Friday, May 27, 2011

Use the brain (& the heart) God gave you.

This morning as I sipped my morning coffee and read messages, I came across this posted to my blog:

Moderate Fundamentalist said...

Well, only up to a point, Father. All vice is a matter of habituation, so even if you didn't consciously desire your current situation it is still a result of the choices you have taken, whether intentionally and knowingly or not. I know coming to terms with one's sins is painful, but it's something we all have to do every day.

God bless!

I started to write a personal response to “Moderate Fundamentalist;” however, I think that the points he/she raises should be addressed in the context of a post. Let us consider “MF’s” argument.

“Well, only up to a point,”

“MF’s” statement contradicts the findings of the science of psychology. The American Psychological Association clearly and unequivocally states:

No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.

Add to that scientific statement, this statement from the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith of the Catholic Church.

In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition) produced a document entitled: “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” In this document, they made the most remarkable statement. They stated that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.”

BOTH of these statements clearly establish that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. “Moderate Fundamentalist” is either ignorant of the findings of science and the declaration of the Church, or simply chooses to disregard them and their logical consequences.

“MF” next introduces the question of vice (morality) by stating,
“All vice is a matter of habituation, so even if you didn’t consciously desire…”

Since neither heterosexual nor homosexual persons elect their orientation, then orientation itself is morally neutral and neither morally good or morally bad. “MF” makes a jump here to “vice.” Vice implies that the individual makes a choice that he/she consciously knows to be wrong. For example, my physician has told me I should not eat high cholesterol foods, but I choose to disregard her directions and eat a diet that will likely cause a stroke or heart attack. This is a “vice” since it represents a disregard for oneself, loved ones and society as a whole. This is true because the resulting stroke/ heart attack would negatively impacts all these folks to a greater or lesser degree.

“MF” states, “I know coming to terms with one’s sins is painful, but it’s something we all have to do every day.”

Here “MF” is implying that for a person with a Same-sex orientation to “act” on his/her sexuality is a (vice) sin. What he is effectively demanding of this entire group of human beings is that they refrain from all sexual activity from the age of puberty until death, approximately 70 years according to actuarial statements. Since being gay/lesbian is “sinful, disordered, immoral, wrong, defective.”

What would those words mean to someone in junior high school who discovers that he/she is attracted to people of their same gender? The greatest fear that he/she would have is that they would be rejected by the people they love the most—their family. Therefore, their solution is to try to pass as straight, deceive, and in effect—lie. Of course, this leads ultimately to self-loathing. It should come as little surprise that gay teenagers have elevated suicide rates. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (1999), 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide.

Not reflected in those statistics is the disproportionate number of gay youth that turn to alcohol and/or drugs in an attempt to “escape” (even momentarily) from their living hell, that often includes taunting and bullying at school. Not reflected in those statistics are the numbers of youth who are driven from their homes by “tough love” and end up on the streets selling themselves to survive financially. Not reflected in those statistics are the vast numbers of people with Same-sex orientation who have believed the lie that they can never have a loving home with someone they love and then seek “discrete” outlets for their occasional “moral lapses” with multiple sexual partners. Not reflected in those statistics is the painful tragedy of gay/lesbian persons intimidated into a heterosexual “marriage”, which is doomed from its inception, and makes two victims instead of one by this hurtful “theology.” This “theology,” which is parroted by clerics in polished tones from pulpits, produces the very prejudice and hatred in our society, which they claim to abhor.

How would “MF’s” argument be received if it were applied to people with a heterosexual orientation? What would be the emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people, who were told from their youth that they must never hold hands, kiss, date or marry a person to whom they are attracted? I think it would be no different from what the Center for Disease Control study found, or what that study logically implies. The words of Jesus come to mind, “Woe to you lawyers also! You lay impossible burdens on men but will not lift a finger to lighten them.” [Luke 11: 46]

To ignore the discoveries of the science of psychology (and what the Holy Spirit has revealed to the Church in 1975) in the area of human sexuality is an attempt to suppress and manipulate the truth. Since for theists the truth leads to God and is never contradictory to God, “MF’s” arguments are unsustainable. Increasingly thoughtful people of faith are connecting the dots.

"Creighton University professors Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler are the latest voices on the Catholic circuit. Their 2008 book, "The Sexual Person," just earned a rebuke from the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee.

Salzman and Lawler's dense academic argument turns traditional Catholic teaching on natural law on its head. They redefine natural law, saying "nature" is personal and individual, and that sexual activity need not be directed at procreation (contrary to what the Catholic Church has always said).

Salzman and Lawler argue that what is "natural" for a heterosexual is not "natural" for a homosexual, and therefore homosexuals and heterosexuals must act in accord with their personal "natures".

In other words, if it's "natural" for a homosexual to perform homosexual acts, then--for that person--heterosexual acts would be "unnatural" and immoral. For the two professors, homosexual activity is only immoral for the heterosexual acting against his or her nature.

Bottom line: Salzman and Lawler are arguing that homosexuality is a status, not a choice. If that's the case, then everyone--including the Catholic Church--should line up in support of an entire rainbow of gay-related arguments and ideas."

The classic definition of theology is, “Faith seeking understanding.” Perhaps this, even more than homosexuality and Marriage Equality, is what is most disturbing to fundamentalists, “moderate” or otherwise. God is not a lab animal that has been completely dissected with all parts neatly identified and neither is human life. The bible (or the Church) is not an encyclopedic treatise on science, or a substitute for human conscience and personal moral choices.

As Sister used to tell our class in the first grade, “Use the brain God gave you!” To which I would add Jesus’ moral injunction, “Treat others the way you would have them treat you: this sums up the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7: 12] Perhaps that is what is most disturbing about anti-Equality partisans, their monstrous lack of empathy. Like Cinderella’s evil step-sister they are ready and willing to cut the foot, so that the shoe will fit. They are willing to destroy lives to serve their comfortable world-view and nineteenth century “theologies.”


Ecce Homo (Moderate Fundamentalist) said...

Father, the important point I tried to make was that coming to terms with one’s sins is painful. One has to accept first of all that they are sins and that one is a fallen human being in need of God’s love and forgiveness.

Father, why do you quote the APA, even though it’s not a Catholic organisation and has even changed its teaching about homosexuality?

In true psychological terms, human beings have the ability to choose between good and evil. We can do this because we are rational animals. The ability to choose how we behave sexually is what makes us different from the other animals.

An innate instinct cannot cause one to sin. One can only be tempted to sin by such an instinct. One cannot be a thief if one never steals anything or a murderer if one has never murdered anyone. One cannot be a homosexual if one has never committed the sin of homosexuality and one cannot commit a sin with using one’s reason.

Marriage is a Sacrament. There’s no need to write the word as “marriage”.

People kill themselves for the same reason that they kill others – because of the sin of hate. They commit suicide because they hate themselves. The only thing that can really make us hate ourselves is sin, because it cuts us off from God and His grace. It is only when we accept our sins and come to terms with them that we can transcend them and return to God’s grace. Repressing one’s guilt is not the answer, nor is encouraging homosexuality amongst children and young adults. On the contrary, encouraging homosexuality will only make things worse.

The Holy Spirit does not reveal things to the Church. Revelation ended with Our Lord Jesus Christ. The era of revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle.

The phrase ‘fides quaerens intellectum faith seeking understanding’ comes from St Anselm of Canterbury. St Anselm also said ‘intellego ut credam I think so that I may believe’ and, even more importantly, ‘Credo ut intelligam I believe so that I may understand’, which is based on the saying of St Augustine of Hippo ‘crede, ut intelligas believe so that you may understand’. In order to study theology one must first accept the faith. One cannot understand the faith without first believing it.

Please pray for me as I shall pray for you, so that we can both understand these difficult issues better.

God bless!

Anonymous said...

Father Geoff: I am so grateful for this posting informing me I am not a vice....Thank God....It took all of my 74 years to understand that who I am is not a fault and that I am a trues son of God.

There is no word to say thank you for this post. I am sure many will be blessed and put at ease.

It might even help MF to become a "libeal fundamentalist", you think?


jamez said...

More and more, science is indicating that homosexuality is an evolved adaptation employeed by humans and many species as a way to foster social cohesian while raising the young. How ironic is that! One study from Italy indicates that women who were raised with a gay male sibling are more fertile than those who are not - ie- they have more children. We do not yet know exactly what the mechanisms are that drive the phenomenon of homosexuality but clearly, as the politician from the great stat of MN said - "How many gay people does God have to create before we realize that God wants us around..."

Tal said...

Father Geoff, you said something that resonated strongly with me: "Therefore, [homosexuals'] solution is to try to pass as straight, deceive, and in effect—lie. Of course, this leads ultimately to self-loathing." Like I think the vast majority of LGBT, I've struggled with my sexuality and fought against it.

Self-loathing is exactly the word, a gnawing hatred that left unchecked will eat at you till it's the only thing left.

It was only three or four years ago that I began to confront what my sexuality actually meant and to accept it for what it was, as a true and good thing, as a part of me, not an unwelcome and unbidden intruder.

You have been a great blessing in that regard. Thank you for all you have done and for what you continue to do.

Tal said...

There is much wrong with Ecce Homo/Moderate Fundamentalist's argument. But here's the crux of it: "An innate instinct cannot cause one to sin. One can only be tempted to sin by such an instinct. One cannot be a thief if one never steals anything or a murderer if one has never murdered anyone. One cannot be a homosexual if one has never committed the sin of homosexuality and one cannot commit a sin with using one’s reason."

Moderate Fundamentalist's argument relies on the false premise that like homosexuality, theft or murder are "instincts." They are not. According to Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, an instinct is an "inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli WITHOUT INVOLVING REASON." (Emphasis added.) Theft and murder are not instincts but deliberative and conscious choices, as the products of reason.

Homosexuality, however, fits the definition of instinct precisely. Homosexuality is a hard-wired, complex and specific sexual response to the environmental stimuli posed by encountering those of the same sex of our species. It involves no reason or the capacity for choice. It simply "is."

Because homosexuality isn't a choice or the product or reason, then Moderate Fundamentalist must accept the inevitable outcome: that under his argument, homosexuals are by their nature (of which instinct is a component) more drawn away from salvation and towards damnation than heterosexuals, who comprise a de facto preferred class in the scheme of salvation. But this two-tiered structure for salvation is alien to orthodox Christianity and to the Bible (not to mention a likely heresy as a flavor of predestination theology, condemned under the Papal Bull Cum Occasione).

Realizing his arguments are suspect, Moderate Fundamentalist then plays the Magisterium card: to surrender reason to faith, meaning whatever the hierarchy of the Church says it is, with the strong implication that refusal to yield is evidence of impiety. This begs the question, of course, of the Galileo problem. If the Church solemnly pronounces that the universe revolves around the earth, must I accept that to?

For my part, I cannot accept Moderate Fundamentalist's arguments on any level. They are illogical. They contradict authentic, orthodox Christianity. And they are inconsistent with a view of creation that would hold all humans equal before God, to be judged by the harm they have done others and not for actions taken consistent with the fundamental natures that God gave them.

Frank said...

A valiant attempt to use reason and logic with an individual for whom reason and logic will never trump their own preconceived notions. It is impressive that the commenter can throw around Latin phrases and string together words in sentences that, at first reading, sound like discourse. But in essence, most of Fundie's sentences make no logical sense. Personally, I wouldn't waste my time trying to reason with such an unreasonable, ignorant, but obviously schooled, person.

Renshaw said...

Moderate Fundamentalist equates homosexuality and homosexual acts as being evil, sinful, and void of divine presence.

He also says, rather stupidly, that people kill themselves "because they hate themselves." Not only is that over-simplistic bordering on the childish, it is insulting to those of us who have had members of our families and people whom we loved kill themselves. Mental illness is often the cause of suicide. So is bullying! People forced to a place they would rather not go but feeling they have no other choice.

Lastly, he says that to study theology, one must first accept "the" faith (I assume he means Roman Catholic faith). The classic definition of theology is faith in search of understanding. The presupposition of accepting said faith should not be made. And, plenty of atheists have studied theology rather successfully.

Over and above all of this, it seems to me that Moderate Fundamentalist is trying to be a Defender of the Faith against you, Geoff, and all of us who belong to the gay community, especially those of us who are/were priests.

MF - I need not your prayers which you so arrogantly offer nor your explanations. I have gone over them multiple times and found them very wanting.

If this were my blog, I would tell you to go away. It isn't. So I ask you very politely to leave Geoff alone. We need his energies for other things.


Matthew said...

I guess I disagree with both Fr. Geoff and MF. I've known a fair number of bisexuals and women who have had relationships with both men and women (in all cases men following open lesbian relationships but these people did not become ex-gay and indeed were open to future same sex relationships. I really don't care whether it's an instinct or not or hard wired or not. Why can't the church just honor people who have fallen in love? If people love each other why does it matter whether that is their only instinct or if it's hard wired or not? I worry that we are telling those who can have relationships with both sexes that they need to prefer opposite sex ones. I think we worry too much about the nature of homosexuality (and that applies to both the catholic church and the APA) and not enough time honoring loving relationships. Frankly, I don't really care why or how it works, just that it is and that it is love and that is all I want to focus on, not all this other stuff about the nature of it.

Lynn said...

Apparently, the author of the comment is unaware of the concept of the deepening understanding of revelation, as described in Dei Verbum 5. Public revelation did cease with the Apostolic age; but the Holy Spirit continues to be active in the Church.
The word marriage was set apart in quotes, not to belittle the Sacrament, but to indicate that such a "marriage" (involving those who knew of their homosexual orientation) would be a marriage in name only (and thus, lack the validity of a true sacramental marriage).
Such a pity that time was spent looking for Latin quotes from dead authors. The time would have been better spent searching for the living faith among today's outcasts (the biblical term, in Hebrew, is "anawim"). Spirituality is found by answering God's call from where you are. "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosopy." - Shakespeare (yes, I know. He wasn't Catholic either).

Joe said...

This story is riveting and harrowing --

The RCC has enco9uraged the same kind of homophobic poisoning in families, and like the smiling abusive therapist playing with the infant whose life he is about to destroy, our bishops, themselves the product of homophobically damaged families, think they are doing a favor to young gays by abusing them.