Recently there has been a prevalent discussion of religion and its relation to asexuality within the ace community. As someone who does attend a Catholic college (although I, myself, am atheist) it has been a topic that has fascinated me for quite some time, primarily because there seems to be no definite answers.
The Catholic scriptures are typically silent on this subject; it’s important to note that these were written in a time where there was seen to be no need to define different sexualities and as such it is very vague. This, as we can see with homosexuality, has led to massive misinterpretations. However, in terms of asexuality there is nothing that really points to it, except St Paul, who some actually theorise to actually have been asexual. His passages do in fact seem to favour asexuality, although this could merely be a confusion with celibacy.
As for the catechism, or any official Church statements, it has once more been silent. This is probably because asexuality has yet to reach mainstream attention. The only actual statement on this subject comes from a Christian magazine called Vision which reads as follows, “Question: What do you call a person who is asexual? Answer: Not a person. Asexual people do not exist. Sexuality is a gift from God and thus a fundamental part of our human identity. Those who repress their sexuality are not living as God created them to be: fully alive and well. As such, they’re most likely unhappy people with which to live.”
There are countless issues that can be taken with this statement, not to mention its slightly ironic idea that repressing sexuality is sinful even outside of marriage, considering what the Church teaches. Furthermore, it’s quite clear the writers do not fully understand asexuality, nor do they seem to want to. Nevertheless, the only clear statement that has been made (albeit only in a Christian magazine) was highly negative. However, this is not an official statement, and even the views of Christians against asexuality (whether because they think it’s sinful, unnatural, or just plain wrong) cannot be representative of the religion as a whole, nor of the Church.
However, I decided to delve further into this. As I have previously mentioned, I go to a Catholic College, meaning that I do indeed have access to priests with whom I am on quite friendly terms with. I decided to ask one of the priests, who also happens to be my teacher, what the view of the church would be on it, under the guise of writing for my EPQ. I did not actually tell him that I was asexual, as I did not want to make him biased.
To my surprise, he was actually familiar with the term asexuality, albeit not with aromanticism (I gave up on this line of topic and focused in on asexuality). I told him about the quote in the Vision magazine as a starting point on the discussion, but he quite strongly disagreed with it. His view was that the Church couldn’t take issue with asexuality, because this is how people are born, and that sex is only considered a gift within the confines of marriage. At this point he started to talk about celibacy, and how the Church would not at all have an issue with this. I quickly explained the difference between sexual attraction and sexual desire and diverted the topic of conversation towards asexuals who are not sex-repulsed.
He said that the Church would have issue with this, but not due to them being asexual. The Catholic teaching is against masturbation and premarital sex, so they would encourage them to suppress their sexual desires. But this is a view that they apply to everyone within society, but has typically been considered outdated. However, Church teachings still dictate this.
The issue eventually arose with marriage; the Church requires that a marriage be consummated. As you may or may not know, the Church would consider it grounds for annulment if the marriage was not consummated, meaning that in their eyes the marriage never existed at all. For someone who is of Catholic faith, that would mean your union would not exist within the eyes of God, a significant issue if you are a sex-repulsed asexual.
He also briefly mentioned that it would be unfair if the partner entered into a marriage not knowing that sex wasn’t an option. I asked him what the Church would think if both parties entered the marriage, knowing that it would never be consummated. He said that the same issue would arise in terms of the Church being against, however he pointed out that it would be overlooked as there is no way to really check if someone has consummated their marriage or not, nor would the Church be attempting to ensure this was happening.
To summarise, asexuals face the same Christian responsibilities as heterosexuals; to remain celibate outside of marriage. It does not matter whether they desire sex or not, and there is nothing inherently sinful with this orientation. However, for marriage the Catholic Church would have a problem. If you are not sex-repulsed, than the issue does not apply to you. If you are, then chances are you can still get married, even though the Church would claim that a non-consummated marriage is not a true marriage in the eyes of God.
Now of course it is important to state that this is only the view of one Catholic priest, as the Church has not made an official statement. And the issues that do arise, are typically related to things that most people consider outdated anyway. For example, we would never deny someone physically unable to perform sex to marry, so why should we do the same to asexuals?
But I do feel that this does open up a topic of debate, particularly for those asexuals that consider themselves Catholic, or from any asexuals that have suffered some form of religious discrimination. I also wonder whether this idea of the consummation of marriage will have any implications as asexuality becomes more commonly known. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that this may affect the legal rights of asexuals to get married, particularly in more rigid and oppressive countries.