Homosexuality and the Catholic Church in Today’s Culture
Stephen M. Krason (Guest Editor)
Society of Catholic Social Scientists Spring Conference, 1999
Stephen M. Krason, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Introduction
John Finnis, Oxford University and University of Notre Dame
Joseph Nicolosi, National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality
Fr. John Harvey, OSFS, Founder, Courage
Gerard V. Bradley, Notre Dame Law School
The papers in this symposium were delivered at the Society of Catholic Social Scientists’ spring conference of the same name on April 17, 1999 at Notre Dame Law School. The Society in its history has given some particular attention to this issue, having sent letters to all the members of Congress opposing the early Clinton Administration initiative to let known homosexuals into the military and to all the U.S. bishops pointing out the serious problems with the homosexual-specific ministries which have sprung up in various dioceses. The latter letter gained attention from a couple of national publications and generated numerous requests for copies. The fact that we have given this focus to the issue of homosexuality accords with the Society’s intention to especially stress family issues. We wish to try to disseminate these papers beyond the confines of this journal, if possible.
Stephen M. Krason (Franciscan University of Steubenville)
The authors of these papers are all prominent members of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. Dr. John Finnis and Fr. John Harvey are members of our Board of Advisors. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi has been a member since our early years, was the featured speaker at one of our annual conferences, and drafted our letter on homosexual ministries mentioned above. Professor Gerald Bradley is a former officer of the Society and has served for several years as Chairman of our Public and Church Affairs Committee. The papers discuss four different aspects of the problem of homosexuality: the Church’s teaching about homosexuality and the rationale for it; the pro-homosexualist politicization of the mental health profession and the latter’s resulting unwillingness to provide adequate treatment for homosexuality; the encouraging pastoral response, fully in conformity to Church teaching, to people struggling with homosexuality as seen in the Courage organization; and the dangers to our culture represented by legal recognition of same-sex “marriages.”
Dr. Finnis’s paper sets out Catholic teaching about homosexuality and homosexual acts. He explains that, even though sin occurs only when a person freely chooses to commit homosexual acts, the inclination to same-sex attraction—i.e., homosexual “orientation”—is intrinsically disordered because any inclination to pursue a moral evil is disordered. This is a case irrespective of the reason or source of the inclination in the individual person, even if it is inborn. Finnis places this teaching of the Church into a philosophical context. The twin purposes, or goods, of marriage are the deepening of “loving friendship” between the spouses and procreating and rearing children. They promote the overarching good of marriage itself. The attainment of this good requires not just an exclusive, noncontraceptive sexual relationship between a husband and wife, but also the right intention to be having this relationship only with this person. Even to approve of sex outside of marriage upsets the good of marriage and renders one’s own marital relationship or hoped-for future marital relationship conditional: If it legitimately can be resorted to, why should it not be resorted to in this case?
It goes without saying that homosexual acts could never fit these criteria and thus can never be moral. Similarly, of course, same-sex “marriage” or anything like it is impossible—anything which is less then a committed, exclusive and permanent sexual relationship between a woman and a man “cannot even” imitate real marriage. Finnis also cautions us about the “gay rights” movement’s crusade for legal protection for sexual orientation. What it really seeks to protect is homosexual conduct.
Dr. Nicolosi’s paper traces the odyssey of the American Psychiatric Association’s treatment of homosexuality in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the basic reference source consulted by psychiatrists. Even though the pioneers of modern psychiatry and the APA in its earlier days upheld the traditional understanding of homosexuality as a serious disorder— consonant with the Church’s Declaration on Homosexuality—later on, under the heightening political pressure of the growing homosexualist movement, it changed its position. Without any scientific or clinical evidence to justify this, it eventually dropped any reference to homosexuality at all from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This development is, interestingly, not unlike the journey that the APA and other groups took on abortion.
Nicolosi believes that the reason this happened was that psychiatrists and psychologists were intimidated by the “combined effects of the sexual revolution” and the movements for “civil rights, minority rights, feminist rights”—that is, they have been caught up in the steamroller of “tolerance,” even tolerance for behaviors that they know are deviant and destructive. How this has frozen therapeutic efforts to help homosexuals—which Nicolosi tells us is possible—and even research is uncanny.
Also in the mix of reasons for these developments has been a kind of misguided humanitarian motive—as well as a desire to find a cover for psychiatry’s and psychology’s embarrassment. These professions wanted to check “social discrimination” against homosexuals, and they felt frustrated and embarrassed about their low success rate in reorienting homosexuals—so they just decided to say that the affliction no longer existed!
Now, ironically and tragically, a kind of reverse discrimination is occurring: those who wish to change their homosexual orientation are being told they have no problem and are denied help and treatment. Perceptively— and very much in line with the critique of contemporary social science that the SCSS more broadly makes—Nicolosi sees the roots of psychology’s—and hence psychiatry’s—grave errors about issues such as this in their abandonment of its traditional philosophical roots and embracing of, first, value neutrality and later the humanistic movement with its confusion of feelings with morality.
Father John Harvey’s paper first explains how the acceptance of an “inverted sexuality”—i.e., contraceptive sexual acts as forms of self-gratification, which people believe they are entitled to—which characterizes heterosexuals as well as homosexuals has in turn promoted the acceptance of homosexuality. He then summarizes, like Finnis, the Church’s teaching on homosexuality—i.e., that the condition is objectively disordered and acts are always immoral—and places it squarely within Divine Revelation. As such, it has been the Church’s teaching since Christ’s time. Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and later in the Church Fathers, it is clear that the aim of human sexual activity is to forge the “one flesh union” of husband and wife and to procreate; homosexual activity thus is clearly and consistently rejected.
Harvey insists that, while our degraded culture and sex addiction may render some practicing homosexuals inculpably ignorant about the moral character of their actions, most are responsible. This was a necessary starting point for the building of Harvey’s now well-known (in orthodox Catholic circles) pastoral program for homosexuals called “Courage.” Courage seeks to assist persons with same-sex attractions to develop and practice the virtue of chastity. Harvey briefly discusses the history and growth of Courage. He also discusses “Encourage,” an organization to help parents whose children have embraced the “gay lifestyle” and abandoned the Faith. Both are spiritual support groups fully committed to the orthodox teaching of the Church. He also lists the “Five Goals of Courage,” which were drawn up by some of the organization’s earliest members and remind one of the goals of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Finally, Gerard Bradley’s paper addresses the major recent public policy initiative of the homosexualist movement: the legal recognition of same-sex unions, so that all the legal benefits of marriage may be available to homosexual and lesbian couples. He stresses that same-sex “marriage” is not only not moral but, more basically, a logical and practical impossibility. This is something that law cannot help but acknowledge within the category of capacity to marry. As it holds—actually, simply recognizes the realities about—that minors because of immaturity and the already-married because of their existing commitment are without the capacity to marry, so it must hold that homosexual couples lack such a capacity because they do not possess the natural complementarity for marriage. Courts, however, are increasingly unable to see this problem. Like Father Harvey, Bradley asserts that the growing confusion about, and even acceptance of, homosexuality developed from our separation of sex from procreation. We have long since redefined marriage as something which does not necessarily have to involve an openness to children, and so we paved the way for the “gay lifestyle.”
The implications for the law, Bradley tells us, are momentous. If same-sex “marriage” is to be recognized, why not polygamy? Why not “marriages” of “two boys and one girl”? And the list of perverse relationships entitled to legal protection could go on and on. The implications for our culture could be even more serious, for to undercut traditional marriage means to debase children. Accepting same-sex “marriage” will stimulate acceptance of in vitro fertilization and the cloning of children because it will decisively separate sex from procreation. Children will come to be seen more and more as commodities instead of the gifts that they really are, and their dignity and rights will be progressively diminished.
Bradley believes that, in spite of cultural decay, there is still enough residual sense among the American public about the traditional character of marriage—that sexual activity is most appropriate within it, and that it is partly about children (i.e., is “perfected” by children)—that the case against the legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” can still be won.
This thought-provoking symposium will help its readers to better understand different dimensions of the homosexuality question. It will help them to better understand why the homosexual condition is disordered and homosexual conduct wrong, why homosexuality has come to be increasingly accepted in our culture and the grave implications this presents, and the fact that there is hope both for our political society’s repelling the efforts to gain acceptance for homosexual conduct and for the individuals afflicted with the condition of same-sex attraction.
Reason, Faith and Homosexual Acts
John Finnis (Oxford University and University of Notre Dame)
Discusses Catholic teaching about homosexuality. Explains the philosophical rationale for that teaching. Argues that homosexual activity is wrong, along with all other nonmarital sexual activity, because it undermines the goods of marriage.
What the Church Teaches about Homosexual Inclinations
The Church “refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.” Each person also has a “sexual identity”: either male or female, man or woman. The Church does not use the term “sexual identity” as some people do, who claim that people have “sexual identities” as homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, and so forth. Instead, the Church teaches that each male should accept his sexual identity as a man, and each female her sexual identity as a woman; and that means accepting that one is different from and complementary to —and equal in dignity with —persons of the opposite sex (gender).
The Church has sometimes spoken of “homosexual persons.” Anyone who has a “more or less strong tendency towards” sexual activity with a person or persons of the same sex can be so described. Of course, as is well known, most such persons are also “heterosexual persons.” That is to say, most people who engage, or have an inclination to engage, in homosexual activity also engage, or are more or less inclined to engage, in sexual activity with a person or persons of the opposite sex. Very many homosexual persons—persons with homosexual inclinations—marry and have children by their spouse. Not all do, and there are some, relatively quite few, who have a sexual urge but lack the psychophysical capacity for marital intercourse.
The Church observes that in some homosexual persons the homosexual inclination (orientation) comes, it seems, “from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable.” But the Church also observes that “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible,” and that some homosexual persons may be “definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.” Acknowledging the last-mentioned class of persons, the Church is well aware of people who “conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, insofar as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.”
But the Church, today as always, rejects that way of arguing from “nature.” The Christian teaching from the outset has been that no homosexual acts are ever justified, even the acts of someone whose inclination to engage in them is “innate” (that is, present at birth) and, in one sense of the word, “natural.” Accordingly, the Church’s Catechism reaffirms that every such inclination, whether innate or pathological, incurable or curable, permanent or transitory, is an objective disorder, an intrinsically disordered inclination.
The reason why even the most deep-seated homosexual tendency must be called disordered is straightforward. Every such tendency, inclination or orientation “is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” Of course, “the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin” —for a sin is committed only in a choice. But the inclination is precisely an inclination to choose a homosexual act—a sex act with a person of the same sex. And, like every other kind of non-marital sex act, any and every homosexual act is a seriously disordered kind of activity which, if freely and deliberately chosen, is a serious sin. An inclination which one cannot choose to pursue without serious moral evil is obviously a disordered inclination. So: “the particular inclination of the homosexual person…is a more or less strong tendency ordered [i.e., directed] toward an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” The definitive edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church first points out that homosexual acts are always “intrinsically disordered” (para. 2357) and then goes on, in the following paragraph, to describe the inclination in precisely the same terms: “intrinsically disordered.”
Why the Church’s Teaching about Homosexual Acts
and Inclinations is Right
The Church’s teaching about homosexual inclinations is proposed with ample awareness of modern psychological and biological research into the origins of these inclinations. But it does not rely on the judgment of those researchers who are convinced that homosexuality is a “psychiatric disorder.” Nor is it contradicted or challenged or unsettled by the opinion of those who hold that it is not a psychiatric disorder. The Church’s teaching about these inclinations rests instead on the Catholic doctrine about the choice to engage in homosexual acts. This is a moral doctrine, a teaching about what is right (or wrong), good (or worthless and harmful), and choice worthy (or sinful).
From its earliest years, the Church has understood its moral doctrine as not only a matter of faith but also fully in line with human nature. St Paul teaches clearly about this in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 2: 14-15). But Jesus has already made the point by his profound teachings on human sexual identity (Matt. 19: 4), and on the marital communion of man and woman which, on the basis of that complementarity of identities, was established “from the beginning” (i.e., in the intentions of God the creator of nature) (Rom. 19: 8). As Jesus makes clear, this natural communion requires for its integrity not only the sexual intercourse of the spouses (Matt. 19: 5), but also the complete and unwavering mastery and overcoming—by everyone, married or unmarried—of every desire for sexual contact or enjoyment outside marriage (Matt. 5: 27). To look on anyone with lust is “adultery,” that is, an offense—even by the unmarried— against marriage, a relationship both profoundly natural and sustainable only by moral aspiration. I shall show, below, why this must be so.
Some o f the greatest theologians and philosophers have explained the relationship between human nature, the natural world as a whole, and the truths of morality. Morality concerns not what simply is or is deep-seated or usual, but rather the good, and the various kinds of good (goods), which should be sought, chosen, and done. Everything that should be, and is choice worthy, is natural and grounded in the givens of human nature. But not everything we find in our nature is a pointer to what is good, choice worthy and reasonable. For example, as St Thomas Aquinas, the master theorist of natural law morality, points out, we all have “a natural inclination to follow our bodily feelings and desires even against the good of being reasonable.” This is one of many “natural”— i.e., innate, deep-seated, typical—inclinations which should not simply be followed!
Others are found more in some people’s nature than in others’: some people are more inclined to anger, including immoral anger, than others; some are more inclined to greed, some to crippling fear, and so forth. So, as Pope John Paul II teaches, “natural inclinations take on moral relevance only insofar as they refer to the human person and the person’s authentic fulfillment…” Aquinas, following a lead from Aristotle’s research and reflections, reminds his readers that homosexual inclinations—e.g. the desire of some men to have sex with other men—arise in some cases from pleasure-seeking which has initiated and sustained a corrupt taste for this sort of behavior, a bad habit, but in other cases from a defective psycho-physical constitution (i.e., from inclinations incipiently present even from conception). The way these inclinations originate in a particular person does not affect the fact that, just insofar as they incline that person towards sex acts with persons of the same sex, they incline not towards but away from authentic fulfillment.
Human fulfillment consists in the actualizing, in the lives of persons and their communities, those basic human goods towards which the first principles of practical reason—the very foundations of conscience—direct us. Among these basic human goods is the good of marriage. The Church often speaks of the goods of marriage: (1) loving friendship between wife and husband, and (2) procreating and educating any children who may be conceived from the spouses’ marital intercourse. They are interdependent goods: this is a friendship sealed by a commitment to exclusiveness and permanence, a commitment of a kind made appropriate by marriage’s orientation to the procreation and education of the children of the husband/father and wife/mother; and that raising of children is most appropriately undertaken as a long-term, even lifelong commitment of the spouse-parents. Being interdependent, these goods can also be properly described as two aspects of a single basic human good, the good of marriage itself. In the Church’s most explicit teaching on the foundations of its moral doctrine, in which Pope John Paul points to the basic human goods as the first principles of the natural moral law, this single though basic good is called: “the communion of persons in marriage.”
The whole Christian teaching on sex has, from the beginning, done no more, and no less, than point out the ways in which every kind of sex act, other than authentic marital intercourse, is opposed to the good of marriage. The more distant a kind of sex act is from the marital kind, the more seriously disordered and, in itself, immoral it is. How do non-marital sex acts oppose the good of marriage? The next few paragraphs sketch one kind of answer to that question. It is only one of many ways in which the question has been answered. It is suggested by one of Aquinas’s central teachings about the morality of marital intercourse, an often misunderstood but important and true teaching which the Church itself also upholds.
In Christian marriage the personality, individuality and equality of the spouses is fully respected. The marital communion is not a submerging of the two persons into one. But it is a communion, a bringing-together of their wills in their mutual commitment; of their wills and minds in shared understanding and faith and hope; of their wills, minds and feelings in shared joys, cares, and sadness; and of their wills, minds, feelings and bodies in sexual intercourse. That intercourse, when it is truly marital, enables them to experience and actualize their mutual commitment and communion at all levels of their being: biological, emotional, rational and volitional. It is only truly marital when it has the characteristics of the two-sided good of marriage itself: friendship and openness to procreation. A sexual act is marital only when (1) it is an act of the generative kind, that is, culminates in a union of the generative organs in which the wife accepts into her genital tract her husband’s genital organ and the seed he thereby gives her; and (2) it is an act of friendship in which each is seeking to express commitment to and affection for, and the desire to benefit and give marital pleasure to, and share marital pleasure with, the other spouse as the very person to whom he or she is committed in marriage.
These two conditions are also inter-linked. Only an act of the generative kind (in the sense just specified) truly unites the spouses at all levels, biologically as well as at the level of feelings and intentions. This is a real biological unity (even if, as is usually the case, the couple in fact cannot, at the time of intercourse, bring about actual generation of new life). For in reproduction a mating pair functions as a single organism. In respect of all other organic functions, from thinking to digesting, each human being is an entirely individual organism. But neither the male nor the female can reproduce; it takes their union in an act of the generative kind to bring about reproduction (if the background conditions of their bodies are in the state required for actual generation). So in an act of the generative kind, whether or not it results on a
particular occasion in actual generation, there is more than merely a particular juxtaposition of members and sequence of movements. There is also, and fundamentally, a real (albeit in itself temporary) organic/biological uniting of the pair, so that then and there, in respect of the reproductive function, they constitute one organism. This is the one-flesh unity which Jesus, recalling Genesis, makes foundational to his teaching on marriage, and on sexual desires, choices, and actions in their relation, right or wrong, to marriage understood as the two persons, male and female, in one flesh.
That, in short, is why in marital intercourse a married couple can express their commitment, and can really, not merely in imagination, actualize and experience their marriage. The conditions under which a sexual transaction between spouses can amount to marital intercourse are, to repeat, of two kinds. Their chosen behavior must be an act of the generative kind (taken on each occasion as a whole sequence of preparatory, consummatory and confirmatory), and their intentions and wills must also be united in service of the marital good instantiated in their exclusive and permanent commitment to each other in marriage. So a married couple’s sexual act is not truly marital if, for example, on or both of the spouses is wishing he or she were doing this with someone else, or is imagining doing so, or is willing to engage in this activity with any attractive person who could bring him or her to orgasmic release.
Think of someone whose frame of mind is: I am willing to do this with some other attractive person, but the only available person at present is my spouse, so I’ll do it with him/her. Such a person is disabled by that frame of mind from making and carrying through a truly marital choice to engage in intercourse. In the technical phrase of the theologians, this person is engaging in intercourse for pleasure alone. His or her act of intercourse is depersonalized, not an act of marital friendship. That is why the Church teaches that such a choice is always morally flawed; and in some kinds of instance it is a serious sin against the integrity and authenticity of marriage and marital life.
The good of marriage is an intrinsic good, not a mere means to any other end. But it is also true that the well-being of children greatly depends upon the marital commitment of their parents. As that commitment tends to be strengthened by marital intercourse which respects the integrity and authenticity—the purity—of their marriage, so too it is weakened at its heart by intercourse which is not truly marital, but rather expressive of self-indulgence. So anyone who thinks clearly, has the well-being of children at heart, and recognizes the good of marital communion, will judge wrongful every kind of sex act which is not truly marital.
And there is another, not unrelated, kind of reason for the very same moral judgment. One cannot engage in truly marital intercourse if one is willing, even conditionally willing, to engage in this sort of behavior (deliberate sexual stimulation towards orgasm) outside marriage or in one or other of the non-marital ways. Unless and until one reverses it by repenting of it, such a willingness so deforms one’s will that one is disabled from engaging in a free, rational, sentient and bodily act which would really express, actualize, foster, and enable one’s spouse to experience the good of marriage and of one’s own commitment (self-giving) in marriage. Of course, one may imagine that one’s act, though performed with this divided, impure willingness, is still an expression and experiencing of the good of marriage. But this can be no more than an illusion, which rational reflection punctures. And a spouse who knows or senses that the other spouse is willing—even conditionally or hypothetically—to do this kind of thing outside (before, during, or after) marriage is likely to experience the act as not an expression and actualization of marital commitment. That is why such a willingness saps marriage at its core.
So: nobody who is or wishes to be a spouse, and no one who considers it reasonable for people to become spouses, can judge it reasonable for human beings to seek sexual satisfaction in an extra-marital way. For approval of extramarital sex acts, even of other people’s acts or of the sex acts of people who could never marry, has two implications: (1) It implies that anyone and everyone should approve of such acts, i.e., should regard them as kinds of acts not excluded by reasonableness; and (2) it is a form of conditional willingness to engage in such acts. Therefore, it entails (necessarily implies) also (3) that married couples, spouses, should approve of and be conditionally willing to perform non-marital acts. But such a conclusion is directly opposed to the good of marriage, of the spouses as committed friends, and of any children who may have resulted from their marital union and be dependent upon the purity which is near the heart of its stability and its appropriateness as the context for nurture and education.
Homosexual sex acts, even between people who could never consummate a marriage and who wish, at the time, to be committed to each other in a lifelong friendship, can never be marital. To judge them morally acceptable—to condone them—is opposed to the good of marriage, a basic human good. So they cannot reasonably be judged morally acceptable.
The relationship of same-sex couples can never be marriage. The easiest way to see this is to ask oneself why same-sex sex acts should be restricted to couples rather than three-somes, four-somes, etc., or rather than couples or other groups whose membership rotates at agreed intervals. Nothing in the “gay ideology” can, or even seriously tries, to explain or defend the exclusiveness or permanence of same-sex partnerships or their limitation to couples. The practice and experience of homosexual relationships is dramatic confirmation that, once one departs from the institution of marriage as a committed, exclusive and permanent sexual relationship between a woman and a man, there are no solid grounds for making one’s sexual relationships even imitate real marriage. As careful large-scale studies have shown, and “anecdotal” historical testimony amply confirms, there are practically no homosexual couples, even long-term couples, to whom sexual exclusivity as a principle, and real mutual commitment to it in practice, make any sense.
A Final Word on “Sexual Orientation”
The shifty phrase “sexual orientation” is an important obstacle to clear thinking. It spreads darkness over the law and popular discussions by hiding the distinction between emotional inclinations, dispositions, or interests and actual or conditional willingness. Willingness is, or results from, a choice—perhaps a conditional choice (“I am willing to do this if I find someone attractive and a safe opportunity…”), perhaps an unconditional and immediate choice. Emotional inclinations, dispositions, and interests, on the other hand, do not engage one’s moral responsibility unless they result from earlier choices or are allowed to lead one to such a choice.
The phrase “sexual orientation” is radically equivocal. Particularly as used by promoters of “gay rights,” the phrase ambiguously assimilates two things which that [the law] hitherto has carefully distinguished: (I) a psychological or psychosomatic disposition inwardly orienting one towards homosexual activity; (II) the deliberate decision so to orient one’s public behavior as to express or manifest one’s active interest in and endorsement of homosexual conduct and/or forms of life which presumptively involve such conduct laws or proposed laws outlawing “discrimination based on sexual orientation” are always interpreted by “gay rights” movements as going far beyond discrimination based merely on A’s belief that B is sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. Instead (it is observed), “gay rights” movements interpret the phrase as extending full legal protection to public activities intended specifically to promote, procure and facilitate homosexual conduct.
St. Paul’s reflections on homosexual vice, in Romans 1: 19-28, make it clear that what matters is not inclinations but the will (the debased mind) and chosen conduct. With minds darkened, their inclinations mastering their reason, “women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way men…committed shameless acts with men…” (Rom. 1: 21, 26-28).
Whether we are hearing Paul in faith, or using reason’s own resources to clarify our consciences and rectify our wills, we should be clear that natural intercourse is not simply heterosexual. Rather, it is marital. That is, it is sexually complementary (heterosexual), and in each act of spousal intercourse enables the man and the woman, wife and husband, to experience, express and actualize together—physically, emotionally, and intellectually—both of the two essential marital goods: procreativeness, and a friendship which is exclusive and permanently committed.
1. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1 October 1986, sec. 16.
2. Catechism of the Catholic Church (revised edition 1997), 2333, 2393.
3. Ibid., 2333, 2393.
4. Ibid., 2333, 2393.
5. Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Certain Questions concerning Sexual Ethics, 29 December 1975, sec. 8.
6. Catechism of the Catholic Church, (rev. ed), 2558.
7. Declaration on Certain Questions concerning Sexual Ethics, sec. 8
9. Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, sec. 3.
10. Catechism of the Catholic Church (rev. ed.), 2358.
11. The Church’s documents on the matter treat all these words as referring to the same thing.
12. Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, sec. 3.
15. See Finnis, Aquinas 93.
16. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, 6 August 1993, sec. 50 (emphasis added).
17. See Veritatis Splendor, secs. 13, 48 (“the primordial moral requirement of loving and respecting the person as an end and never as a mere means also implies, by its very nature, respect for certain fundamental goods”); 50; also 78, 79.
18. E.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church 2333.
19. Ibid. 2201, 2249.
20. Veritatis Splendor, sec. 13. St. Thomas Aquinas long ago identified this as a single though complex primary (basic) human good: see John Finnis, Aquinas: Moral, Political and Legal Theory (Oxford University Press, 1998) 82, 143.
21. See decree of the Holy Office against the errors of the laxists, 2 March 1679, no. 9.
22. See Finnis, Aquinas 149.
23. This line of thought is explored in depth and detail in Finnis, “The Good of Marriage and the Morality of Sexual Relations: Some Philosophical and Historical Observations”, American Journal of Jurisprudence 42 (1997) 97 at 119-126. See also pp. 126-134, exploring the reasons why spouses who know that, though they have not tried to prevent conception, they cannot conceive (i.e., are naturally infertile or have become sterile, e.g., as a result of age) can nevertheless engage in authentically marital acts of the reproductive kind, i.e., in marital intercourse.
24. See ibid., pp. 123-124, especially notes 108, 131-133.
24. John Finnis, “Law, Morality, and Sexual Orientation,” Notre Dame Law Review 69 (1994) 1049-76 at 1053-4.
The Removal of Homosexuality from the Psychiatric Manual
Joseph Nicolosi (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality)
Discusses the American Psychiatric Association’s well-known removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Argues that this was done because of political pressures, the overall influence of the sexual revolution, and problematic humanitarian motives. Asserts that now homosexuals who seek treatment for their condition are often denied help by psychologists and psychiatrists.
All three great pioneers of psychiatry—Freud, Jung and Adler—saw homosexuality as disordered. Yet today, homosexuality is not to be found in the psychiatric manual of mental disorders.
Were these three great pioneers just reflecting the ignorance and prejudice of their times? Is this radical shift due to our modern-day enlightened, sophisticated attitude? Has there been any new research to account for this shift of opinion? Submits that no new psychological or sociological research justifies this shift. Research did not settle the question. Research simply stopped, and it is politics that has silenced the professional dialogue. Now, the only studies on homosexuality are from an advocacy perspective.
Militant gay advocates working in a small but forceful network have caused apathy and confusion within our society. They insist that acceptance of the homosexual as a person cannot occur without endorsement of the homosexual condition. Intellectual circles too—who are self-conscious about sounding intolerant—proclaim homosexuality as normal, yet it is still not so for the average person for whom it “just doesn’t seem right.”
History of Diagnosis
In 1952, the original Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) listed homosexuality among the sociopathic personality disturbances.
In 1968, DSM II removed homosexuality from the sociopathic list, categorizing it with other sexual deviations.
Then in 1973, the DSM III showed the most striking change of all: homosexuality was considered a problem only when it was dissatisfying to the person. When the condition was compatible (“ego-syntonic”)—and the person was comfortable with his homosexual thoughts, feelings and behavior— homosexuality was not considered pathological.
This is, I believe, a false distinction. The problem lies not in the person’s attitude toward his homosexuality, but in the homosexuality itself. I believe that while homosexuality may be compatible with the conscious ego, it can never be compatible on the deepest levels of self. Homosexuality, as we will show, is symptomatic failure to integrate self-identity. Symptoms will always emerge to indicate its incompatibility with a man’s true nature.
The DSM III was further revised, and now homosexuality is not referred to at all: no reference is made to it by name within the diagnostic manual.
Actually, there is an oblique reference in the catch-all category of “Other Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified.” Here they describe “Persistent and Marked Distress About One’s Sexual Orientation.” Reference to homosexual orientation is avoided as if “persistent and marked distress” could also apply to heterosexuality.
Yet in the history of psychiatry, has a heterosexual ever sought treatment for distress about his heterosexuality and wished to become homosexual? When I put that question in correspondence to the chairman of the DSM Nomenclature Committee, Robert L. Spitzer, he replied: “the answer, as you suspected, is no.” Why does the profession no longer consider homosexuality a problem?
In his scholarly analysis of the American Psychiatric Association’s reversal of the diagnostic classification of homosexuality, Ronald Bayer (1981) states: “the result was not a conclusion based upon an approximation of the scientific truth as dictated by reason, but was instead an action demanded by the
ideological temper of the times” (p. 3-4).
The combined effects of the sexual revolution and the “rights” movements—civil rights, minority rights, feminist rights—have resulted in an intimidating effect upon psychology. Some writers have even questioned whether “straights” are capable of doing research on homosexuality (Suppe, 1982). Because there is a fear of offending any vocal minority or of being considered judgmental, there has been little critique of the quality of gay life.
Although recent behavioral inventories of homosexual men have revealed more anonymous sex than previously imagined, it is like the case of the Emperor’s new clothes: everyone sees the problem, but no one dares acknowledge the obvious.
The removal of homosexuality from the DSM had the effect of discouraging treatment and research. The bulk of early psychodynamic research and theory beginning with Freud indicated that homosexuality is not a natural, inborn condition. Yet the literature came to an abrupt stop when it became “common knowledge” that homosexuality was in fact not a problem. This discouraged clinicians from communicating with each other, and from making presentations at professional meetings.
The silence among researchers was not brought about by new scientific evidence showing homosexuality to be a normal and healthy variant of human sexuality; rather it became fashionable not to discuss homosexuality as a problem any longer.
Other pro-gay researchers fear any inquiry into psychological causes would amount to a concession of pathology; after all, there has been no similar investigation of the causes of heterosexuality (Stein and Cohen, 1986). They have encouraged only the search for a genetic or endocrine basis for homosexuality, in the belief that such a discovery would once and for all resolve the issue of homosexuality’s normality.
We too consider it possible that there could be some predisposing genetic factors; but in this regard we see a parallel with alcoholism. Although there is now greater recognition of some biological predisposition to alcoholism, we continue to acknowledge it as problematic, we continue to treat it, and we still find the most successful treatments to be psychological, social and spiritual supportive therapy.
Beyond political pressures, there were two other reasons why the psychiatric profession removed homosexuality from its diagnostic manual.
The first reason is that psychiatry hoped to eliminate social discrimination by removing the stigma of “sick” attributed to homosexual people (Bayer, 1981; Barnhouse, 1977). Most psychotherapists are personally committed to removing emotional distress and diminishing the destructive effects of socially-imposed guilt. There was a leap of assumption that continued diagnosis of homosexuality would perpetuate society’s prejudice and the homosexual person’s social suffering.
The second reason is that the psychological profession has failed to identify, with certainty, the psychodynamic causes of homosexuality, and consequently to devise a consistently successful treatment for it. Historically, the cure rate in the treatment of homosexuality has been modest. In those few studies that do claim success, the percentage of clients converted to heterosexuality runs from 15-30%, and there is question whether the “cure” was maintained on long-term follow up. Such results have culminated in an acceptance of the condition.
However, while the humanitarian intent must not go unappreciated, failure by the profession to find a consistently successful cure should not be the criterion for determining normalcy. We are resorting to the logic “if we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke.”
The psychological profession is responsible for diagnosis—for identifying what is “disease” or “loss of ease” within the person. It is not for the profession to erase diagnosis for lack of a ready cure.
The New Problem of Reverse Discrimination
While the intention has been to end discrimination, one result has been discrimination for a different group of people—those men whose social and moral values and sense of self cannot incorporate their homosexuality.
In its new outspokenness, the gay movement portrays a false scenario wherein the so-called “victim-patient” is invariably preyed upon by the “victimizing mental-health professional” who trades on such a man’s homophobia. Forgotten is the homosexual who, out of a different vision of personal wholeness, legitimately seeks growth and change through the help of a professional. Unfortunately, these men have been labeled victims of psychological and religious oppression rather than the courageous men they are, committed to an authentic vision.
Failure by the psychiatric profession to recognize homosexuality as an unwanted condition for some, serves to discourage members of the mental health profession from offering treatment. Most harmfully, the client himself is disheartened, since the very profession to which he turns for help tells him that it is not a problem and he must accept it.
It is extremely demoralizing for a client to persist in attempting to overcome homosexuality when the psychological profession—which would administer treatment—insists he does not have a problem.
Some people define the whole person by his unwanted sexual behavior, basing upon the simplistic phenomenological premise: “You are what you do.” In contrast, my clients experience their homosexual orientation and behavior as at odds with who they really are. For these men, their values, ethics, and traditions carry more weight in defining their personal identity than their sexual feelings.
Our approach views sexual behavior as just one aspect of a man’s identity: an identity which may continually deepen, grow, even change— through his relationship with others and with his Creator.
Is it possible to address the needs of the dissatisfied homosexual and still propose a model of psychological disorder which will not offend those who do not wish to change? The only answer is to “agree to disagree”—by allowing the debate to continue rather than, through pressure and intimidation, putting an end to the discussion.
The Failure of the Mental Health Profession
Today, influenced by the popular assumption that homosexuality is in no way amenable to change, psychotherapists proceed to bring about “cure” by encouraging the client to accept his homosexuality. The most effective treatment is considered to be desensitization to feelings of guilt. This is done not because therapists necessarily advocate the gay lifestyle, but because they see no successful treatment.
Renowned behavioral psychologist Joseph Wolpe was faced with a Catholic client who felt guilty about his homosexuality. Wolpe had to decide which behavior to extinguish—the homosexuality or the religious guilt. Rather than the homosexuality, he chose to extinguish the guilt. This case is an example of the power of the therapist and a decision made all too often by the psychological profession.*
Today psychology claims to work from a “value-free” philosophy. However, decisions such as this—to eliminate religious guilt—are in fact being made from another value hierarchy of the therapist’s choosing.
Leahey (1987) describes how psychology was first understood to be the practical application of philosophy. This philosophy was based in morality and religious principles, emphasizing man’s need to be attuned to his spiritual nature.
By the end of the l9th century, the newer scientific, rationalistic approach arose in opposition to this tradition. Psychology sought to break all ties with its philosophical roots and to be the objective, empirical and “valuefree” science of human nature. The myth was, Leahey says, that we had at last found a philosophically-neutral psychology.
*Two interesting notes on this case: First, Wolpe said he made his decision based upon a belief that homosexuality was biologically determined. Second, the client later discovered heterosexual attraction on his own and was married, and Wolpe determined him to be cured of homosexuality.
In the 1960’s, the humanistic movement then influenced this psychology in the direction of a new (but disguised) version of moral authority. Its new reliance was on the gauge of “feelings” to assess morality (Leahey, 1987).
This popular movement of the sixties and seventies criticized what psychology had been and preached emotional openness, spontaneity and being true to oneself. Growth was no longer seen as a product of intelligence and problem solving, but rather was viewed solely in emotional terms. “‘Feeling good about yourself ’ became the litmus test of good behavior, a sort of bastardized moral sense” (Leahey, 1987).
Humanistic psychology rejected much of the rationalism of the psychoanalytic tradition. It introduced instead the soft sentiment of full acceptance of the person, as he is, without expectations. Following the influence of Carl Rogers’ client-centered philosophy, therapists were expected to remain neutral, non-directive and not to contaminate the therapy through any sort of value system.
However, in reality, effective treatment takes its direction from a shared value system between client and therapist. Neither psychology nor any other science can address the question of “what is” without some perspective on “what ought to be.”
Because of his day-to-day involvement in the human drama, the clinical psychologist is particularly enmeshed in philosophical issues. He must help people who are struggling for answers, and those answers are not to be found solely in behavioral data. Neither will they emerge in a value-free and nondirective client-therapist interaction. Rather, they unfold through the active interplay between client and therapist within the context of their shared world view.
The “non-gay homosexual” is my name for the homosexual struggler who holds the conviction that all men are essentially heterosexual. For such a man, growth is promoted by an anchoring scheme of values and ideals supported by conventional society, perhaps his religious tradition, and—most essentially—a psychotherapist who shares his perspective of the homosexual condition. Indeed it would be demeaning not to provide a treatment for those who value and freely desire growth out of homosexuality.
“Cure” vs. “Change”
In his final work, Psychoanalysis: Terminable and Interminable, Freud concluded that analysis is essentially a lifetime process. This is true in the treatment of homosexuality, which—like many other therapeutic issues such as alcoholism, unhealthy eating habits, or deeply engrained self-esteem problems—requires an ongoing growth process.
Yet while there are no shortcuts to personal growth, how long it takes to reach a goal is not as important as the choice of direction. A sense of progress toward a committed value is what is most important. The non-gay homosexual is on the road to unifying his sexuality with his masculine identity. When he can look back over the past months and see a realization of some of the goals he has committed to, he gains hope.
To some, this approach may sound reactionary and anti-gay, anti-sexual, anti-freedom. Rather, for those men who seek an alternative to the gay lifestyle, this is progressive treatment. Indeed, many men have found these ideas to reflect a truth they sense within themselves. This approach acknowledges the value of gender difference, the worth of family and traditional social values, and the importance of the prevention of gender confusion in children.
Courage: A Chastity Program For Persons With Same Sex Attractions
Fr. John Harvey,O.S.F.S (Founder, Courage)
Presents Catholic teaching on homosexuality and discusses the nature and growth of Courage, an orthodox Catholic support organization for people with same-sex attraction to help them to live chaste lives. Also discusses Encourage, a similar group for parents whose children have embraced the “gay lifestyle.”
In this paper, I wish to present a serious program for the practice of chastity. Before doing so, however, it is necessary to state the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church on the objectively grave immorality of all homogenital acts, and on the very inclination to homogenital acts as an objective disorder. This means that persons with same sex attractions ought to remain or to become chaste in their daily lives. This, however, is a real challenge for persons with same sex attractions in our secular culture. In the media one hears and reads accounts of homosexual groups proclaiming that the active homosexual lifestyle is just as natural and normal as heterosexual marriage. Individuals in this way of life call themselves “gay” or “lesbian,” because they believe that their erotic attraction to persons of the same sex is the identifying quality of their personalities. “I am gay” or “I am lesbian” connotes a definite understanding of self and others. It means “I have always been this way,” and “I will always be this way.” The person may also think, “I intend to find a lover with whom to settle down,” or “I will be faithful to my lover as a husband is faithful to his wife, or wife to husband.” The person may also insist that, “I want to promote the gay lifestyle.”
When large numbers of men and women embrace this view of life they become organized into a political movement, the Gay Rights Movement, which makes claims against local, state, and federal governments for the same entitlements as those of traditional marriage.
In many of our cities and states gay rights bills have already been passed; in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and in Western Europe the homosexual lifestyle is increasingly accepted as an alternative way of expressing sexual desires. Powerful media voices like ABC’s Ellen or NBC’s Will and Grace declare that same-sex attractions are just as normal and natural as the attraction one may have to a person of the opposite sex. In the near future we may witness legislation and judicial action that makes so called homosexual marriages legal. It would be foolish, however, to believe that the principal obstacle to the communication of Catholic truth concerning homosexuality was the opposition f the Gay Rights Movement. As Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation writes, “The mainstream of ‘heterosexual America’ today is now perilously close in its attitudes and its orientations to matching the symptoms that lie at the very heart of the homosexual affective disorder: the inversion into the self.”
While refusing to accept responsibility for the meaning and consequences of sexual genital activity, namely, the giving of self to the other in marriage and the procreation of children, many heterosexual Americans consider their contraceptive sexual acts as forms of self-gratification to which they are entitled. Many have adopted the culture of inverted sexuality—inverted upon self. Thus, contracepting heterosexuals are not significantly different in their mind-set than persons engaged in same-sex genital acts. It is not surprising, then, that they view homosexual activity casually as merely a cultural variant of human sexuality.
It is in this social and political climate that I present (1) the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the condition of homosexuality and the morality of homosexual acts; and (2) the spiritual support system called Courage which was formed in New York City in September, 1980 to help Catholic men and women with same-sex attractions to practice interior chastity, i.e., to seek union with Christ as the goal of all their actions.
The Official Teaching of the Church
The teaching of the Church is found in three documents from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (1975); Letter to the Roman Catholic Bishops of the World Concerning the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986); and Responding to Legislative Proposals on Discrimination against Homosexuals (1992). All three documents state that all homosexual acts are seriously immoral by their very nature. The documents of 1986 and 1992 also state that the very condition of homosexuality is an objective disorder, which means in ordinary language that there is something wrong with an inclination which may lead one to an act which is always seriously sinful in the order of reality. To be sure, a person may be free of grave guilt in such an action because of ignorance or lack of due freedom in the will; nonetheless, such an action remains seriously sinful.
The Sources of the Teaching of the Church
The above Vatican documents, however, are based upon the Church’s understanding of Divine Revelation and the Natural Moral Law. First, we need to see that Divine Revelation includes more than the books of the Bible. The spoken word of God, Divine Oral Tradition, was the source out of which came the written Scriptures of Old and New Testaments.
To understand Divine Oral Tradition draw a circle in your mind, and name it Divine Tradition; then cut out one portion of the circle for the Old Testament’s books and another portion for the books of the New Testament then regard the rest of the circle as representing the Spoken Word of God, some of which is not written down but abiding in the official teaching authority of the Church (i.e., in the pope and bishops of dioceses throughout the world whenever they speak together on matters of Faith and Morals).
This distinction between Divine Oral Tradition and Holy Scripture is all important, because it was the living teaching power of the pope and bishops that determined which books were truly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and which were not. In the first few centuries of Christianity there were writings which some thought were inspired, like the Gospel of Thomas and the Epistle of Paul and Thecla, but the Church did not number them among the books of the New Testament. Since the Scriptures belong to the Church, she claims the right to interpret them whenever there is a matter of Faith and Morals. Accordingly, I present scriptural references concerning human sexuality and homosexuality as they have been understood by the Divine Oral Tradition within the Church.
In the first chapter of Genesis it is recorded that God created man and woman, and blessed them, and told them to increase and multiply. (vv 27-28) In the poetic description of the creation of Eve in the second chapter it is said that a man should leave father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they would become two in one flesh. (18-24) In the New Testament Jesus reaffirms the two meanings of the passages in Genesis, namely, the two in one flesh union of man and woman, and the procreation of the human race through marriage and family. (Matthew,19: 1-9) The same two in one flesh theme is found in Ephesians (5: 21-33) which reveals the nobility of marriage by comparing the union of man and wife with the union of Christ and his Church.
The meaning of marriage as having two purposes, the permanent commitment of man and woman and the procreation of children, is found from Genesis to Revelation; it is also reaffirmed in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, particularly in St. Augustine. It is significant that whenever the major prophets and Hosea desired to express God’s love for Israel and for the individual they used the symbol of man’s love for woman. This theme is also expressed in the New Testament, particularly in Revelation and Ephesians 5: 21-33.
Anyone who accepts the above teaching of the Church on marriage may use it as an argument against homosexual unions. That is what I intend to do. The major premise may be expressed in this way: From Divine Oral Tradition and Holy Scripture it is clear that the two purposes of human sexual activity are the two in one flesh union of husband and wife and the procreation of children. But homosexual activity, as such, cannot fulfill either of the two purposes of human sexual activity. Therefore, it is always seriously immoral.
Natural Moral Law
I turn now to the need for an argument based upon our human nature, because many have rejected Divine Revelation. The most persuasive argument that I have found is that of Michael Pakaluk. He holds that sex is special, because it is a sign of the union of the “persons who engage in sex. The sign is the union of bodies, and the sign signifies the union of persons.” Thus, it can be said that “when a man and a woman engage in sex, the union of their bodies signifies the union of their very selves.”
The meaning of sexual intercourse as signifying a union of persons is based upon objective reality; it is independent of our human choices. One may not ignore its meaning, as many unmarried couples do. Heterosexual intercourse expresses a union of persons in two ways: (1) the complete bodily union of man and woman, in which each is within the body of the other—something not possible in any kind of homosexual genital intercourse; and (2) the reproductive character of such intercourse, which tends to produce offspring who combine the characteristics of husband and wife, and thus promotes the unity of the spouses. Homosexual intercourse has no such power.
Personal Responsibility For Same-Sex Genital Acts
So far I have summed up the arguments from Divine Revelation and Natural Moral Law concerning the grave immorality of same-sex genital acts. The question now arises concerning the knowledge and freedom of a person who engages in homosexual activity. Generally, persons engaging in homogenital acts are aware that these acts are contrary to the virtue of chastity, although some may be in inculpable ignorance because of the degrading culture in which they live. Some, however, may be guilty of not willing to learn the truth concerning the moral evil of such behavior because they are afraid of living the chaste life. Still others refuse to accept the teaching of the Church because they regard it as no longer relevant to our contemporary world.
Another important factor contributing to the failure of many to move away from an active homosexual lifestyle is sexual addiction, particularly among men. Sexual addiction has many expressions, both heterosexual and homosexual. When one reads in periodicals or newspapers about individuals having hundreds or thousands of homosexual encounters the reader may surmise that the person is addicted to such behavior, i.e., he has lost control over such behavior.
Since I will suggest a pastoral program to help such persons, it is sufficient to note here that usually persons with same-sex attractions are responsible for their actions and for using the means necessary to develop the virtue of chastity.
There is, however another issue that enters into our understanding of homosexuality, and that is how Church documents consider the inclination itself, as distinct from acts. In the 1986 statement of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith concerning the pastoral care of homosexual persons it is said that “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.”
The reasoning of the Sacred Congregation is based on the truth that the inclination leads the person to do an act which is always immoral, and that is why it is called an objective disorder. An example will explain why it is called such. In a public forum it was objected that when a man lusts for a woman, or a woman for a man, that is also an objective disorder. I responded that such lust was a serious sin, but not an objective disorder, because the inclination of man toward woman, et vice versa, is natural, good, and God given. It is one of the elements that leads to marriage, and in marriage it finds its proper place, becoming an expression of the sacrament of matrimony.
Some Catholic homosexual organizations, however, like Dignity, have objected to the idea that sexual inclinations toward persons of one’s own sex should be regarded as a disorder, because they consider the inclination natural, and so called monogamous unions by persons of the same sex as a normal variant of human sexuality.
Having given the teaching of the Church on homosexuality, I turn now to Courage as a practical program for living a chaste life.
Aware as we are that many persons have difficulty living a chaste life in a sex-saturated culture, it becomes even more difficult for individuals with same-sex attractions to avoid the enticements of the gay milieu, especially when such persons have little or no support from their environment. Realizing that such was the case, the late Terence Cardinal Cooke from the Archdiocese of New York suggested to Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, that a spiritual support group should be formed to help men and women with same-sex attraction to lead a chaste life. The Cardinal asked me to organize and direct a group initially of five men in September, 1980.
The new group grew very gradually during the first two years. During this period it was proposed that the men write out their goals and purposes without any clerical intervention. The result was the “Goals of Courage,” which are essentially a spiritual program for the practice of chastity. It was at this time that the little group received a name from one of its members who subsequently died of AIDS: “Courage.”
By 1982, thanks to a feature article by Anne Buckley in Catholic New York, the membership of Courage increased significantly. About the same time Philadelphia formed a group, and in quick succession groups in Boston, Toronto, Vancouver, B.C., and Washington, D.C. came into existence. By 1989, Canada and U.S.A. Courage had the first annual Courage conference in Riverdale, a suburb of New York City.
To have more effective communication among the units in Canada and the United States a newsletter began in New York in 1986. In the nineties, Courage continued to expand in both North America and overseas. By spring 1999 Courage was found in thirty dioceses of the United States and six in Canada, with small groups in England, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Poland, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia. In other American dioceses things are in the planning stage.
As Courage became better known through the annual conferences, newsletter, and e-mail, it began to receive urgent calls for help from distressed parents whose grown sons or daughters had embraced the gay lifestyle, or were determined to do so. These parents were concerned about the welfare of their grown children who in most instances resist their parents, and often abandon the Catholic Faith. Thus, a spiritual support group for such parents and relatives came into existence about ten years ago. Called Encourage, it exists in seven regions of the United States and Canada.
While parents in Encourage pray tha t their sons or daughters will abandon the homosexual life style and return to the practice of their Faith, they are conscious of their own need for spiritual support. They need to share their sorrow concerning the paths taken by their grown children with other parents suffering in the same way. Those parents who have teenage sons or daughters who claim to be homosexual should take a different approach. They should not assume that their child is already deeply entrenched in a homosexual lifestyle. Professional counseling in accord with Church doctrine is called for, together with spiritual counseling by priests who support magisterial teaching. Again, all the parents in Encourage need help for themselves, as well as their children. Since 1996, moreover, Courage/Encourage has made use of the internet and e-mail to bring its message of hope to all parts of the world. Since 1998 Courage has had a web page in Boston: http://world.std.com/courage. More recently Courage members have formed what may best described as an internet e-mail chapter, involving our web page and communications among the members. For further information contact Christina Nair, Courage Central Office e-mail: NYCourage@aol.com
1. John Harvey, O.S.F.S. The Truth About Homosexuality (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1996), Chap. 8.
2. “A Culture of Inverted Sexuality,” The Catholic World Report, Nov. 1998, 63.
3. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Section 9, in Austin Flannery, O.P., ed., Vatican Council
II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Northport, N.Y.: Costello, 1975).
4. See Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Sections 48-51, in Flannery, ibid.
5. Michael Pakuluk, “Why is Homosexual Activity Morally Wrong?” in “Homosexuality: Challenges for Change and Reorientation,” J. of Pastoral Counseling, Vol. 28, 53.
6. Harvey, 26-28, concerning spiritual support systems for sexual addicts.
7. Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Homosexuality, Section 3.
The Five Goals of Courage:
1. To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
2. To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.
3. To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences and so ensure that none of us will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.
4. To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in celibate Christian life and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining them.
5. To live lives that may serve as good examples to others with homosexual difficulties.
The Case Against Same-Sex “Marriage”
Gerard V. Bradley (Notre Dame Law School)
Argues that same-sex “marriage” is a logical and practical impossibility and has serious implications for both other aspects of family law and the respect for human life and children in our culture. Asserts that the movement for same-sex “marriage” is a logical outgrowth of our culture’s separation of sex and procreation. Argues that the basis for opposition to this movement may be the residual reservoir of traditional understanding about marriage in the American public.
It is because of an abiding interest in marriage based in our culture and especially in our law that one cannot talk about the immorality of homosexual sexual acts without talking about marriage because one way—a perfectly adequate way—to describe what is immoral about sodomy is to say that it is a non-marital sexual act and that is because it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that marriage is the principle of all upright sexual activity. The position of marriage in our culture and in our law is quite degraded now. Most times it is difficult to get even a neutral audience to see the connection between the laws that prohibit consensual sodomy and marriage (i.e., why such laws are needed to help buttress marriage), although those connections can be made and should be made. What I address in this paper, specifically, are the dangers of the legal recognition same-sex “marriage.” The dangers have something to do with marriage. Legally recognizing same-sex “marriage” is dangerous, and it ought not to happen. It violates moral truth. It is not exactly right to say that same sex “marriage” is immoral, although its not wrong to say that. It is not quite right to say that it is morally impermissible. This is because expressions such as these suggest that it is something that can be done, but ought to be prohibited—like abortion. Abortions can happen, but they ought to be prohibited and they are seriously immoral. Same-sex “marriage,” however, is impossible, given what marriage really is. It is simply not possible for two men to be married to each other or for two women to be married to each other. So the short answer is that the danger in recognizing same-sex “marriage” is that the law will recognize as valid and capable of being treated like any other marriage something which in fact is impossible.
To just illustrate with a familiar example of what I mean about the distinction between what is morally impermissible and what is impossible, we can consider the Church’s teaching about ordaining women as priests. The Pope has said that the Church is without authority to ordain women. It cannot be done, it is impossible to do. It is not that there could be women priests, but we ought not to permit them to be ordained. The teaching is that it is simply impossible for a woman to be a priest. Similarly here, same-sex “marriage” is, as a moral reality, impossible.
The claim that in the nature of things same-sex “marriage” is impossible has not been well received by the courts. The issue of same-sex “marriage” is coming up in courts more and more. Typically when the argument I’ve been describing—that given the nature of marriage same sex marriage is impossible—is made, it is dismissed by judges as some kind of spooky metaphysical claim. One court dismissed it as circular or question-begging. Sometimes it is dismissed as Catholic teaching or, more broadly, as some kind of sectarian tenet which has no proper place in a legal argument. It is not only odd that this argument against same-sex “marriage” is brushed aside by judges, but that such an argument is brushed aside when it is upheld in other areas of the law and even elsewhere in the law of marriage when it comes to other kinds of disabilities. For instance, the law does not permit minors to marry, because they are held to lack a certain maturity and judgment. Thus, they are not capable of consenting to marriage. What the law really means here is it is impossible for a minor to marry. Another example of incapacity to marry is bigamy or polygamy. If you are married to one person and go through a ceremony which would appear to be joining you in matrimony to yet other individual, you are not really a bigamist—you are a person who has attempted to be married to two people. The law treats as null and void the second ceremony. It is not a question of a marriage having to be undone in order to protect the sanctity of matrimony. You simply cannot marry more than one person under our law. So, the argument I have made about same sex “marriage” being against the nature of marriage ought to have more traction in the courts than it currently does.
The latter certainly gives us reason to be discouraged. I think, however, that the discussion of same-sex “marriage” in our law should begin with the discussion of the stakes involved, and I think those stakes are almost unsurpassably high. Let me explain this. It seems to me that abortion is the greatest injustice in our society. It is the mainstay of the culture of death and it makes one wonder whether our society is basically a just society. Nevertheless, the almost total disintegration of the institution of marriage over the last generation or so in our society is the more startling historical development. It is also the greatest threat to the moral well being of people within our society, and it is within this context of the disintegration of the institution of marriage in our law and culture that one has to situate any discussion of the morality of same-sex “marriage.” My interest in this paper, however, is mostly in talking about how we can argue against it within the law given the constraints that seem to have been imposed by courts. Now why do I think it is even more insidious, more of a threat to people’s well-being than abortion? There are a few reasons. One is that abortion does not, one might say, “inhabit” the entire culture. We are in a culture of death, but even so abortions occur in private. They are regarded even by people who support the right to abortion to be unfortunate necessities; some of them may even regard it as a tragic necessity. Even President Clinton said he wished abortion to be safe, legal and rare. Abortions do occur in private and there are few visible effects of abortion. I mean, the abortion clinics are housed in isolated parts of strip malls. They are always described by some innocuous title like “Women’s Health Center.” Women who have had abortions don’t often go around talking about it except perhaps to those close to them; it’s not something people advertise. So, abortion is not “in your face” in the culture even though it is prevalent and even though there may be a million abortions a year. Now, you can get your children to see what’s wrong with abortion. Being pro-life even on a secular campus is not considered a sign of “irrationality.” It may not be popular, but it doesn’t make you “irrational” or “disreputable” in the way that being what is called “homophobic” does.
Another reason why the disintegration of marriage is the greatest moral threat of our time is as follows. In our culture, the sort of moral compass bearing when it comes to sexual activity is that if it doesn’t hurt anybody and if a person has consented to it, then it’s a matter of free choice. Now, when applied to abortion, that argument really has no grip because people vaguely understand that the question is whether the unborn child is a person. If so then they see that somebody is harmed by abortion, and so they can understand why people would want to be pro-life. So, this ethic of personal behavior—especially sexual behavior—of “so-long-as-it-doesn’t-hurt-
somebody-who-didn’t-agree-to-beinvolved-then-it’s-up-to-you-to-decide” does not really have any traction against pro-lifers. They are not viewed as making an insidious argument. What is important here is the reality about the unborn. On one episode of Seinfeld a while back some friend of Elaine’s was pregnant and they were having a baby shower. A couple of the characters referring to the other women’s condition asked how is the fetus doing. Now nobody really talks that way, that sounds ridiculous when you hear it. So, the arguments about abortion and for its permissibility always run up against a stubborn and hard fact. Anybody who’s seen a sonogram or held a newborn baby or felt a woman’s womb when the baby kicked or has any common sense, knows that there’s a baby there. To hear the Unborn baby referred to as a “fetus,” I dare say strikes almost anyone as ridiculous.
The situation with regard to marriage and sexual morality, however, is very, very different. The argument that only uncontracepted marital intercourse is appropriate, and all other kinds of sexual acts are inappropriate, is difficult to show. That conclusion is not obvious, in our culture at least. There is certainly an argument to be made that that proposition is true, but it’s not an easy one and certainly the conclusion is not obvious. That marriage is indissoluble is not obvious. It’s true, but it’s not obvious and the argument for it is difficult. That marriage is indissoluble often seems to fly in the face of people’s welfare, of common sense. Divorce and remarriage are everywhere. It’s in most people’s families. Good people get divorced and remarried. Good people are obviously contracepting. Too many people are having no children or one child. It is clear that the culture is contracepting. So, the moral compass-bearing of “if-it-doesn’t- hurt-somebody-who-freely-consents-to-do-it” appears to a plausible principle of sexual morality. Choice—consent—seems to work with regard to sex and marriage. So, again, if abortion is the greatest injustice, what’s happening to marriage is the most insidious force in our culture. It is a threat in a way that abortion simply is not. I think the collapse of marriage is epoch-defining. It is a peril to every one of us. The temptation to violate the norms of sexual morality is great. A roar is everywhere. Sex is out of control in our society. Almost no one will correct you for a sexual sin. People I suppose are thinking that those without sin should only cast the first stone. Rationalizations for sexual misbehavior are delivered to you at your door, on your computer screen, on your TV set by the dozens every day. Thus, perhaps one might be inclined to ask, if marriage is already so degraded without same-sex “marriage,” then why should the latter not be legally recognized? What could legally recognizing same-sex “marriage” do to further undermine morality? The response is that if same-sex “marriage” is finally legally recognized, then the law will have conclusively, finally, totally separated marriage from reproduction. There will be no sense left in which marriage is in some way about reproduction, that there is some essential connection between marriage and reproduction. Even though some married heterosexual couples will have children, there will be nothing about marriage as a legal enterprise that is necessarily tied to children, to reproduction. And when that happens, it will be the final step in this process of disintegration—it will be the end of the disaster—because then there will be no way in which the law will hold out marriage to be in any way, even an attenuated one, what it really is: a two in one flesh reproductive union of one man and one woman. Finally, obliterating marriage as it really is from the legal landscape will in addition affect arguments about things that remain entirely up in the air in our culture. These will not be marriage issues or even sex issues but life issues. The final collapse of marriage—its permanent conclusive separation from reproduction—will affect arguments about things like in vitro fertilization and cloning. So, fighting this fight matters.
Make no mistake about. Heterosexual folks, starting over thirty years ago, undid marriage in our culture. They undid it precisely to give themselves sexual freedom. The homosexual agenda—the gay rights agenda, the same sex marriage agenda—came along after this process of dismantling marriage was well under way. It is precisely the fact that heterosexuals have undone marriage to the extent that they have that homosexuals have a plausible argument for the legal recognition of their “unions,” their couplings. They say that homosexual couples can enter into sexually active, emotionally intense friendships or couplings, more or less sexually exclusive, and that they can endure for quite a long time—perhaps permanently (in truth, of course, most homosexual couples don’t last for a long time). Even if their relationships do last, this does not commit them to having and rearing children. So their claim is that they can do these things—sexual activity, emotionally intense friendship, set up a household together, intimacy, emotional security, a more or less sexually exclusive relationship of a limited but long duration—and, well, maybe even adopt some children. Well isn’t that what all too many heterosexual couples have in mind these days when they say, “I do”? And I think some—a few—homosexual couples do enter into “marriages” that are, except for the genders, indistinguishable from many marriages in our society. All too many heterosexual couples have no intention of remaining together forever or till natural death, and it is obvious that homosexual couples can benefit just as much from all the legal benefits that go with marriage (e.g. property rights, economic benefits, survivors privileges, life insurance coverage, etc.). These are obviously a benefit to homosexual couples the same way they are to any other couple. So, to put it bluntly, homosexuals look at this situation and say it is arbitrary to deny legal recognition of our “set-ups” when in all of these ways they are indistinguishable from that of the heterosexual couple next door. They say it is arbitrary—and sometimes it may well be. That is to say, many people who are averse to the homosexual agenda on this question may in fact be acting arbitrarily because they themselves define marriage in a way that is indistinguishable from the way a homosexual couple or the advocates of homosexual “marriage” define it. On this view, which is all too common, marriage just is a composite—a compound—of several independently valuable things that you kind of just put in together (i.e., friendship, sex, security, maybe kids.) Marriage itself it not of one unified thing; it’s just a whole bunch of other individual “pieces of stuff ” that get put together. One can see the appeal of this argument.
In the end this argument is mistaken, of course. The way it should be responded to in the public realm is this: yes, there are many things in our culture and especially in our law which make your argument appealing, but there are many other things in our culture and in our law which still do cohere with our traditional understanding. I think that the argument against same-sex “marriage” should pick up as many of these remnants as possible so that, even if the argument is not complete and thereby decisive, it is plausible enough to make us see that we are at the final point—perhaps a turning point—of the whole cultural debate about marriage. That is, the plausibility of the argument means that it is time finally to “have it out.” There are a few things that are still adhered to in the culture that support the traditional view. I think people still believe that, on a whole, adultery is wrong. People do still believe that marriage is supposed to be sexually exclusive. They may be too forgiving of adultery, but people think adultery is wrong, It is also clear that people think same-sex “marriage” is wrong. That is the most stubborn fact on this side of the argument. I think, too, that people still believe in our culture that children perfect a marriage, that somehow children are an embodiment of the couple’s marriage and an extension of their union in time beyond their lifetimes. I think couples still sense that un-contracepted intercourse is better. It actualizes their union in a way that other sexual acts do not actualize it. Now the problem, of course, is that this sense doesn’t lead many people to conclude that anything other than a true marital act is wrong. They have a sense that there is a sort of a scale of value regarding sexual activity—that is, that sexual activity with a view to procreation is valuable in a way that nothing else done sexually is. These fragments of traditional thinking are the resources or the ammunition to make the last stand in favor of marriage in the face of the onslaught of same-sex “marriage.”
There is one further point to make in setting up this argument, which is widely conceded by legal writers in the area of domestic relations. Their view is that something has happened to marriage which has never been clearly rationalized or thought out. Marriage has been battered back and forth by one wave or movement after another. One expression of this is seen in Homer Clark’s Law of Domestic Relations in the United States. He says “there has been a legal transformation of marriage from a clearly defined relationship to one whose incidence are either uncertain or left largely to the control of the parties to the relationship.” Then he says that “this transformation has occurred without, so far as it appears, any general consideration by either courts or legislatures of the total effect which these decisions [individual court decisions in different areas relating to marriage, the family, or sexual morality] will have on the institution of marriage.” What he is saying is that we have wobbled forward from point to point and from episode to episode and from engagement to engagement without any plan for the long term stability of marriage or
without even a view of what a final and stable definition of marriage should be. This takes us back to the point again of asking our culture to consider with what the end of marriage has to do and especially whether it has some essential connection to reproduction, to children. Our culture has to ask itself what is implied in accepting same-sex “marriage.” If we do so, what then is our reasoned argument against polygamy? If there can be two boys, then why not three? Why not two boys and one girl? What would be the reasoned argument against other even worse forms of marriage? Is there any argument against promiscuity? That is to say, if we accept same-sex “marriage,” what is the reasoned argument to show that consent is inadequate as a norm of sexual morality? To counter this whole line of argument, one must simply uphold marriage as a reproductive communion and hold that contraception is wrong. This is implied in the reasoned defense of marriage as a two and one flesh union. If one gives away the case against contraception, then one no longer has a coherent argument in favor of marriage as it really is. The culture, of course, can arbitrarily retain prejudges against the “gay” agenda and same-sex “marriage,” which for a very long time may stop their acceptance. They will not really have a coherent argument, however, as long as they accept the contraceptive mentality.
Finally, to move this side of the argument ahead about what is implied or entailed by accepting same-sex “marriage,” we must consider the effect on issues of human life. I propose that at stake in the debate about same-sex “marriage” is ultimately the legal treatment of in vitro fertilization. The connection between these is as follows. Children conceived in marital intercourse participate in the goodness, the good, of their parents’ marriage. As I have said before, the children are themselves non-instrumental aspects of marriage’s perfection. Thus, spouses rightly hope for and welcome children, not as products or things they make but rather—this is the traditional understanding—as gifts which, if all goes well, supervene upon their acts of marital love. This understanding of children as gifts to be accepted and valued for their own sake, rather then as objects that might be willed and brought into being for the parents’ purposes, coheres very well with certain metaphysical views, including Jewish and Christian views. It can also be accommodated by many other religious traditions. I think that some understanding along these lines of the moral relationship of parents to the children they may conceive is essential to the rational affirmation of the dignity of children as persons, as ends in themselves, and not as the means of the satisfying desires of their parents. That is to say, a view of children as gifts which supervene upon marital acts is essential to seeing children as subjects of justice or those to whom duties of justice are owed, including fundamental human rights (like the right not to be killed in abortion or infanticide). If they are seen as mere objects of will, it is more difficult to argue that we have duties to them. To the extent that our culture talks about children being wanted or unwanted signals that people have a radically different view of children than if we see them as welcome gifts. It implies a radically different view of the moral relationship of parents to their children—even if they want them. Such alternative understandings of how children are morally relative to their parents, as the wanted-unwanted distinction expresses, run into very severe difficulties in explaining why children may not be treated as the property of their parents. Liberal moralists in our culture are often puzzled by the tendency of conservative moralists—very often natural law defenders, very often Roman Catholics—to object on moral ground to producing human beings by in vitro fertilization. After all, the natural law tradition strongly affirms the goodness of transmitting life to new persons. Why then, liberal moralists say, should couples who are incapable of begetting children in acts of martial intercourse not resort in vitro processes in order to become parents? By “manufacturing” children, no matter what their wishes and intentions and desires, parents undermine the basic equality and dignity of their children.
This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with spouses engaging in marital intercourse specifically because they want a child. It is merely to say that they should want a child in a way which is consistent with the child’s dignity as a person. When we say that a couple “wants” a child in this context, we simply mean that they hope for one. Hoping for a gift is not base or immoral. Hoping for a delivery of a gift is not the same thing as treating the gift as a object of satisfaction of the desires of the parents. So, I think that upon a proper understanding of marriage rests a proper understanding of sexual morality and on a proper understanding of those two things rests a society’s idea of the terms, conditions, and circumstances under which people will come into Being. Any society has a genuine common interest in the terms and conditions and circumstances in which people come to be. In the culture I fear might be ours in the future, children will come to be in circumstances and under terms in which they are on a very widespread scale seen as objects which satisfy the desires of other people. People who are positioned by wealth, authority, and power, will be able to call into being some “number of objects” to satisfy their desires. Now, this does not mean that someone born through in vitro or eventually through human cloning is less than a person. A person is a person no matter how he or she came into being. He or she will have all the rights attached to persons, with human dignity in the same measure that any person enjoys. What I am talking about is cultural slippage and how our culture is influenced by an attitude and how that attitude will seep into the law. I fear that a culture in which cloning has become permissible will have “gone over the line” finally in favor of viewing children as things. When that is let loose in a society it is certainly possible to predict the other consequences, but it surely cannot be for the good of that society. It then becomes a question of how bad the effects of such a view, when taken hold of the center of society, will be. The terms and conditions of people coming into existence by being “manufactured,” as opposed to their being seen as gifts supervening upon martial acts, are bad enough by themselves, but the further consequences could be even worse.
(click Archival Issues à Volume VI)