Earlier this year, the Vatican said Catholics are not going to bless same-sex unions. And “surprise, surprise!”—some celebrities took their shots at the Vatican for it. CNN host Don Lemon is one of them.
In a conversation with the women of The View, Lemon explained why he thinks the Catholic Church is wrong not to bless same-sex unions. He gave several reasons worth responding to, but we’ll tackle just one here.
I think that religion and the pew . . . are barriers that keep us from actually getting to know each other. I would say to the pope and the Vatican or all Christians or Catholics or whomever, whatever religion you happen to belong to out there, go out and meet people and try to understand people. . . . Instead of having the pew hinder you, having the Church hinder you, instead of being segregated in your church or among yourselves, go out and have a barbecue and meet people and start breaking bread with people and getting to know them.
Lemon seems to think that if we as Christians “break bread” with folks who are “gay” (a placeholder for people who seek out sexual activity with members of the same sex), then we’ll come to see there’s nothing wrong with their lifestyle choice.
This sort of response is common. Let’s think through it and see if we can sniff out the folly lurking in this “wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 3:19).
The implication in Lemon’s response is that if we come to know and understand people who indulge their same-sex attractions, then we’ll see that his choice to engage in same-sex sexual activity is morally okay. But why would getting to know someone make us think same-sex sexual activity is morally good?
Lemon doesn’t say. So we’re left to speculate.
If Lemon thinks we’ll see he’s a nice guy, or at least a normal guy, there are a few things to point out in response.
First, it would be a bit judgmental for him to think anyone who rejects the homosexual lifestyle (and illicit sexual activity that goes with it) does so because he views “gays” as evil or icky, rather than having reasonable grounds to reject it. That itself is an unreasonable judgment, and not very nice!
Second, if Lemon were to take his own advice and “break bread” with Christians, he’d see that most reject same-sex sexual activity not because they think people who engage in such behavior are evil or icky. Christians, especially Catholics, are called to view everyone, no matter what his lifestyle choices, as deserving the respect due to a human being, made in the image and likeness of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says as much:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, 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. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives (2358).
The reason we reject same-sex sexual activity is because the activity itself is contrary to our human good.
Our good as human beings is determined by the ends or goals that our human powers, including our sexual powers, are by nature directed or ordered to. For example, our power to eat is naturally designed to assimilate nutrients and be healthy. It’s good, therefore, to behave in a way that’s consistent with this order. To act against this order, like when someone intentionally vomits the food he eats, is bad.
Similarly, our sexual powers are naturally directed to procreation. So sexual behavior that violates this order is bad—like same-sex sexual activity, since it’s the voluntary use of the sexual power for ends completely removed from procreation. Therefore, same-sex sexual behavior is bad for us as human beings. That’s just another way of saying it’s immoral—something we ought not to do as rational beings.
Now, maybe what Lemon is getting at with his comments about “breaking bread” with people who’ve made that lifestyle choice is that we’ll see that they have good intentions. This is related to what we said above, but it’s distinct from that, too.
Rather than Lemon thinking Christians consider “gays” evil or icky, perhaps he thinks Christians think “gays” are just sex addicts desperate to satisfy their lustful cravings. In other words, we don’t think they do it for love. And once we discover that they’re seeking love just like everyone else, we’ll come to accept their lifestyle choice as morally okay.
But “surprise, surprise!”—we do not evaluate the morality of same-sex sexual behavior based on a person’s intentions, even the intention to be loved. As mentioned above, we judge same-sex sexual activity to be immoral because it’s a perversion of our sexual powers, voluntarily using them exclusive of the goal to which they’re naturally ordered: procreation.
The Catechism confirms this in paragraph 2333:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
Notice that the Catechism focuses only on the homosexual act, not the intentions underlying it.
Where intentions do come into play is with culpability. Even though we judge same-sex sexual activity to be immoral, we cannot judge the degree to which a person is culpable for such immoral behavior. Only God has access to the inner movements of the mind and heart (2 Chron. 6:30). As such, only he can judge the level of culpability. Maybe this will settle Lemon’s concerns about Christians judging people, as is evidenced when at one point in the interview, he appeals to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
There’s one last thing to say here. Lemon encourages his viewers not to let religion and the pew, with the Catholic Church as his specific target, “hinder” or “segregate” them.
Again, Lemon doesn’t specify exactly what he means by “hinder” or “segregate.” But if what he means by this is simply not to let our belief that same-sexual activity is immoral keep us from sharing in friendly activities and relationships with those who choose the homosexual lifestyle (e.g., “breaking bread”), then we agree, as long as the shared activity or relationship doesn’t signal approval of the person’s lifestyle choice. Attending a family reunion where a cousin’s partner happens to be present and having a chat about how’s work doesn’t bespeak approval of the lifestyle choice as attending their “wedding” ceremony (and the celebration thereafter) would.
Or perhaps Lemon is reasoning that the Church’s belief about the immorality of same-sex sexual activity causes division with those who believe that homosexual behavior is okay, and since division is bad, we need to reject the Church’s teaching. If that’s the case, then we have a problem: we’d have to reject the immorality of racism, too! After all, the belief that racism is immoral causes division with those who think racism is okay. If division shouldn’t be a reason to reject the belief that racism is immoral, neither should it be a reason to reject the Catholic Church’s teaching that same-sex sexual activity is immoral.
Maybe we can laud Lemon’s attempt to stand up for what he believes. But the “wisdom of the world” that he’s bought into is folly, and his thoughts are futile (1 Cor. 3:19-20). It’s not truth that “hinders” and “segregates.” It’s sin!