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From Objective Disorder to Male-Female Complementarity: The Official Catholic Response to Gay Rights Movement

In my most recent posting, I surveyed the attempt of a group of Catholics acting as apologists for the magisterium to downplay and even outright deny what the Catholic church has chosen to teach in recent years about gay and lesbian persons.  I focused in particular on the recent (and innovative, in terms of the Christian tradition) magisterial teaching that those who are gay and lesbian are disordered human beings, because they do disordered acts.

As I noted, what makes the attempt to deny that this official church teaching exists remarkable is that the attempt is being spearheaded by the very same group of Catholics who, in every other respect, loudly demand that all Catholics accept every jot and tittle of papal teaching, precisely as it’s written.  Catholics who question any aspect of magisterial teaching that these right-wing Catholics regard as sacrosanct are accused of being “cafeteria Catholics,” though in reality, anyone living within a long, complex, and rich religious tradition like Catholicism inevitably selects some elements within that tradition to emphasize, while ignoring or rejecting others.  As William F. Buckley’s famous statement about the social teachings of the church—mater si, magistra no—illustrates, right-leaning Catholics are as inclined as anyone else to pick and choose those parts of the tradition they intend to respect and implement.

The Teaching on Objective Disorder: Official Catholic Response to the Gay Rights Movement

As my previous analysis of the term now applied by the Catholic magisterium to those who are gay or lesbian—“objectively disordered”—notes, this is not a term with a long provenance within the Catholic tradition.  It cropped up suddenly in the 1986 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Catholic Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, in response to a sociological development of the latter part of the 20th century: the movement of gay liberation.  In response to the emergence of LGBT persons on the stage of history as agents of their own destiny (following civil rights movements that had created a similar dynamic among people of color and women), the Catholic church’s chief doctrinal watchdog office issued a document to assert the right of the Catholic church to continue defining LGBT persons.

In particular, the CDF wished to lay down tight definitional lines regarding the Catholic conversation about gay persons and gay rights, because it insisted that those who had begun to distinguish gay acts from gay persons were arriving at an untenable position about the homosexual “condition” itself—namely, that being gay, living with the homosexual “condition,” was morally neutral.  What is subject to moral analysis, this line of thinking suggests, is what gay people do, not who they are.

The CDF responded with an innovative new term to define who gay people are: this is the term “objectively disordered.”  This term is an assertion of the right of the magisterium to define those who are gay and lesbian, over against the growing claim of LGBT people and their supporters that analysis of the homosexual “condition” should begin first and foremost among those who are gay and lesbian.  Just as people of color and women had argued prior to the emergence of gay liberation, gays had begun to insist that it is astonishingly unjust for social and religious institutions to impose on entire groups of people a definition of who they are in their very nature that does not in any way advert to the lived experience of that group of people.

The attempt of the Catholic magisterium to contain (and roll back) the gay rights movement of the late 20th century did not end with this initial shot across the bow, with the promulgation of a definition of LGBT people as “objectively disordered.”  From there, during the same papacy that had created the objective disorder terminology—that of John Paul II—the magisterium proceeded to develop another innovation on the Catholic tradition that seeks to build on the view of LGBT people as disordered by rooting all of human sexuality (and, indeed, the entire natural world) in a notion of male-female complementarity.  This innovative new teaching by John Paul II is called the theology of the body.

Next Step in the Official Catholic Response: The Theology of the Body

The theology of the body revolves around the claim that sexual behavior is normed by a male-female complementarity built into nature by its Creator, and consistently upheld by biblical revelation. As Rev. David Burrell notes in an article entitled “Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality,” which summarizes the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching about those who are gay or lesbian:

Sexual relations between unmarried men and women offend against the dignity of the individuals involved, yet respect their basic “complementarity as masculine and feminine [whereby] man and woman were ‘made for each other’”([Catechism,] #372). It is this masculine/feminine complementarity which is normative for the Catholic tradition, and explains why homosexual acts imitative of the marriage act are said to be “gravely disordered.” It also explains why the phrase “objectively disordered” appears in the next article [of the Catechism], where the wording is slightly yet significantly different.

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains unexplained (#2357). 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 ([Catechism,] #2358).

This orientation of one’s sexual attraction is judged “objectively disordered” because it inclines people in ways contrary to the masculine/feminine complementarity which the Catholic tradition takes to be normative, and which society normally presumes, so the Catechism suggests that it “constitutes for most of them a trial.”

Note two primary points of Burrell’s summary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1. Even when the sexual acts of heterosexual people (e.g., premarital sex) depart from what is considered normative, those acts nonetheless respect male-female complementarity, and heterosexual people are  not therefore designated as “objectively disordered” because they engage in acts that depart from the norms of traditional Catholic sexual morality;

2. But gay and lesbian people are themselves disordered because their sexual acts are objectively disordered, and these acts point to an inclination that moves against the norm, which is the complementarity of male and female.

(What this analysis completely overlooks, of course, is a point I made in my previous posting: many—if not most—of the sexual acts of heterosexuals conspicuously fail to fulfill the Catholic tradition’s analysis of what constitutes an “ordered” sexual act because they do not intend to be procreative. Procreation is not the first and foremost intent of most couples engaging in intercourse. In fact, for many couples, both married and unmarried, procreation is the last thing hoped for when a couple engages in intercourse.

Furthermore, many of the sexual acts of heterosexual couples are actively “disordered,” per the Catholic tradition, because they deliberately violate the “order” of sexuality by preventing procreation. And yet Catholic teaching does not conclude on this basis that heterosexuals are objectively disordered, not even when such “disordered” sexual behavior is more widespread than the “disordered” sexual behavior of homosexuals simply because straight people are far and away in the majority. But it does wish to conclude on the basis of the very same argument—disordered acts point to disordered people—that all gay and lesbian persons are objectively disordered.

And this is not even to mention the prevalence of masturbation among both heterosexual and homosexual persons, male and female, another “objectively disordered” act, whose commission would point to the “disorder” of everyone committing the act—and again, a preponderance of those engaging in this “disordered” act are heterosexual, because heterosexuals are far more numerous than homosexuals—if we applied the magisterium’s logic about homosexuality to all “disordered” sexual acts and those who commit such acts . . . .)

So, built into the argument that Catholic teaching has sought to use in the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict to define gay and lesbian persons as disordered is a supplemental argument that the “order” of sexuality is not only about procreation. It is also about male-female complementarity. Gay folks are disordered not merely because they engage in “disordered” sexual acts. They are disordered as well because they violate—by their very inclinations and in their very nature—a male-female complementarity that is built into nature and reinforced by revelation.

An Examination of the Natural-Law Basis of the Theology of the Body

What to make of this argument, which adds an innovative late-20th century twist to the biologistic natural-law Catholic tradition re: sexual ethics? In the first place, note that it purports to be based on an objective reading of nature: it wants us to believe that it is simply reading nature, and on the basis of what it reads, is discovering norms applicable to all of us. Norms built into nature and accessible to anyone who uses his or her reason. Natural norms reinforced by revelation. The biologistic natural-law tradition, with its innovative claim that male-female complementarity is built into nature in a normative way that points to the “disorder” of all gay persons and the “order” of all straight ones, is simply telling us what is in nature, and because of what nature shows us, natural law is simply telling what we have to do if we want to fulfill the dictates of nature—to be “ordered” persons.

Unfortunately, dispassionate observation of how nature behaves does not yield the kind of unambiguous ethical norm—sexual activity is naturally ordered to procreation; sexual activity is naturally about the union of male and female—that those using the male-female complementarity argument to illegitimate  gay and lesbian persons want to find in nature. “Natural” sexual behavior is anything but ordered in the sense that the biologistic reading of natural law wants us to think. Animals of most species are wildly (and seemingly happily so) diverse in their sexual behavior. They engage in same-sex sexual behavior, in sexual behavior with multiple partners, in polymorphous sexual behavior, in masturbation and copulation, with apparent abandon.

As Andre Gide noted as long ago as 1911 in his essay Corydon, dispassionate and objective observation of how animals behave naturally shows abundant evidence of same-sex sexual activity—as natural activity. In fact, Gide noted, outside the female’s estrus cycle, in many species, same-sex activity is more prevalent than opposite-sex activity. In many species, in the large part of a year in which females are not in estrus, both females and males copulate with members of their own sex more frequently than with those of the opposite sex. Dispassionate observation of what sex appears to mean to most animals (humans included) does not yield the conclusion that sex is “naturally” all about procreation. Rather the opposite . . . .

We find male-female complementarity as a “natural” and obvious norm for sexual behavior, and we find procreation as the goal of all sexual activity in nature, only when we bring to our observation of nature what we already believe should be the case. The biologistic understanding of natural law reads into nature norms that it wishes to impose on a wild diversity that points in every direction except what biologistic understandings of natural law tell us all reasonable people ought to see in nature.

This is not to deny that many people sincerely believe that dispassionate observation of nature reinforces their presupposition that sexuality is all about male-female complementarity and procreation. This is actually Gide’s point in Corydon: most people believe that they’re seeing only male-female copulation when they look at the natural world, because they strongly assume that this is what they ought to see.

Theology of the Body Building on and Reinforcing Social Prejudices about the “Natural”

And this is to say that the biologistic natural law tradition, as well as the recent innovation of male-female complementarity in Catholic thinking, reinforces strong societal presuppositions—the word “prejudices” would not be misplaced here—about what people think they see in nature, when they talk about natural or unnatural sexuality. About ordered and disordered understandings of sexuality.

The power of the argument about male-female complementarity is that it echoes what most people think they see in nature, and then stamps with the force of natural observation (reinforced by religious prohibitions: reason propped by revelation) what people already believe, have chosen to believe, wish to believe.

What never comes to the surface when these biologistic natural law arguments and the claim about male-female complementarity are advanced is that this strategy of stamping longstanding prejudice with the stamp of nature and reason to combat movements of social liberation is not a new development in Western history.  It is a well-developed strategy of  conservative groups throughout the course of history, as they seek to halt necessary social change. Over the course of Western history, again and again groups purporting to read what nature tells us about how things are, and therefore how they should be, have used arguments about the self-evident clarity of nature to keep necessary social change at bay.

Working-class people, people of the “lower” orders, have been told over and over in many Western nations that God has designed both the natural and the social worlds in conformity to strict notions of order. As Arthur Lovejoy’s classic work The Great Chain of Being (1936) notes, according to this argument, which has cropped up again and again in Western history, to break the chain of order, to overturn the hierarchical arrangement of society into upper and lower orders, is to violate nature and what God intends for the world, with dire consequences.

And it’s not just the “lower” orders who have been kept in their “natural” places by such arguments. Similar arguments were advanced when women began to claim the right to autonomy, to self-direction, in many Western cultures. In response to the aspirations of women for full personhood, reactionary groups have argued (and still argue) that women’s subjugation to men is “natural,” because women are physically weaker than men, are “naturally” expected to remain at home and bear and nurture children, are home-makers rather than world-builders. Break but the chain and see what chaos follows . . . .

And this argument about nature has long been used to keep people of color in their place. People of color, we’re told by reactionary groups, are “naturally” inferior to Caucasians. They are less evolved, less intelligent, more prone to emotion and less prone to rationality. Nature has designed things such that those with darker skins ought to serve those with lighter skins. And God has given the divine stamp of approval to this natural arrangement. Challenge the arrangement and you challenge not just nature, but God.

Obviously those now promoting the male-female complementarity argument and the theology of the body that has developed around this argument do not wish to discuss this persistent use of notions of nature stamped with divine approval by conservative groups resisting the emergence to full personhood of people subjugated by socially dominant groups. Those promoting the male-female complementarity argument and the theology of the body want us to think that affirmation of homosexuality represents an entirely new, exceptional, unprecedented case, an unprecedented attempt by a subjugated group to overturn the norms of nature, which will have dire consequences if we permit this departure from nature.

Just as the grandparents of those making these arguments once said with precisely the same apocalpytic predictions about workers’ rights and women’s rights and the rights of people of color . . . .

The theology of the body (which was developed for the Catholic tradition in documents authored by Pope John Paul II) seeks to place questions about gender and gender roles and sexual ethics into a sacred, mystical preserve that forbids all critical questions about these matters. These critical questions include why the Catholic natural law tradition insists on telling us what we should see when we look at sexual behavior in nature, rather than allowing us to see what unbiased observation of nature actually shows us.

They also include critical questions about how the notion of nature stamped with religious authority has been persistently used in Western history to oppose the liberation of one subjugated minority group after another. And they include critical questions about why the Catholic tradition allows us to intervene in nature and contravene nature’s dictates in every area except sexuality—in medicine, in the building of social institutions, etc.

In other words, why is biology destiny only when it comes to sexuality for the Catholic tradition? We no longer oppose, as the papacy once opposed, medical inoculation of people to prevent infection, on the ground that inoculation interferes with natural law and God’s plan for creation. And on the whole, we’ve long since given up on the argument that nature (and God) want society arranged into upper and lower orders, and that everything turns upside down when the lower rail gets on top. Why is human sexuality the sacred, mystical preserve that John Paul II’s theology of the body wants to insist it is?

Assertion of Male Supremacy as the Force Driving the Male-Female Complementarity Theology

Why is biology destiny only when we start talking about gender roles and human sexuality? What appears to many of us to be driving the quasi-mystical theology of the body now surging through the reactionary wings of the Catholic church (and through evangelical groups eager to appropriate this defense of patriarchy, even when they do not share the Catholic natural law theology of sexuality) is the need of straight men to remain in control of a world that appears to be getting out of their control. There is a strong and unholy need—a specifically male need—to control, at the heart of the argument that gay and lesbian people are objectively disordered, and that nature and revelation point to male-female complementarity as the goal of sexual life. There is a strong and unholy need on the part of straight men (or, in the structures of the Catholic church, gay men who seek to pass themselves off as straight) to control women and gay men, in particular, at the heart of these arguments.

But the gospel is supposed to be good news. It is supposed to be about liberation rather than subjugation. When Paul speaks of the need of slaves to obey their masters, we conclude that he is uncritically reflecting the presuppositions of his culture and illicitly reading those cultural presuppositions into the scriptures as normative for all of Christian history.

But when he announces that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, because all are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), we conclude that we’re hearing the proclamation of the gospel—which is about liberation from enslavement, liberation from subjugation to cultural norms that divide us into Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female, in a way that subordinates one group to another. We conclude that Paul is proclaiming the gospel here because the gospel is good news: it is about liberation. It is not about subordination to biology as if biology is destiny—as if being male or female entraps us in gender roles in which everything is premised on the superiority of one gender to the other, on the domination of one sex by the other.

The misuse of the energies of communities of faith at this point in history to effect such subordination (of women and LGBT people to straight men, in particular) is tragic. It is blindly misguided. This misuse of energy siphons off energy much needed by these communities to proclaim the gospel in a really effective, really transformative, way at this point in history—in a way that creatively engages and does not merely reinforce the status quo.

The contemporary attempt of some religious groups to read the scriptures as all about male-female complementarity (and the subordination of females [and gay people] to males) takes a selfish preoccupation of one group of people at this point in history—of heterosexual males determined to resist critiques of patriarchy and to give up the unjustified power and privilege that patriarchy accords to heterosexual men—and apotheosizes that preoccupation in a way that contradicts the most fundamental proclamation of the gospel.

Cross-posted from Bilgrimage, 23 Dec. 2009


18 Responses

  1. Yes, indeed, the very “last thing intended” is “procreation” in the majority all sexual acts, straight, gay or otherwise! When it comes to honesty regarding sexual intentionality, and activity, this commodity is woefully lacking.

    Thank you for pushing those who wish to discuss such topics, to attempt, at the very least, to be honest and to follow the logic of their positions/reasoning. Fewer than 10%, I would guess, of person wishing to “pronounce” on this topic have taken the time or made the intellectual effort and study to think through what they are saying.

    The Catholic world of sexual morality and ethical discussion is often a veritable “tower of babel” — “a cacophony of canine voices” asserting their “territorial domination.”

    Thank you, W. for your voice of reason, a voice of willingness to think through the logic and morality of what we Catholic “think” we know and understand!


  2. Another great post Bill. I was chuckling to myself over the line that people see what they want to see in nature when it comes to sexual activity. Having spent my adolescence on a working cattle rance I sure did see lots of sex. In fact, the whole operation revolved around controlling sexual expression. No one paid the slightest bit of attention to cow on cow until just before the majority of the herd was in heat. Then we put the bulls in with the cows.

    No one paid any attention to bull on bull until the cows came into heat. Then we paid a great deal of attention in a concerted effort to make sure the right bulls procreatively copulated with the right cows. What we always paid attention to were excessively sexually agressive bulls because their activity could ‘screw’ up all kinds of well laid plans, including the neighbors well laid plans.

    I always find it fascinating that in this discussion of natural sexual practice that the Church is suspiciously silent about predatory male behavior. Their exclusivity about using natural law for male female complimentarity is itself quite selective. It’s much much more about appropriate ends for female sexuality than it is male sexuality. In that sense it’s very commercial, not natural, and not very balanced.

  3. Thanks, Colleen: I love it–keeping the right bulls with the right cows.

    Sad to say, that’s exactly the level of thinking at which natural law theory and the theology of the body work. As if human sexuality is nothing more than an animal operation that should be all about procreation.

    And keeping the right bull with the right cow.

  4. Bill, thanks for a masterly exposition. of how the “theology of the body” is far removed from any careful observation of how sexuality works in real lives. For an understanding of why, it is not rooted in reality, all we have to do is consider how mainstream Catholic theology is “developed” – by (nominally) celibate men cloistered away in the Vatican, poring over medieval scholastics.

    Thank God for the increasing number of reputable lay theologians, grounded in lived experience of sex, and alert to the findings of modern science in psychology, medicine, biology,and anthropology, who are forging a new theology which is relevant, vibrant and realistic.

  5. “Even when the sexual acts of heterosexuals people depart from what is considered normative, those acts nonetheless respect male-female complementarity and heterosexual people are not therefore designated as ‘objectively disordered’ because they engage in acts that depart from norms of traditional Catholic sexual morality.” So in other words if a heterosexual man rapes a woman and gets her pregnant, the is not considered ‘objectively disordered’ but is considered as nonetheless respecting male-female complementarity? Reading some of these Church documents gives me a better understanding of why some conservative Catholics really hate gay people. (No, I don’t buy that phony ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ BS).

    • You’ve got it, Mark. Absolutely right.

      The church does, at some deep level, feel (and for a long time taught) that it’s “less” disordered for a man to rape a woman than for a man to masturbate.

      Aquinas explicitly states that, using precisely this norm–that is, that the act of rape is at least open to procreation, whereas the act of masturbation isn’t. The most loving intimate expressions of love in a gay relationship are, according to this line of thinking, far more heinous than is the rape of a woman by a man.

      It’s a strange, twisted way of thinking that reinforces the most brutal presuppositions of patriarchal culture. As Colleen’s brilliant comment in this thread notes, it’s all about the cow and the bull, and keeping them together. Lots and lots of bull . . . .

      And it’s mind-boggling for me to hear that some people, particularly heterosexual men who have long enjoyed all the power and privilege of a linguistic system and a belief system that accords them unquestionable power and privilege, want to argue that the church treats its gay members the same way it treats its straight members!

      It would be an interesting experiment if, tomorrow, the magisterium decided to issue a “pastoral” letter informing all heterosexuals that it has decided their “heterosexual condition” is “disordered,” and a cross for them to bear. I wonder if those who woke up and read that “pastoral” letter tomorrow would then tell the pastors wielding the whip to lay the whip on harder. I wonder if they’d kiss the whip and thank the church for notifying them about their “condition” that is a cross to bear.

      Something tells me they wouldn’t respond this way, if for just a brief moment in their lives, they began to experience a tiny taste of the oppression dished out to women and gay folks over the course of church history. They might then begin to understand that not raising critical questions about the discrepancy between what the church professes and how it behaves is damaging not only to many church members, but to the church itself.

  6. Mr Lindsey, what you said makes a lot of sense. I want to share a personal experience with you. I discovered that the priest that taught me Religion in high school over 30 years ago was a sexual predator. I wrote to a priest involved in a counseling group about this. I spoke to him on the phone about this and when I mentioned how upset I was that this priest had taken a student on a vacation and forced him to submit to his advances, the priest’s comment was, “Well, the kid was committing mortal sins, too.” This comment upset me and I said that it was the priest here that was guilty of mortal sins. I said that if he was tempted that he should have locked himself in the bathroom and taken care of things by himself. The priest was horrified and stated, “Well that would have been a mortal sin.” I said, “Give me a break, Father.” He told me then to never speak to him again and that ended our conversation. So masturbation is just as bad as rape? Unbelievable. With this type of thinking, no wonder so many kids were abused.

    • “He told me then to never speak to him again and that ended our conversation.”

      Some pastoral touch that priest had, didn’t he?!

      I’m sorry you had to experience this. From those I know who experienced childhood sexual abuse by priests, and from all I have read about that horrible phenomenon, what you experienced in the conversation with this priest is, sad to say, par for the course.

      From the time I first began to hear bits and pieces about this phenomenon–this was before all the revelations of 2002–I was hearing priests say precisely what you report: it’s often the fault of the minors whom the priest abuses, not the priest himself. This ugly meme tries to depict the abuse crisis as largely a matter of consenting pre-adolescent boys seducing priests.

      I don’t know where to begin with everything that seems obscene to me about that claim. I think most of all it’s the apparently inability of grown men in positions of authority to realize that the children they’re molesting are in a position of total powerlessness, vis-a-vis their predators.

      And then there’s the refusal of the church’s pastors to be pastors, to meet with those deeply wounded by childhood sexual abuse. Almost always, those coming forth to ask for a hearing have been told that they are enemies of the church, out for money, and so forth. Bishops have almost uniformly refused even to meet these folks face to face, and have spent millions of dollars donated by the Catholic laity to play legal hardball with survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

      Deeply, deeply disturbing. And not pastoral in any shape, form, or fashion.

  7. You are so right in what you are saying, Mr. Lindsey. Boys seducing priests!!! What garbage. I haven’t talked to that priest since then. I had talked to him several times. He was involved in a ministry to parents and families of gay people. In a previous discussion he told me that being gay was like having cancer, one hated the disease but loved the person. I don’t know if he realized what an insulting thing that was to say. I hope that he didn’t tell the parents stuff like that.

    • Narth and Courage subscribe to the school of thought that blames the parents for the cancer. So they actually tell the parents they are the reason for the cancer, not just that their gay child suffers from a form of cancer.

    • Mark, I’m just now seeing this last posting of yours from the previous evening.

      What Colleen says about the cancer analogy is very insightful.

      To answer your implied question about this priest’s analogy, no, sadly, I doubt that he realized he was being insulting. The church is now coping with a generation of priests raised during the “Catholic answers” phase of catechesis brought to us by Popes John Paul II and Benedict.

      That phase of our history has had and continues to have disastrous consequences for pastoral ministry. Those formed in a seminary system and a church that emphasizes having instant cut-and-dried soundbyte answers to complex human dilemmas are not equipped even to understand that the trite answers they’ve been taught can be deeply insulting to those hearing them.

      The church has been significantly dumbed down in recent years, and deliberately so, right from the center. And lots of people are paying a high price for this strategic decision from the center.

  8. Mr. Lindsey: I have actually talked to a couple of people from Courage. They have been somewhat helpful but I do have an issue with how they promote NARTH. NARTH is bad science, quackery. I think Courage may be helpful to some but they need to be more affirming of gay people and speak out more against anti-gay prejudice and bigotry. They seem to have a “turn the other cheek” attitude when it comes to this. Michael Bayly’s writings on NARTH and Courage have been very informative to me.

    • Mark, I agree with you wholeheartedly about NARTH. It’s promotes both bad science and malicious, toxic nonsense. Michael has done wonderful work in analyzing NARTH’s twisted literature.

      I will share with you my one experience with Courage, a vicarious experience. I once knew a seminarian who was active in Courage. I didn’t know him well, but we talked a number of times about Courage.

      One of my primary concerns with Courage, insofar as I knew it through his presentation of the organization, was that it seemed to require a sleight of hand among its members, where one recognizes that one is gay but pretends to oneself that one has suddenly become a totally different person. In other words, as I listened to the seminarian I knew talk about Courage, it struck me that the organization dealt in a lot of very psychologically unhealthy repression.

      Which was confirmed for me several years down the road, when this seminarian was ordained and then it became public that he had molested a young adolescent boy. He was defrocked. I then found out, from another seminarian, that he had actively carried on relationships with at least one other seminarian while he was in the seminary–and in Courage. Denying that he was gay any longer.

      This man has my sympathy. In trying to live with the church’s unhealthy teachings about who he is, he has harmed himself, and others in the process. We can and should do better as a church.

  9. Colkoch, from what I have read, male homosexuality has some connection with hormones and exposure to certain hormones in the womb. So in a way, a man’s mother is partially responsible for his homosexuality. I believe that male homosexuality is biological in nature for the most part. At least I think that this is the case for men who are predominately gay. We are all individuals and there is great diversity within the gay population just as there is great diversity within the straight population, plus we also have bi-sexual people and others. I think the rainbow is an apt symbol for the GLBT community.

    I have read some of what NARTH has to say. Some seem to believe that rejection by the father causes a boy to become gay. My view on this is that the rejection is caused by the father’s dislike of certain character traits in the son. So the father may be distant because of the “gayness” that he perceives in his son. I agree somewhat with NARTH in that they think dads should spend time with their sons and give them a lot of attention. However, I do not believe that this would have any effect on the son’s sexual orientation as this is something that is determined very early, perhaps even before birth. I think that giving their sons a lot of affection and acceptance would lead to a more well adjusted person. It is important then that the father accept his son’s individual sexuality. In my opinion, the son would still be gay but would feel better about himself and would be less likely to endanger himself with promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, etc. and would also feel more comfortable discussing issues with his dad.

  10. Mark, your points are well made. There is some evidence that a number of human behavioral variants stem from the utirine environment. This makes perfect sense to me in that biological growth is determined by messaging with the cellular environment, and that environment is dependent on the environment of the mother.

    What happens in the biological world is mirrored in the social world. One of the issues which I think needs far more research and exposure is the notion that what male parents are rejected in gay sons is not the orientation, but the gender traits. These men are not rejecting their sons for being gay, but for acting like girls. I’ve always thought it interesting that there is the ‘tom boy’ term for masculine girls, but no such corresponding euphemism for feminine boys. The fact that girls can be boys, but boys must be boys is to me very telling about what’s really driving homophobia.

    This inbred prejudice in favor of ‘masculine’ behavior is also what drives mysoginy in the male homosexual community, as is all too evident within Catholicism. I suspect this is also why some G’s in the LGBT community have problems with the T’s–unless the T’s are on stage in Vegas or act like they should be.

    In my view, the acceptance of gays will never be accomplished until there is acceptance for transexuals by both straights and gays and that is going to take Christians really understanding Paul’s teaching that in Jesus there is no male and female, there are no gender roles. All are free to contribute the gifts with which they were BORN. Because, as you point out above, the genetic map we are conceived with may not play out at all in the person who is eventually born.

  11. Colkoch: You have made some interesting points. There is a corresponding euphemism for feminine boys. It is “sissy.” But it is more acceptable for a girl to be boyish than it is for a boy to be girlish.

    Your comments about transexuals are noted. I don’t know a lot about this issue. I can only give personal observations. I have some feminine characteristics and am basically accepting of this. But I also have no idea what it is like to be a woman or have a woman’s body. So whatever feminine aspects there are to my being are tempered by the fact that I inhabit a male body. Sometimes this is confusing even to me. But truly, there is such a diversity among men and among women, also among gay people and among straight people. A key, I think is respecting all people as individuals, we share our humanity.

  12. Someone has to say it — this article is lying and overtly misrepresenting what teh Catholic church teaches. Catholocism does not teach that ANY people are ‘objectively disordered’ — it only teaches that certain inclinations are.

    A person who hasa propensity for same-sex attraction is free to make of the attraction what he or she wants. While the attraction is not always chosen (and may for example incline one towards art or teaching or philosophy or any number of other pursuits rooted in a deep and abiding love and attraction to one’s own sex) — none of these inclinations which a same-sex attracted person may purusue to live out their feelings are judged as disordered in any way. It is only when the love & desire for one’s own gender is directed by the body, mind and emotions to incline one to put same sex attractions in competition with or in substitution for opposite sex romantic and sexual attachemnts and physical behaviros that it is a ‘disoredered inclination’ or disordered state. The term “disordered person” or “disordered people” never appears anywhere in any Catholic teaching, and to say it is is to lie.

    This lie is built on the underlying lie that people expeirencing homoseuxal desires have no choice regarding how to respond to those desires — and that the desire = the inclination to act = the person himself or herself. The lie is rooted in the lie that a person’s choice and free agency have no role whatsoever in how the individual lives. This belief (common in the gay world, and at the heart of ‘gay liberation’) may well be one of the most disempowering notions of our time.

    Please stop lying about the church. Please quit misrepresenting the claim of a ‘disordered inclination’ as if it were an allegation of ‘disorderd people’ and please be silent on the issue of Catholic Theology unless you are willing to actually learn what it says and what it means from those who are qualified to teach it. You can google the Theology of the Body institute if you would like to get the real skinny on this topic, but I wouldn’t trust what I see here if anyone is truly interested.

    • “Catholocism [sic] does not teach that ANY people are ‘objectively disordered’ — it only teaches that certain inclinations are.”

      Have you ever seen an inclination walking around outside a person, Darren?

      The 1986 Vatican document on the pastoral care of homosexual persons explicitly states,

      Explicit treatment of the problem [confronting Catholic pastoral responses to gay persons] was given in this Congregation’s “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics” of December 29, 1975. That document stressed the duty of trying to understand the homosexual condition and noted that culpability for homosexual acts should only be judged with prudence. At the same time the Congregation took note of the distinction commonly drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual actions. These were described as deprived of their essential and indispensable finality, as being “intrinsically disordered”, and able in no case to be approved of (cf. n. 8, #4).

      In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

      Inclinations do not exist outside persons. To say that a “condition” of “homosexual persons” is disordered is to say that these persons are themselves disordered.

      Then the same document goes on to state,

      It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

      But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

      Just as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (¶ 2358),

      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 and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

      Do you meet “conditions” and “inclinations” walking around in the absence of persons, Darren?

      I’m afraid it’s you who are seriously misrepresenting what the magisterium teaches, when you say that this magisterial teaching does not define gay and lesbian persons as disordered.

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