John Paul II’s New Vision of Human Sexuality, Marriage and Family Life(5)
Sins: Contrary to the Dignity of the Body and Contrary to Conjugal Love
E. Sins: Contrary to the Dignity of the Body and Contrary to Conjugal Love
Each of the sexual sins (and those related to the sexual sins, e.g., the sins involving artificial reproduction) can be seen as attacks on the dignity and value of the body (contrary to the theology of the body) and as violations of the love between the spouses (contrary to the theology of the family). First we will examine the sexual sins as violations of the dignity and value of the human body.
1. Sexual Sins as Attacks on the Dignity of the Human Body
Before we discuss each of the sexual sins as attacks against the body, it is necessary to examine how some of these sins are justified (calling them good and not sins) today through a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the human body.
For many people today, the human body belongs (as property) to the one who "has" it. The cry of the militant abortionists is: "It's my body!" The human body becomes an object--a thing that is owned, like a machine.
If the human body were a machine and not the expression of the human person, many things would be possible which are now almost universally rejected. For example, we could rent it out, as in prostitution or in surrogate motherhood. We could use it for pleasure in any way we wanted. We could alter it and "fix" it as we would a car or an appliance. There would be nothing wrong with lust (the body is a thing anyway), pornography, extramarital sexual activity (fornication and adultery) contraception, sterilization, divorce and remarriage, masturbation, homosexual activity, abortion, IVF (test-tube babies), artificial insemination, and other sexual sins. To some, these acts would be welcome, but in some way or another, each of these acts uses or harms the human body and is contrary to the principles of the theology of the body.
However, even if all these acts might be acceptable to some, there are also other consequences, following on the (false) principle that the human body is a machine, which are almost universally abhorred. Since machines are owned, if the body were a machine, it could be owned. But if it could be owned, it would be possible to buy and to sell it. Of course, this would open the door to slavery, the buying and selling of human machines, of bodies. If the body were a machine, there would be nothing wrong with addiction: the "owner" of the body would simply be using it for a particular pleasure. If the body were a machine, when two people shook hands, hugged, or loved one another, it would not be two people touching, but rather two machines. When our bodies were wounded, we would not be hurt, just our exterior packaging. We would regard an injured body much as we regard a car damaged in an accident. A surgeon would be a mere technician working on a defective machine much like a computer technician repairing a computer. (Actually, in some quarters, this attitude is creeping into modern medicine. When patients are consumers obtaining a service, that sounds much like car owners obtaining repair services! In medicine such a view is tragic because it destroys the proper relationship [a relationship of love] between the physician and the patient.)
This list could be extended and extended, but the ideas are absurd. Our bodies are not machines. They are our flesh and blood. They are the means by which our persons are expressed. Most of us when we are in pain, do not cry out, "I have damaged my machinery." Rather, we cry out, "My leg!" or "My arm!" When the body is hurt, we are hurt. The attack on a small organ can end our life. For example, if we are shot through the heart, we die. Since an attack on the body is an attack on life, the body must be the expression of the person. Further, none of us bought our bodies. Rather, we received them from God through the cooperation of our parents. They are part of the gift of life. Since we are hurt when our bodies are injured and since they were given to us as part of the gift of life, our bodies are closely connected to our very lives. The human body is the expression of the human person. Any act which manipulates, uses, or harms the human body is an attack on the human person and cannot be tolerated.
Let us examine each of the sexual sins from the point of view of the dignity and value of the body.
Lust occurs when we desire another human person (usually of the opposite sex) to satisfy our own desires. The lustful man or woman seeks only sexual satisfaction from the other's body. The body of the other person is treated as some thing which exists for the one who looks. By treating the human body as a thing, she or he fails to recognize that the other's body is the expression of a human person and also reduces himself or herself to the level of a thing. Therefore, the one who looks lustfully violates the infinite dignity of both persons. Since lust is a violation of the human body, of the dignity properly ascribed to the human body, it is contrary to human dignity.
It is important to note the difference between a lustful look and an admiration of God's beauty as manifested in the human body and in art. In the hands of great artists, the naked human body is painted, sculpted, or otherwise depicted truly as the expression of the person. The great artist is able to capture in stone or paint or in some other medium not just the externals of the human body, but some of its mysteries as the expression of the person. Thus, in Michelangelo's works we are not led to lustful looking. The genius of a great artist allows us to perceive the great mystery expressed by the human person. With Playboy, the purpose is quite different.
In pornography, the arts (including photography) are used as a means to make the human body an object of sexual pleasure for others. As with lust, the human body of the one pictured is reduced to a thing, an object which exists for the pleasure of others. The one who looks at pornography is led to lust, to look at a body as if it were not an expression of a person.
Pornography is first of all an attack on the dignity of the one pictured. No one may allow himself or herself to become an object, a thing. In lust, often the one who is desired is not aware that he or she is reduced to an object. However, in pornography, the individual who is pictured agrees to pose or model for the "artist." In effect, such people agree to allow their bodily dignity to be violated. They allow their bodies (i.e., themselves, because the body is the expression of the person) to be used, contrary to their own dignity and value
Those who look at pornography look lustfully and violate their own dignity. We have already seen how lust violates human dignity. However, since pictures impress themselves on our minds, pornographic materials do more damage than an isolated lustful gaze. Usually, pornography remains firmly in our memories. These memories give our imaginations the raw data for many, many fantasies. Pornography haunts us long after we have seen it. It tempts us constantly towards further lustful thoughts and actions.
Finally, when we spend our money on pornography, we are encouraging an industry which uses and abuses people. There are those who are desperate for money. They become "models" for pornography because they can find no other means of making enough to buy the necessities. The "artists" take advantage of those who need money and make them into models for their "art". In turn, the leaders in this industry make millions off the misery of many, many people. Usually, young people, even children, are sought by the pornographers.
c. Intimate touching
Intimate touching means the petting or stroking of the sexual faculties of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal. Those who engage in this activity usually use the other person for sexual pleasure. (Of course, married couples may touch one another in this way if it is an expression of true love.) The one who is touched becomes an object, a thing to be used for the enjoyment of the other. In this way, it is like lust. However, usually both consent to the touching and in this way it is like pornography. When we touch the sexual powers of others for the sake of our own pleasure and allow ourselves to be touched in the same way, we treat the human body as a thing, an object. We do not treat the human body in accordance with its dignity and value, rather we use it.
Masturbation is the self-stimulation of our sexual powers by touch or even through thoughts. The one who masturbates selfishly seeks sexual satisfaction.
Masturbation is opposed to the dignity and value of the human body because the one committing this sin treats the human body as a thing to be used for enjoyment and pleasure. The one who masturbates uses the body as a means to an end, namely pleasure. In a certain way, the person who seeks sexual self-gratification might be compared to someone who is addicted to drugs. The one on drugs seeks a "high" through the drug. The one who masturbates seeks a "high" through self-stimulation. In both cases, however, the body is treated as a thing, an object of use.
It is important to note that masturbation is serious if it is accompanied by the full consent of the will. However, often the will is very heavily influenced by the desires of the flesh, by lust. It is often most difficult to rid ourselves of certain thoughts and ideas. If we resist these thoughts and we take steps to avoid them, then we are resisting this sin and this temptation. With such resistance, should something happen, it is less serious than it would otherwise be. Of course, we must always try to offer some resistance. If, on the other hand, we seek out movies, TV shows, and magazines which will excite us towards masturbation, we are guilty of a very serious action. We should never actively try to experience selfish satisfaction. As with lust and pornography, the sin of masturbation, as any sin, can be forgiven if we only submit it to God's mercy.
One last point is very important. We are responsible for those acts which we know and choose. Sometimes, while asleep or between sleeping and waking, we experience sexual stimulation. However, it is impossible to know or to consent to act which occurs while we are asleep. We are not responsible for such acts and God does not hold us responsible for them.
e. Extramarital Sexual Activity
The intimate and personal union of a husband and a wife in the act of sexual love is one of the most beautiful, rewarding, and praiseworthy acts human beings can do. However, this same act outside of the marital union is unworthy of the human person. Sometimes extramarital activity occurs before a young couple is married. They anticipate the marriage ceremony. On other occasions, extramarital activity occurs between a man and a woman not married to one another, but married to others. It also happens that a married man or woman will find an unmarried person of the opposite sex and they will engage in extramarital sexual intercourse.
Extramarital sexual intercourse is either fornication or adultery. It is fornication if neither person is married and it is adultery if at least one of the persons are married. The Church has always taught that these acts are serious sins.
Extramarital sexual intercourse is contrary to the dignity of the human body. In the physical union of a man and a woman outside of the marital union, the couple is attempting to love each other, but a loving union is not present because it has not yet been chosen in their wills. In extramarital intercourse, the marital union is not present, but the man and the woman are uniting as though they were married. The act of sexual intercourse (the bodily language of love) is falsified. In other words, the bodily language of love no longer matches reality because a loving union does not exist. If there is not a marital union of love, couples who engage in sexual activity are usually acting selfishly. In other words, even if they think they are exchanging love, they are using each other for their own satisfaction and this is contrary to the dignity of the body. The human body can never be used or manipulated. It does not exist for use.
f. Divorce and Remarriage
In our society, the civil law provides for divorce: the ending of a marriage relationship and the possibility of entering a new marriage with another spouse. However, since married love is always permanent until death, the marriage relationship cannot end until death. Therefore, the Church teaches that marriage cannot ever be undone (as long as the vows have been validly exchanged by both husband and wife and they have consummated their marriage). The Church does recognize that in some difficult cases it is necessary for a couple to live apart and even to obtain a civil divorce, but in the eyes of the Church, this situation is that of a married couple living apart. Under no circumstances may a validly married couple, even if they have obtained a civil divorce, enter into a new marriage. (Obviously, if an annulment has been granted by the Church, the first marriage was not valid and the parties are free to marry in the Catholic Church.)
A second marriage after a civil divorce is contrary to the dignity of the body. In effect, the one who remarries denies the permanence of the first marriage. The one who remarries denies that love ever existed because love, to be true love, must have the characteristic of permanence. If there was no love in the first marriage, then the partners in the first marriage were in effect using themselves and one another. They were treating each other as things even if that was not their intention. Treating people as things is contrary to human dignity.
g. Contraception and Sterilization
Contraception and sterilization violate the dignity of the human body. Since the human body is the expression of the human person, it participates in the infinite value and dignity of the human person. The human body is not simply a collection of biological parts functioning in a certain way. It is through the functioning of those parts in their totality that the mystery of the human person is expressed. The totality of the biological functions is more than the sum of the parts because through these apparently understandable functions an awesome and wonderful mystery is expressed: the mystery of an image of God. Since the body is not a machine and is the expression of the person, the principles of the theology of the body teach that we should never harm or alter a major, healthy, functioning part of the human body. Both contraception and sterilization attack our reproductive systems: a major, functioning part of the body. If the reproductive system is healthy, it should never be altered. To alter it surgically, with drugs, or with other devices, is to attack the dignity of the human person. It is to treat the body as a machine, a thing, which the person owns. Since the body is not a thing, but rather a part of the precious gift of life, it should never be treated as some thing which can be owned and manipulated. Contraception and sterilization are contrary to the dignity of the human body.
h. Artificial Reproductive Techniques
Artificial reproductive techniques designate asexual human reproduction and include "in vitro" fertilization, surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, and cloning. "In vitro" fertilization designates the union of previously collected ovum and sperm in a scientist's test tube. Surrogate motherhood is the practice of implanting an embryo ( i.e., a baby) in the womb of a woman who is not the child's mother (i.e., not the womb of the woman whose egg has been fertilized). Artificial insemination is "the transfer into the woman's genital tracts of previously collected sperm." Cloning refers to the practice of "copying" an existing human being by taking a cell from the body of the one to be "copied" and implanting the nucleus of that cell in an human ovum whose nucleus has been removed and then artificially stimulating the now "fertilized" ovum to grow. The "fertilized" ovum is then implanted in a womb. (Human cloning has not yet been successfully accomplished. However, cloning has been done in animals, e.g., the famous case of the sheep, "Dolly".)
"In vitro" fertilization can be an attempt to unite the husband's sperm with an ovum from his wife. If successful, the embryo can then be implanted in the wife's womb. This procedure is the "simple" case of homologous artificial fertilization. A second possibility is the union of the husband's sperm with an ovum from another woman or the union of a wife's ovum with sperm from another man. The new embryo can then be implanted either in the wife's womb or in the womb of another woman. This second possibility is called heterologous artificial fertilization.
The moral evaluation of homologous artificial fertilization and of heterologous artificial fertilization are substantially the same. In any artificial fertilization procedure, the parents do not respect their bodies as the expressions of their persons. Couples who engage in artificial fertilization procedures manipulate and degrade themselves because they treat their bodies simply as sources of biological material, sperm and ovum, and not as the expression of their persons. The biological raw materials obtained from the bodies of the couple are divorced from their bodies, i.e., divorced from their persons, and "manipulated" by the physician/technician. (In addition, sperm is usually obtained through masturbation which is contrary to the dignity of the body.) It is as though the spouses deny their own bodily (and therefore personal) participation in the conception of their child. But the human body can never be viewed simply as a source of biological material or as a biological machine producing certain raw materials. The conception of a new human being must always be personal! Artificial fertilization procedures are contrary to the bodily dignity of the couple.
The procedure of "in vitro" fertilization, heterologous or homologous, violates the embryo's human dignity, body and soul. The new child has been "produced." The new child is treated as a thing, a product. This attitude is clearly seen in the discussion of "designer" children--children "made to order" who are the right gender, i.e., the gender wanted by the parents, have sufficient intelligence, athletic skills, etc., etc.
Of course, if the artificially conceived embryo is implanted in the womb of another woman (surrogate motherhood), she is violating her own dignity. In effect, she is "renting" her body (her person) as though it were a machine.
The couple asking for artificial insemination, like the "in vitro" couple, denies the proper context for conception and reduces it to merely a biological event. The embryo's dignity is also not respected because he or she is again treated as a product!
Human cloning, if it were possible, is another violation of human dignity. It has all the faults of the other asexual reproductive technologies. It treats the body of the one to be cloned as a source of raw biological material. Further, the resulting clone is clearly a "product." As if that were not bad enough in itself, the "clone" (at least in the science fiction scenarios) is not desired in and for himself or herself but as a source of biological material, e.g., donor organs, or as a slave to do work for the "masters" (the ones who were cloned).
In addition, the whole notion that a human being can be "copied" denies the uniqueness and dignity of each one of us. A human being cannot be "copied." Obviously, since we are all unique images of God, an absolutely identical bodily copy (even in cloning) is impossible. Each and every human body expresses an absolutely unique human person and therefore there will always be some differences between two persons, even between a cloned person and his or her "original". Even the bodies of identical twins reflect God in different ways. Still, even the proposal of cloning is offensive because it denies the fundamental dignity of each and every one of us by implicitly denying that we are each uniquely created by God.
Of course, this discussion begs the question: Would cloned persons be truly persons? Of course, if human cloning were possible, God would cooperate with this sinful manipulation of human biological material and at the moment of conception, would infuse a soul and therefore there would be a new person in the world who would be unique because he or she would have been created by God. Some argue that God could not cooperate with such sin, but He does cooperate with our sinful activity all the time. When a child is conceived out of wedlock, he or she is still a child, created by God!
It is hardly necessary to point out that abortion is contrary to the dignity of the body. The taking of physical life is the greatest harm which can be done to a human person. (This physical evil is not as great as the moral evil of sin, but sin cannot be inflicted upon us, rather it always involves our own free choice.) The taking of the life of a child, pre-born or otherwise, is a heinous crime against the human person. Since the taking of life targets the body, abortion is contrary to the dignity of the body.
There are those who would claim that an embryo is not a person. However, geneticists and physicians tell us that even in the very first cell of a new human being, the genetic code is present which will be with that person for all eternity. At the point of conception, the person’s eventual height, eye color, and most of his or her other physical characteristics are determined. It is only a matter of development. Clearly, the physical evidence points to the presence of personhood. The body expresses the person and if everything is present and all that is required is development, then the person must be present. Pre-born children are persons from the moment of conception and their tiny bodies do express their persons. We cannot take their lives without wounding the dignity of all persons. For if we can take their lives, why can we not take the lives of older children, or middle-aged people, or seniors, or nursing home residents or anyone else whose life we might find inconvenient? Abortion is a terrible crime against human dignity.
j. Homosexual Activity
Sexual acts between members of the same sex are homosexual and are opposed to the dignity of the body. The differences between masculinity and femininity allow members of the opposite sex to love each other through the marital union. No such union is possible between members of the same sex. Therefore, such acts are not loving acts. If they are not loving acts, then they are acts in which the human body is used and manipulated. Since homosexual acts manipulate and use the human body (most often to satisfy sexual desire), homosexual acts are opposed to the dignity of the human body.
It is important to note that in the above discussion, we have been speaking of homosexual acts. The orientation or the tendency towards homosexual acts is not sinful or wrong. Whether transmitted by genes or acquired through the environment, a homosexual tendency is not the result of a personal choice and hence is not a sin.
2. Sexual Sins as Violations of Conjugal Love
Each of the sexual sins not only violate the dignity of the body, they also violate the union of love between spouses. Created in God's image and likeness, we are called to act as God acts. In other words, we are called to love as God loves. The five characteristics of God's love are: (1) a choice (2) based on knowledge. This choice is (3) a self-gift and this self-gift is (4) permanent and (5) life-giving.
Lust is obviously completely opposed to love. Love is a self-gift of two persons to each other. Those who love do not seek their own good, but rather the good of the one loved. Lust, however, is selfish. It seeks satisfaction for the one who lusts. Therefore, lust violates love.
Pornography also violates love. Love is founded on the perception (knowledge) of the dignity and value of the other person. By cheapening the value and dignity of the human body, and particularly of the sexual powers, pornography is an attack on love. Simply put, the more one is accustomed to regarding another as a thing to be used, the more difficult it is to see their wondrous value and dignity. Further, by encouraging a selfish use of the human body for one's own pleasure, pornography is radically opposed to the self-donation of love.
c. Intimate touching
Intimate touching outside of marriage violates love. Within marriage, when this activity is the prelude to sexual intercourse, intimate touching is part of the self-gift of the spouses. Outside of marriage, the proper context, i.e., a commitment of authentic love with the permanent and the life-giving characteristics, is lacking,. Therefore, intimate touching outside of marriage is opposed to love.
Masturbation is essentially selfish and is directly opposed to love. Our sexual powers were given to us so that we can love in the intimate union of marriage. They are the means of physically giving ourselves to another human being of the opposite sex. When we stimulate ourselves, our sexual faculties are not the means of reaching out to another. Rather they are used to turn inward to ourselves. (See the last two paragraphs above under E, 1, d, for a discussion of factors lessening guilt in regard to this sin.)
e. Extramarital Sexual Activity
We know that extramarital sexual intercourse violates love because at least some of the five characteristics of love are missing. The man and woman engaging in extramarital sexual intercourse have not chosen in their wills to give themselves to each other. Of course, they may argue that they actually have, but in reality they have not. Such a choice must be a public act because marriage is a reciprocal self-donation. Both husband and wife must know that the other intends to make a total self-donation. Private promises are hardly sufficient for each to be sure of the other's self-donation. Even in employment agreements, most would not trust a private, and therefore, non-binding agreement. How much more, then, when it is one's total self which is being surrendered, is it necessary to know with certainty that the other is truly making a self-donation. The public act makes the community the witness and the guarantor of the mutual agreement. With the public as witness, both spouses are quite aware of the seriousness of the commitment. With that knowledge, each may be reasonably certain of the intention of the other. Each will have given the decision more careful consideration than they would a non-binding private act.
Since there is no self-donation, no will act giving themselves to each other, the extramarital couple also do not have two other characteristics of love: permanence and life. There is no self-surrender of one to the other until death. There is no acceptance of new life. In fact, in many cases, the extramarital couple not only is not open to life, but actually fears a possible child. Without a will-act, which is a permanent and life-giving self-donation, there is no love. Extramarital sexual intercourse is a counterfeit of genuine authentic love.
f. Divorce and Remarriage
Clearly, a second attempted marriage if there is a valid first marriage still in existence, also offends true love. Spouses pledge their love in the vows. The person who remarries after having left a valid marriage presumes to make a self-donation to someone else while the first self-donation still exists. Such spouses presume to offer what is no longer theirs to give! Married persons have already surrendered themselves to their spouses. It is impossible for a husband or a wife to take back this gift from the spouse and bestow it on another because the gift of love must be permanent. Divorce followed by remarriage is an offense against authentic human love. (Obviously, if an annulment has been granted by the Church, the first marriage was not valid and the parties are free to marry in the Catholic Church.)
g. Contraception and Sterilization
Contraception and sterilization are also contrary to love. When a couple employs contraception or sterilization, they are refusing life. Since they refuse life, they no longer love because love, if it is truly love, must have the characteristic of life. There is no love without the willingness to give life. And there can be no bodily love (as expressed in the marital union) without couples' willingness to accept life if God gives them a child. This point is made by Pope John Paul II in the now famous phrase from the Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, "the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other." (See Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Familiaris Consortio, no. 32.) Contracepting and sterilized couples lie to one another when they engage in the sexual embrace: their body language speaks of a total self-gift and the contraception and sterilization speak of holding something back. Contracepting and sterilized couples do not love because they do not intend to give themselves totally to one another. (It is very important to note that if someone has been sterilized, the sin can be forgiven and the Church does not require such a person to undergo an operation to reverse the sterilization procedure. Having confessed the sin and received absolution, a sterilized person can truly love his or her spouse in and through the body because he can intend to give himself totally to the spouse. Morally speaking, in this case, the sterilized person is comparable to a naturally infertile person. Of course, knowing that a sinful act can be forgiven can never justify doing it.)
h. Artificial Reproductive Techniques
"In vitro" fertilization, artificial insemination, and cloning are sins against love. The only proper context for the conception of a new human person is the mutual, loving, self-gift of the spouses (i.e., of their very persons) to each other expressed in and through their physical union This physical union is more than a biological event. More is occurring in this union than merely a physical act. Through this physical act, two persons are united in a wondrous gift of love. From this personal gift of love, there sometimes arises a new human person. "The human person must be accepted in his parents' [spousal] act of union and love; the generation of a child must therefore be the fruit of that mutual giving." (See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect For Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation, Donum Vitae, 1987, II, B, 4) In other words, a specific bodily expression of love between the parents (husband and wife) must be the proximate cause of the conception of a child. When the conception of a child (a new person) is divorced from the loving, physical self-gift of the spouses, the conception does not occur within the proper context, i.e., within the context of a loving, personal union.
Surrogate motherhood is also a violation of conjugal love. The insertion of a third person (the surrogate mother) within the bond of conjugal love violates the totality of the self-donation of one spouse to the other. This totality between spouses requires an exclusiveness, a fidelity, not just in the matter of sexual relations, but also in the matter of conceiving and bearing children. When spouses pledge themselves to one another, they also confer on each other "the right to become a father and a mother only through each other." (See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect For Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation, Donum Vitae, 1987, II. A, 1. See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2376.) Surrogate motherhood is an intrusion of a third person in the marital relationship and thus violates conjugal love.
These reproductive technologies not only violate the marital bond of love, they also are sins against the love which parents owe children. The child, as a human person, has rights. He or she has the right "to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up by his own parents." (See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect For Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation, Donum Vitae, 1987, II, A, 3.) Further, he or she has the right to be born of that same mother. By denying the embryo's human rights, "in vitro" fertilization, artificial insemination, cloning, and surrogate motherhood violate the love owed to the child.
It is also obvious that abortion is contrary to the principles of love. In rejecting life in this definitive and horrendous way, couples fail to love because love always includes life. But beyond the rejection of new life, abortion demonstrates an almost total rejection of the child's mother or father. To reject a tiny new child, the fruit of love, is to reject one's sexual partner, the other parent of the child. Thus, abortion is not only destructive to children (undoubtedly the most terrible aspect of the war on the unborn), it also destroys mothers and fathers. Short of murder, there is no greater crime against the sexual partner, than abortion.
j. Homosexual Activity
Homosexual acts are sins against love. In marriage, two people, a man and a woman, give themselves to each other and this self-donation is expressed in and through their bodies. They become one flesh. This is possible because of the differences in masculinity and femininity. However, it is impossible for two people of the same gender to become one flesh. They cannot make a bodily self-donation to each other. (Of course, it is precisely the bodily expression of mutual self-donation which makes the bond of marriage unique.) Homosexuals acts are sins against love because homosexual acts purport to be expressions of a bodily union which cannot exist. Further, there is no possibility for new life. Homosexual acts therefore are not acts of love. Two of the characteristics of love are missing: the total self-gift of one person to the other expressed in and through a bodily union; and the possibility of new life.
(See above, E, j, for a note on homosexual orientation as opposed to homosexual activity.)
It must be remembered that the activities we have discussed: Lust, Pornography, Masturbation, Intimate Touching, Extramarital Sexual Activity, Divorce and Remarriage, Contraception and Sterilization, Artificial Reproductive Technologies, Abortion, and Homosexual Activity, are only sins if there is a consent of the will and a knowledge of the sin. In many cases, people are not aware that these are sins or they do not give full consent to the act. Even if there is a serious sin, it can be forgiven through the sacrament of Reconciliation provided there is a firm purpose on the part of the penitent to try not to commit the same sin again. (In the case of Divorce and Remarriage, the sin is living in a second marriage which is not a marriage because there is a valid first marriage. This sin, as all sins, can be forgiven, but the sinner needs to have a firm purpose of not sinning. In other words, the one confessing the sin must end the marriage relationship. In most cases, this is not possible and so the sin cannot be forgiven. If the first marriage is invalidated or that spouse dies, then the second marriage can be blessed [validated], and the sin forgiven. People living in an invalid marriage, should take great comfort in the words of Pope John Paul II that they "will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance, and charity. [See Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Familiaris Consortio, no. 84.] ) The best formula for resisting the temptations which come from our desires is frequent reception of the Eucharist (provided one is in the state of grace) and a regular use of the sacrament of Reconciliation.