Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Adriano Oliva's Amours: L'Église, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels — Aquinas on Inclination to Homosexuality as Natural

As I have promised in previous postings, I'd like to share some more reflections about Adriano Oliva’s book, Amours: L’Église, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2015). In several recent postings (here and here), I've discussed the first part of Oliva's book, which deals with Thomas Aquinas' theology of marriage and its implications for the debate about how the church should deal pastorally with divorced and remarried Catholics. I've also offered an excerpt from the second part of Oliva's book, which is about how Aquinas treats the topic of what we now understand as homosexuality. Now I'd like to offer some further reflections regarding that second part of Oliva's book (pp. 75-124):

Central to the theological argument in this part of his book is Oliva's contention that in Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, pars, q. 31, a. 7, Aquinas develops an “intuition” about the source of a homosexual inclination in some members of the human community — an intuition that, he maintains, would have long ago placed the church on a much sounder path to understanding and accepting those with this inclination, if the church had only chosen to listen carefully to Aquinas. Oliva notes that Aquinas separates the metaphysical consideration of homosexuality from moral considerations about the sin of sodomy. The intitution that Aquinas develops about the metaphysical explanation of why some people are homosexual: sexual attraction to members of one's own sex is natural (connatural) for those members of the human community who are homosexual and is thus part of the natural order and to be treated with every bit as much respect as the sexual attraction others display towards members of the opposite sex.

Aquinas situates this homosexual inclination in the soul, Oliva notes, which is to say, in the embodied soul, since, for Aquinas as for scripture, the human being is “une ‘unité âme-corps’” (p. 91). The soul is not separated from the body but is its animating principle.

And given that the soul is embodied, then it is natural to those who have a homosexual inclination rooted in their souls to express it in bodily ways, that is, in sexual love for another person — and this love and its expression are to be treated as every bit as natural as is the sexual inclination and embodied love of those who are heterosexual. Discrimination against those who are homosexual is totally unjustifiable, Oliva maintains, though he does not support calling gay unions marriages, since he sees the possibility of procreation and openness to it as a defining characteristic of sacramental marriage.

As Oliva states,

L’aspect central à observer dans cet article 7 est que saint Thomas place le principe du plaisir de l’union sexuelle entre personnes de sexe masculine comme venant de l’âme (ex parte animae) et non comme venant du corps, où il avait place en revanche les plaisirs vénériens. De cela découlent au moins deux consequences. 
La première est que saint Thomas considère l’homosexualité comme une inclination de la personne, enracinée dans sa partie la plus intime (p. 84), l’âme, à partir de laquelle s’expriment les affections et l’amour, inclination qui va jusqu’à l'union sexuelle (il parle ici de coitus masculorum). 
La seconde consequence est que saint Thomas distingue de manière nette le principe de l’inclination homosexuelle dans l’âme et le plaisir strictement vénérien et physique qu’il situe, quant à lui, dans le corps (venereorum usus), bien que ce second élément suppose l’inclination de l’âme. Et quand il traite du péché ou du vice de sodomie, il situe toujours celle-ci du côté des plaisirs vénériens, distincte de l’inclination qui va naturellement jusqu’à l’union sexuelle. 
Sur la base d’une telle distinction, nous pouvons tire une conclusion fondamentale: la distinction nette entre, d’un côté, l’homosexualité qui incline à l’amour et à l’union sexuelle, et de l’autre côté, le vice de sodomie et les péchés sexuels avec des personnes de même sexe qui font un usage immodéré du plaisir purement vénérien (p. 85).
[A rough translation of the preceding passage: 
The central point to note in this 7th article is that St. Thomas posits the principle of the pleasure inherent in the sexual union of persons of the masculine gender as coming from the soul (ex parte animae) and not coming from the body, where he places, on the other hand, the venereal pleasures. From this distinction follow at least two conseequences: 
The first is that St. Thomas considers homosexuality as an inclination of the person, rooted in the most intimate part of the person, the soul, out of which each of us expresses our affections and our love, an inclination that moves even to sexual union (he speaks here of coitus masculorum). 
The second consequence is that St. Thomas distinguishes in a very neat way between the principle of the homosexual inclination within the soul and the strictly veneral and physical pleasure that he situates in the body (venereorum usus), though this second element presupposes the soul's inclination. And when he deals with the sin or vice of sodomy, he consistently situates it on the side of the veneral pleasures, distinct from the inclination that moves naturally towards sexual union.  
With this distinction as our foundation, we can draw a fundamental conclusion: the clear, sharp distinction between, on the one hand, homosexuality, which inclines towards love and sexual union, and, on the other and, the vice of sodomy and sexual sins with a member of one's own sex that make immoderate use of a pleasure that is purely venereal.]


Le plaisir inherent au rapport homosexual, puisqu’il est situé du côté de l’âme, a son principe dans l’être rationnel, intelligence et volonté, de la personne homosexualle. Pour cette personne singulière, l’homosexualité ne peut pas être considérée comme contre nature, bien qu’elle se corresponde pas à la nature générale de l’espèce (pp. 85-6).
[Rough translation:  
The pleasure inherent in homosexual relationships, since it's situated on the side of the soul, has its origins in the rationality, intelligence, and will of the homosexual person. For such persons, homosexuality cannot be considered as against nature, even if it does not correspond to the prevailing nature of the rest of the human community.]

I'll have more to offer from Oliva in a day or so. For now, I'd like to conclude by noting that, as one dives into Oliva's analysis of Aquinas — as a leading scholar of Thomas Aquinas and his theology — it quickly becomes clear why he insists that the church would find itself today in a much better position as it seeks to understand and accept gay human beings if it had chosen long ago to begin listening to Aquinas about the origins of a homosexual inclination in some human beings. 

The photo of the cover of Oliva's book is from its page at the website of Éditions du Cerf.

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