Catholicism’s True Stance on Homosexuality Part 2

Part 1 dealt with the perpetuation of misconceptions about homosexuality by Catholics, using examples that came up in this video below. In it, multiple Catholics, some of them gay themselves, explain the church’s official stance on homosexuality:

Unfortunately, the perpetuation of misconceptions isn’t the only thing wrong with this video.

There are things religious people do with language that frustrate the hell out of me. They like to define things using whatever authority they follow (for Catholics it’s the Catechism. For Christians it’s usually the Bible),  as if that authority is automatically going to be recognized by everyone else. They’ll take a small excerpt of text from that “authority” which defines an action or something else using negative language, then deny that the language itself is negative. They’ll even fail to define things that are vague and don’t actually mean anything and just cross their fingers that people buy it because it sounds legit. Then they’ll put it all together, wrap it up in a homily (or in this case, a video about Catholics and gay people) and present it like Ta-DA! Look what we came up with! This is Truth!

A brief Public Service Announcement:  be wary of ANYONE who uses the word “truth” without a definite article in front of it. They are probably trying to be dramatic. They are not referring to reality when they say, “truth.” They mean whatever they think it means, and that will vary from person to person, and from religion to religion.

Now, about the language issues in this video–some of them come directly from Catholic teaching, while others come from the culture of Catholicism. Let’s start with the first kind. The video quotes the Catechism, which is basically a big book containing all of the church’s teachings on everything. It helps Catholics know how to interpret the Bible, among other things (such as basically everything the religion teaches). It also contains a messed up statement about homosexuality. The Catechism says, “Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law.” Here’s the thing though… “natural law” is never defined. I will go so far as to say that people fixate on the “natural” part, and that’s what gives this statement the bulk of its meaning. It’s common for people to argue that being gay is “unnatural” because well, the body parts don’t fit in each other. But remember, the Catholics in this video have already said that being gay is fine, while acting on it isn’t. So it’s not that being attracted to the same sex is wrong–as long as you don’t act on it, because that would be unnatural.

I’m going to look up the definition of “natural.” Webster defines it as, “existing in nature and not made or caused by people : coming from nature.” Being gay does exist in nature. Animals are often observed engaging in homosexual behavior. People are not gay by choice–this has already been established in my earlier post, and the Catholics agree with this. Going with this definition, it doesn’t follow that being gay is unnatural, so it’s probably natural. If being gay is natural, then how could the behavior not be? This doesn’t seem to support their beliefs.

Let’s try another definition of the word. Webster also defines natural as, “not having any extra substances or chemicals added: not containing anything artificial” which I’m not going to try to relate to homosexuality. Then, there’s this definition:  “usual or expected.” Here we go. Maybe this is what they’re going for. This would mean that something can be considered “not natural” if it is unusual, or not expected. You know what else is not usual or expected? A lot of things.

Going with this definition, we can easily reduce anything or anyone who is somewhat different to the label “unnatural” or, as the Catholics so eloquently put it, “contrary to natural law.” Maybe birth marks and tattoos are unnatural. Maybe a male nurse is unnatural even if he’s fantastic at his job and really enjoys it. Maybe a female engineer is unnatural. Just because something is unusual or not expected does not make it wrong or bad. I’ve met good female engineers and excellent male nurses, and you know what, I’m glad they found something that they’re good at that makes them happy. If the idea of a man giving you a flu shot scares you, then I’m sorry, you fail at life. Go back home and cower in the comfort of your nuclear family.  You’ve proved yourself incapable of experiencing the diversity of this world and living in it. Sexuality and sexual behavior come in many forms, and we don’t decide what’s OK and what’s not OK by looking at what’s typical and what’s atypical. It may be unusual for someone to have a fetish where they like getting hit in the funny bone–but you know what, it’s not going to hurt anyone, so I’m not going to legislate against them hitting their funny bone, or preach to people that it’s OK for them to like it, but they should never engage in that behavior. Now, there are sexual things that are not considered acceptable by society. BDSM is somewhat accepted, but only to a point, and pedophilia is never acceptable. The reasons for this come down to who is capable of giving consent, and whether or not something harms someone. Plain and simple, no consent = rape and harm = bad. This isn’t that complicated, and it’s a much more reasonable system to base one’s arguments on than “unusual or unexpected.” 

I actually wrote an entire philosophy paper this past semester on polyamory, in which I disproved the argument that monogamy is “natural.” It would take 20 pages to give my whole argument, but to sum it up, what people perceive as “natural,” is the result of upbringing and conditioning. It’s a social construct, so people can learn a different behavior quite well and adopt it as the norm. There was a period in history when a biracial couple would be considered gross. Now, it’s not. Clearly, racism is a learned behavior, not a natural state for human beings. There are still people who have a problem with it unfortunately, but at least people are far less likely to boo or hiss at a couple walking down the street. Well–as long as they’re straight. I realize this seems like a very long rant on one word, but let’s face it–the word natural doesn’t mean what they think it does, and throwing it around doesn’t actually mean anything or prove an argument, especially an argument against an entire group of people who are just doing what feels natural TO THEM.

Sticking with that catechism excerpt, I also take issue with the word “disordered.” It calls to mind the time when homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. It was taken off the list of mental disorders, and I’ve heard some Catholics say that it should still be on that list. The thing is though–they aren’t psychologists. How they feel about something has nothing to do with what the American Psychological Association decides to put in the DSM. And thank goodness it doesn’t! Imagine if Christians had a say in what was considered normal, healthy thinking. We’d have a lot of schizophrenic people who firmly believe they’re on a mission from God on our hands. Meanwhile, maybe there’d be people “living in sin” getting forced into therapy by concerned relatives–without being sent home by therapists who would rather help people with real problems.

As if this video hadn’t lost credibility already, they brought on a sister! A brief lesson on all people who are nuns, sisters, monks, priests, etc:  they are celibate. This sister argues that “disordered” is not a harsh word to use about gay behaviors, but doesn’t give any reasons why. I’d just like to point out what that word brings up in a Google search. The first thing that comes up that isn’t a definition, synonym, or antonym for the word, is a Wikipedia page about “disordered eating.” Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are severe, life threatening, and they involve psychological issues as well as physical ones.  How is it not harsh to use a word that can apply to something as unhealthy  and life threatening as anorexia or bulimia to describe functioning, consenting adult behaviors?

Then they talk about how lust in general is “disordered.” Well…didn’t God say, “Go forth and multiply”? OK, that’s a slight misquote, but seriously, here’s a real verse:  “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth'” (Genesis 9:1). We wouldn’t do that if it didn’t feel good. I mean, we pee and defecate out of those usually covered parts of our bodies. If our bodies didn’t want to, we probably wouldn’t make babies. Lust is an important part of our survival. Yes, it has a bad connotation, but guess how Webster defines it? “A strong feeling of sexual desire.” There’s nothing sinful about having “a strong feeling of sexual desire” for one’s husband/wife/partner. But that’s technically lust. If Catholics want to define it some other way (and they probably think of it as a component of the sin of covetousness), that’s fine, but in a video meant to educate the general public on Catholic teaching, they should use words the way they’re used by actual English speakers, unless they redefine the word in the context of their video so that people know what they mean.

They also bring up what they call, “authentic and inauthentic flourishing,” but never define them. I’m going to leave that statement where it is because come on–what the hell is “inauthentic flourishing?”

And this method of replacing one’s sexual attraction with friendship and a relationship with God? Guess what. It’s pretty inauthentic, and it’s definitely not flourishing. It allows one to run the gauntlet of this unfortunately homophobic world, but it doesn’t allow everyone to be themselves. What kind of parent says to their child, “You can be anything you want to be. Except if you’re gay. Then you can’t ever have a sexual relationship with someone.” Not that you’d say that to a kid, but still–let’s keep our promises, folks.

Another failure to define:  what is “authentic love?” They mention it several times, but I don’t think my current relationship is any more authentic or less authentic than that of a gay couple. If you love someone, you love them. If God calls us to love people, why can’t gay people do it too? Because it’s “disordered?” Is it just me, or are these people sounding less and less tolerant and accepting?

In part 3 I’m going to address the language Catholics use that comes from their culture–and what that culture actually is. Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, happy thinking!

Catholicism’s True Stance on Homosexuality Part 1

I’d like to start this post by saying that I’m a straight, cisgender female, so I have not experienced what it’s like to be gay. I’m going with my understanding of homosexuality and the clashes I find between my personal understanding of how sexuality works, and what my former religion says about it. This will be a 3 part blog post because of the amount of content in the video I’m responding to, and the fact that many people, myself included, have short attention spans.

Let’s start with what Catholicism has to say. I’m going to be kind to them and let the actual Catholics make their case. The other day, while perusing Facebook, I came across this video, which a Catholic friend had shared. This film explains it quite well, and if you’re like me, it will infuriate you enough that you won’t need to read further, but I will discuss it at length. Here it is:

In case the link no longer works, the video is called The Third Way and it’s about 35 minutes long. It is titled the way it is because it’s suggesting that Catholicism offers a middle ground between the two extremes of supporting gay marriage, and flat out homophobia. Unfortunately, this “third way” is much closer to homophobia than they’d like to admit, and that has to do with how Catholics treat gay people in practice. How did I sit through this half hour of bullshit, then? With post-it notes and a pen. I literally wrote a note every time someone said something I thought was fundamentally incorrect, a negative portrayal of homosexuality, or not possible in practice. Needless to say, I used up a lot of post-its. In case you really really want to read this post but don’t have time to watch the video, I’ll summarize Catholic teaching on homosexuality in the next paragraph. If you have watched the video, feel free to skip it.

The saying, “love the sinner, hate the sin,” basically sums up Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Essentially, the rules are, it’s not wrong to be a gay person, but acting on one’s homosexual urges is a sin. Straight Catholics are supposed to treat their homosexual brothers and sisters as equal human beings (who are still not allowed to get married, of course). What are the gay people supposed to do?  Individuals who experience homosexual urges are expected to remain celibate. Forever. What Catholics would have you believe is that this means they are completely tolerant of gay people, and that they simply disagree with the “gay lifestyle.” This is a little difficult to grasp, and doesn’t work in practice, for reasons which I’ll explain later. So Catholics believe that homosexual behavior is bad, while homosexual people are just humans in a tough situation. OK. So how do they present homosexuality in the video?

On the bright side, the video does start with the idea that being gay isn’t a choice. A huge misconception that many people have about homosexuality is that it is something you can choose. Instead of arguing that homosexual attraction is a choice, Catholics argue that that the behaviors–gay sex, and gay relationships–are choices. I would have to agree with them on that point as it applies to sexuality in general. I’m straight, but I don’t have to date. The behavior of dating is a choice. I don’t have to have sex either. If I decide to wait till marriage, I can do that. If I decide to have sex, I can do that too, so having sex is a behavior. I can’t, however, just decide that I’m suddenly attracted to women. I simply don’t have that attraction. Just because I agree that dating and sex are behaviors, does not mean that I agree with forcing all gay people into celibacy, though. Personally, I think that’s a completely unfair thing to do to an entire group of people, especially a group of people whom Catholics don’t understand.

Many of the people cast in the video are gay themselves. Now, I’m glad they bothered to find gay Catholics, and have them tell their own stories. Believe it or not, I’ve met some gay Catholics in real life, and they do exist. What’s incredible, and casts doubt on what the video is suggesting, is that some of those people in the video have flawed ideas of how sexuality, especially their own sexuality, works. And these are the people who are supposed to have figured it all out through God and the Catholic Church.

At about 4:04, the video takes a turn for the worse and presents a misconception about homosexuality that I grew up hearing:  the idea that it’s caused by abuse. I’ve mentioned this to non Catholics who say they’ve never heard of this misconception, but I distinctly remember family friends and relatives saying, “I knew this gay guy, and he was abused as a kid. I think that’s what did it.” This misconception is often paired with the idea that being gay is caused by having no relationship, or a bad relationship with one’s father or mother, or by having a hard time connecting with people of one’s own gender. In fact, both of those misconceptions are also brought up in this video. I’d like to present the hypothesis that maybe sometimes gay people just end up having different interests than many of the straight people in their lives, and that alone can make it very hard to relate to others. Just ask anybody who’s ever been on a blind date with someone with whom they had nothing in common. What are you supposed to talk about? As far as I can tell from the reading I’ve done on sexuality, none of these ideas are true. Scientists have done many studies trying to find a cause for homosexuality, and as far as I know, there has been no consensus in the scientific community that any of these aforementioned things cause homosexuality.  For further reading about the abuse idea, check out this webpage:

The above website mentions that some studies have found a correlation between homosexuality and abuse, while others have not found any. I’d like to point out what any scientist would:  even if it had found a strong one, correlation and causation are not the same thing. As one of my favorite psychology professors once explained, there’s a correlation between people who carry cigarette lighters, and people who develop lung cancer. But is lung cancer caused by carrying cigarette lighters? No. Smoking, however, can lead to lung cancer, and smokers tend to carry lighters so that they can smoke. Hence the correlation. As far as homosexuality and abuse are concerned, I suspect it is possible that when homophobic parents see signs that their child is gay, they may have a tendency to react violently because they don’t know how to deal with it. That may be one cause of this association between being gay and being abused. However, as far as people who have studied this can tell, it is probably not the cause of homosexuality, and it’s sad that the people who made this video chose to include those details so prominently, supporting this incorrect conclusion. What’s even sadder is that they did it through the words of people who should know better, but probably haven’t been encouraged to learn things about their own sexuality because of the religion they follow.

One guy literally says “my homoemotional needs became homosexualized,” referring to a time when he used to masturbate to men’s health magazines because, as he explains, he was looking for a symbol of manhood that he wasn’t getting from his relationships with men in real life, as if to suggest that this masturbation and his lack of a strong sense of manhood caused his homosexuality. The thing is though, he was turned on by those images of men at the time. Otherwise, why would he masturbate to them? In my opinion, this particular interviewee is so embarrassed by his own sexuality that he is having a hard time admitting that he’s gay, even though the reason he even has a role in the video is to admit it. I feel sorry for him.

Then there’s the idea that homosexual sex and sex with contraceptives are both “not what sex is for.” Or as one of the speakers puts it, “The desire can’t be fulfilled according to the design of our bodies.” It’s like he’s never had sex. Going with nonreligious arguments here, the main reason humans feel sexual attraction and enjoy sex is probably so that kids can happen. It’s a fact of life–we wouldn’t put together those yucky body parts we piss from if it didn’t feel good. But orgasms without baby making? They’re not a bad thing. And guess what–they fulfill that “desire” they’re talking about. AND, it’s perfectly natural to want them. An orgasm is an orgasm, whether it happens in a vagina or not.

Unless what they mean by “fulfill” is making babies. That is an argument I’ve heard from Catholics against both gay marriage and contraception, and I think it’s what they’re trying to say without saying it, so I’ll go there. Just because kids can’t come out of sex doesn’t mean that the sex is wrong or bad. In fact, if sex that doesn’t lead to pregnancy is so wrong, why do Catholics teach engaged couples natural family planning, which is as much a way to avoid pregnancy as pulling out is (which they do not condone)! By the reasoning of “sex without babies is bad,” they shouldn’t teach NFP all. I’d like to see this guy tell a married couple in their sixties that they can’t have sex anymore because they can no longer have kids, or tell the same thing to a young newlywed couple that’s infertile. No one would do that, not even a typical genophobic Catholic. Yet they pick on gay people, and claim it’s because they can’t have kids through the usual way. It’s absurd.

The video also suggests that having strong relationships with straight people is really what gay people want and need, and that if they just had strong friendships with straight people, they’d be able to keep themselves celibate and focus on God. I happen to have met some of the straight male friends whom my best friend (who identifies as pansexual) is close friends with. He’s still not straight. Neither are any of the other gay people I’ve met, all of whom seem to get along fine with people who are both the same gender as they are, and straight. Sorry to burst their bubble.

There’s so much more wrong with this video, and with Catholic treatment of gay people though. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of 3, which is coming soon.

Worship: Why Do It?

Something that Catholics get a lot of crap for is worshiping figures other than God, such as idols, Mary, and the saints. They say no, we’re not worshiping those people, we’re honoring them, as you would honor a war veteran or a hero. They’re role models. And I get it. I understand the distinction between honoring the saints and worship, and I don’t see anything wrong with considering the saints great role models if you’re religious (except in the case of St. Rita. But that’s a topic for another day.) I do, however, take issue with the act of worship itself, and what the supposed necessity of worship says about who God is.

Think about it. Why does God want us to worship Him, and why should we do it?

Here are some reasons I can think of, and my responses to them:

1)  God is our creator. He made the universe, so we need to worship Him.

Well, ok. I like to paint. I sure do appreciate compliments on my painting skills, but I don’t want my friends and family to worship me for them. Compliments should be earned, so they shouldn’t come in a continuous stream. They should appear when they are deserved so that they mean something. Sure, if one believes in God, He would appear to have done a great number of good things. He is believed to have created the universe, so sure, praise Him for that. Thank Him for that. But why do that every minute of every day for the rest of your life, and expect everyone else to do that too? Doesn’t God expect us to do other things with our lives than shower Him with praise? Doesn’t He eventually (or instantly since he’s omniscient) get tired of people bowing to Him and repeating prayers like the Our Father (a.k.a. the Lord’s Prayer) over and over again? While writing this, I’m listening to my parents pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is a repetitive prayer kind of like the rosary that is (surprise surprised) prayed using a rosary. It’s somewhat shorter, but it’s just as repetitive. Catholics are fantastic at repetitive prayer. They have a ton of prayers to choose from, and can combine them into advanced combo prayers like the rosary, which somehow are supposed to get them more attention. But now, God has to listen to a ton of people saying the same words over and over again. It’s like getting a form letter from every single person on Earth instead of a personalized message. It’s not more personal, and it doesn’t do anything to “build a relationship with God,” a goal I will address later.

2) Worshiping God will help us get to heaven.

That seems an awful lot like kissing up to me. Assuming it does help us get to heaven, that would mean that God only wants people who kiss His ass and grovel before Him to come to paradise. Imagine if you’re the smartest person in the world, and everyone else doesn’t come close to your intelligence. Wouldn’t you want to encourage the people around you to learn more, and to reach their full potential in the hopes that you can have some real intellectual companionship? According to Christianity, God would rather have a bunch of “faith-filled” people bowing to Him and singing His praise over and over again than real friends. A truly omniscient God should find this boring, but the Christian God loves it.

Which brings me to reason number 3:

3)  Worshiping God and praying to Him will help you build a relationship with Him.

As nice as it feels to receive a compliment, I expect more out of my relationships with people than endless praise and admiration. I crave things like intellectual stimulation, companionship, and a helping hand when needed. If I wanted someone to praise me endlessly, I’d hire someone to do it. It would get old really fast, though. I’ve heard many times that prayer is how one forms a relationship with God, and that worship helps with that too. But what kind of relationship involves one person expecting constant praise and worship, and the other person giving it obediently? That sounds like the relationship between an evil villain and his terrified lackey. I mean, Voldemort has that kind of relationship with some of his Death Eaters. What kind of benevolent God wants his ass kissed? An insecure God, of course. But an all-powerful, all-knowing God shouldn’t be insecure, should He? That just doesn’t fit. Either God doesn’t need to be worshiped, or He isn’t the God Christians believe Him to be.

Seriously, what does God get out of being worshiped? I’ve seen TV shows where an evil character (usually a cartoon) grows more powerful the more people shout compliments at it, or praise. That’s not how God’s supposed to be though–He’s supposed to already have all the power He needs. He can do whatever He wants, and should be intelligent enough to expect more from His INTELLIGENT creations than perpetual groveling.

This video on YouTube posted by DarkMatter2525 let me know that I wasn’t the only one to see a problem with this, and it partially inspired this post. His channel in general has helped me view my former religion in a way I hadn’t before, so I highly recommend checking it out.  

Happy thinking!