David Carlin: To approve of homosexuality is tantamount to saying that the Church has been teaching a false sexual morality for 2000 years.
Many factors have contributed to the 50- or 60-year decline of Catholicism in America, but one of the most important – and in recent decades THE most important – is the sympathy felt for homosexuality among many priests, bishops, and laypeople, especially liberal or progressive laypersons.
I’m not talking only about those who are homosexual in their orientation or have been homosexual in their conduct. I’m talking also about a more general sympathy, the sympathy felt by those who say something like this to themselves: “Well, it’s unfortunate, but it’s not really horrible – at least not when they refrain from molesting underage boys, a dreadful thing that has little to do with homosexuality. It’s hard not to sympathize with gay priests when one remembers that they are in all probability born that way.”
“Born that way.” The LGBTQ movement, one of the great manifestations of present-day atheism, has had no more effective propaganda slogan than this. It has played a major role in persuading most Americans, including Catholic Americans, to drop their traditional moral (and aesthetic) antipathy to homosexual conduct. Among Americans in their late teens and twenties, there is now something close to universal approval of homosexual sodomy. Only homophobes, it is held, could possibly disapprove of that kind of love.
The reasoning goes like this. A decent person, above all a decent Christian who believes that “love your neighbor” is the greatest commandment, doesn’t blame somebody for a trait that he or she is born with. And so we don’t blame a person for being born with dark skin. Therefore we shouldn’t blame a person for being born with a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. And while it is not totally unfair to ask persons with same-sex attractions to abstain from acting on those attractions, it is pretty unrealistic to do so given how powerful are the human drive for sex and the human need for intimate affection.
And so (feels many a Catholic) the Christian thing to do is to feel sympathy for people of this kind, and especially for priests of this kind. Further, they claim, we should remember that there is such a thing as “development of doctrine.” And thus it may well be that Catholic moral doctrine is now developing in the direction of giving its stamp of approval to homosexual conduct – provided, needless to say, that it is done in a loving way, the two lovers genuinely caring for the well-being of one another.
But the “born that way” thesis has been conclusively “proven” only by means of an obviously fallacious bit of reasoning. It is argued that there are only two possibilities: (a) gays and lesbians are born that way, or (b) they choose to be gay or lesbian. But since it is obvious that nobody chooses to be homosexual (for why would anybody wish to endure the hostility that homosexuals have to endure?), it follows that they are born that way. But there are more than two possibilities; and so the conclusion doesn’t follow.
As a recent large study has shown, there is no single “gay” gene, and scientists believe a complex interplay of multiple genes may account for as much as one-third of the same-sex inclinations. (Scientists strongly sympathetic to homosexuality conducted this study so the data will have to be carefully checked.) But even this tells us that environmental factors are at least twice as strong as the biological factors.
What might those be?
(1) A child is socialized to believe that homosexuality is a fine thing – and often is these days because all sexual “choices” are deemed equally good.
(2) A maturing child mimics the attitude of a liberal parent – or turns to homosexuality as a way of rebelling against anti-homosexuality parents.
(3) A teenager is homosexually seduced or raped by an older teen or an adult, e.g., a Catholic priest, finds the experience pleasant, and after further experiences becomes addicted.
(4) Even if you don’t choose the end result (homosexuality), you may choose those things that lead to homosexuality – just as you may not choose to be a drug addict yet choose those things that lead to drug addiction, e.g., bad companions, risky experimentation.
(5) Despite the popular notion that nobody in his right mind would choose to become homosexual – the social penalties for homosexuality being so great – this notion is almost certainly not true. Perhaps nobody chooses it the way one chooses a meal from a restaurant menu. But there are such things as “deep choices,” that is, unconscious or barely conscious choices made in the depths of our hearts and minds – for example, the choice of a vocation or a spouse, or the choice of whether or not to be an honest person or a devoted parent.
It is not hard to believe that one of these deep choices has to do with whether to be heterosexual or homosexual. Most of us choose the former, or rather in our choice we simply ratify the choice that nature itself made for us. But some of us, rebelling against nature’s plan (that is, God’s plan), choose the latter.
It used to be the case that Catholics were good at logic – back in the days when Catholic colleges insisted that their students take a course in elementary logic. That so many of today’s Catholics would fall such an obvious fallacy as the false dichotomy of “born-that-way versus choice” (the kind of choice one makes when dealing with a restaurant menu) shows that the Catholic mind has become illogical.
Whether it is fallacious reasoning or something else, perhaps something even worse, a widespread sympathy for homosexuality is helping to ruin the Catholic Church in America – for to approve of homosexuality is tantamount to saying that the Church has been teaching a false sexual morality for 2000 years, and this in turn is tantamount to saying that Catholicism is a false religion.
This is not the “development” of doctrine. It is the destruction of doctrine.
David Carlin is a professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.
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