The topic of homosexuality has been one of the most volatile subjects of the last few years. “Sin” and “equality” have been used frequently and often incorrectly. This article will address when “sin” is properly used regarding human sexual activities.
Perhaps it’s because the word “sin” is seen by many as archaic or it’s simply due to a lack of understanding. For whatever reason, the word is foreign to many conversations today.
When is a Sin Committed?
To clarify, a sin can occur only if: the action itself is wrong, the person committing it knows it’s wrong (or has not deliberately prevented himself from knowing) and it must be done with full consent.
Since Adam and Eve, we suffer from the effects of our resulting fallen nature. An inclination toward a particular vice, however, is not a sin just by itself. It depends on what we do with the temptation. If we act on it, and that includes dwelling on the temptation to the point where we weaken our resolve, then that is when a sin has occurred.
Attempts to Rationalize Sin Away
Confusing the issue has been the attempts of many to justify our failings by saying that we are not at fault if we do something wrong — because we can’t help it. It’s just in our nature. Somehow, this is supposed to rule out sin.
In addition, if we speak out against the sin, then we are labeled as being judgmental even when our focus is on the immoral action and not the person. Just like political spin masters, these arguments are used in an attempt to divert the discussion from personal accountability.1
Sin of a Sexual Nature
Regarding human sexuality, when does sin occur? It’s very straight-forward. ANY sexual activity outside of a valid marriage is seriously wrong. Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman and cannot be redefined by anyone, including the Church.
Some may object by saying the use of the word “adultery” in the Ten Commandments limits serious sin of a sexual nature to married individuals. As Christians should remember, this is not true according to Mark 7:21-23, Leviticus 20:10-21 and Romans 1:25-27.2,3 Many are surprised to learn that sexual activity for a single person of any inclination, whether hetero- or homosexual, comes under “fornication.”
Responsibility, Not “Scrupulosity”
But remember, just having sinful thoughts cross our mind is not a sinful act if we act quickly to dismiss it and not dwell on it. To believe that a temptation/ passing thought is itself a sin can lead to an unhealthy condition known as “scrupulosity.” It has been written that “scrupulosity may well be best described as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People who suffer from OCD experience obsessive thoughts that they cannot control about such things as aggressive acts, recurring thoughts involving obscene language, and constant focus on thoughts of germs and disease.”4
Since The Fall, we humans have had to face temptations from a position of inherent weakness. Numerous sinful tendencies and disordered behaviors are everywhere. Each of us has particular tendencies to sin, sometimes involving sex. Merely having the tendencies is not, by itself, a sin. Only if we give in and don’t give it our best effort will we be guilty of sin. The believer knows that God gives us various means of assistance, both earthly and spiritual (graces), to handle these challenges.
1 – Romans 1:32 warns of the seriousness of both committing sinful acts and influencing others to do likewise with: “Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” From “The New Catholic Answer Bible,” Fireside Catholic Publishing, Wichita, KS, 2005. “Death” means a spiritual, eternal death, not capital punishment because New Testament theology rejects capital punishment except in very unusual circumstances. What these sins include (“who practice such things”) is listed in the next footnote.
2 – Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.” Ibid. “Evil thoughts” are not to be confused with the momentary mental images we may have arising from temptation.
3 – The Leviticus verses describe a number of vices covering adultery, incest and bestiality. The listed verses are: “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
4 – from “Scrupulosity and How to Overcome It’” by Fr. Thomas M. Santa, CSSR, copyright 2000 by Catholic Answers, Inc. on www.CatholicCulture.org