Catholic problem with homosexuality?

The Catholic problem with homosexuality does not go back to the Bible, as it does in conservative Protestant circles. Catholics have never had difficulty reading the good book with imagination. In fact, when the pope recently visited France, he told congregations that strictly speaking, Catholics are not “people of the book” at all. Rather, the words on the page serve to point to the Word of God, which is to say Christ himself.

The Catholic issue here goes back to Augustine. This great theologian of the church asked himself an interesting question: what was sex like in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall? He presumed that prelapsarian love-making was a more orderly affair than it is now. In particular, man [sic] would have had full control of his genitals: they would not have swelled against his will.

That man lacks full control now is part of his punishment for eating from the tree. So when Adam and Eve covered themselves, it was not because they were ashamed of their nakedness; it was because they were ashamed of their lack of control. A reduced capacity for free will is a sign of sin. As the philosopher Michel Foucault put it: “Sex in erection is the image of man in revolt against God.”

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