By Rev. John H. Miller, C.S.C., S.T.D
Father John H. Miller is the editor of Social Justice Review and the author of four books: Fundamentals of the Liturgy (1960), Signs of Transformation in Christ (1963), Called by Love (1989), and Love Responds (1990) . This article appeared in the January-February 1994 issue of Social Justice Review and is reprinted here with permission.
Christian compassion is more often than not our reaction to anyone’s suffering. That is apparent in the case of the scourge of AIDS and is becoming rapidly more and more applicable to homosexuality itself. People feel so sorry for these people who suffer, not from homosexuality, but because people are against them.
I submit that this is not Christian compassion. While we must always feel sorry for the sinner, we cannot feel sorry for the wicked who refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness. That is itself sinful, recalcitrant, obstinate. I cannot feel sorry or experience compassion for those who try to justify homosexual actions by recasting the meaning of the Bible or by claiming that such people have no choice, that they are born this way and have a RIGHT to homosexual love.
Right off we must make a distinction that is becoming very useful among knowledgeable and loyal psychologists. I suppose they could have thought up another way of expressing it, but they make a distinction between the homosexual and the gay person. The homosexual is one who is not satisfied with or complacent in his condition, he wishes to live chastely and will follow the spiritual direction and accept the psychological help he needs in order to do so. It is possible to be a homosexual person and still be chaste and along with that happy. On the other hand, the gay person is “proud” of his homosexual tendency, he actively engages in homosexual actions, and these get uglier and more violent, while the gay activist himself becomes more and more militant.
The homosexual person can be helped; the gay activist is beyond reach. The homosexual person will make use of the sacrament of penance and the Eucharist; the gay activist will not budge from his penchant for the abnormal. The homosexual person will not flaunt his condition; the gay activist puts on an ugly scene whenever he can.
And some of our bishops, despite this acquired knowledge about such persons, while offering no help to the homosexual, set up offices for the gays – in some cases with a gay priest as director! Where, oh where has episcopal prudence gone?
What is homosexuality? It is clear, I believe, that it consists in a psychological tendency, more or less strong, to use persons of the same gender for sexual gratification. It is not homosexuality in the strict sense when young or grown men use same sex persons for gratification solely because females are lacking. This sort of thing was taken for granted by Napoleon when, upon being asked by one of the local madams in Egypt if he wanted her ladies to service his men, remarked “Non! Mes hommes se suffisent!” And today the young are known to experiment with homosexual actions without having any prolonged desire for it. In other words, it is not the action that defines homosexuality, but rather the psychological compulsion that does so. Note, please, I am not condoning the action.
On the other hand, the psychological tendency is not sinful unless agreed to by actively engaging in it either by action or consensual thought or desire. Sin consists, not in a tendency, but always in an immoral act freely consented to.
Now, simply on the level of this distinction between tendency and action, we must allow for a difference in our reaction. We have no argument, let alone an animosity, toward the person who has such a tendency, but we very much object to and reasonably discriminate against a person who indulges in such conduct. On the one hand, we are truly compassionate toward the person who suffers from such an affliction, and later I will explain how. On the other hand, we must use every spiritual and civil means available to contain the spread of active vice on the part of gays.
How does homosexuality start? When does it begin? Barring extremely strong psychological influence in later years, no one past the age of three develops the psychological tendency. It is precisely in the second half of a child’s second year that the danger approaches. Let us zero in on the boy, as an example, for he has a particularly difficult problem. At that age he must begin to disassociate himself from his mother’s psychology. Up until that time it was quite normal for him to depend on her for everything, for the mother, precisely as mother, is the first and best of teachers. But he’s a boy; he must now acquire the masculine traits proper to his father’s masculine psychology. The normal pattern for a boy of this age is to want to be with his father, to share his thinking and experiences, to learn to like what his father likes, to acquire the ability to do the things he does.
But what happens if he feels rejected by his father, or if his father is unaffectionate, rejecting, excessively stern, even excessively manly by demanding too much of the child, or if his father is effeminate and his mother overly possessive, showing hurt due to his change of interests? This will only send the child back to the protective arms of his mother. He will grow to acquire her psychology from which he was about to break – and ultimately her sexual attraction. The same is true of an effeminate or henpecked father; the boy will not be attracted to him as dominant. Or perhaps there may be in the family circle an uncle who is particularly dominant, manly but homosexual and communicates this tendency to the boy. Contrary-wise, that same person may be entirely normal and wholesome and save the situation for the boy, keeping him attuned to full masculine development and thus preventing the opposite. There are all sorts of combinations possible here.
This is basically the theory behind the etiology of homosexuality proposed by the British psychiatrist, Elizabeth Moberly, in her two books: Psychogenesis: The Early Development of Gender Identity (1983) and Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (1983); by the California psychologist, Joseph Nicolosi, in his Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality – A New Clinical Approach (1991); and by Fr. John Harvey in his book, The Homosexual Person – New Thinking in Pastoral Care (1987).
Admittedly, the problem of the etiology of this psychological abnormality is difficult; not all psychologists and psychiatrists are in agreement. Nonetheless, Moberly seems closest to the mark when she singles out as one underlying principal that the homosexual man or woman “has suffered from some deficit in the relationship with the parent of the same sex and that there is a corresponding drive to make good this deficit through the medium of same-sex or homosexual relationships” (Homosexuality, A New Christian Ethic). Furthermore, it is especially noteworthy that Nicolosi, who has succeeded in changing some 200 homosexuals into heterosexuals, has repeatedly come upon the phenomenon of the male homosexual in search of his father’s affection. It is also noteworthy that Nicolosi has been so successful that the gays in the Los Angeles area have trashed his office and tried to have passed a law prohibiting doctors from attempting to change homosexuals into heterosexuals. That alone says a lot.
The dangers to individuals and society are manifest: seduction (or recruitment, as the gays call it) of the young, the spoiling of human relationships, the spread of disease, the attack on marriage and family life, and the lessening in the eyes of the young of the dignity and sacredness of sex as well as the superior status of heterosexual marriage. If anyone should think that gay activists are not interested in the young, permit me to quote from the article of Michael Swift. “Speaking up for the Homoerotic Order” in The Gay Community News of Feb. 15-21, 1987:
We shall sodomize your sons, emblems of your feeble masculinity, of your shallow dreams and vulgar lies. We shall seduce them in your schools, in your dormitories, in your gymnasiums, in your seminaries, in your youth groups, in your movie theater bathrooms, in your houses of Congress, wherever men are with men together. Your sons shall become our minions and do our bidding. They shall be recast in our image. They will come to crave us and adore us.
Sick isn’t it? But this same author is also responsible for outlining the following gay agenda: the abolition of heterosexual marriage, making love between males de rigueur, exiling those who oppose
I believe it is clear that gay activism is wholeheartedly determined to do battle against human life and all that that stands for; true love among humans, marriage, birth, the family.
It must be said and proclaimed loudly and strongly that what is against marriage is against life. Homosexual actions in no way favor either; they are by nature intrinsically perverted in themselves and pervert all they touch. Hence, gays are on a direct collision course with marriage and its life-giving purpose and dignity. They are on a direct collision course with anything that can bring them happiness. Despite the misnomer “gay,” they are very unhappy people, very promiscuous because they can’t find lasting satisfaction or deep relationships, very prone to depression, and a prey to suicide.
But our children also stand in the path of this monstrous perversion, for the children of others are the future of the gay life-style. Since gays cannot generate their own offspring, they openly try to “recruit,” (seduce is the proper word) the children of others into being their heirs. For this very reason gays “should never be allowed to teach our children once they come out of the closet.” Unlike the chaste homosexual, gays are not innocent; they viciously attack the values of our culture and militantly intend to corrupt our youth. They cannot stand before students as role models, not the gays, for they propose to undo all the good and healthful influences from which a child may have previously benefited.
Any solution whether to the psychological condition or to the dangers of its corruption of society, will depend, first of all, on whether one regards this phenomenon as evil. We have already stated the position of the Catholic Church; the psychological tendency in itself is not immoral. Though there are some religious bodies that regard even the disposition as evil, theologically we cannot accept this. The condition as such is abnormal but morally neutral. Immorality enters only when the disposition is put into practice in some way. I am of the opinion that the belief of some religious denominations that the condition is evil is due to their conviction that the disposition is freely chosen. This is increasingly disproved by serious and competent psychological researchers. Just as the proposal that the condition is inherited is too simplistic.
Morally speaking, homosexual actions are wrong because they are contrary to nature. Males, for exam- ple, do not fit together in this way, no matter how much they love each other. And I do and must speak here of true love, for that is what friendship is: the love of benevolence that, by definition and reality, seeks always the well-being of the other, is selflessly devoted to the other. But enter the sexual dimension, and what should be beautiful, productive of good, enriching and fulfilling is automatically spoiled. Why? Because the use of sex between males can in no way but euphemistically, be called marital intercourse; use of sex between two men is necessarily using each other as objects for self-gratification and not of mutual self-giving. The organs employed cannot express mutual self-giving, life-sharing and life-giving, as sex must do in order to be true to itself, for while one party may use his life-giving and sharing organ, the other can only receive such an organ through what very definitely and clearly is nothing but a death-hole! Pardon me for using such an expression, but the anus can in no sense be called a life-giving or sharing organ; it yields only dead matter. And to anticipate another type of outlook, allowing oneself to be used sexually by another is not an expression of love, because instead of seeking the well-being of the other, it allows him to degrade himself. Anal intercourse, not only does violence to the body, but also debases the spirit.
Mistaken compassion must not allow us to “grant” civil rights to gays. What an incredible misnomer! We recognize, not grant, civil rights for all human beings because they are human beings; we do not award civil rights to men or women because of their behavior, in this case outrageous behavior. I hold that all laws passed by governments, whether municipal, state or federal, insuring “civil” rights for gays, not only are offensive to blacks and other minorities, but they are illegal because immoral. No one is obliged morally to obey them, though one may have to suffer the consequences of violating a non-law. We must vigorously fight against such laws and have them rescinded. We have every natural, God-given right to discriminate against immoral, unhealthy, ugly, society-disturbing behavior. We have a natural right to live in peace and decency, not to have to lock up our children for their protection, and to defend the basic elements of our civilization.
Let me conclude with a few remarks about the chaste homosexual. The homosexual is always in search and in need of love. The tragedy of his situation (but consider also Hollywood and TV) is that he confuses sexual pleasure with love. To the homosexual who wishes to control himself we owe real Christian compassion and assistance as an apostolic duty born of love.
Father John Harvey’s book, The Homosexual Person – New Thinking in Pastoral Care, is a godsend for anyone who is willing to help. Fr. Harvey is no softie; he does not give in to whining, he does not mollycoddle. He is strict, demanding and absolutely Catholic in the principles he follows. He demands continence of anyone who comes to him, group work, monthly personal spiritual direction and frequent reception of the sacraments. But note: his work is pastoral. I would be the last one to urge any unqualified person to start acting like a psychiatrist or psychologist. Get the names of truly reliable Catholic ones for referrals. But as devoted Catholics, desirous of pursuing the well-being of every person, we certainly can engage in pastoral care. And I would sum up our pastoral care for the good homosexual in these few precious words: tough love, challenging love, spiritual disciplines born of love of God. Just as any child can recognize the difference between a parent’s punishing out of annoyance or out of disciplining love, so the good homosexual will know when he meets a Christian who loves him enough to give him the time he needs, doesn’t hesitate to correct and challenge him in a loving way, always tries to lead him to good and to God. And remember – this is crucial – whatever love we can muster in such a situation, we must guard it, spiritualize it, and insure that it does lead the sufferer to an intimate love relationship with Christ. We must try always to be another Christ with him or her. This is the occasion for genuine compassion as we Christians recognize and satisfy the need for love, acknowledging with our present Holy Father that “No one can live without love!”