Social justice and sexual ethics: An evaluation of official Church teachings on homosexuality using principles of social justice derived from the papal encyclicals and documents of Vatican II

Kenneth Joseph Zanca, Fordham University

Abstract

This study is conceived as an exercise in contemporary sexual and social ethics. It presents and analyzes official Church teachings (papal encyclicals and documents from Vatican II) on sexuality, and evaluates them in light of modern theological method and the social justice tradition as found in similarly authoritative documents.^ Drawing on the research in both social and biological sciences, the study concludes that the data on homosexuality are complex, inconclusive, often contradictory, and constantly being revised. Paradigms used to understand, interpret, treat, and explain the same-sex attraction have undergone radical shifts over the years.^ This study of the sexual ethic has made clear that Church teaching affirms that genital activity is ordered and natural only when it occurs between two married heterosexuals who are open to procreation in each and every marital act. Any other use of the sex act is judged intrinsically disordered, possibly sinful, and can never be condoned. The study critiques the components of this position, and highlights several problematic aspects of it.^ While there has been no change in the teachings on sexual ethics, no shift in methodologies, and no new conclusions reached, the exact opposite is the case with official teachings on social justice. Moving from a Thomistic description of justice in terms of rights and duties, the Church has embraced a more comprehensive understanding based on the dignity of the human person as the foundation of all specific human rights claims.^ This, of course, is the heart of the matter. Many Catholics, Christians, and others claim that the Church's teachings are unjust to gay and lesbian persons. This study finds that it is not tenable to hold that the official teachings disrespect the human rights of gays because it violates their rights to privacy and conscience. At the same time, the study holds that when the magisterium works against civil legislation which is designed to promote and defend the civil and human rights of sexual minorities, the Church contradicts itself.^ The study concludes with a recognition of the need for ongoing discussion on the matter, particularly between the magisterium and moral theologians who hold a profoundly opposing worldview. ^

Subject Area

Religion, Philosophy of|Theology

Recommended Citation

Kenneth Joseph Zanca, "Social justice and sexual ethics: An evaluation of official Church teachings on homosexuality using principles of social justice derived from the papal encyclicals and documents of Vatican II" (January 1, 1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8818483.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8818483

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