The Catholic Church’s Teaching on Sexuality

NOTE: This article features some sensitive topics that may not be suitable for younger readers. Please use discretion.

If you were to ask the average non-Catholic about the Catholic Church and it’s teaching on homosexuality and gender, it wouldn’t be shocking if you received an answer about how the Church is anti-gay and transphobic, or something to that effect. The culture that we live in today has conditioned non-Catholics to view the Church as a bastion of obsolete ideas that wants to restrict lifestyles and vilify the homosexual community.

But as any knowledgeable Catholic knows, those ideas couldn’t be further from the truth. The Church’s teaching on sexuality has always come from a place of unwavering truth, understanding, and mercy. Christ and His Church don’t seek to restrain, but to free. Father Joseph Johnson joined Josh Raymond on The Inner Life to dive deeper into the Church’s standing and to discuss how we can approach our loved ones who might be struggling with wayward ideas about their sexuality.

Regardless of any of the personal, negative experiences that somebody might have had with a member of the Church regarding homosexuality, we have to remember that the official teaching is – and the stance of every Catholic should be – founded on the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

The context of the underlying principles from which the Catechism flows is vital to its message. Prior to explaining exactly what the CCC says about marriage, sexuality, and gender, Father Joseph recalled the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God. God, who is a communion of persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – saw that His greatest creation, Adam, was alone in the garden. And so from Adam’s rib, God made Eve.

“Then we get the complementarity of Eve and Adam, and they’re able to form a communion of persons. And in that way, the marriage is able to [imitate] the Trinity. And you might say, ‘Well the Trinity is three obviously: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Marriage is just two.’ No, marriage is two plus God,” he said.

Turning to the CCC’s definition of sexuality:

“Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.” (CCC, 2332)

“Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life.” (CCC, 2333)

Men and women are not the same, and that’s a good thing. We were created with different bodies, different characteristics, and differently functioning minds so that we can complement each other for our own benefit, the benefit of any potential children, and the benefit of society. The “gender norms” and “gender roles” that society has so callously tossed aside in favor of gender relativity are what once helped make families strong and functional.

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (CCC, 2357)

“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill 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)

When a couple engages in marital love, they are giving to one another their whole selves. The entirely vulnerable intimacy between a man and woman is a manifestation of their physical and spiritual intimacy. When a couple uses contraceptives, or when two people of the same sex engage in the conjugal act, they are withholding their whole selves: there is no openness to life. It is an act performed entirely for pleasure.

“The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.” (CCC, 2363)

As Father Joseph said, it doesn’t take a theologian to realize that the human body is constructed in a certain way. As a matter of fact, the sexual organs of the body were created with the very specific, exact intention of procreation. When our actions prevent us from functioning as we should, we’re attempting to undo what God has done.

Now we come to the practical side of the matter: How do we address this rift between the Catholic Church and the homosexual community? Father Joseph put it very simply.

“We need to be loving and try to get past some of this anger so we can get to the thoughtful discussion.”

Easier said than done, Father had the opportunity to practice what he preached as he was taking a flight to New York for a meeting about ten years ago, right after the same-sex marriage referendum had been passed in Minnesota. On this flight, he was seated next to a man who, as it turns out, was homosexual. Realizing that Father Joseph was a Catholic priest from his collar, the man began a conversation with him, aggressive and eager for a victory lap over the recent legislation.

Father Joseph simply said, “Well, I think my side simply failed to make a persuasive enough case for why we see the traditional idea of marriage as being a great benefit to our society.” Period. The man next to him, not expecting a calm and thoughtful response, was at a loss for words.

But what that response did was it opened the door for a thoughtful conversation between the two men for the next two and a half hours. And more than the political issue, they discussed how they see one another and how they should treat one another, regardless of opposing views. The man on that plane opened up to Father about wounds from his past that one typically wouldn’t reveal to a stranger. And while Father didn’t convince him to change his mind on the spot, nor was he trying to, their closing words to one another are very telling about the strength of compassion and honesty.

“I hope it wasn’t too uncomfortable for you to have to share this flight with a Catholic priest,” said Father Joseph.

The man replied, “No, this gentle conversation was very healing.”

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.