“I am a homosexual because I was born that way.”
“Although I was born a male, I knew from the beginning that I was a woman trapped in a man’s body.”
We’ve all heard such declarations before, haven’t we? The logical conclusion is that people are not responsible for their actions. If every act is the result of a chemical reaction in the brain, then every act must be without moral value.
A friend of mine, while discussing with me the controversy over the North Carolina “Bathroom Law,” opined that transgendered people are born that way. When I asked if he would be concerned if a man who considered himself a female entered a public restroom where his daughter was, he said he would be more concerned if the man was a pedophile.
But my friend can’t have it both ways. If a person’s sexual proclivities are chemically pre-ordained, then why can’t the pedophile make the same argument? Or why not the adulterer or the rapist? And the list can go on ad infinitum.
From a Catholic perspective, if people are not responsible for their actions, the conclusion should be obvious: the Catholic Church is totally wrong about sin. Furthermore, since the Church and Christ are one, then Jesus was also wrong when he condemned certain actions. But that is impossible.
So, since we live in a culture of sexual perversion, it is more important than ever for Catholics to understand the Church’s teaching when it comes to personal responsibility and sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that, “God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions.” (CCC 1730) In Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus wrote, “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his own acts.”
It is true that God has given people freedom. But it is not a freedom to simply do as one wishes. Freedom is the power to act and take responsibility for one’s actions. One can use that freedom to choose the ultimate good, which is God, or one can use that freedom to choose evil and, thus, commit sin. The Catechism asserts, “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin.’” (CCC 1730)
Yes, there can be mitigating circumstances that diminish one’s responsibility for evil. Some of them may be “ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological factors.” (CCC 1735) Although this list may not be exhaustive, the Church never includes “I was born this way.” In fact, after the above list, the Catechism forthrightly declares, “Every act directly willed is imputable to its author.” (CCC 1736)
To determine the morality of an act, the Church recognizes three characteristics: the object, the intention, and the circumstances (or consequences) of the act.
The object (the choice), must always be a moral good in conformity with the will of God. If the object is evil, then it is an immoral act. If a person is acting under his own will, the intention of any act must also be in accordance with the will of God, or the act is immoral. Even a so-called good intention (more on this later) cannot justify an evil end. The circumstances (consequences) cannot change the morality of the act. They might, however, reduce one’s culpability or the magnitude of the evil act.
Now let’s apply this in practical terms:
Two women find themselves attracted to each other. They see themselves as kindred spirits who enjoy the same interests. They may even love each other, just as any two friends might. So far the object, a strong friendship, is not immoral.
But over time, they desire to expand their friendship into the sexual realm. The object has now changed into a homosexual relationship. Assuming their desire is freely chosen, their object is intrinsically immoral.
If challenged about their relationship, they may say that their intention is to fully love the other. After all, they assert, who can object to people who choose to love? Although the “good” here is their perception of love, it does not change the evil of their sexual relationship.
The consequences of their relationship, whether these be “marrying,” adopting special-needs children, or rescuing abused puppies, do not alter the evil of their sexual actions.
To use a well-worn cliche, “This is not rocket science.” Any Catholic of average intelligence can easily determine the morality of an act using the Church’s three-step formula–unless, of course, one rejects the teaching authority of Christ’s Church. Then anything goes.
The “born this way” philosophy cannot sustain itself. The results will not be more freedom but the destruction of all legal boundaries that protect society. (Note the reaction to the North Carolina Bathroom Law.) Life in a world devoid of moral responsibility would be, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Those who consider themselves good Catholics cannot have it both ways. Either the Church is right or Caitlyn Jenner is. Make your choice.
THOMAS ADDIS is a retired high school teacher and published author, most recently authoring a children’s book, A Gift of Light, which is available at Amazon. An M.A. graduate of Oakland University, he is Associate Editor of Catholic Journal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and cycling.