ON THE HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE IN NIGERIA: An Ethical Response
A flip over the mages of the nation's dailies confronts one with different positions and opinions, over the on going debate on the floor of the Nations parliamentary on the issue of homosexual marriage. Yet as the homosexual lifestyle and the demand for their "right" become more prominent, it is as if only a few could possibly see anything wrong with homosexual acts or anything distorted in the phenomenon. Amid homosexual advocacy and political claims about the nature, origins, dynamics, and morality of homosexual activity, is widespread. For this reason I would like to present an ethical response.
Pius Aboje in his article, "The Future of Homosexual Marriage" of 21/11/11 in The Guardian Newspaper argues, "Obviously, the prejudice against the homosexual and lesbian alike dates back to time immemorial, and so it reflects in some holy books that were written long time ago." He further opines that, "there is no doubt that there are homosexuals who are created by God, just as there are leftist, hermaphrodites, etc."
In situations like this, we can put things in clearer perspective by referring to men and women with same-sex attraction, instead of referring to "homosexual persons," which implicitly makes homosexuality the defining quality of all the people in question. A person after all, is more than a bundle of sexual inclination; and our thinking about same-sex is clouded when we start to think of "homosexuals" as a separate kind of human beings. "The human person made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation . . . every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and by grace, His child and heir to eternal life," (Congregation for the Doctrine and Faith, Letter on the Pastoral care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, no 16) understand in this regard, the argument that there are homosexuals who are created by God, will not arise.
An Ethical Response
In the light of the above, we see a theological issue that has to do with the purpose of sexual acts and the right context that it should be carried out. This stems from the fact that these homosexuals who are faced with same-sex attraction claim to have the right to sexual intimacy and conjugal union like their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, based on the fact that these persons are humans with emotions, the ethical question about how they should rightly exercise their sexuality comes to mind. This is based on the fact that for those with same-sex attraction, this orientation is natural
Over time, the Church has always tried to give a response to ethical questions that keep arising in the world as people continue to evolve in the way they perceive and approach things. This is with special emphasis on the moral order. In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a ‘Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics' in which sexuality is acknowledged "as one of the factors which give to each individual's life the principal traits that distinguish it."(The New Dictionary of Theology, ‘Sexuality', 948)
Sexuality plays a crucial role in our ability to answer our call to love, for it is sexuality which reveals both our incompleteness and our relatedness, and in it, we find the biological, emotional and psychological grounding of our capacity to love (ibid., 949). In trying to respond to homosexual marriage, let us see what the Church says sexuality is. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church no 2332, the Church says that "sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others."(The Catechism of the Catholic Church, revised edition (Nairobi: Pauline Publications Africa, 2002, no 2332). The Church's teaching on sexuality continues thus: ‘Every man and woman should acknowledge and accept his or her sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs and mutual support between the sexes are lived out (ibid., no 2333).
The Church's teaching on sexuality which has procreativity and unitive fidelity as its two characteristics has its foundation in the creation narratives of Genesis. This we see in Genesis 1:27-28 which says "God created man in the image of Himself, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. God blessed them saying ‘be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it." We also see this in Genesis 2:18-25. From these passages, we see, among other things that differentiation of the sexes establishes humanity's procreative possibility, and in the complementary nature of the two sexes, human beings are offered the best opportunity for the realisation of their fulfillment (The New Dictionary of Theology, ‘Sexuality', 949). This teaching forms the basis of the Church's reaction towards Homosexual marriage.
The traditional and official Roman Catholic teaching judges that homosexual acts are ‘intrinsically evil, this is because "they are contrary to natural law; they close the sexual act to the gift of life, and they do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity (The New Dictionary of Theology, ‘Homosexuality', 491). Scriptural passages like Genesis 19:1-29, Romans 1:24-27, 1Corinthians6:9-10 etc see same-sex genital acts as a violation of God's law and exclude the perpetrator from the kingdom of God (ibid. 490).
Following the Church's teaching on homosexuality, I come to the conclusion, those who are engaged in homosexual acts and seek it to be legalized so as to be united in marriage cannot be allowed. This is because their actions and intension are sinful vis-à-vis the following traditional moral concepts:
- Against the nature and purpose of human sexuality (Contra natura)
- Intrinsically evil (Ex toto genere suo)
- As grave matters (parvitas materiae in sexto)
Above all the Church has much regard to those who have this homosexual tendency or inclination. The Catechism, no 2358 states, "The number of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible… It constitutes for most of them a trial… They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfill God's will in their lives, and if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." The Church sees their condition as a trial and not a sin since they did not freely choose to be homosexuals. In as much as the Church is called to radiate the compassion and mercy of Jesus her Lord, she also has the obligation of safeguarding the truths that have been handed over to her. As such, this natural orientation or tendency in which they found themselves, must not in any form advance into seeking for a right to marry.
This traditional position of the Church is related to the marriage and sexuality, which are decisive for further development of life – including ethical development. In African marriage does not only signify an anamnetic solidarity with one's ancestors, but it strengthens and re establishes the community, while at the same time embraces the entire fellowship: the living, the dead and the unborn. In this sense, "each one come who continues to transmission of life through the covenant of marriage narrates the biography of his ancestors and writes his own autobiography." (Benezet Bujo, Foundations of an Africa Ethics, (Nairobi, Paulines Pub Africa, 58). This is precisely the reason why sexuality in Africa is not seen as a private matter, but something that concerns the entire community. This is because sexuality bestows ever new life on the community. This explicitly rules out the issue of homosexual marriage in Black African continent, for it is against the vital force and anamnetic solidarity, and destroys rather than establishing the community. This is contrary to Aboje's argument that, "future generation will legalise homosexual marriage in Nigeria, because Europe and America also passed through the stage in which our country is now over this issue."
Because our lives are to be spent in loving others, sexual expression, what ever else it may involve, must be for every individual an externalization of love; it must be love in action, moving towards permanent and procreative marital relationships as the normative context for physical sexual expression.