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By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/24/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

The Christian vision of marriage must be defended

The Church teaches that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.  "They are contrary to 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."  CCC § 2357.


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

4/24/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: gay, homosexual, structures of sin, marriage equality, liberty, freedom, sin, Andrew Greenwell

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Catholic Social Doctrine has acknowledged such a thing as a "social sin," which is really an aggregation of personal sins against the common good that eventually becomes institutionalized or formalized in so-called "structures of sin" or "institutions of sin." 

Though this language is borrowed from liberation theology, Blessed John Paul II strongly rejected liberation theology's view that these "structures of sin" or "institutions of sin" were impersonal or anonymous in nature, and that the problem of injustice was primarily an issue of structural change. 

For the deeply-personalist and anti-materialist John Paul II, all injustice ultimately boiled down to personal sin. 

John Paul II knew that overthrowing social, economic, or political structures does not solve the problem of injustice, that ultimately injustice is a problem of individual sin.  He also knew that, unlike individual human beings, structures or institutions are not moral persons which can take moral blame, repent, or be redeemed. 

As John Paul II explained it in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, these sinful structures or institutions are always "rooted in personal sin, and thus [are] always linked to the concrete acts of individuals who introduce these structures, consolidate them, and make them difficult to remove."  SRS, No. 36.

That encyclical cites to John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, No. 16 in observing that the "structure of sin" or "institution of sin" arises out of the "collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small . . . . [a]nd are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins." 

Expanding on that thought, John Paul II stated that "structures of sin" or "institutions of sin" arise out of "the very personal sins of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate, or at least limit certain social evils, but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear, or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world, and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of a higher order.  The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals."  RP, No. 16.

Once in place, these "structures of sin" or "institutions of sin" block social, economic, or political progress.  They act as buffers, brakes, or obstacles in the way of social, economic, or political reform.

Traditionally, the term "institutions of sin" or "structures of sin" has been used in socioeconomic or political contexts.  For example, the entire abortion regime in this country--the laws that protect that heinous practice, the governments that fund it, the private organizations that promote and protect it, the physicians and nurses that administer it, the people who take advantage of it-is a perfect example of an "institution of sin" or "structure of sin" that--to our shame--is very well-consolidated in our country.

Though traditionally used for social, economic, or political contexts, there is no reason why the term may not analogously be applied to that most intimate, personal community of life and love known as marriage.

The Church teaches that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.  "They are contrary to 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."  CCC § 2357.

Nothing-not even much vaunted "love" can excuse or justify this sexual sin because it is intrinsically against authentic love.  To justify homosexual activity by "love," is somewhat like justifying hating someone because one loves them.  Homosexuality genital activity is a grave personal sin against chastity.  CCC § 2396.

Since homosexual activity is a personal sin, it follows that it can lead to "institutions of sin" or "structures of sin" in the area of marriage and family- just like selfishness and the desire for excessive profit and the thirst for power with the intention of imposing one's will upon others can lead to "institutions of sin" or "structures of sin" in the socio-economic or political area.

Wherever homosexuals carry on their personal sins against chastity, promote this as a positive good, enter the political, judicial, or legislative process to advance their cause and homosexual "marriage" and civil unions, endeavor to enshrine and normalize this "right" under color of law, we see the labor pains of an "institution of sin" or "structure of sin."

Wherever others who are in a position to avoid, eliminate, or at least limit this evil do nothing to stop it, whether out of "laziness, fear, or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference," we similarly see the midwifing of an "institution of sin" or "structure of sin."

It is the personal sins of the gay-rights and homosexual "marriage" advocate and his cowering or willing allies in the media and in the judicial, the legislative, or the executive branches which are giving rise to this new "institution of sin" or "structure of sin" inappropriately called "gay" "marriage." 

Once such "institutions of sin" or "structures of sin" take root, as a result of the "concrete acts of individual who introduce these structures," these same advocates "consolidate them and make them difficult to remove."  SRS, No. 36.  "And thus they grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins, and so influence people's behavior."  SRS, No. 36.

"The principal obstacle to be overcome on the way to authentic liberation is sin and the structures produced by sin as it multiplies and spreads." SRS, No. 46.

It follows that a healthy state of marriage and family requires that homosexuals be liberated from their personal sins of sinful sexual activity--from unchastity--and that the structures which have been promoted to normalize these personal sins of unchastity--homosexual "marriage" and civil unions--be dismantled.

These "structures of sin" or "institutions of sin" are like cancer.  They grow virulently.  They rob the healthy tissue of life.  They harm normal marriage and normal families. 

They poison what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called the "moral ecology."

They prevent the proper growth and development of the organism known as the common good.

They violate the rights of children that will grow up within such "structures of sin." 

In the words of Pope Francis when he was known as Cardinal Bergoglio, these are "a destructive pretension against the plan of God," a "machination of the Father of Lies that seek to confuse and deceive the children of God."  

So what's the way out of these "structures of sin" or "institutions of sin"?

According to John Paul II, we must "enter in the will of the Triune God, his plan for humanity, his justice and his mercy."  "The God who is rich in mercy, the Redeemer of man, the Lord and giver of life, requires from people clear cut attitudes which express themselves also in actions or omission toward one's neighbor."  SRS, No. 36.

Where are these "clear cut attitudes" to be found?  "We have here a reference to the 'second table' of the Ten Commandments," says Blessed John Paul II, which is to say the natural moral law. 

"Not to observe" the second table of the Ten Commandments or the natural moral law, "is to offend God and hurt one's neighbor, and to introduce into the world influences and obstacles which go far beyond the actions and brief life span of an individual. "  SRS, No. 36.

Every Catholic must examine his conscience, and must ask--in a most honest and soul-searching way--whether he, by his personal sins of unchastity, has promoted homosexual "marriage."  If in a position to avoid, eliminate, or at least limit homosexual "marriage," he must ask whether he has failed to do so out of "laziness, fear, or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference."   He must ask, whether he has simply taken "refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world," or has sidestepped "the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of a higher order."

"The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals," that is, with you, and with me.


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at


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