Some of my best friends…

Let’s have a look at an awkward subject – homosexuality. We know that there are condemnatory passages in the Old and New Testaments, and that for many Christians that closes the problem. You can study these at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_homosexuality. But in this posting I am approaching the subject from another angle.

I start with a remark by a homosexual which brought me up short: “You know how you heterosexuals are usually disgusted by the very thought of genital contact between two men. Well we homosexuals are just as disgusted by the thought of genital contact with a woman.” I was faced with the possibility that people who have such a response are on a hiding to nothing.I find myself sympathising.

(I should say here that of course I also have women equally in mind. The word ‘homo’ in homosexual comes from the Greek It is pronounced ‘hommo’. The same word pronounced ‘ho-mo comes from the Latin and means ‘man’ – in this context this is always incorrect, and confusing.)

It would seem that people do not choose their sexual orientation, Genes, the wrong hormones in the womb or early upbringing have been suggested as causes. And, if so, the homosexual is scarcely to blame. Homosexuality involves, almost by definition, a mismatch — that is, a mismatch between gender and orientation. Unfortunately theological vocabulary uses the phrase “grave disorder’ to describe this. That phrase is correct because homosexuality is serious (grave), and a disorder (mismatch). But it carries condemnatory overtones which are not appropriate. Nevertheless disorders tend to lead towards complications and difficulties. Mismatches usually do.

But sometimes such mismatches have happy outcomes. Alexander the Great, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Whitman. Alan Turing are just a few names from history. Indeed the arts are studded with homosexuals, and their contributions to our society and culture are considerable.

The frequently used phrase “but it’s against nature” makes no doubt a good general statement. It is not difficult to spot that the construction of the human body is ordered to heterosexuality with a primary function of reproduction. But when a homosexual tells us that at a deeper and subjective level it is not against his nature I find myself wondering. The traditional method of discerning right and wrong through biological structure was understandable in the Middle Ages, but certainly open to question now that we know about genes and evolution.

Just as a post scriptum, I would suggest that homosexual marriage is a different issue. If you believe that marriage is restricted to a committed love relationship between two people, you will approve. But if you believe that marriage is ordered in its essence to reproducing the human race then we should use a different name for a different thing. Perhaps ‘civil partnership’ would do. Oh dear, that’s been used already.

Where do you stand on these issues? Have you always thought this way and, if not, what has changed your mind?

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Moral judgment, Neuroscience, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Some of my best friends…

  1. Barrie Machin says:

    Quentin as ever raises difficult issues that seldom miss the spot of controversy. However perhaps a step further along the path of those same sex relationships has been overlooked. It is agreed that Gods purpose in the sexes is procreation but is it not the case of the same sex relationships where the need to have a child via IVF or adoption is fulfilling the same purpose God intended or are the couples having their cake and eating it -hence making it all acceptable after all?

    • Vincent says:

      Barry, that’s an interesting argument. Some would claim that the child or children deserve to have a mother and a father, who typically will have a different input related to their gender. But I don’t think that the concept of homosexual marriage has been around long enough to tell whether that’s the case. As you know Catholic adoption societies no longer operate because they are not allowed to discriminate between hetero or homo would-be parents. But I think that ‘good’ homosexual parents will do a better job than ‘bad’ heterosexual parents.

  2. Hock says:

    As a scientist Quentin should know that there is no such thing as a ‘gay gene’ or indeed a collection of genes that mark a new born child as in some way destined to be homosexual.
    With a few very rare exceptions every baby has a sexuality of male or female, Beyond that there are lots of factors that can influence how that sexuality develops further.
    Additionally there are a whole range of sexual activities that can be practiced depending upon desire but if we are not careful they could all be ‘legitimised’ as being, ‘beyond my control.’
    Its at what point does society recognize a ‘healthy sexual development’ from one that is ‘disordered.?’ Until relatively recently homosexuality was virtually a criminal offence which society had declared such. The very word has only been around for a hundred years and the word ‘gay’ for describing homosexuality , about 30 years. (at a guess.)
    Hence the Bible does not mention the word ‘homosexuality’ because there was no such word for it at the time the scriptures were written and that is why it is described as ‘men lying with men.’.
    Not many people I would suggest would accept peadophilia as in any way acceptable but the same rules apply as for any other sexual development.
    In some societies what we would describe as sexual abuse of children is not frowned on and decried as we do in Western society.
    Anyone on here prepared to defend that type of behaviour as being something that a person is born with?
    Its not that long ago when some sections of humanity in the UK actively campaigned for sex with children to be lawful. The desire to have sex with children can be very compelling to those whose sexual development has somehow taken them down the path. Hence the evidence of repeat offending.
    Is that compulsion vastly different to one where the desire is to have sex with someone of the same gender? Can it be excused in the same way? Most of us would be horrified at the very thought of it but when you read of the thousands of men and women who are have thousands of indecent images on their computers of children being sexually degraded it make you wonder as to what is normal sexuality.
    Perhaps we have a ‘God given ‘ choice after all and are not in some way per-destined in the womb to express sexuality in a particular way, as some believe without question.

  3. Hock says:

    Quentin,
    Thank you for the clarification and reference. I accept that your introduction does not refer to a ‘gay gene’ and I apologise for saying such. However you do mention genes as a possible ’cause’ of homosexuality and certainly there is a widespread belief in the existence of a gay gene or combination of genes that inevitably make a child in the womb to be born as homosexual.
    The study you quote is more confusing than clarifying and we come back to the same point of is there a ‘gay gene’ (s) present in the unborn child or not?
    If such is the case of a per-designation then it can equally apply to all ‘variances ‘ of sexuality. (it also questions the evidence for our creator God.)
    Are we prepared as a society to accept that the abusers of children in sexual ways are not able to help themselves and explain it away as beyond their control and therefore excusable.
    You mention of how you were impressed by the homosexual man who said that the thought of genital sex with a woman as disgusting and this had a profound affect on you. Does the same thought processes of you and this homosexual man apply to child abusers who regard sex with children as the ultimate satisfaction?

    • Quentin says:

      Of course I have sympathy with someone strongly tempted towards child abuse. We don’t know what the causes may be. Sometimes it relates to childhood experiences. Many such people need professional help with their addiction. But it’s not an equivalent moral example because, unlike most homosexual relationships, it is not consensual..

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin,
        Do you know the age of consent between child abuse and rape.
        I think when it come to judging whether child abuse between early teens with their love for celebrities ,they should know better at that age not be involved in a sexual relationship.
        Young children are a different matter altogether.

  4. Geordie says:

    I believe Hock has made very important points about the range of sexual activities that human beings engage in. As a heterosexual male, I find sexual activities outside the normal activity of male/female couples repugnant. I also find fornication and adultery unacceptable even though I can see their attraction.
    However, I have great sympathy for those people who find heterosexual activity repugnant. According to the Church’s teaching they have no outlet for their sexual urges, without committing sin. Whether they are in a state of sin or not is not for us to judge. We must leave that to God.
    When I was teaching in primary schools I came across several children who were very effeminate and this was long before they were of an age to engage in sexual activity. It was obvious that they were by nature or nurture in the wrong gender physically. They had my sympathy because even then the other children found them different. I thought their future would be difficult. They were destined to be the butt of bullies all of their lives. I often wondered and still do wonder why God allows people to suffer in such a way. But I trust in God and accept the words of Julian of Norwich who said, “All will be well; all things will be well”.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Geordie.
      I like your comment..It brought to mind i what you say with regards to the Church’s teaching where they have no outlet for their sexual urges without committing sin.’.you have sympathy for them ‘.
      I think of all our celibate priests and nuns also widows and widowers.
      Prayer is the answer for Christians. It is not easy but for the Grace and help from God.
      As the Bible says marriage is the answer. Far better to marry than to burn up in passion.
      Perhaps Pope Francis is correct in what he says.marriage is the better way when one is divorced. .especially when the question arises for the reception of Holy Communing for the divorced.Masturbation is also a grave sin.

  5. Martha says:

    Yes indeed, while also feeling very uncomfortable with their activity, I find no difficulty in leaving the morality of individuals to God, when they are neighbours, people we work with and so on. However I am not sure how I should feel if it was one of our own children or a close relative. I don’t think such a union should be described as a marriage, and I would not want to attend one, which would be a real dilemma. Aggressive militancy and in your face publicity is very annoying. Keeping a low, or even a normal profile is considered politically incorrect, so we have Gay Pride Marches, Gay Men’s Choirs, ostentatious holding of hands and kissing in public, Banksy’s painting of two policemen kissing, monopolising pictures of rainbows, not redressing the balance, but aiming to topple it right over.

  6. Brendan says:

    Can I suggest that all those interested in the basis for the existence of homo-sexuality – its lifestyle , the repetitive strong research evidence for its existence rooted largely in environmental psychology and not inborn ( rooted primarily in biology ) – turn to a basic grounding in this area , as I did , in ( as I have mentioned before on the blog ) :- ” Science says NO – The gay ‘ marriage ‘ Deception ‘ by Dr. Gerhard J. M. Van Den Aarrdweg, Lumen Fidei Press , 2015.
    Again ‘st the huge volume of research in this area over the last hundred years or so , any further claims to biological/genetic link causing ‘ homosexuality ‘ …in the words of Dr. Aaardweg …” may be described as a debunked myth .”
    I urge everyone to read this publication , and then perhaps we Catholics ( and others ) may undertake a better balanced debate. The problem with the so-called influential ‘ gay lobby ‘ is the ever present danger that society can be swayed by ” one-day-butterfly ” research that somehow undeservedly commands the imagination of most lay members of the public by originality alone , but lacking in scientific substance. Giorgi Chaladze’s work at the University of Tblisi , Georgia , sounds to me like such a work ; an attempt to raise from the dead ” debunked myth ” the basis of which has been discredited by most academics in this area now and in the past.
    Unfortunately, at this time I am unable to continue with this important subject as I am rather tied up with pressing matters of importance that need my immediate attention. However I could not leave this subject matter pass without making these important points. A Blessed Advent to All.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Brendan.
      I believe one considering themselves a homosexual may not be sinful.It becomes sinful with the act of masturbation as I commented. Also no connection to the Sacrament of Matrimony between a man and a woman.It does not matter who says what.
      But thank you for that information.

  7. Hock says:

    I find myself at odds yet again with Quentin on this particular subject. I would reply to reply to his latest comment above by asking :’ Since when has consent been the yardstick for measuring morality?’ It might be a factor in a court of law when a person is charged with a particular sexual
    offence but that does not apply in the eyes of the Church. Adultery is a mortal sin even though both persons consent.
    There is little wriggle room when it comes to sexual sin and the homosexual act is still described as ‘disordered’ even with consent. I might also add that it is unnatural, and creates all kind of health problems in later life.
    When homosexual acts were ‘legalized’ did we ever envisage that within a few short years the tax payer would be told to fund, by law, at a cost of millions of pounds, for drugs to be prescribed so as to enable homosexuals to enjoy unnatural and unprotected sex with a much reduced chance of disease being passed from one to the other. Meanwhile drugs in other areas of medical prevention requiring expensive treatments are being denied to sufferers because of the cost involved?

  8. galerimo says:

    Well it is a a great topic and very seasonal Quentin. Thank you. We are reflecting on the gift of our humanity in flesh and blood, created, formed and blessed by God. And especially the amazing manifestation in this state of God’s son, Jesus.

    The practice of mutually consenting adults, done safely and in private is none of my business. But Jesus’ commandment to love one another is. Quentin asks me about homosexuality and how do I stand on the issue. With love is my reply.

    I resist being drawn into the moral argument not because I deny the difference between right and wrong but because I refuse to be trapped by the framework and the parameters of the argument. Arguments hedged round with – unnatural, disordered, dangerous, sinful, judgemental, condemning – while dealing with the love that human beings have for one another wherever or however it came about.

    Have you always thought this way? – No. I was brought up a Catholic. I feared, learned to condemn and then began to hate “homosexuality” and then homosexuals.

    And finally, What has changed your mind? – I had to finally drop the mask of religion when faced with the reality of human living in the presence of Jesus Christ. A mature religion now urges me and I hope it is the love of Christ. I fell ashamed by Aleppo. I know it is because no one is listening to the commandment of love. I don’t have enough time left to engage with whatever does not conform with that single commandment. IMHO.

  9. John Thomas says:

    “…understandable in the Middle Ages, but certainly open to question now …” – I find the idea that modern ‘knowledge’ changes past pronouncements or beliefs to be suspect, or rather, suspicious. It is very easy for a determined person, using a bit of science-like stuff, to argue that their own ideas trounce those we have always believed in, and that have been given us, in this view, by God.
    Surely, it is all down to what we believe God has revealed to us (this assumes that God is an objective, eternal entity, not just something I have in my head). Also, we believe (or do we …?) that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of TRUTH, has guided what we call the Church, through the centuries – so are we now saying that the Spirit mis-guided us (‘Spirit of Lies’) in the past, and that now modern culture/knowledge, modern whatever, is now revealing to us the REAL truth … Maybe the Holy Spirit never really existed … maybe God is just a human construct after all, conditioned by ‘the nature of society’ …

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Thomas.
      Years ago homosexuality was not an open conversation amongst us. at least not the circles I moved in.
      What Martha posted with regards to the Gay Pride Marches and the publicity it was given by the public, also the Soho Masses has brought attention to it. Is it any wonder we are not in favour of being stretched further until it becomes a ‘marriage and children through unchristian means.I don’t hear any mention with regards to Gay Masses and the reception of the Blessed Sacrament, whereby I seem to think that Cardinal Nicholls favours the Gay Mass where it is said nowadays.
      Also the New York indecency of pushing the Cardinal from the pulpit when he preached his sermon.
      Father O’Conner who came to the UK to give a talk onhow he was locked out of his accommodation in America by the homosexual priests of his order and made to live in the loft.(I have his tapes)
      We as Catholics can only take so much and there comes a time we need to defend our faith!
      How this can be compared with divorce and re-married and is seen the same sin as ‘homosexuality sexual relationships’ Are we surprised . when a marriage breaks up between a man and a woman when it is placed so low that it is unreconiseable
      I turned a blind eye when it did not interfere with my beliefs as a Catholic, however there comes a time when we have to say enough is enough and stand up and be counted.
      I say ‘don’t step on my toes and I wont step on yours!
      Quentin is right civil partnership I will accept too. if it make people ‘happy’ but taking it further is disrespectful to our faith.
      Cardinals and Bishops have lot to answer for their silence in the past, and examine their own conscience as well as challenging Pope Francis’s.

  10. Iona says:

    I am happy that adult homosexuals are no longer prosecuted for behaviour which is carried on by mutual consent and in private. Homosexual acts are sinful, it’s true, but so are lots of things that are not crimes.
    Over the course of the years I have met a number of people whom I knew (or came to know) were homosexual, and related to them simply as people. (I feel rather more uneasy with lesbians; I think because I don’t know how I am “supposed” to relate to them. If they have a known lesbian partner, it’s easier). I know someone who has had a complete sex change, – he was never a success as a bloke, and I am sure was unmercifully bullied at school. He’s not exactly a success as a woman, but seems to have found a niche in which s/he is contented.
    What I’m not happy with is the in-your-face, Gay-Pride, rainbow-flag-waving, don’t-just-respect-us-but-defer-to-us homosexuals.
    Civil partnerships, yes. Gay marriage, no.
    Gay couples shouldn’t have the “right to adopt”. Actually, no-one should have the “right to adopt”; in cases where a child needs adoptive parents, the needs of the child should drive the process, not the rights of potential adopters.
    Also unhappy about the “bi-curious”, which I presume is just a way of saying “let’s have a bit of experimentation”. Haven’t they got anything better to do, I wonder.
    (Sorry, Quentin. Hope this isn’t too long).

  11. Iona says:

    I posted the above before reading St. Joseph’s 9.22 p.m. post, but it looks as though we’re largely in agreement. I didn’t know about the Father O’Connor whom she mentions.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona..
      That is OK, I am pleased that someone else thinks the same, as sometimes we will be thought of as uncharitable. I don’t mind the company of homosexuals as long as they are being respectable in company That goes for others too There comes a time when one must defend the common decency, also it is a sin against purity,
      I think it offends Our Blessed Mother.
      I too don’t believe it is a crime . However neither should it be for Bakers who refuse to bake wedding cakes with two of the same sex on the top.

  12. Nektarios says:

    Romans 1 : 16-32 is the authoritative answer to these matters.

    So I will leave those things that should not so much as be mentioned among us and—–

    WISH ALL THE READERS AND CONTRIBUTERS A BLESSED NATIVITY AND GOD’S RICH BLESSINGS IN THE COMING YEAR.

  13. Hock says:

    Before we leave this topic we should be mindful that we have not discussed where all this leads in the basic matter of there being a creator God ( or not.)
    If some are formed in the womb with a propensity for sexual sin as being part of their very being
    ( and some are not so formed,) then this is a fundamental flaw in our understanding of God and his very existence. It is a long way from inherited Original Sin and putting our self ‘right’ with God.
    It is not enough, as some on here have written, that what is done in private is a private matter. Scripture warns against such an idea.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Hock we have Holy Mother Church to guide us and lay down the law . Encouraging the
      gay Masses is a good example. Where were the crowds standing outside helping those who protested many years ago.talk is cheap.I have served my time and outside abortion clinics

  14. John de Waal says:

    No one so far seems to have mentioned Natural Law Morality. The natural purpose of anything should guide us as to what is objectively right or wrong. Our subjective responsibility can vary from individual to individual and God is our Judge. Moral laws must be objective otherwise we have no right to condemn any action by anyone – but it is the action we are judging rather than the individual person.

  15. ignatius says:

    Happy Christmas all….!

  16. G.D. says:

    (The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary … )

    The only reason ‘Natural Law’ (Original Blessing?) is seen as objective is because we ( as part of creation) have rejected it (via original sin; whatever that is) and continue to do so by all sin thereafter.
    We share in each other’s pain and sufferings caused by those willed rejections, as Jesus did; and all who love do so too.

    (And she conceived of the Holy Spirit).

    But it (Natural Law) also remains subjective in the depths of our being. The God, who is Being, continues to dwell with us – Emmanuel – for all time and eternity.

    (Behold the handmaid of the Lord …)

    In as much as we simply open to, accept & respond, to that incarnation (united in all of us by God’s Will, and in the sinless mother) our own ‘willed actions’ (original objectification?) decrease, and Natural Law (God’s Will?) is subjectively conceived and objectively brought to birth …

    (Be it done unto me according to Thy Word)

    … for others to conceive. By Love.

    (And the Word IS made flesh …)

    A Blessed season of Joy & Peace to all ……….

    (… & DWELLS amongst us).
    Amen.

  17. John de Waal says:

    My simple understanding of Natural Law is to ask what the obvious natural purpose of anything is. The natural purposes of sex are clearly love giving and life giving. Homosexuals can love but not bring life into the world – hence it cannot be considered entirely natural.

    • Vincent says:

      Would that also include a marriage where the woman has, for example, had her womb removed?
      Should a couple where the wife has menopaused refrain from sexual intercourse?

      • stormdog1 says:

        Vincent,
        If one asks a silly question,,,,,,,,,,,

      • pnyikos says:

        Vincent, the Catholic Church follows the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul. All forms of sex outside of marriage are proscribed; on the other hand, those who are married should not deprive their spouses of sexual intercourse except by mutual consent.

        While we may have to accommodate ourselves to legal marriage between people of the same sex, it would be just as impossible to extend matrimony in this way as to ordain women as priests in the Catholic church. Jesus was quite explicit in quoting Genesis to lay down one of the defining qualities of a religious marriage: “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

        Matrimony is such a fundamental sacrament that in Japan, for the centuries of persecution where there were no priests, the Catholics who lived in hiding administered the sacraments of baptism and matrimony to each other; with matrimony, the husband and wife to each other. When Japan opened itself to the world again, there were about thirty thousand Catholics, mostly concentrated around Nagasaki.

  18. pnyikos says:

    I am very much opposed to the use of the word “marriage” to mean something it has never meant until less than half a century ago. When terms like “civil partnership” and “civil union” and even “blood brotherhood” are available, the commandeering of the word “marriage” is not called for, to say the least.

    As an educator, I am deeply concerned about the possibility of future generations looking back at all the millennia where “marriage” meant a union of a certain kind between a male and a female human being, and looking at the people of those days the same way we look upon the ones who accepted slavery in those days.

    I am not too happy with giving people in same-sex unions all the legal and social benefits that go with marriage, but that is a price I am willing to pay, because it does not radically redefine such a central word of our civilization.

    Freedom of speech is taken so seriously in the USA, that people in same-sex civil unions that are not legally called marriages, nevertheless have a right to claim that they are married, except in legal documents and proceedings. There are even some clergy in various denominations who will bless such unions and call them marriages, and this is part of the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which also grants freedom of speech. The only thing to which I object is its use in legal documents to designate same-sex unions.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Pnyikos
      I understand what you say.
      Marriage being one of the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church and not to be misunderstood with ‘other marriages’ like all Sacraments do have special forms and conditions applied to the reception.
      More questions should be asked before taking their vows
      They say that ‘marriage’ will.bring a couple closer to God.
      That is something that ought to be questioned.especially now with so.many different definitions of its purposes.
      We must not be surprised by the various forms of ‘marriages’.that are taking place today.that they seem to be equivalent to a Catholic Sacramental Marriage in.the presence of a Catholic Priest to.which the Church teaches.a couple to.live.by.
      Whether that be a mixed marriage or between.two.practicing Catholics.living in.the state of Grace. A good Confession before receiving their Marriage Sacrament..Then Holy Communion.Whether it be at a morning Mass on the same day or in an afternoon wedding .I was not allowed a Mass in 1962 marrying a Methodist who after 44years. did become one.
      I do get so frustrated when we have had so many discussions on this subject and still people are confused, even the four Cardinals /or Bishops who are not able to preach the truth.
      Pope Francis thank God understands the weaknesses ‘s the Sacrament that has been misunderstood for years.
      And I am not a theologian

      • pnyikos says:

        Perhaps the most insidious propaganda about sexual orientation is that it defines one as a person. I did not realize the depth to which this radical idea is pushed until I saw a film on TV in New Zealand, on a public channel.

        It depicted a Maori who was married and had a son and daughter, and who was cheating on his wife with a gay man. When the wife came to suspect, by his absences and his renting an apartment that he was having an affair, she was ready to forgive and forget and try to make their marriage work — until she found out that the lover was male. Then she displayed what even I would call “homophobia”, as did the parents of this Maori.

        The main character struggled with his attraction for a while, and then announced that he was no longer going to try to make his marriage work, despite the fact that his daughter was only about 6 years old, because “that would be living a lie. I am gay.” [or words to that effect]

        Then there came a kind of standard Hollywood scene, in which his daughter ran out into the rocks that went far out from the shore where they were staying, and the whole family was frantic with anxiety because they were afraid she might be swept out by a high wave and drown. It was dark, but her father called frantically to her and found her.

        Well, that takes care of it, I thought; her father now realizes how much his family means to him, and he to them.

        But no, the final scene, which came almost immediately after this climactic one, shows her father having moved permanently into an apartment, and his own father saying he’s reconciled himself to the fact that his son is gay, and saying the rest of the family (including the man’s wife) will eventually understand too. Evidently, gayness trumped all obligations this man had for being a responsible parent.

        With that kind of propaganda permeating the culture, it is small wonder that New Zealand, which already had same-sex civil marriage (except in name) in the form of its liberal civil union laws, “baptized” those unions a few years ago by legally calling them “marriages”. All the campaigning of the bishops of New Zealand to prevent this final, purely symbolic move, went for naught.

  19. St.Joseph says:

    I wish you all a Happy and Holy Christmas and good health in the New Year.

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