Q. Could you explain the Catholic Church’s position on being gay and having a gay partner?
A. Yes, this is a very important and very personal question for many people today. It’s one of those questions that can be deeply emotional and even “controversial.” But it doesn’t have to be. These questions are questions that Jesus wants to address in your heart and conscience in a loving and personal way.
So what does the Church have to say about this? Let’s take your question and ask it in three different ways so that we can address the full picture:
3) What is the Catholic Church’s position on homosexual sex?
For the official position of the Catholic Church on these questions, please skip to the bottom of this page for excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and from the October, 2015 Synod on the Family.
Answer to question #1: There is nothing morally wrong with “being gay” if we mean being someone who has homosexual desires. This may not at all be chosen and therefore is not morally right or wrong. Many people will argue one way or another as to why some people have homosexual desires. Some will say that they were born this way. Others will say it is the result of one’s upbringing or environment. Others will say that it is a result of one’s choices.
Regarding what the Church has to say about this…the Church has not taken a position as to why some have homosexual tendencies. In fact, it not really a question for the Church to “solve.” This seems more to be a question for psychologists and science. Rather, the intent of our Church is to acknowledge that some have these tendencies and that having these tendencies is not sinful in and of itself. However, the Church does acknowledge that these sexual desires are disordered (see Catechism quote below).
Answer to question #2: The answer to this question depends upon what it means to “have a gay partner.” Certainly, there is something good about friendship and mutual support of another. In the case of two people who have homosexual tendencies, there could be an opportunity for healthy chaste mutual support and friendship as well as mutual understanding of the other’s life and struggles. This can certainly be good and healthy. Thus, if by “having a gay partner” one means that he/she has entered into a friendship of mutual support in accord with God’s plan for sexuality, then this friendship could prove to be beneficial. If by “partner” one means gay marriage or a civil union, this is not something that the Catholic Church supports. We believe that marriage is an institution created and designed by God exclusively for one man and one woman (see Synod on the Family quote below).
Answer to question #3: One serious challenge for those with homosexual tendencies is that these tendencies ought not be acted on in a sexual way. The Catholic Church, in keeping with revelation from the Scriptures, believes that God intended sex for marriage between one man and one woman. Thus, chastity must be the goal for those with homosexual tendencies.
For more on this you can also read the following: Chapter 6 – Chastity, Purity, Affection and Marital Love There is a section on homosexual practices toward the end of that chapter.
In regards to all three of the questions above, the best way to answer them in accord with the mind of the Catholic Church is to offer you two official statements from the Church on this. The first is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the second is from an October, 2015 Synod of Bishops in which many bishops, in collaboration with Pope Francis, addressed these questions.
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. 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.
2358 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.
2359 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.
Synod on the Family, October, 2015 (unofficial translation of paragraph regarding homosexuality):
76. Taking care of the families that have a member who has homosexual tendencies, the Church insists that every person, regardless of their own sexual tendency, be respected in his dignity and welcomed with respect, trying to avoid “any kind of unjust discrimination.” There should be a specific attention paid to families that have a member with homosexual tendencies. Regarding projects that try to equal homosexual unions to marriage, “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The Synod sustains in any case that it’s unacceptable for the local churches to be pressured on this subject or that international organizations condition financial help to poor countries to the introduction of laws that institute the “marriage” between same-sex people.