Irresistibly Cute Gay Ortho-Catholic Graduate Student Rejects Scientific Consensus on Homosexuality, Opts for Celibacy

Joshua Gonnerman

Joshua Gonnerman

The consensus among medical professionals, all the way up to the World Health Organization, is that the so-called “conversion” therapies, which promise to “cure” homosexuality, are both ineffective and dangerous. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has long maintained that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered,” leaving gay parishioners a range of options that, unfortunately, do not include joyous self-affirmation. Among these are therapy, guilt, denial, sexual repression, celibacy, guilt, self-loathing, life-long confusion, self-destruction, secrecy with its attendant blackmail, and guilt.

A recent article by gay-but-celibate Catholic writer Joshua Gonnerman suggests that the Church is beginning to countenance skepticism regarding the efficacy of conversion therapies. The article—“False Hope and Gay Conversion Therapy,” First Things 2/2/13—counsels caution. While Gonnerman speaks of “positive effects” in many therapeutic cases, he also acknowledges certain “dangers:”

Too often, I have seen people who placed their hope in orientation change in this way come crashing down when they realized it wasn’t working. On a psychological level, it can lead to depression, to self-loathing, to suicidal tendencies. The message that the absence of successful change makes one a lesser Christian or some kind of failure is always present, either explicitly or implicitly.

Given orientation change’s low rate of success, and the apparently precarious status of that success, the odds of eventual failure are far, far too strong. Our response to homosexuality [orientation change] is playing with souls; surely, we should play the game that has most hope, rather than the one that seems more neat and tidy?

Gonnerman, studying for his Ph.D in historical theology at the Catholic University of America, is deeply committed to finding a path of reconciliation between his faith and his sexual orientation. No longer trusting reparative therapies, and unwilling to question the Church’s teachings, he has but one remaining option, and that is celibacy. “The path of celibacy,” he writes, “is really dependent on our struggles for Christian virtue, rather than struggles for a heterosexual functioning.”

One can only wonder why Gonnerman considers celibacy to be a surer bet than therapy. The Catholic Church itself has acknowledged that more than 50% of its priests are not celibate. Psychological consequences of dishonoring the chastity vow may include all the negatives that Gonnerman associates with “failed” orientation change: depression, self-loathing, and suicidal tendencies, especially for those who genuinely believe they were “called” to chastity.

The failure of chastity vows entails other, more far-ranging problems as well. Men and women who not only repress their sexuality but practice deceit and denial about their lapses are more likely to project their own guilt onto others. The high positive correlations between homosexuality and repressed or closeted homophobia have not gone unnoticed in recent years. A single Ted Haggard can become a scourge of gay men everywhere.

Nearly all the initial combox responses to Gonnerman’s  article were from conservative Catholics. Considering how thoroughly they chewed over what he had written, I was struck by how little knowledge any of them had of current scientific thinking about homosexuality. I refused to believe this was accidental. I left the following comment:

These discussions about conversion therapy are taking place in an echo-chamber that is hermetically sealed to exclude the consensus opinions of health and social welfare professionals on the subject of homosexuality and its discontents. I searched both the article and the comments and found not one mention of them.

Are you not aware that every major professional association of doctors, psychologists, pediatricians, and social workers in this country has unequivocally declared there to be nothing disordered about homosexuality? The World Health Organization has also made this very clear. Practitioners who ignore the consensus are usually motivated by religious teachings that have no basis in evidence.

Are you also not aware that there are millions of “out” LGBTs who do not struggle with either their orientation or their identity and who have done a complete “end-run” around all the problems that you seem to think inhere in homosexuality?

A British Medical Journal editorial almost ten years ago put it very succinctly:

“In spite of every mental health and medical association in the U.S. stating unequivocally that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is a disorder, many religious organizations continue to declare homosexuality or homosexual behavior as sinful and immoral. This creates spiritual crises for many people who have grown up within anti-homosexual religious families and communities.”

It seems to me that the Church is far more interested in showing that homosexuality is a disorder than it is in helping homosexuals, whose path to psychological well-being will never, in the long-run, be through either celibacy or reparative therapies. And it will not result from the ministrations of the pious folks who have caused the very problems they are trying to cure.

Don’t you see that your “cures,” together with all the horribly toxic body- and sex-hating theology that they bring with them, are the problem?

Mr Gonnerman, before your life is completely spoiled by self-denial and guilt, my advice is: look for a better way. There is one, and you will find it if you look. Believe me, I have been through all this and have come out in the sunshine. I am about to be married to my partner of 13 years, and life has never been better. I simply cannot believe I was ever confused about this. I see your confusion and just want to tell you: Don’t miss your life. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.

deviant behavior

deviant behavior

Anon wrote:

Doughlas: The world is full of credentialed misfits. The truth is same sex acts are deviant regardless of how many credentialed people claim otherwise.

I responded:

Anon, the medical and social welfare associations that I am talking about have well over a million members all told, and they represent many more millions of practitioners and researchers. I would not dismiss them lightly. These are the people you go to when you have a medical or psychological issue. If you are going only to your priest with such issues, then you are denying yourself competent and qualified care. The Church has no expertise in mental health and it cannot give accreditation or certification in medical fields. Instead, it has a set of doctrines to which it gives absolute priority over any fact-based source of understanding or treatment. The closed nature of the system poses real dangers to those who get drawn into it. This is just as true of Catholicism as it is of Scientology or the Mars Hill Church, and among those most at risk in this current political climate are homosexuals. What particularly alarms me is to see “out” gays and lesbians turning to Church teachings for guidance. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, and I would urge them to “break the spell” and break out of the closed system of Catholic thought on this subject.

David Nickol and Howard Kainz discussed whether Freud believed homosexuality to be a neurosis. I interjected:

David and Howard, why are you even concerned about what Freud thought of homosexuality? As the founder of psychoanalysis, he was a hugely important figure, but he was wrong about almost everything, and his theories were based on very limited numbers of case studies and were unfalsifiable. For the latest and greatest on homosexuality, you’ll need to look to sciences that didn’t even exist in Freud’s time, starting with neuroscience. There’s an abundance of reliable information out there. You could start with the APA. Or you could just google a few terms and be careful to avoid any so-called “studies” that emanate from religious institutions, because they are likely to be biased. Remember: religion starts with conclusions; science starts with data.

David Nickol responded:

You are, of course, correct. The consensus about homosexuality among psychiatrists and psychologists, and the agreement of the AMA and almost all other medical associations counts for almost nothing in discussions about homosexuality here. However, studies that purport to show negative aspects of homosexuality or gay people are accepted without question.

Yan wrote:

SmokingHow can you possibly quote approvingly the BMJ statement that there is no basis in evidence for homosexuality being a disorder? What about all the evidence that made the profession almost universally conclude that it is was a disorder prior to 1973? Did this evidence disappear? Has all the evidence stopped coming in?

What both you and the BMJ statement do is conflate evidence with a conclusion based on the evidence. What has changed is the conclusion from the evidence, not the evidence itself. It is fair to observe that this conclusion is what most of the smart people think and to give it the weight due to the opinion of smart people generally. But it is also fair to observe that previously most of the smart people thought the opposite.

When you say there is no evidence, that is shorthand for saying, ‘don’t argue with me. My mind is made up.’

Apparently you have no use for Church teaching in this regard. However, it is not right to say the Church has no competence in the area of mental health. Psychology is the study of psyche, the soul. The Church has deeply concerned itself with the health of the soul for 2000 years. You should acquaint yourself with some of the treasures it has accumulated in that regard over these past 2 millennia.

To which I responded:

ComputerYan, you ask why I discount pre-1973 science about homosexuality? It’s for the same reason that I discount pre-1973 science about aeronautics, cancer, electronics, climate change, the effects of smoking, and just about everything else. Science progresses. Why look to Kepler for information about the stars when you can visit the NASA website?

And no, the evidence hasn’t stopped coming in about homosexuality or about climate change. But we do know that homosexuality is not a disorder and that anthropogenic climate change is a reality.

I maintain that the only real purpose of these bizarre, evidence-free discussions about homosexuality is bias-confirmation. You and other bloggers here are studiously avoiding the scientific consensus about homosexuality because you are committed to upholding the Church’s teachings, which, in your view, will always trump any amount of science.

What is dishonest about these discussions is that they pretend to respect science when they don’t. To maintain this pretense, they will draw support in the form of “scientific” studies that are in fact only junk science pumped out in support of foregone conclusions about homosexuality. This is not science. It is the antithesis of science.

What would it take to convince you that homosexuality is NOT a disorder? I maintain that nothing could convince you, because you’re not honestly interested in evidence.

Don Roberto wrote:

Mr. Remy, the millions of professionals make money by soothing their customers consciences. (They also tell them that killing their unborn babies and breaking solemn marital vows are okay, if it “feels right.”) It is bad for business to tell your customers they’re crazy or that they’re being immoral.

Catholics believe Faith and reason do not contradict each other. Reason says that “gays” cannot (easily) procreate, and they experience depression and STDs at high rates (even now after the terrible AIDS epidemic has reduced their numbers and altered their behavior to some degree), and the powerful immunodeficiency drugs they often have to take long-term because of their behavior are beginning to serious health damage. Sin has real, measurable costs, whether you believe in God, or that the universe created itself from nothing.

To which I responded:

Don Roberto, your view of medical professionals is curious in view of the fact that you probably consult them from time to time. I am very skeptical about the services offered by priests, but I do not go to them for help of any kind.

RapeYour view of homosexuality is based on generalizations and stereotypes, which add up to prejudice. Whether or not gays have higher rates of any given medical condition is completely beside the point. What if the reverse were true? Would you conclude that heterosexuality is disordered? Do you have any idea how many straight men regularly view pornography, cheat on their wives, and abuse their children? Have you not heard about violence against women and sexual harassment at the workplace? Do you know what the divorce rate is among straight couples? What do you think was the sexual orientation of the five hooligans who recently gang-raped a young lady on a bus in India and shot her boyfriend? Go to your nearest supermarket and look at the magazine rack near the check-out counter. Then come back and tell me how badly-behaved gay men and lesbians are.

Don Roberto:

I worry insofar as this kind of essay (especially from a good publisher like First Things) helps perpetuate the idea that “gayness” is innate. The brains of mature people are indeed different, but correlation is not causation. Epigenetic change is influenced by environment and experience, but humans have a significant ability to shape their own character/ destiny. This happens when we make decisions that become habits. Play the piano long enough and your finger coordination will improve. Jog for a few weeks and it will get easier, and you will not want to stop (and you will become more fit). Eschew cheeseburgers and bacon for a couple months and they will no longer be as palatable.

Telling the world that one is “gay” inevitably makes it seem okay. This is a very bad message for society, especially young people, who are most likely to still have the neuroplasticity to forge a different (better) path—one that unfortunately will not be as realistic for many people once they reach maturity. So, with all due respect, one should avoid repeating what Hollywood and the professional psychologists (relatively few of whom hold Judeo-Christian beliefs) have already managed to convince all too many people of.

Don Roberto to Doughlas:

Mr Remy, I believe in sin.  And I am especially concerned when people teach the innocent that there is no such thing.  As for med professionals, especially psychologists, they should be approached with caution.  (My doctor wanted to put me on anti-cholesterol meds:  I declined his advice and lowered my cholesterol through diet.  There was a story in the papers yesterday about a med student who died from the prescriptions he was given for a mind-enhancing drug.)  Anyway, you and I disagree to some degree on these subjects.  But perhaps we do agree that pornography is bad.  I take it you are a non-believer?  Are you a scientific materialist?  If so, I am interested to know *why* you think pornography is bad.  I know it is, on both Biblical and purely logical grounds.  I think it diverts the minds of users away from productive relationships and hurts their ability to bond.

Yan to Doughlas:

The Church and professional psychiatry use the word ‘disorder’ in different ways so that it is possible to affirm the conclusions of both, in theory. The Church means by ‘disorder’ that from the standpoint of moral theology the homosexual act does not attempt to achieve the goal which the natural law determines for it. That is almost the same understanding Freud had when he used the term ‘perversion.’ There is no conflict between these 2 understandings in that particular case.

The Church’s definition of disorder is therefore of a different kind than that put forward by the psychological profession. Since I am not a psychologist, I don’t know what the criteria are for designating a condition to be a disorder. Certainly it is different than the criteria used by the Church? The Church is referring to acts, and insofar as the act is disordered, the proclivity to do such an act would also be disordered. That doesn’t mean you cannot have a valid and different definition of the word for the sake of your profession, so that homosexuality would not be considered a disordered condition.

But I hope you understand the scepticism of many, including me, toward the profession in this regard, when it is a matter of history that these categories often change at least in part in deference to, and under the influence of, political pressure groups. To baptize these conclusions as ‘scientific’ after the fact is a bit suspicious.

If you say: ‘human sexuality has an observable range of tastes and flavors. We can statistically predict the frequency of their occurrence. They are associated with every kind of person and trait. Thus, there is no reason to say that the manifestation of these different tastes is in itself evidence of disorder,’ then I can understand why the profession doesn’t call homosexuality a disorder and I would agree that, in that sense, it is not a disorder. Is that what the profession means?

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, Thank you for explaining what “disordered” means in Catholic theological parlance. I am happy to see that your use of the word bears no relation to the consensus scientific understanding of the term.

You write, “[The Church’s teaching] doesn’t mean you cannot have a valid and different definition of the word for the sake of your profession, so that homosexuality would not be considered a disordered condition.” It’s very generous of the Church to permit sharing of the term.

The problem, in my view, is that most Catholics don’t seem to understand this. Neither do non-Catholics when they hear Catholics describe homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered.” In fact, you are the only Catholic I have ever known to explain the Church’s privileged understanding of the word “disordered” in this way. (I have been blogging with Catholics about it for many years.)

I think a great deal of confusion and ill-feeling could be avoided if the Church could make it absolutely clear that it is not using the term “disordered” in the accepted scientific sense and that there is no overlap between the two uses of the term.

I notice that you seemed to backtrack a little when you expressed your skepticism of the psychological professions. You are certainly entitled to that skepticism. I share it only to a very small degree.

You asked what mental health professionals mean by “disorder.” I found the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) definition to be extremely helpful in understanding why homosexuality is not a disorder. I’ll post it in a separate comment.

Gil to Don Roberto:

Your input on the subject of “gayness” is invaluable, and thanks for the persistence, especially since, as you write, “I worry insofar as this kind of essay (especially from a good publisher like First Things) helps perpetuate the idea that ‘gayness’ is innate.” Yes–I’ve read essays in First Things where apparently “orthodox” Christians imply that there is ontological depth to “being gay”, and this caused me to end my subscription as a protest.

As time moves on, you will no doubt become more and more the odd man out. But please don’t allow this to discourage you. Your voice, no doubt informed by the Holy Spirit, is so vitally needed by so many lost in the chaos of sexual liberation.

Yan to Gil:

Even though the term ‘ontological’ may be unfortunate to the extent that it may cause some confusion, I would imagine that Sartre at least could easily use the term to describe a gay existence. The Church does not have sole rights to the use of the word ‘ontology.’ Just because we believe that essence precedes existence, doesn’t mean that others must agree with us. If FT didn’t publish and consider opinions which are not endorsed by Catholic theology now and then, it could not engage the world for evangelistic purposes.

Furthermore it would be untrue to think that our philosophical concepts are static. After we had existed for 1000 years we decided to embrace Aristotle. Pope JPII introduced personalism, which is a sort of baptized child of existentialism, into our philosophical thinking. In engaging with the world, we carefully use the concepts of the world, reforming them, informing them, purifying them. Even as the deposit of faith never changes, we think about it and talk about it in both old and new ways. But we also listen before we talk.

Is there a danger of losing the faith that we must guard against? Always. But we should not prematurely reject the thinking and understanding of others which is different from our own. Sometimes there is a baby in all that nasty bathwater.

Yan to Doughlas:

I suppose you had tongue-in-cheek when you complimented the Church; but really, the moral theology of the Church existed before Freud or his antecedents took up the term ‘disorder’ for their own use and purposes.

Perhaps I should await your definition of disorder before ‘backtracking’ any further, but I am going to continue by assuming that my definition was good enough for starters.

The Church’s competence, if it has any, is in matters of faith and morals. Morals of necessity involve human acts. Since the subject of human acts is the domain of psychology, then to the extent that the Church’s competence touches on moral acts, it must to some extent involve itself in the domain of psychology as well.

The Church’s moral theology is linked to its ontology, in which man is created with a certain end in mind: to see God forever. In order to achieve this end, man must live his life on earth in a manner pleasing to God. Thus the extent to which he does this is the extent to which he is healthy, in the most profound sense of that word.

A homosexual act, as I explained, is an act that is intrinsically disordered in the understanding of moral theology. Thus, it is an act that does not, and cannot, by virtue of the act itself, lead man to beatitude. Thus, the act is not healthy, as the Church understands health.

Words like ‘perversion’ and ‘disorder’ originally have moral overtones. Psychology may use and define them as it wishes. But we may also use them and mean them in the sense that those words were used and meant before psychology took them up.

We mean that a homosexual act is immoral. The competence of psychology to dispute that with the Church is minimal.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, I’ll have to leave it to you to locate the DSM-IV definition of “mental disorder” that I tried to post. (See the site editor’s comment, above). The gist was that behavior that deviates from political, religious, and sexual norms is NOT disordered unless that behavior entails distress or disability. All the mental health associations in this country have stated very explicitly that homosexual behavior is not disordered. That is a strong current to swim against, and I don’t think the Catholic Church is going to be up to it.

You write that “the Church’s competence, if it has any, is in matters of faith and morals.” That is quite a claim. I am not naive about Church history, and images from Alex Gibney’s documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa–Silence in the House of God” are still fresh in my mind after Monday’s HBO broadcast. The SF Chronicle called the film “devastating.” It was indeed. Cases of sexual abuse and cover-up go all the way back to the 4th century Church.

I would like to get into the Church’s teachings on witchcraft, slavery, and Jews, but I would quickly bump up against the word limit.

In short, I don’t see that the Church has much moral credibility left. Why anyone would believe the Church’s teachings about homosexuality is beyond me.

Yan to Doughlas:

There is so much to respond to in your post. I will have to limit myself to a couple things.

The Church’s teaching on homosexual and other unnatural acts briefly: from the observation of nature we may conclude that a penis is made to go into a vagina. When it comes to sex, they are made solely for each other. A penis is not made to go into another orifice or my hand. A vagina is not supposed to entertain things other than a penis. They are not made to be used for sex until people reach a certain level of biological maturity. When these norms are violated, humans violate natural law and sin. I honestly don’t see what is so unbelievable about that. It seems pretty obvious and sensible to me.

The DSM: Since it is obvious from the occasion for this discussion [the merits and demerits of conversion therapy] that many homosexuals experience distress as a result of their behavior, I do not understand why it cannot be considered to be a disorder, unless moral distress alone cannot constitute a sufficient basis for distress. But that would be importing a naturalistic system of morals into the profession and imposing it by telling people that it is their morals, which are different from yours, which are to blame for their distress. The presupposition of a naturalistic system of morals is warranted by a philosophy of naturalism or materialism, not science. This imposition is a violation of human dignity and unworthy of the profession.

Furthermore, it is not even the case that the elimination of moral distress would remove all personal distress of homosexuals caused by their acts.

Thus, the criteria for defining a disorder and its application in regard to homosexuality are very problematic.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, the view that our organs have “purposes” is great Aristotelianism but lousy Darwinism. Teleological explanations for the phylogenetic characteristics of organisms are simply incompatible with modern evolutionary theory. The human eye did not develop “so that” you could see. Light-sensitive cells had a selective advantage, and the rest is history. If you tell me that the penis is not made for the hand, I must inform you that the nose and ears are not made for resting glasses on.

Regarding the DSM, many homosexuals do feel distress about their homosexuality, but you are mistaken in concluding that their homosexuality has in any way “caused” their distress. There is no reason why homosexuality should cause distress. What does cause such distress is social stigma, bullying, ostracism, and fear. The mental health community has warned again and again that negative religious teachings are a major source of these problems. The Catholic Church has ignored these warnings because it is ideologically committed to a worldview that selectively repudiates modern science.

Yan to Doughlas:

I see. Science has proven that all distress experienced by homosexuals is entirely the result of the fault of other people. If they experience distress, dammit, it is their own fault for believing in a morality which science has also proven is incompatible with what evolutionary theory demands that we believe about moral norms. There are no exceptions.

I’m afraid your glasses analogy is inapt. An improvement is not analogous to a perversion.

Douglas, there are many intelligent people in the world that do not agree with you that Darwinian evolution and teleological ethics are fundamentally incompatible. Furthermore there are many intelligent people in the world that do not even accept that what you believe to be the incontrovertible reality of Darwinian evolution has actually occurred and is responsible for the diversity of creatures. And, shocking to say, many of both kinds of people are scientists.

I expect you will next tell me that all such people that disagree with the sum total of what the mainstream of contemporary science tells us about the origins of the universe, the nature of man, and his eternal destiny are deluded, cranks, and/or irrational because they begin with a priori assumptions about God, religion, and so on.

Douglas, the world is wider than you imagine it to be. There are many possible conversations we could have here. It’s too bad this article is not a proper occasion to have them. But at least we have laid bare some of the real bases for our disagreement over homosexuality.

Cheers, friend.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, I did not say that “all distress experienced by homosexuals is entirely the fault of other people.” I don’t know how you could possibly have construed my words in that way. I said that “there is no reason why homosexuality should cause distress.” Big difference there.

Homosexuality is no more “disordered” than heterosexuality. But if you (presumably a heterosexual) were made to feel so deeply ashamed of your orientation that you could not even acknowledge it to yourself, the cause of your distress would not be your orientation but the way you are treated because of it. Understanding this only requires a little empathy–putting yourself in another’s place.

Re: Science. A priori assumptions are in fact antithetical to scientific modes of inquiry. You are perfectly entitled to make such assumptions, but I believe it is foolish to pretend that they are compatible with science. Doing so only betrays a lack of faith and shows that you are already beholden to values of the modern world.

Maryh to Doughlas:

You wrote: “You ask why I discount pre-1973 science about homosexuality? It’s for the same reason that I discount pre-1973 science about aeronautics, cancer, electronics, climate change, the effects of smoking, and just about everything else. Science progresses. Why look to Kepler for information about the stars when you can visit the NASA website?”

You’re kidding. No one in aeronautics or astronautics discounts pre-1973 science about aeronautics. They still use Kepler’s equations in orbital mechanics. You don’t discount science based on age, you discount it based on new evidence or a grounded reason to reinterpret old evidence. And I have yet to learn what new evidence or reasoning lead to the change in the DSM. BTW, I worked at NASA for 4 years and my husband is aeronautics engineer.

Yan to Doughlas:

That science operates under a priori assumptions about the nature of the universe has been observed by many different kinds of critics of the scientific enterprise. I agree with at least some of those assumptions. An assumption is not necessarily a bad thing.

You said: “There is no reason why homosexuality should cause distress. What does cause such distress is social stigma, bullying, ostracism, and fear.” Since “social stigma, bullying, ostracism, and fear” are all caused by other people, I concluded that in context you meant that only other people cause distress to homosexuals. What else then besides other people causes them distress? Their morals? Which they often learn from…other people?

I have to agree with maryh that medical evidence has not been presented as to why homosexuality should have been de-listed as a disorder from the DSM. It seems more likely that this de-listing simply reflects the preferred moral judgments of those that have written the DSM. To dress up a foregone conclusion as ‘scientific’ in order to silence those with different moral judgments is very much a bad faith argument.

If a disorder is not a disorder unless it causes personal distress, and, that distress must not be based upon the personal morals of the person that needs help, then, I would presume that the new evidence of science is that homosexuals never experience personal distress as a result of their condition.

Certainly there must exist reports, summaries, statistics, to support this conclusion? That’s how science, in this instance, should work; correct? Or are they simply making an a priori assumption that it does not cause distress—thus, observed distress just doesn’t count as distress?

Apparently they didn’t ask Joshua Gonnerman. Not that it would seem to matter.

Yan to Don Roberto:

I think you are missing 2 points in comparing homosexuality to alcoholism or drug addiction. The activities are similar in that homosexuality and chemical addictions are abusive to the person, addictive, and sinful. You are correct to point that out. But there are important differences between these behaviors which should lead us to approach them with different kinds of compassion and treatment.

First, homosexual acts involve a perversion of one of our most fundamental human desires, while drug and alcohol abuse merely involve excessive use of substances which are morally licit to use in many circumstances. That is why homosexual acts are so much more serious a sin. But it also goes to show how rooted it may be in the fibers of a person’s being.

Second and following from this point, the analogy of changing homosexual activity with treating an addiction only extends to the addictive aspects of the activity. On the other hand, changing the ORIENTATION of a homosexual is not analogous to changing addictive activity. It is in many cases more analogous to changing a left-hander into a right-hander. This is something far more difficult and different, even if the approach to change would involve doing some of the same things that are done to treat addiction. Depending on the causes of the behavior, and on how ingrained it is, in some cases it just may be impossible to change.

If you are left-handed, imagine that every time you used your left hand, you had committed a grievous sin. Now you are the doctor that has to treat the left-hander. Do you treat him the same way you treat a drug addict? What are the chances of a left-hander relapsing? Would you evaluate a relapse purely as a failure of the will to be holy?

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, a priori assumptions are sometimes the best we can do, but they are pre-scientific. The business of science is to question assumptions, not to begin a line of inquiry with them.

Regarding distress: There is absolutely nothing about homosexuality in and of itself that should cause emotional distress. When a homosexual says he is distressed about his orientation, it is only internalized homophobia that is causing that distress, not the homosexuality itself. This is why the so-called “conversion therapies” are exactly the wrong approach. They reinforce the individual’s low self-esteem and set up impossible goals for him. If you are told your whole life, by everyone who matters to you, that your innermost desires are disordered, you will be in a constant state of distress and anxiety over it. We know for a fact that such negative self-perceptions can lead to substance abuse and suicide. This is why it is so important for the Church to immediately change its teaching about homosexuality.

The scientific community—all the major health and social are associations—have not made any a priori assumptions about homosexuality. There have been thousands of studies supporting what is now the consensus view.

My own case is typical: I was raised in Texas as a fundamentalist and later spent over a decade in a Middle-Eastern country. I was extremely distressed about my sexual orientation during those years because I could not even reveal it to anyone for fear of ostracism, job loss, rejection by my family, and even imprisonment (abroad). Around age 45 I began figuring it out. I moved to Seattle, where I was surrounded by people who accepted me as I am. I stepped into the sunshine.

Doughlas to Maryh:

Maryh, I will defer to your expertise about astronomy and aeronautics. Those are areas where past knowledge was not wrong but simply incomplete. Still, no current-day astronomy student would study only Kepler, and no student of aeronautics would study only the Wright Brothers. Furthermore, if there were a contradiction between Kepler’s understanding of the stars and ours, I believe Kepler’s would be discounted.

Scientific understanding of smoking, cancer, and climate change are better analogs for homosexuality. In those cases, the earlier information was not only incomplete but wrong and–in two of those cases–deliberately distorted.

You write that you “have yet to learn what new evidence or reasoning led to the change in the DSM.” As a scientist, you should know that there is a good way to find out. Just do some research.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, regarding your response to Don Roberto: Homosexuality is in no way like chemical addiction, and it is not abusive to the person. Some behaviors that are common to both homosexuals and heterosexuals may fit your description, but not the orientation itself. A couple of weeks ago, TV star Jim Nabors married his partner of the last 38 years. I don’t think it’s very “compassionate” to characterize their relationship as abusive or their love for each other as “addictive.” I believe your “compassion” has gone completely off the rails. I myself have been with my partner for 13 years and we will be married in July. We are devoted to each other and there is nothing “abusive,” “addictive,” or “perverted” about our relationship. We work, we love, we play, we have many friends and a very supportive family, and we’ve raised a child together. Why should you assume that we are somehow defective? Well, again, I think I know the answer, and it goes back to your “a priori” approach to knowledge. It is Plato saying you don’t need to observe the heavens to understand the movement of the planets. (And he never understood their movement). No amount of evidence will ever change your mind because you have started with a dogma that must not be challenged.

Why would anyone want to change a left-hander into a right-hander? I realize parents and teachers used to try, just as reparative therapists are now trying to change sexual orientation. You can imagine the psychological distress that either effort must cause. Please don’t tell me that being left-handed “causes” the distress. My partner is left-handed, and it is not an issue for him because it was never an issue for his parents or teachers.

Yan to Doughlas:

“When a homosexual says he is distressed about his orientation, it is only internalized homophobia that is causing that distress, not the homosexuality itself.” What is your or the DSM’s offer of scientific proof to support this categorical statement?

I quite agree that homosexuality as an orientation is unlike addictions in most respects. That is what I intended to say. However, some behaviors which frequently accompany a homosexual condition can be treated in a manner similarly to how we treat addictions, and these treatments are also in part applicable to homosexuality [in a way similar to how we treat heterosexual sex and love addiction.] But these treatments are not sufficient to treat a homosexual ORIENTATION.

I wouldn’t want to change a left-hander into a right-hander. Because I believe that homosexual acts are unnatural and immoral, however, I would want to be able to change a homosexual condition, IF POSSIBLE. My point to Don in analogizing homosexuality to a species of left-handedness was to show that changing homosexuality is very difficult and cannot in the usual case involve SOLELY things like prayer, fasting, abstinence, taking the sacraments, and behavior modification therapy. There is something organic, similar to handedness, in the condition of many homosexuals.

Douglas, I don’t mean to judge you. I am only a sinner and perhaps a worse one than you, God knows. I have no idea if your relationship is abusive or addictive. I don’t know that a homosexual relationship has to be those things, though they seem to occur more frequently in homosexual than heterosexual relationships. But any sex act done with a person of the same sex is obviously perverted, as even Freud understood, even if he did not attach any moral opprobrium to that observation.

God bless and take care; your partner, too.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, you asked for “proof” of my claim that there is nothing about homosexuality in and of itself that should cause anyone distress. With a 300-word limit, I can only suggest you conduct your own search at sites for the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Sociological Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the World Health Organization. Or just google a question like “Is homosexuality a disorder” and follow ONLY those links that take you to scientific organizations, not religious ones.

You can drill down into details if you want to, but the consensus opinion is what really matters, just as it does about climate change, smoking, and evolutionary theory.

The World Health Organization issued a lengthy statement saying, essentially, that homosexuality is not a disorder. One of their recommendations is that “professional organizations should … call for the de-psychopathologization of sexual diversity and the prevention of interventions aimed at changing sexual orientation.” Other health organizations have issued similar statements.

What is your basis for thinking that abuse and addiction occur more in homosexual than in heterosexual relationships? How can you look at the heterosexual world around you and say that so confidently?

You mentioned Freud. Yes, astonishingly, even he thought that homosexuality was perverted. But he was also totally wrong about the causes of homosexuality.

You can find more info at my site, thebentangle dot wordpress dot com.

Yan to Doughlas:

I do not think it is splitting hairs to distinguish between what we have loosely been referring to as a priori assumptions on one hand, and insights of human reason on the other. The insight that homosexual acts are perversions is a product of the latter category. It is not as if Catholicism invented insights such as that from whole cloth. It simply ratified an already existing natural law tradition in philosophy and culture which existed in Western thinking.

Even scientific positivism rests upon the foundation [which may descriptively be called logically a priori] that data may correlate in a manner such that we may reasonably infer causation, and that Reason itself therefore underlies the disparate data of the universe.

If it were not so, the predictive power of math could not exist.

Yan to Doughlas:

No one has yet definitively established the ’causes’ of homosexuality. That is one reason why it is so disturbing that the DSM should feel justified to precipitously de-list it as a disorder.

Freud’s opinion is based upon the same reasoning that the Church uses to say that it is ‘disordered,’ which is that the obvious purpose of the sexual organs is for the reproduction of the species. There is nothing remotely ‘astonishing’ about such an observation. How anyone can deny this most obvious truth is to me an illustration of John Senior’s great saying, ‘the best of us are prone to sophistry when an obvious truth contradicts a strong desire.’

That abuse and addiction occur more often among homosexuals and in their relationships is a well-established fact based upon the statistical evidence.

I will investigate the statistical evidence that homosexuality per se never causes personal distress, even though I don’t see any possibility of proving it without first demonstrating, at a minimum, that every person that ever sought to change his or her sexual orientation did so for some reason other than that homosexuality caused the person personal distress. If the profession has proved this, then and only then is the DSM justified from removing homosexuality from the category of disorder, using their definition of disorder.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, invoking the natural law tradition only muddies the waters. Philosophers and theologians have disagreed about almost every aspect of it since it was first articulated, probably by Empedocles. They even disagree about when it began (Plato? St. Thomas?) and who best represents it (Hobbes? Augustine?).

Empedocles believed natural law forbade the killing of animals. Augustine of Hippo believed it had only been possible in our prelapsarian state. Gratian thought that it was the same as divine law, while St. Thomas believed the two were different. (St. Thomas did not believe slavery was evil, by the way.) According to the definition offered by Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, natural law requires us to worship God and to reproduce, so Buddhists and Catholic priests would be in violation. Sir Edward Coke (early 17th cent.) believed natural law required allegiance to the reigning king. Hobbes believed natural law could only prevail if men submitted to the commands of the sovereign. (Um, that’s Obama in this country.) He also said that the first-born (son) should inherit things which cannot be held in common. Hugo Grotius (17th cent.) believed that even God was bound by natural law. Pierre Charron (1601) said that “the sign of a natural law must be the universal respect in which it is held.” Catholic theologian John Wijngaards does not believe natural law applies to specific points of sexual ethics (e.g., contraceptives and homosexual unions). St. Thomas summed up natural law as follows: “Good is to be sought, evil avoided.” This is about as useful as Mark Twain’s stock-picking advice: “When the price is low, buy the shares. Sell them when the price rises. If the price doesn’t rise, then don’t buy the shares.”

It appears that natural law can mean anything we want it to mean.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, I have no problem with inferring causation where the inference is warranted. But there are a number of logical fallacies that seem to result from our tendency to look for confirmation of our biases. One famous example is the “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” fallacy: “After this, therefore because of this.” (Because lightning struck St. Peter’s in the evening after the Pope’s resignation speech–which it in fact did–God does not like the Pope.) Another is “cum hoc ergo propter hoc,” which finds causation where there is only correlation. You claim to have found correlation between homosexuality and sociopathic or psychopathic behaviors. It doesn’t even matter whether or not there is in fact such a correlation. The important question is whether there is causation, and there is clearly is not, because I am gay and I exhibit none of these behaviors. If I did, you would have noticed them by now, even in my words. I have more than once detected clear signs of paranoia, fixation/obsession (on sex and body parts) and coprolalia (involuntary and obsessive use of obscene language) in comments left by Catholic bloggers, but I don’t think for a moment that either their Catholicism or their heterosexuality accounts for these behaviors. Were I to claim that Catholicism “causes” coprolalia and paranoia, you would be right to challenge me. Please be so kind as to grant homosexuals the same courtesy.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, regarding the “causes” of homosexuality: Your comment reveals that you do not understand how science works. For one thing, scientists do not like the word “definitive.” If there’s a one-percent chance that their theories are wrong, they will tell you about the 1%, not the 99%, because–at least ideally–they are philosophically committed to the value of doubt. It just goes with the territory; it’s the way they’re trained, and it’s very hard to get through that training without acquiring that habit of doubt. To acknowledge that we don’t know exactly how life began or what the causes of homosexuality are does not entail acceptance of young-earth theory or, in the case of homosexuality, Freudian theory. Scientists who study homosexuality know vastly more than Freud did, and the bottom line seems to be that about 30% of the variation in sexual orientation is genetic, and that the rest is epigenetic and hormonal. Freud had no idea about any of this, because he lived before modern methods of detection were available. Citing Freud is a big mistake, much like citing Franz Gall on phrenology.

One point that I cannot seem to make you understand is that homosexuals—especially young ones—usually do not understand the causes of their distress. They listen to family and priests, who also do not understand the causes of their distress. They are told that they are disordered, and they must seek conversion therapy. So the conclusion that you and their parents and their priests draw from this is that they have sought therapy because they are distressed about their homosexuality, when in fact their homosexuality has not caused the distress. The message that they’ve heard from their parents and priests have caused the distress.

Yan to Doughlas:

You are correct to point out as a general proposition that there are difficulties in applying natural law theory. However, please show me an example of a natural law theorist that stated that homosexual acts were not contrary to the natural law. That they are is obvious and irrefutable.

I do understand your point about distress being caused by disapproval of homosexuality/homosexual acts. It is valid as far as it goes. It is an observation that is much in fashion now. However, we can no more refrain entirely from commenting upon the immorality of homosexual acts to our youth, or anyone else, than we can refrain entirely from commenting upon the immorality of any other immoral act. This responsibility is all the greater at this time, when the immorality of the act is being disputed and denied by many people.

It is the grave responsibility of those in charge of educating children to correctly inform their consciences. That this responsibility and that morality itself should of necessity oppose themselves to an inclination which is so strongly felt, is so difficult to alter, and for which the person who has the inclination has so little responsibility in most cases, is indeed a tragedy which calls for a great deal of compassion and understanding in particular cases.

That it is foreseeable that such teaching will cause distress in individual cases does not make it entirely avoidable. That such teaching is the SOLE cause of distress, so that homosexuality should not be classified as a disorder by the DSM seems to me to be unwarranted by the evidence. While there is good evidence that such teaching causes distress, there is evidence that other sources cause distress as well. The DSM at this time has chosen to ignore them.

Yan to Doughlas:

Douglas, it is very bad science to argue from anecdotal evidence, especially of our own behavior, to a general proposition. Just because you do not self-diagnose yourself as having psychopathological behaviors does not mean you do not evidence them. I presume most such people would deny the evidence of their own psychopathological behaviors.

But even assuming arguendo that your self-diagnosis were correct, the failure to exhibit such behaviors in your particular case would not prove that homosexuality does not cause such behaviors, anymore than the lack of cancer in a particular smoker proves that smoking doesn’t cause cancer. There may be other things about you which prevent symptoms from manifesting in your case. The failure of logic in this case is yours, I’m afraid.

Cheers. And no, I haven’t seen much evidence that would lead me to believe you exhibit any psychopathological symptoms. But perhaps you just hide it well. : )

Yan to Doughlas:

Doughlas, I did not infer that ignorance entails that we must accept a pet theory of origins. I just said that the mainstream opinion of science does not necessarily PRECLUDE such theories from also being true.

In respect to Freud, I just said that his understanding of the activity which led to him calling it a perversion is the same as is used by the Church. My point was simply that the reasoning process in both cases was the same, is obvious, and is eminently undeniable. Additionally, my point is that one does not need to be religious to see this.

I have not seen any study that has claimed to exhaust, even tentatively, the etiology of homosexuality. We are still in the evidence gathering stage. Your claim that we have arrived at a ‘bottom line’ is extremely premature. We have observed some correlative factors; that is all. We don’t even have the slightest idea how those factors ’cause’ a person to experience a predominant attraction to his own sex, or even IF those factors acting alone are the cause, or are instead a result of, other factors that also cause homosexuality.

One day we may find the precise causes to the extent that such causes do not derive from human freedom. At that time, the logic and insight which leads us to understand that a homosexual ACT is unnatural and immoral will remain completely untouched.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, In alluding to my personal experience, I was not arguing from anecdotal evidence but from my own lived knowledge of myself. From your point of view, however, that evidence can only be anecdotal since you do not have it first-hand. So, yes, you’re right that I could be a psychopath—one very skilled in denying his condition to himself and others. (But I’m not. 😉

Do you really believe that homosexuality is like smoking, which causes cancer in some people? If so, you would need to amend your earlier proposition to something like, “Homosexuality is perverted for some people.” Or, “Some homosexual acts are perverted.” But whether the problem is with “some” homosexuals or “all” homosexuals, you would still need to show that this is true, and the World Health Organization doesn’t think you can do it. Neither do I.

You see, you are not the one with the evidence. As much as you esteem the rules of argument, you’ve got a blind spot when it comes to evidence, which is an essential component of argumentation.

We have to face the fact that the Church has never welcomed evidence when it threatened the Church’s teachings. And the Church has not developed systems for gathering and evaluating evidence, as science has done. We don’t go to the Church for reliable, up-to-date information about health care (including sexuality), and yet the Church continues to make pronouncements that presume authority about it. This is because, in matters pertaining to sexuality, the Church is mired in pre-scientific modes of thinking.

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, you asked for an example of a natural law theorist who does not repudiate homosexual acts. One of them is John Wijngaards, and you can google his name + “homosexuality for Catholics” to find some others.

But it wouldn’t matter even if there 100% unanimity, because a consensus about an unfalsifiable claim is about as meaningful as a lack thereof.

I recognize your use of the word “fashion” as code, and I understand it that you are invoking 2000 years of tradition. But as one accustomed to argumentation, you must know that your implied “argumentum ad antiquitam” is no better than its opposite, the “argumentum ad novitam.” My observation about homosexual distress was based on science, an enterprise not dedicated to either novelty or tradition.

Regarding youth: If homosexual acts are immoral, then we should protect our children from them. But you have not established that these acts are immoral. I find no reason to think they are, unless they are manipulative, dishonest, or unloving.

Considering the obvious negative consequences of telling gay children they are “disordered,” or that “they have no purpose in life,” which an Indiana school teacher was quoted as saying a few days ago, I should think these kinds of messages would be “immoral” by anyone’s standards, because there is real harm in them.

You think that such teaching is “unavoidable,” but it is not. The public schools and universities in my city (Seattle) have very firm policies opposing any attempts to characterize gays as “disordered.” I would assume Seattle is not alone in this regard.

Have you yet actually read any of the DSM material or done any research on this? I sense that you’re setting up straw men with your allusions to “other sources” of distress. What sources do you mean?

Yan to Doughlas:

I think you should understand by now that my primary problem with homosexuality is not that it may cause other neurotic or psychotic behaviors. The high correlation is suspicious, as is the fact that immoral behaviors in other circumstances also seem to slide inevitably into unhealthy behaviors.

Unhealthy behaviors correlating with, or perhaps caused by, homosexuality, might be important in deciding to classify homosexuality as a disorder by the DSM’s definition of disorder, but they are irrelevant in determining whether or not the act is perverted.

The basis for calling homosexuality a perversion is that it is an unnatural act. Homosexuality is a desire to use sex for an end that is not intrinsic to the objective nature of the sexual act. This insight has nothing to do with scientific evidence, as I have explained now several times. The fact that 2 and 2 make 4 does not need to await a study by the WHO before we can agree that it is true. Nor does it does not take a degree in psychology or religion to see that a penis belongs in a vagina and nowhere else when it comes to sex.

In regard to the evidence that homosexuality is a disorder by the DSM standards, from what I have seen and read, it was premature to conclude homosexuality is not a disorder. It seems that the evidence is less than unequivocal, that homosexuality per se NEVER causes distress to an individual.

Finally, I want to say that the DSM standard itself is open to much criticism. Its definition of what constitutes a disorder is not written in stone, and the definition has been different in the past. If tomorrow the DSM changes its definition so homosexuality is disordered again, will you accept the DSM?

Doughlas to Yan:

Yan, you seem to be abandoning your earlier presumed science-based claims and are now trying to fall back on Church teaching and natural law (whatever that is). If you just keep incanting what seems “obvious” to you–i.e., that homosexual acts are unnatural and perverted and that penises belong only in vaginas–then at least you yourself may continue believing it. But many people, including myself, do not agree with you, so you are reduced to proclaiming that we are simply wrong by virtue of your own conception of what constitutes common sense.

Your formulation that “the basis for calling homosexuality a perversion is that it is an unnatural act” is circular. The words “perverted” and “unnatural” are nearly synonymous. You presume to know what the “objective nature of the sexual act” is, when you view that act through a very constricted Catholic lens. If you go to my blogsite, you’ll see a map of the world as seen by a New Yorker (posted just last week). This is the way you see human sexuality, I’m afraid.

Regarding the DSM: Of course the DSM standard is open to much criticism, because there are lots and lots of very conservative Catholics and evangelicals out there. Remember the resistance to evolutionary theory, climate change science, and tobacco research?

You asked if I would accept a reversion to the old DSM definition of homosexuality as disordered? Probably so, unless it were ordered by a totalitarian government. You may remember that I accepted the old DSM definition for most of my life.

* * * * * * *

Don’t stop reading! Click here to see the conclusion of this enthralling discussion. (View the Comments following the linked article.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: