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:

http://www.lifesitenews.com/blog/this-new-film-on-being-gay-and-catholic-just-might-blow-your-mind

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:  http://www.pandys.org/articles/abuseandhomosexuality.html

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.

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6 thoughts on “Catholicism’s True Stance on Homosexuality Part 1

  1. Hey Nancy, thanks for reading my Les Miz review. I’m so glad you have stumbled on your blog. We seem to have a lot in common. I’m also an undergrad studying English. And a few years ago, I moved from Southern Baptist to atheist. I think you and I will have a lot to talk about!

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  2. Hey Anna, you’re welcome. I always enjoy a good review. And wow, I would never have guessed! If you ever want to share your experiences with regards to that switch I’d definitely be interested. There are many differences between branches of Christianity (mine was Catholicism) but there are also quite a few things that everyone experiences that send some of us packing.

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  3. Hi again! I’ve had time to browse a bit more of your blog. I can see you’re going to keep me busy. : )

    Here’s the Catholic teaching on sexual morality: You can only have sex within marriage. No artificially preventing the natural results of sexual intercourse. (Note: Nothing about conception being possible or the participants being fertile.)

    Here’s the Catholic teaching on marriage: One man and one woman, for life. No polygamy, no divorce.

    Here are those who are “forced” to be celibate as a result of these teachings: Everyone who has never been married, everyone who is separated from his or her spouse for whatever reason, everyone whose spouse is prevented from having sex due to injury or illness, everyone whose spouse has died.

    Included among these are all priests, bishops and male and female religious, as well as the pope.

    These teachings are applied to everyone equally, regardless of race, color, gender or sexual orientation.

    Under the Church’s teachings, there is nothing which forces gay people to be celibate. Nothing prevents them from having sex in accordance with the Church’s teachings. They may not like having sex in accordance with the Church’s teachings, but that’s something in themselves, not in the teachings. The Church’s teachings do not force people to like or not like sex in accordance with its teachings.

    The Church believes its teachings have been revealed by God. That may or may not be true, but it is what the Church believes. Either that or it’s lying. Why a bunch of men would voluntarily make up teachings that require them to be celibate, is beyond me, so I assume they’re not lying and really believe it.

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    • I’m going to direct you to my about me page. I don’t remember if this came up in our discussion earlier, but I was raised Roman Catholic, and I’m completely aware of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and marriage, and sexuality. I also included a link to a video on Catholic teaching on sexuality which was made by Catholics, in this post we’re commenting on now. If that link doesn’t work, I included another one to the same video through a different website in part 3 of this discussion. I appreciate you pointing these things out to me as I realize you may not have known that I’m aware of them.

      The fact of the matter is, the church expects a lot of people to be celibate, and because it defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the church expects all practicing Catholics who are also homosexual to remain celibate. Whether they remain that way or not is obviously up to the individuals, but that is the Catholic expectation for that entire group of people. And for people like me who are not yet married, or people who are no longer married. That’s a lot of people, and pretty ridiculous to expect everyone to do, even if their salvation is at stake as they believe it is.

      As for why a bunch of men would voluntarily make up teachings that would require them to be celibate, that’s an excellent question. I don’t know, but I do think that’s exactly what they did. What’s interesting is, if you look into the priesthood, St. Peter, the first pope, was actually married, and since then, there have been some converts to Catholicism who were ministers in their church, and were allowed to remain married when they became priests. There aren’t many of these people, but they do exist. The teaching on priest celibacy came later, and I believe though I have to double check that it was started by a pope, not the apostles, so the church doesn’t hold it as important as other teachings. I need to do some research on this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the teachings against sex outside of marriage were instituted well before the ones on priest celibacy, so that makes it increasingly likely that a bunch of old men did in fact make at least the second part up, and force themselves to abstain. One thing’s for sure: it didn’t come from Jesus.

      Neither did any of the Bible verses on homosexuality, as a matter of fact. I have actually searched for verses in which he discusses that, and frankly, he never does, which begs the question, are church teachings against gay marriage apostolic? Considering how many old testament laws are not followed by the church, it wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t. I’m not claiming to know for sure, but it’s worth questioning and I’m interested to know whether or not you know the origin of that teaching. I don’t.

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  4. You write, “… I was raised Roman Catholic, and I’m completely aware of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and marriage, and sexuality.”

    I didn’t mean to sound as though I was instructing you. Basically I was setting forth the Church’s teaching in basic form as the basis of my response to your statement that the Church was “forcing all gay people into celibacy”, and also for the benefit of other readers who may be less conversant with Church teaching. I think people get so used to framing their arguments against Church teaching in terms of homosexuality specifically, that they forget that the teachings themselves do not reference homosexuality at all, except indirectly, insofar as homosexual sex (among many other behaviors) violates those teachings.

    You write, “The fact of the matter is, the church expects a lot of people to be celibate, and because it defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the church expects all practicing Catholics who are also homosexual to remain celibate.”

    Here’s an example of what I just mentioned. The way you put it, people might think that the Church has a teaching which says “homosexuals should remain celibate”. But it doesn’t. The only people who are specifically required to remain celibate are those who choose to become priests or celibate religious. Everyone else is absolutely allowed and welcome to get married. When you ask to be married the Church doesn’t ask, “are you gay? because if you are you should remain celibate.” It doesn’t care. If you want to get married, and if your potential spouse agrees, and if you’re not already married, then you can get married.

    You write, “What’s interesting is, if you look into the priesthood, St. Peter, the first pope, was actually married, and since then, there have been some converts to Catholicism who were ministers in their church, and were allowed to remain married when they became priests. There aren’t many of these people, but they do exist. The teaching on priest celibacy came later.”

    You’re right, I did not mean to portray priestly celibacy as a matter of revealed doctrine. That priests are not allowed to marry is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. What I meant was that because priests may not marry, therefore they must abstain from sex. The doctrine that those who are unmarried must abstain from sex, is what we believe was revealed by God.

    You write, “One thing’s for sure: it didn’t come from Jesus. Neither did any of the Bible verses on homosexuality, as a matter of fact. I have actually searched for verses in which he discusses that, and frankly, he never does, which begs the question, are church teachings against gay marriage apostolic?”

    A basic principle of interpreting Church teaching, is that things are defined when they need to be, in other words, when they are widely questioned. When a doctrine is widely accepted and rarely questioned, there is less need to talk about it.

    It should also be borne in mind that, contrary to the Protestants, the New Testament was not written as an exhaustive catechism of all Christian teaching. The fact that Jesus doesn’t mention one thing or another, is not evidence of its falsity. Jesus never, for example, exhorts people to not murder or steal from one another. This is because these are obviously wrong and everyone knows it.

    I assume that homosexual sex was not a big problem among the Jews to whom Jesus was preaching, because the Mosaic Law already forbade it under pain of death. This is not to say that there were no homosexuals, or that they were not having secret liaisons. My point is that no one was openly disputing that homosexual sex was abominable. Therefore preaching against it would have been preaching to the choir. There was no one who would argue with you.

    The things that Jesus did often preach about give an indication what he considered to be big problem among the Jews. Foremost among these perhaps was hypocrisy, making a public show of religion while at the same time oppressing the poor, neglecting widows and orphans, etc.

    When some of the Apostles start preaching among the gentiles, then you have express teaching concerning homosexuality. Thus Paul preaches against it in his letter to the churches in Rome and Corinth. I assume he considered it necessary to preach on the topic in those places, because it was more of a temptation there than it was in the Jewish territories. He was making clear to the Church that although their pagan neighbors might be doing it, it was not consistent with Christ’s teaching and therefore not something they should emulate.

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