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family culture and the homosexual aspect of the sexual revolution: a challenge
to the church in Africa
By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ
July 08, 2004
Africa family culture values offspring very highly. A person lives on
his or her children. It is a shame and a disgrace for a man to die without
children, it is to die twice, it is a spiritual disaster: who is going
to bring him back to the back to the family home after death as a mudzimu
(ancestral spirit)? People go to enormous lengths to have offspring. If
a man seems unable to beget a child the family may secretly arrange for
his wife to conceive by a brother (kupindura).
There is no recognised
place in the community for people who remain unmarried.
Most African societies
therefore abhor homosexuality and find it hard to accept persons with
such an inclination though they may have existed even in the past ( Hanna’s
Shona Dictionary has no word for "homosexual", but the more
recent Duramanzwi rechiShona lists"ngochani". African’s value
systems cannot accommodate the phenomenon.
While the desire for
children was for a long time also very strong in Europe society and still
is, with many individuals (as manifested in the enormous efforts made
by sterile couples to conceive by way of in vitro fertilization), children
are no longer a priority in western society.
Being a full – time
wife and mother has very little social prestige in industrialized countries.
Being a "home-maker" is not recognized as a career. The division
of labour between the sexes is disappearing, and men and women compete
in the same professional fields.
The "sexual revolution"
which started in the 1960s with the introduction of hormonal contraceptives
have cut the link between the sexual act and procreation. Becoming "sexually
active" in whatever form, even at an early age and outside marriage,
is regarded as a basic human right provided pregnancy and infection by
HIV/AIDS can be avoided. "Reproductive rights" (rather a misnomer
since reproduction is precisely what is being avoided at all costs) are
not counterbalanced by the obligation to accept the consequences of sexual
makes abortion more and more acceptable as a means of birth control. A
dramatic drop of the birth rates in western countries is accompanied by
an almost hysterical fear of the " population explosion" elsewhere.
It is in this atmosphere
of "sexual freedom" and less and less readiness to accept children
that people with homosexual tendencies, formerly shunned by society even
in western countries, have come out into the open to demand social acceptance
of their " sexual orientation" and lifestyle.
What causes a person
to be homosexual rather than heterosexual? It appears there is no one
single answer. Are you born with this condition? Do you develop it due
to certain experiences? Can such a development be reversed? There are
still many unanswered questions.
Most homosexuals find
themselves in this condition, they have not chosen it. Feeling attracted
sexually to persons of the same sex as such is not a moral choice, and
person in that condition must not be condemned. Statements sometimes heard
in Christian circles that homosexuality, including homosexually inclined
persons, are "satanic" are most unfortunate, unjust and unchristian.
We need to distinguish
clearly between " homosexuality" and "homosexual persons",
also between homosexual persons who actually have sexual relationships
with partners of the same sex and those who, while having inclination,
refrain from entering into any sexual relationship.
Liberal western society
tries to remove the "stigma" from homosexual persons and argues
against discriminating by giving hetero – and homosexuality equal standing
and value. It is supposed to be a matter of "free choice" between
two "options", two " sexual orientations" "lifestyles".
This thinking has made deep inroads even into the Christian community
(see the conflict within the Anglican Church over the Episcopal consecration
of a practicing homosexual).
This is unacceptable
in the light of biblical creation theology, which is the position of the
Catholic Church and most major churches. The created order is that man
was created for woman, and both for God. And the love between man and
woman, their mutual self-giving to each other for life in marriage, is
to be fruitful.
Marriage has two ends:
not just the procreation of children, but also the mutual love and support
of the spouses as recent official pronouncements of the Catholic Church
have emphasized (Vatican Council II. The Church in the Modern World, 47
by its very nature is to be fruitful. The acceptance of children is the
culmination of the mutual love of the spouse. Spousal love becomes parental
In regard " homosexual
unions" which are now trying to get civil recognition are defiant.
No society concerned about its own long- term survival can afford to give
such partnerships the same recognition as marriage between man and woman.
Homosexuality as a
condition is a disorder, a deviation from the natural order as designed
and willed by the Creator.
But it is not a moral
offence insofar as the homosexual person finds him/herself in this condition
and has not chosen it.
For this reason it
is unacceptable that homosexual persons are shunned and reject socially.
This is therefore
the difficult task for the Christian community to accept with love and
respect homosexual persons without accepting homosexuality as of equal
standing with heterosexuality.
The homosexual Christian
who cannot live out his sexuality in a same-sex partnership, but must
remain celibate needs the sympathetic support of the Christian community
more than most if he/she is grow into a mature person.
"God is love",
and people created in His image are to grow into loving persons, including
those of a homosexual inclination, capable of self- giving and entering
into personal relationships.
accepting their celibate state must be given a place and task within the
Christian community so they can make their contribution to the community
and develop their capacity for self – giving, even if that will not find
a sexual expression.
The African family,
while retaining its love for children and its readiness to accept responsibility
for them, must learn to tolerate brothers and sisters who will not be
physically fathers and mothers, buy need to be given a chance to become
loving persons anyhow and make their love fruitful in other ways.
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