Is it possible that intimate or romantic love between two people of the same sex, which by its nature cannot tend to marriage, be considered genuine or good?

Analysis on Same-Sex Couples: Same Doctrine, New Attitude

This is the key question of the controversy. Is it possible that intimate or romantic love between two people of the same sex, which by its nature cannot tend to marriage, be considered genuine or good? There is here a profoundly complex question. But it’s clear that not everything in the life of a couple is determined by sexual relations, no matter how relevant they can be. Hence, that cannot be our only element of judgment.

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Fernando Morales, LC

(ZENIT News / Jerusalem, 26.12.2023).- The recent Vatican Declaration Fiducia Supplicans, on the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples has raised an enormous cloud of dust of opinions and polarization.

Rather than offering a synthesis, I would like to highlight what I consider the most important change in the Church stemming from this document, focusing on the reality of same-sex couples. To do this, two premises are important:

1st  Premise: A More Maternal Than Defensive Attitude

Not infrequently, the moral truth on homosexuality has been pointed out in a defensive manner, considering those that practice homosexuality as a danger for the moral order or as enemies of God.

To stress excessively the defense of God’s rights or homosexual acts as contrary to nature are approaches that do not help to understand or to present Catholic doctrine correctly. Yes, sin is an offense to God, but in sexual morality especially, the sin is sin because it “wounds the nature of man” and attempts against his good in various ways [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,  (CCC 1849)]. In sexual sins, God is offended in His most cherished work, which is the human being; or if you wish, sexual disorder destroys the image of God in man. Hence, it’s necessary to stress that sexual morality is an ally of man, not his enemy.

 When we say 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 true affective and sexual complementarity. They cannot receive approval in any case whatsoever (CCC 2357). We should focus on the good of individuals.

The Church holds that homosexual acts (not the orientation) are sinful because they are the cause of profound evils for those that practice them. The life of these people is often marked by strong imbalances. The Church considers this acts as highly self-destructive conducts. Suffice it to mention that, statistically, the life expectancy of homosexual people is 20 year below the average, because of illnesses, depression, addictions and risky conducts, which occur in much higher percentages than in the rest of the population.

Yes, it’s true that many of these people still suffer rejection in some sectors, and even in their own families, which must be remedied, but it is no less true that frequently their amorous relationships are in themselves stormy and unsatisfactory, source of serious imbalances, which unleash grave problems, such as those just mentioned.

Hence, it cannot be emphasized sufficiently that the Church talks of sin in regard to homosexuality, in the very first place for the good of the individuals. And this approach must always prevail, without denying the other aspects. It is about an attitude of maternal solicitude for these people and not the defense at all costs of values against perverse individuals.

 2nd Premise: Recognize the Special Difficulty

Christian morality distinguishes clearly between objective morality (the goodness or maliciousness of conducts) and subjective morality (the level of responsibility or culpability of the people).

In the case of those that experience attraction to their same sex, this is especially important. They are people who have not chosen such an attraction, be it the result of problems in their development or an orientation from birth, it is a condition that they have not chosen. “This inclination, objectively disordered is, for most of them, a trial” (CCC 2358).

And we are not talking about any type of tendency. The psychic-affective realm touches the most profound fibers of the human experience and, therefore, it is a highly relevant sphere of life. Sexual orientation permeates an individual’s social relations, the profound motivation of his life, his emotions and, in general, his existential experience. It is for this reason that, while upholding that, objectively, they are seriously disordered and harmful acts, we must always remember that these people suffer strong affective conditioning, much to their regret. Hence the fact that an assessment of the culpability of individuals is especially difficult.

I can say to someone that this or that relationship isn’t allowed: “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife,” John the Baptist said to Herod (Mark 6:18). But to say to someone that they cannot have any affective relationship (half because they are of his same sex and the other half because they don’t attract him) is, undoubtedly, something very strong. If it is not easy for me to live celibacy despite feeling an interior call and with much spiritual motivation, I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone who experiences everything against and whose only motivation is “not to go to hell.” Obviously, there are more motivations from faith, but at the natural level it is a proposal that is very difficult to accept.

It is because of all this that we must address with great respect the situation of those who, even being unable to live in celibacy, try to have affective stability in a relationship far from moral debauchery.

Without despairing of the help of grace, it is a fact that for many people, even with great effort and sacrifice, the fight for chastity is especially arduous and full of imperfections, and not a few face profound depressions and crises in the realm of affectivity.

Of course these conditionings do not change objective morality, or, if you wish, do not make homosexual acts less harmful. But they should certainly dispose us to an attitude of special understanding and realism. Many of these people do not play the game of chastity in equality of conditions.

 Said in another way and in synthesis: not infrequently it’s more about self-injury than a personal offense to God. I think this is the background of Pope Francis’ famous “who am I to judge them.” Our judgment must be very benevolent regarding individuals, even when we continue to uphold that homosexual acts harm in many ways those that commit them.

The Main Novelty: Appreciate the True, Good and Valid

Although all of the above was part of Catholic teaching, it must be considered with greater awareness today. However, there is an especially relevant novelty in the approach to the document: we must ask ourselves if everything in the homosexual relationship is sin or leads to sin, and also if sinfulness is the essential and central characteristic that defines these relationships.

In number 31 the Declaration says that the possible blessing of a couple is directed to “all that is true, good and humanly valid in their lives and relations.” And it’s here where I dare to postulate that the nucleus of the true, good and valid in this relationship is the love itself that they profess to one another.

In this regard, Rocco Buttiglione says in his commentary to the Declaration: “I would not bless irregular sexual relations , but I would bless the care of one for the other, the support they give each other in life, the consolation in sorrow and the company in face of difficulties. Love is never bad, sex, instead, sometimes is. In the life of this couple, the good and the bad are so closely intertwined that it’s impossible to separate them with a clean break.”

I think this is the nuclear question of this controversy. Is it possible that intimate or romantic love between two people of the same sex, which by nature cannot end in marriage, can be considered genuine and good?

There is, here, a profoundly complex question. But it’s clear that not everything in the life of a couple is determined by sexual relations, no matter how relevant they are. Hence, this cannot be our only element of judgement.

The classic attitude to homosexual couples has tended to consider their amorous relations as a sort of concert to commit a crime. A gross complicity in a sexual sin. A collusion of lust without a hint of nobility. But it must be recognized that it is about people in need of mutual affection and support whose relations, outside sexual acts, can be a genuine expression of what good, beautiful and true there can be in human love.

To more than one, the above paragraph might seem a naïve idealization and that it loses sight of the promiscuous and unbridled reality that is so frequent in many homosexual environments. However, perhaps it is precisely that dark part of reality that enables one to value those couples that do not yield to those unrestrained conducts. Whether they are many or few, they certainly exist, and we must recognize that there is something genuine in them, without denying that homosexual acts are harmful in themselves.


We can consider that to bless a same-sex couple can be, in many cases, a plea to God that what is genuine and noble of mutual love will have each day a greater role, while disordered acts lose relevance increasingly in their lives – same doctrine, new attitude.

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