What About the Natural Law?
The last argument Nathan employs to argue for the repeal of traditional Christian prohibition against homosexual acts pertains to natural law. Once again, I'll introduce Nathan's argument followed directly by my response.
According to Nathan:
It should first of all be noted that this argument is relatively modern. When scripture was seemingly sufficient to condemn homosexuality, this argument was not used. . . . I think it is a genuinely good question to ask if this argument is actually a good argument, or whether or not it is just a substitute argument to fill in where scripture has become deficient?
The story of the destruction of Sodom, which I have dealt with in the first post of this discussion, is extraneous to Judaism's rationale for prohibiting homosexuality. According to our last discussion of Leviticus and St. Paul, the general prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus, set in between prohibitions of adultery, incest and bestiality, was in all likelihood grounded in the Genesis creation account.
Dr. Robert Gagnon explains ("The Bible and Homosexual Practice: An Overview of Some Issues"):
It was regarded as incompatible with the creation of males and females as distinct and complementary sexual beings, that is, as a violation of God’s design for the created order. Here it is clear that the creation stories in Genesis 1-2, or something like them, are in the background, which in turn indicates that something broader than two isolated prohibitions is at stake: nothing less than the divinely mandated norm for sexual pairing given in creation.
According to Dr. Gagnon, the biblical emphasis on the complementarity of the male and female sexes is not something one can easily dismiss:
Those interested in learning more about Jewish tradition's rejection of homosexuality are invited to read "Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality" by Dennis Prager.
Moving on to the New Testament, Dr. Gagnon goes on to illustrate how St. Paul, in his discussion of sexuality and the prohibitions against homosexuality, incest, and other forms of sexual immorality, relies on the Genesis accounts and alludes to Genesis on numerous occasions (Rom 1: 18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9):
Consequently, any assessment of sexual immorality by Jews and Christians of the first century ultimately had in view the creation stories. It is for this reason that attempts to limit Paul's -- or any other early Jewish or Christian -- critique of same-sex intercourse to particularly exploitative forms is doomed to failure.
The Catholic Church's understanding of sexuality is spelled out in the explication of the Sixth Commandment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [2331 ff.]. Of course, it is not by coincidence that it follows Jewish and early Christian tradition in establishing its teaching on sexuality in the Genesis' account of creation of the first man and woman:
"God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them"; [Gen: 1:27] He blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply"; [Gen: 1:28] "When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created."
2332 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.
2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.
2334 "In creating men 'male and female,' God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity." "Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God."
2335 Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way. The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator's generosity and fecundity: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." All human generations proceed from this union.
The Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio ("On The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World") contains a concise and brilliant summary of the proper end of sexuality according to Catholic doctrine:
This totality which is required by conjugal love also corresponds to the demands of responsible fertility. This fertility is directed to the generation of a human being, and so by its nature it surpasses the purely biological order and involves a whole series of personal values. For the harmonious growth of these values a persevering and unified contribution by both parents is necessary.
The only "place" in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God Himself(23) which only in this light manifests its true meaning. The institution of marriage is not an undue interference by society or authority, nor the extrinsic imposition of a form. Rather it is an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive, in order to live in complete fidelity to the plan of God, the Creator. A person's freedom, far from being restricted by this fidelity, is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative Wisdom.
(Note: those interested in exploring the Holy Father's vision of marriage and human sexuality in light of the Gospel are encouraged to read Christopher West, who has done much to popularize the Pope's thought on this subject).
Nathan describes the Church's emphasis on the unitive and procreative elements of sexuality as "relatively modern," employed by the Church only after it was deemed that scriptural passages alone were not sufficient to defend prohibitions against homosexuality. But as we have seen, the Church's teaching on sexuality is thoroughly scriptural, and its appeal to Genesis can be traced back to St. Paul, Jesus, and the beginning of Jewish interpretation of Genesis. In answer to Nathan's question: "What came first, the opposition to homosexuality or the argument that opposes it?" -- it would seem to be the latter: Christians take their cue from St. Paul and Jesus, who in turn take their cue from the Jewish scriptures. If Nathan wishes to dispute the prohibition with homosexuality, his beef appears to be with the book of Genesis itself.
A further argument from Nathan:
Given that exceptions are made for people in their biological circumstances [post-menopause, infertility, etc.], and given that exceptions are even made for couples for financial situations, doesn't it follow that an exception could be made for homosexuals -- especially if homosexuality is genetic?
Think about it. How is a homosexual couple different from an infertile couple that is permitted to marry? How is a homosexual woman different from a post-menopausal woman, who is permitted to marry? Why is it not okay to allow homosexuals to marry and not procreate, if it is okay to allow heterosexuals to marry and not procreate in some situations? The only argument is because this involves people of the same sex, and that is not sufficient to make a procreative argument from the natural law.
I'm going to take a wild guess: Nathan has been reading Andrew Sullivan.
The answer, I think, can be discovered in Janet Smith's explanation of the difference between Natural Family Planning and artificial contraception ("Natural Family Planning and Self Mastery"):
A post-menopausal woman would be in the category of one rendered infertile by the natural progress of nature, and a couple using NFP to regulate the births of their children are also implicitly "recognizing fertility as a good and doing nothing to deny this good." (Christopher West explains the difference between respect for fertility via NFP and the falsifying of sexual union via contraception in "God, Sex, and Babies: What the Church Really Teaches about Responsible Parenthood" This Rock Vol. 14, No. 9, Nov. 2003).
Where homosexual acts differ from the above is this: to the extent that the homosexual condition is not deliberately willed, it is not a sin. However, if one grants the Church's position that the divinely-instituted purpose of sex is the expression of married love between male and female and the generation of new life, one must conclude that homosexual activity deliberately willed constitutes grave sin, because by its very nature it is not oriented towards procreation. It is ontologically disordered. (James Akin clarifies this in the section on "homosexuality and infertility" in a discussion earlier this month).
To "make a exception" as Nathan suggests, the Catholic Church would have to abandon its affirmation of the creation account in Genesis, the basis for the Judeo-Christian understanding of sexuality.
I have attempted to demonstrate otherwise -- I'll let my readers be the judge.