Intrinsically/objectively act/desire disordered CCC 2357/8

Aug. 30, 2019
Ed Condon
Catholic News Agency

WASHINGTON – “After a major scientific study found there is not a singular genetic marker for homosexuality, a Catholic theologian explained that the findings are fully in accord with Catholic teaching.

The study was published Aug. 30 in Science. It examined data from several large genetic databanks in multiple countries, and surveyed nearly half a million people about their sexual partners and preferences. Previous studies on the matter have only examined sample groups of hundreds of people.

“From a genetic standpoint, there is no single [genetic distinction] from opposite-sex to same-sex sexual behaviors,” said Andrea Ganna, a geneticist at Finland’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, and the study’s lead author.

Speaking to Scientific American, Eric Vilain, a geneticist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., called the study’s result “the end of the ‘gay gene’” theory…

…In a commentary published along with the study, Oxford University geneticist Melinda Mills noted an “inclination to reduce sexuality to genetic determinism” in support of sociological or ideological positions.””  [Ed.  to avoid personal responsibility for one’s choices?  Actions?  Seems to be all the rage these days, that old canard ‘The genes (or, devil) made me do it!]

-by Arland K. Nichols

“The Church’s document, The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, notes that sexual attraction to persons of the same sex is “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” The Catechism uses nearly identical language: “Exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex … is objectively disordered.”…

…Before clarifying the meaning of the term it should be noted that one reason such language is received as harsh is because we live in a society that no longer sees human nature as universal, intrinsic, and immutable. Rather than recognizing an intelligible telos, or inner aim of man, today it is claimed that our human nature consists of whatever individual feelings come “spontaneously,” are “genuine” or what feels “natural to me.” Most are unfamiliar with natural law and thereby reject the traditional western and Biblical belief that as humans we have a law written upon our hearts, and to abide by that law ensures our flourishing. To flaunt that law does harm. The reaction to Church teaching in the area of homosexuality is, in part, symptomatic of a deeper and fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the human person. The misunderstanding of the Church’s teaching is further complicated by the fact that we live in a sound-bite culture, where nuanced technical terms are underappreciated. [Ed. “…hidden nuances which 99 percent of the Catechism’s readers cannot be expected to fathom.” Included in this are the phrases “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically disordered,” terms which rise from the language of Catholic moral theology and Catholic philosophy. In this usage, the term “disordered” indicates a departure from the norm and not, as usage in English could suggest, sinful, demeaning, or sickly.] Therefore, it is incumbent upon Catholics to explain thoroughly and with sensitivity the eternal truth conveyed by the language of the Church.”

Intrinsic & Objective Disorder

The morality of the act itself = intrinsically disordered.  By the very definition of the act, it is of and in of itself intrinsically sinful, by definition.  There are not circumstances, extenuating or otherwise, than can make such an act not sinful.

The morality of the desire is = objectively/logically disordered, since its goal/object cannot be but disordered according to natural law and Revelation.  There are no circumstances, extenuating or otherwise, than can make such an act not sinful.

Sins, such as homosexual attraction are intrinsically sinful.  There is no circumstance, extenuating or otherwise, where homosexual attraction is not sinful.  Same sex coitus is objectively sinful.  There is no circumstance, extenuating or otherwise, where same sex coitus is not sinful.

One problem with the language of “intrinsic disorder” is that almost no one apart from theologians trained in the scholastic tradition correctly grasps its meaning.  Read the WHOLE article by clicking on the link below, if you dare.  (My brain hurts/is full.  May I be excused, please?  Medieval scholastic theologians are not the only theologians in the Church.  They’re dead.  But, have pride of place in Catholic theology.  Remember, a theologian is one who studies the discipline of theology.  Ask twelve living theologians a question, get >13 answers. lol)

-by Daniel Quinlan @masterjedi747

“In harmony with centuries of Catholic teaching on how we should evaluate the moral character of certain actions, the Catechism affirms: “There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery.” (CCC 1756) In other words, there exist actions that must always, by their very nature – without any exception, under any circumstances – be considered as evil. Because the wickedness of the action is inherent, arising internally from the account of the very nature of the action, we describe actions of this sort as “intrinsically evil”, and hold that there is nothing that can ever justify such an action…

…Traditional moral theology holds that human actions always have some end or purpose: something that the action is for, some goal that the action is “ordered toward” obtaining. In many cases, the purpose of an action is given by nature (e.g. eating food is naturally ordered to health, whether or not that purpose is consciously intended by the person). In other cases, the purpose of an action is superadded by the human will (e.g. when “comfort food” is desired primarily because it gives pleasure or satisfaction, without any explicit concern for nutritional value). And sometimes, it can happen that the human purpose driving an action is radically incompatible with the natural purpose (e.g. when poison is consumed for the sake of suicide, which is absolutely incompatible with health)… and in these cases the action is considered to be disordered, because the natural purpose of the action has been wholly and fundamentally impeded. Note however that when moral theologians speak of actions being disordered, this refers to the moral character of the action. And indeed the Catechism is explicit on this point: “The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts… that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil” (CCC 1755).

In a very similar (and perhaps slightly more obvious) way, we also say that every desire has an end: something that the desire is for, something that the desire is “ordered toward” obtaining. If you desire to commit an action, we say that your desire is ordered toward that action; and if we speak of your desire as being disordered, this refers to the fact that your desire is ordered toward something bad, which you should not desire. Therefore: if you desire to commit an action that is evil, your desire is disordered; and if you desire to commit an action that is intrinsically evil (e.g. if you desire to murder your annoying neighbor), then we describe your desire as intrinsically disordered. Note well that if an action is only a sin in some cases, but not in others – if there are exceptions – then it is not an intrinsically evil action. Note also, for the very same reason, that every temptation toward sin is intrinsically disordered: because no matter how large or small the sin might be, sin (by definition) is always evil without exception.”

-by Karlo Broussard

“It isn’t compassionate to encourage people to embrace a false version of reality.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the desire to be romantically involved with a member of the same sex is “objectively disordered” (2357). But for some, them’s fightin’ words.

Take Fr. James Martin, S.J., for example. In a 2017 interview with columnist Jonathan Merritt, Fr. Martin reaffirmed the position he took in his book Building a Bridge, namely, that this language in the Catechism is “needlessly hurtful” and should be replaced with the more pastoral language of “differently ordered.”

I don’t know if Fr. Martin still holds this view. In a 2018 article for America Magazine, he presents the Church’s official teaching on the objective disorder of same-sex sexual activity and the disorder of the desire for it. He then says, “As a Catholic priest, I have…never challenged those teachings, nor will I.”

Perhaps we could push back a bit on this last claim since he routinely celebrates events and organizations that publicly oppose Church teaching. Regardless, we still need to address the question: are romantic desires for members of the same-sex disordered or merely different?

First, to say the desire for romantic involvement with a member of the same sex is “different” is to suggest the desire is not disordered. We don’t say someone’s preference for vanilla ice cream over chocolate is disordered; we say it’s different. But to say the desire for same-sex sexual activity is not disordered entails the further claim that there’s no disorder in same-sex sexual activity itself. And there’s the rub: same-sex sexual activity is morally disordered, as Fr. Martin acknowledged in the America article.

A morally disordered act is a human act (proceeding from intellect and will) that lacks the order to its due end. In other words, it’s a human act that intentionally misses the mark, like the archer that intentionally misses the target he’s supposed to hit. St. Thomas Aquinas explains,

Sin as we properly speak of it in moral matters, and as it has the nature of moral wrong, comes about because the will by tending toward an improper [undue] end fails to attain its proper [due] end (De Malo q.3, a.1).

Elsewhere, Aquinas articulates the principle this way: “We call every act that is not properly related to its requisite [due] end a disordered act” (De Malo q.15, a.1).

But what does Aquinas mean when he speaks of a “proper [due] end” for a human act? It’s that which the human action naturally aims at: its natural end.

Consider, for example, how the due end or goal of an oak tree is to grow and to reproduce, which entails sinking its roots deep into the ground, taking in nutrients, performing photosynthesis, and dropping acorns. Such things are due or proper to the oak tree in that the achievement of such things makes the oak tree flourish as the kind of thing it is. If the oak tree were to fail in achieving these natural ends or goals, the oak tree would be defective in being an oak tree.

So, the due end of a thing is the natural end or goal of a thing and its activities: that which is befitting for the perfection of the thing, making it a good instance of its kind.

The same holds true for human actions. Some human actions have natural ends or goals that constitute the perfection of the act. For example, the human act of assertion has the natural end of expressing that which we believe to be true. So, when we assert what we believe to be true, that act is perfected inasmuch as it is the kind of act that it’s supposed to be.

Similarly, the act of eating has the natural end of nourishing the body. When we eat in a way that achieves this natural end or goal, our act succeeds in being the kind of act it’s supposed to be.

Disorder enters into human acts when we voluntarily engage in an act that is directed away from its natural end or goal (a due end or goal). Eating with the intention to vomit out the food afterward is one example of a disordered action. The act from the beginning is willfully directed away from its natural end of nourishing the body. Perversion is another word for this.

Now, the achievement of the natural ends of a human action not only determines the perfection of the act itself, but also of the person who performs the action. For the power to act belongs to a person for the sake of fully actualizing herself as a human being, or acquiring those things that are perfective of her nature.

So, when a person voluntarily prevents her act from achieving its natural end, she rejects the associated good. Since morality entails doing good and avoiding evil, to reject the good of an action is a moral defect, or in the words of Aquinas from the above quote, “sin.”

So what’s all this got to do with same-sex sexual activity? As I’ve argued before, one of the natural (due) ends of our reproductive organs is the generation of offspring. That’s an end or goal at which the sexual act naturally aims (the other being unitive love between the spouses).

And since it’s a moral disorder to voluntary prevent an act from achieving its natural end, it follows that to voluntarily thwart the use of our sexual organs from achieving their natural end of generation of offspring is morally disordered. Same-sex sexual activity does just that. Therefore, same-sex sexual activity is morally disordered.

With this in mind, let’s go back to our original question: should we start calling the desire to be romantically involved with a member of the same sex “different” instead of “disordered”?

No, we should not. Either we encourage people to embrace a false version of reality by telling them their romantic desires for members of the same-sex are natural and good, or we stick with what’s true and invite people to live in accordance with reality.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about leading people to the truth and helping them experience authentic human happiness. I don’t see anything “needlessly hurtful” about that.”


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