the lack of the acceptance of Bonum Sacramenti (for many people today don’t even understand the Church teaching in its entirety and they marry while leaving themselves a way out), so these people are not in an adulterous union.

      They aren’t Sacramentally married but they aren’t adulterers either, they are fornicators at best.

      Now, maybe they don’t know that they should require Church’s declaration of nullity, for many priests today talk about the declaration of nullity as if it was only a possibility, not an obligation.

      Now, if an individual doesn’t know that he has an obligation to do something, his/her conscience cannot be blinded, therefore he isn’t guilt of actual mortal sin.

      Many priests, i think, talk about the declaration of nullity as a mere possibility when they realize that the faithful, for various reasons, won’t be willing to undertake it, which would put him in a situation of actual mortal sin, if he knew that he should do it.

      This kind of teaching was summarized by Saint Alphonsus himself, when he said that it was better to tolerate an objective mortal sin if the priest understood that forcing the law down the faithful’s throat right off the bat would only increase his sin, making him sinning mortally.

      Of course this is not would should be done regularly, only when enlightening the faithful would actually worsen his situation.

      I hope i managed to explain myself correctly, since i’m Italian.

  2. Mark P. says:

    Ron, your post is helpful. Unfortunately the problem is that scarcely does the Church actively teach any of these points, so many Catholics could misconstrue some of them taken individually. Sure, they are “taught” in the sense that these points exist across various passages of Scripture and Church documents. And if one actively reads certain theologians they can discover these teachings. But many Catholics – or those that attend Mass – are in a Church and maybe pay attention to their faith for one hour per week. The topic of sexuality and the confusion about it in our culture and in the Church today is almost never even discussed at the parish level. Confusion about sexuality is probably the foremost moral crisis facing the Church in the West today. Last year, our Evangelical brethren issued their clear, concise and Scriptural “Nashville Statement.” Several weeks later the USCCB posted a few average paragraphs about marriage which was signed by a handful of bishops and some other faith leaders.
    My guess is that the majority of Evangelicals were made aware of the “Nashville Statement” shortly after its publication. Most likely it was discussed at their worship services the Sunday after it was released. As much as we as Catholics claim that we have the “fullness” of the faith, the fact is that poll after poll demonstrates that Evangelicals understand these teachings better than most Catholics. And that is because their pastors seem to teach their congregations, whereas relatively few priests seem willing to discuss these issues.

  3. doctormaniax says:

    Dear Ron, I have a question for you.
    Is the use of Sildenafil, or any other medication for the treatment of erectile function a sin? And what about the use of surgery to treat impotency?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m not familiar with “Sildenafil”, and I don’t want to opine on medications, as I’m not a physician. However, in the field of ethics, a married person can take a medication if the inherent purpose of the knowingly chosen act is to allow natural marital relations to take place. The same is true for the surgery. If the chosen act is ordered toward only good in the object, then the act is not intrinsically evil.

      To use an analogy from VS (49-50), the moral nature of an act is due to both the knowing deliberate choice (soul) and the concrete act (body) joined as one act (one person). So the moral nature resides not solely in the person (as does the intention), nor solely in the physical exterior act. It resides in the knowing deliberate choice of the concrete act, which may be an interior or an exterior act. For example, lying is the deliberate knowing assertion of a falsehood. If one asserts a falsehood mistakenly thinking it is true, then it is not even objectively a lie.

      However, one can NEVER use an intrinsically evil act in order to attain a good end. If a husband wishes to use pornography, to attain arousal, so as to have natural marital relations, it is a sin. An intrinsically evil act does not become moral due to a good intended end. Porn is inherently immoral, and not merely wrong by intention and circumstances. If the spouses use unnatural acts, completed or not, to prepare for marital relations, they sin gravely, since these knowingly chosen acts are inherently non-procreative and non-unitive. And they are not the types of acts intended by God for marriage, whose primary purpose is procreation. So they are not even truly marital.

  4. DD&S says:

    I keep going back to the silliness of the priests and parishioners every Saturday afternoon. It seems that the half hour window is long enough for exactly one person to make a good confession and receive counseling. You are rushed through it and everyone seems happy with that Also, I have heard a pornography homily exactly once.

  5. Tom Mazanec says:

    Unnatural sexual acts do not become moral if used between a husband and wife, or if used for the purpose of foreplay

    What would moral foreplay be, if it exists? By definition, foreplay is sexually arousing activity which is not, itself, procreative.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Ordinary foreplay does not include any type of natural or unnatural sexual acts. Foreplay is arousing, but since it is not a per se sexual act, it need not be ordered toward procreation. See my brief article:

    • Marco says:

      Many things that you wrote there are debatable, though.

    • Marco says:

      For example, this catholic Dominican priest says that oral stimulation, if it is the only way to stimulate the partner in order that he can have sex with his wife, can be licit and justified, provided that everything ends in the natural way.

      And that priest is a very conservative one, i know that because i’ve read many of his writings.

      And, i mean, what do we want to say, that if a man obtains the necessary arousal only in that way he can’t be validly married? No, because only if he is impotent all along he couldn’t be validly married.

      So what do we want to say, that they can’t consume their marriage if he obtains the necessary arousal needed to have sex only in that way?

      Let’s try not to carry unbearable burden on people’s shoulder and let’s remember that “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law“ (15:56 ).

    • Ron Conte says:

      Conservatism does not guarantee orthodoxy. Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, regardless of circumstance or intention. It is absurd to say that a spouse must commit an intrinsically evil act, or they are not validly married. And no, it is not true that human persons can’t get aroused without committing acts of grave depravity. Saints Augustine, Jerome, Aquinas, and Alphonsus Liguori all condemned unnatural acts in marriage. And the Magisterium teaches that each single sexual act in a marriage must be both procreative and unitive. The claim that everything is moral as long as it ends in the natural way contradicts the teaching that end does not justify the means.

    • Marco says:

      He was talking about a case in which a man can get aroused only with that.

      He didn’t say that all persons get aroused like that.

      So my question still stands: should a person like that be prohibited marriage or should be condemned not to consummate it?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Your question does not stand. Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral. And it is not true that the marriage would be invalid, since only absolute inability to have sex makes the marriage invalid, and not difficulty. And it is faithless to say that the spouses can’t obtain sex by moral means, with the help of God’s providence and grace, and must necessarily commit “acts of grave depravity” in the Sacrament of marriage. I don’t believe the claim that a spouse, husband or wife, cannot possibly be aroused or complete the act except with the use of unnatural acts. If the spouses turn away from all grave sexual sins, and pray to God, and treat sex with the proper reverence, the arousal and consummation will be attainable.

      And I have to point out, Marco, the hypocrisy of your position. You are against intrinsically evil acts, such as adultery, but when it comes to unnatural acts, which the Saints called a figurative type of adultery, you make excuses to approve of them. Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral.

    • Marco says:

      “Saints Augustine, Jerome, Aquinas, and Alphonsus Liguori all condemned unnatural acts in marriage”

      Oh, the fathers of the Church went even farther than that

      Pope St. Clement of Rome (1st century A.D.): “But this kind of chastity is also to be observed, that sexual intercourse must not take place heedlessly and for the sake of mere pleasure, but for the sake of begetting children. And since this observance is found even amongst some of the lower animals, it were a shame if it be not observed by men, reasonable, and worshiping God.” (Recognitions of Clement, Chapter XII, Importance of Chastity)

      St. Caesarius of Arles (c. 468-542): “AS OFTEN AS HE KNOWS HIS WIFE WITHOUT A DESIRE FOR CHILDREN…WITHOUT A DOUBT HE COMMITS SIN.” (W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of The Early Fathers, Vol. 3: 2233)

      Athenagoras the Athenian (c. 175 A.D.): “Therefore, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he has married according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having children. For as the husbandman throwing the seed into the ground awaits the harvest, not sowing more upon it, so to us the procreation of children is the measure of our indulgence in appetite.” (A Plea For the Christians, Chapter XXXIII.–Chastity of the Christians with Respect to Marriage)

      St. Jerome, Against Jovinian, A.D. 393: “But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children? … He who is too ardent a lover of his own wife is an adulterer [of his God and of his wife].” (Book 1, Section 20; 40)

      If this standard were to be applied, not sinning would be nearly impossible, since basically everything would become a sin and catholics would have the knowledge of that.

      Saint Augustine even said

      St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, A.D. 419: “It is one thing not to lie [with one’s wife] except with the sole will of generating [children]: this has no fault. It is another to seek the pleasure of the flesh in lying, although within the limits of marriage: this has venial fault [that is, venial sin as long as one is not against procreation].” (Book I, Chapter 17.–What is Sinless in the Use of Matrimony? What is Attended With Venial Sin, and What with Mortal?)

      As you can see, Saint Augustine condemned the very fact that the spouses could seek the pleasure of the flesh, as if sex was only a necessary evil for the sake of procreation.

      Saint Jerome said that if someone enjoys sex with his wife he would become an adulterer.

      I don’t know, Ron, this makes me think a lot about what kind of heavy burdens we have laid on people’s shoulders.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Marital sex is sinful (as stated in Casti Connubii and Address to Midwives, and as implied in Humanae Vitae) when the act does not retain its intrinsic ordering toward the procreative meaning. This end must be inherent to the chosen act, but it does not need to be in the intended end. The Saints were right in so far as the act must have this intrinsic order. Non-procreative sex due to contraception is not justified for any reason; the same is true for sex that is non-procreative because it is unnatural.

      You are misinterpreting what the Saints said. They did not imply that taking enjoyment in marital relations was like adultery. They were discretely referring to various sinful types of sex.

      The same argument that you are using to justify the intrinsic evil of unnatural acts is also used by some to justify contraception and abortion. It is the very same argument. There are not two types of intrinsically evil acts, ones that are justified by various claims and ones that are always immoral.

  6. Ron Conte says:

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