The context of sexual ethics today deals within a western culture the increase of sexually based crimes, higher levels of HIV and AIDS along with a rising teenage pregnancy rate. There are many differing opinions on the reason for such an increase in negative forms of sexual related issues including the opinion held by some that a loss of respect for Christian morals and teachings is responsible for the current acceptable sexually promiscuous culture. However this view is met with the argument that certain Christian values prevent people from fully exploring their sexuality.
I am approaching the issue of sexual ethics with the focus on homosexuality and the attitudes presented from the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Within Christianity there is a mix of opinion that threatens to divide an already split religion further apart concerning the acceptability of Homosexuality. Homosexuality is where two members of the same sex develop a deep sense of physical attraction to one another. This can lead to a relationship of love between the pair forming which may or may not include sex. However Homosexuality has always faced problems, as many people believe it to be immoral and completely unnatural.
Some people class it as a crime, which has lead to restrictions being placed upon the consenting age of practising homosexuals. There have been numerous tales of persecution against homosexuals ranging from verbal and physical abuse including one of the most well known forms of persecuted attacks, which involved the nail bombing of a Gay bar in London’s Soho district in 1999. So members of the Homosexual community are used to being persecuted for their sexuality especially from strongly religious members of the world who believe that homosexuals degrade society with their fake, unnecessary and unnatural sexuality.
There have been many cases in which homosexual persecution has gone so far as to try and reverse a person’s homosexual nature through extreme medical and physiological assessment stating that the grounds for doing this are an attempt to “cure” a person from their homosexual nature. Christian attitudes towards sex are very much influenced by the ancient Christian cultures from which their religion was founded. Many early Christian writers including St Augustine often portrayed sex in a negative light focusing upon the view that sex was a form of sin unless being used for reproductive purposes.
This is a view that stems from contemporary Roman Catholic and in some cases Protestant denominations belief in Natural Moral Law. Natural Moral Law was first articulated by St Thomas Aquinas who stated that this was the way in which humans could understand their purpose and the way in which they where expected to behave and interact in accordance with not just the natural order of things but in accordance with the will of God. It covers a variety of different principles. One of the main aspects is procreation, which addresses the purpose of sex and shows that the only purpose of sex is for reproduction in order to continue the human race.
In regards to how Natural Moral Law is used by Catholics to show evidence for their rejection of homosexuality is linked directly to the 3 main primary and secondary precepts of procreation, preservation and education as the concept of homosexuality, in particular homosexual sex breaks all these precepts. For example Homosexual sex will never result in reproduction, which therefore goes against the primary precept of procreation, which is using sex with the main purpose being reproduction.
This then goes against the idea that is presented within preservation, as homosexual sex can never help preserve the human race. Therefore Catholics argue that as homosexuality goes against Natural Moral Law it is always wrong. Therefore within the church around the world there is a commonly held view, particularly within the Roman Catholic Church that homosexuality is unacceptable as it goes against the fundamental principle of Natural Moral Law that the purpose of sex is procreation, which is something that cannot be achieved within an active homosexual relationship.
However an argument presented by homosexuals in defence to the argument presented by Catholic based upon the teachings of Natural Moral Law is that for them their homosexual tendencies are completely natural for them and therefore despite the fact that the nature of their relationships go against the three main primary precepts they still follow the natural law present in each human being as they are acting in the way that is natural to them based upon their first experiences of sexual desire being towards persons of the same sex.
Some of the early Christian scholars did acknowledge that sex could be seen as a physical form of pleasure and enjoyment but still made it clear that the main purpose of sex was for reproduction. Many of the views held within the ancient Christian sects that have carried on into the modern day Christianity come heavily laden in biblical based evidence. For example, the views that sex outside of marriage, adultery and homosexual relationships are all sinful acts come from specific New and Old Testament statements.
Along with supporting evidence taken from the theory of Natural Law created by Aquinas Christians are able to make judgments about the purpose of human beings and from these decisions which sexual activities are suitable for engaging in and which acts are too sinful to undertake. Gareth Moore comments on the fact that Christians believe that because “God has ordained sex for procreation it also follows that any kind of sexual activity not suitable for the creation of children was not only forbidden but perverted the very nature of sex itself. ” (G. Moore, Sex, sexuality and relationships, pg223 of Christian ethics edited by Bernard Hoose.
Therefore it can be inferred from this quote that sexual acts such as masturbation, homosexual sex and use of contraception are all wrong in the eyes of Christians. One belief stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is that homosexuals “do not choose their condition; for them it is a trial. ” The Catholic Church makes it very clear they believe that no sin is involved in the inclination towards a member of the same sex, as they believe that an inclination is something that is not freely chosen and can often be a very hard and traumatic experience for the person.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Verse 2358 that “They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. ” However the Catholic Church makes it very clear that it is a sin and therefore unacceptable for the allowance of homosexual acts. They believe this because it is made very clear within the Bible that any homosexual act is condemned: “You must not have sexual relations with a man as you would a woman. That is a hateful sin. (Leviticus 18 vs. 22).
The Bible goes onto say in Leviticus 20 vs. 13 that “If a man has sexual relations with another man, as a man does a woman these two have done a hatful sin. They must be put to death. They have bought it upon themselves”. They also believe that homosexual acts are sinful as they go against the purpose for sex reproduction. Thomas Aquinas stated that “sex that doesn’t allow for reproduction is unnatural and wrong and so homosexual sex is wrong”- (Sexual ethics and homosexuality by Robert Bowie pg 186).
Catholics also strongly follow and support Natural Law, which also explains their reasons for being against homosexual acts. There have been many occasions in which the Catholic Church has been known to openly condemn homosexuals for partaking in sexual acts for example in 1991 a book published by Kate Saunders and Peter Stamford claimed that Catholic cardinals held open views upon homosexuality that had the ability to create more intolerance. Also in 1991 a Polish cardinal called Cardinal Glemp commented that Homosexuals where to be seen and referred to as “backyard mongrels”.
Another Cardinal stated, “The practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten lives and well-being of a large number of people. “- (Saunders and Stamford 1992 pg79). So in this instance a religion that claims to be “all loving” has demonstrated that in some circumstances how ever tolerant a religion appears to be there will always be a certain amount of persecution against Homosexuals. Recently in the news their have been new issues raised following the allowance of civil partnerships concerning the law that should homosexual couples be allowed to adopt.
This has been met with uproar from the Catholic church who have stated that if this law is passed they will refuse to help gay couples adopt and even go as far as to close down Catholic based adoption agencies. So despite claiming to be a fully tolerant, respectful and all loving religion the Catholic Church seems to show that their opinion towards homosexuality is in some cases excusable from this as it goes against the laws of God.
Personally I comprehend the reasons for the Catholics holding the views that they do, especially as they have such a strong amount of evidence stemming both from scripture and Natural Moral Law which only strengthens there case that homosexuality has no place within the church. However I am inclined to believe that the Catholics have overlooked the teachings from Jesus that state “love one another as I have loved you” and “love thy neighbour”.
Although those teachings where never specifically linked by Jesus to the issue of homosexuality they where meant to be followed by all and applied to every person and in my opinion the Catholics constant deontological standpoint regarding homosexuality means that they sometimes overlook the basic teachings of Jesus, which to me are more important fundamentally than the scriptures laid down based upon a culture from 2000 years ago. However its very clear those in the 21st century western culture homosexuals are being accepted and regarded as just normal people who love one another.
It is now possible for openly homosexual couples to legally engage in a relationship involving a sexual nature as well as receive a civil partnership. “Civil partnerships are a legally recognised union between two people of the same sex. While this sounds fairly dry and technical, it is to all intents and purposes a right of marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Couples who become partnered will have the right to exactly the same legal treatment across a range of matters, as a married couple would expect. ” (http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4497348. stm, By Dominic Casciani
BBC News community affairs, 20th January 2007) So overall it is clear that Homosexuality along with many other issues raised within sexual ethics are fuelled by various different approaches stemming from many different opinions, the largest of the groups to hold opinions on homosexuality being forms of religious groups, in particular the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Within the worldwide Anglican Church there is currently a lot of confusion over whether or not the acceptance of homosexuality can be tolerated or whether it simply goes too far against the laws of God.
There are currently a number of differences with many denominations who, cannot agree upon where they stand with regards to homosexuality. A possible explanation for this is that because the church is based upon only four main rules that must be followed in order to belong to the church. Therefore this gives the separate denominations the ability to implement their own personal based decisions on whether homosexuality is acceptable within their church or not.
Obviously this means that there is going to be a number of different and contrasting views, as different dioceses will view the issue in different ways, as there is no set viewpoint given for the church as a whole. There have been many official resolutions presented and approved by the Anglican churches and due to the fact that there are so many different views the Arch Bishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has declared them to be contradictory. In 1991 “Issues in Human Sexuality” was passed which stated that same-sex relationships where acceptable for laypersons but not the clergy.
In 1998 at the Anglican Lambeth Conference it was stated that a resolution had been passed saying that “homosexual acts are incompatible with scripture. ” However it was also said that this policy was “Was not the final word and research would continue. ” However in 2003 a number of extremely controversial events occurred, leading to the issue of Homosexuality within the Anglican Church to be bought into dispute once again. The main event that caused the issue to be bought into light again was an openly Gay clergyman Jeffery John being appointed as the next Bishop of Reading.
It was a well known fact that he was a in a domestic partnership with another man which caused much shock and displeasure as many of the Anglican community saw this act to be something that went against everything the church stood for despite the fact that the denomination had no fixed standing point concerning the issue of homosexuality. This was followed with a similar controversial event following a Canadian priest Gene Robinson being appointed Bishop of New Hampshire, but this appointment was done in the full knowledge that he was openly gay and in a relationship with another man.
Both of these shocking and controversial moves by the church caused a crisis meeting to be held between the worldwide Anglican Arch Bishops. There was huge media coverage of these debates and discussions between the Anglican Church leaders and many statements where released all indicating an imminent split within the worldwide Anglican Church following the mass fallout of outrage from different countries. Following these various meetings where held in order to discuss what had occurred and where the church stood as a whole.
In 2005 the Windsor report was published which took a strong stand against homosexuality, in particular the practise of homosexuality as well as recommending the immediate suspension on further Gay clergy appointments along with putting a stop to same sex blessings. However despite being a strong attack upon homosexuality within the Anglican Church it did stop short of recommending that official discipline should be taken against the Anglican Church of Canada.
The Christian ethical theory Situation Ethics can be used effectively by Liberal Anglicans in showing why they believe that the church should be more tolerant and begin to openly accept homosexuals into the faith. Situation Ethics is based upon doing the most loving thing which stems from the teachings of Jesus within the Gospels. Within the Gospels it is clearly shown that Jesus openly broke the norms of society and even in some case the law, for example when he spoke with women and lepers in public or healed people on the Sabbath. However it is also made clear that he did these things out of love.
Therefore if you approach the issue of homosexuality from the viewpoint of Situation Ethics it is clearly shown that the most loving thing that a Christian can do is to accept them and their relationship. So it is clear to see that the world wide Anglican Church is clearly torn on whether or not they as a denomination can condone and accept Homosexuality. It is obvious that some members of the Anglican Church are attempting to follow the teachings of Jesus, and in doing so respect and love everyone, therefore accepting and being tolerant of homosexuality.
Whereas other members of the church still feel that it cannot be permitted to accept homosexuality as it goes against too much of the given scriptural evidence. Therefore the Anglican Church neither agrees nor disagrees with the acceptance of homosexuality within the denomination as a whole. Personally I actually think that it is almost a good thing that the denomination is so divided in opinion on the matter as it allows more than one opinion or perspective to be permitted.
Although I also see the benefits of the Catholic Church’s standpoint as it is always consistent and therefore less confusing to understand I feel that it is better to be of the more open standpoint because it is much more tolerant of individual opinions and potentially valid viewpoints. Therefore the current position that the Anglican Church finds itself in is one in my opinion that needs no immediate resolution as it currently permits both the acceptance and intolerance of homosexuality much the same as modern day life.
Overall I believe that both the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Church have valid arguments I find it very hard to accept aspects of both. Personally I like and respect the fact that the Catholics make their views very clear and never differ from where they stand as it makes things very easy to understand whereas the Anglican Church has no fix standpoint which therefore makes it very difficult to follow what exactly they believe concerning homosexuality.
However I believe that the fact that the Anglican Church in parts approaches the issue in a way that allows for all viewpoints to be taken into account is a much more effective way of approaching it as it allows for a variety of opinions to be openly shown. Personally my view is to err on the side of compassion regarding the issue as although I recognise that certain aspects of the scripture make it clear that homosexuality has no place within Christianity I still believe more in the gospel presentation of a all loving and compassionate Jesus.
Jesus was presented to us as being loving and tolerant of all, willing to accept everyone even if they did wrong. The only point where Jesus is presented to be intolerant towards others is when confronted with extremely judgemental people, which could infer that despite the Catholics maintained and respected standpoint regarding homosexuality they are possibly being too judgmental.
Because Jesus made it clear that the most important thing to do is to “love one another as I have loved you” I believe that homosexual people must certainly be accepted and treated with respect. Whether that means that the Christian community regardless of denomination must accept this to remains to be seen, but it seems to me that if they wish to remain a vital part of the current society they may have to make compromises on certain issues for example the current debate on allowing homosexual couples able to adopt children.