Spring 1998

Homosexual Inclination as an “Objective Disorder”: Reflections of Theological Anthropology

Livio Melina

"The issues relating to the difference between the sexes are not trivial ones, but indicate epochal shifts in culture and the spiritual history of humankind."

One of the most significant changes made by the Corrigenda in the official Latin edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (=CCC) [1997] with respect to the 1992 vernacular version concerns the Catechism’s treatment of homosexuality. The first commentaries, which focused on other moral issues such as the death penalty, self-defense, and organ transplants, somewhat neglected this modification, which is nonetheless of great importance. Paragraph 2358 of the original text spoke of “innate homosexual tendencies” in a considerable number of men and women, who, it said, had not “chosen” this condition. The revised text, by contrast, limits itself to calling these tendencies “deep-seated,” without saying that they are innate or that they are not chosen. It does, on the other hand, state that “this inclination is objectively disordered.” The Catechism thereby better harmonizes its formulations with the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” (cf. 3), published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (=CDF) on 1 October 1986.

What is the significance of this statement? Without entering into the moral issues,1  I would like to offer a few reflections on the level of theological anthropology in order better to understand precisely what is meant by calling homosexual inclinations an “objective disorder.”


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1. On this point, I take the liberty of referring to my article “Criteri morali per la valutazione dell’omosessualità,” in Antropologia cristiana e omosessualità, Quaderni de L’Osservatore Romano 38 (Vatican City, 1997), 103–10; and to G. Grisez’s response “May a parent condone a son’s homosexual activity?,” in The Way of the Lord Jesus 3: Difficult Moral Questions (Quincy: Franciscan Press, 1997), 103–12.