Questions and Answers about Homosexuality

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The following questions and answers are excerpted from
Homosexuality: A Positive Catholic Perspective
published by New Ways Ministry

Homosexuality gives rise to numerous questions that seldom receive adequate answers.  The subject remains perhaps more sensitive and complex than almost any other issue before the Church today.  In many people it generates deep feelings of hostility and stubborn resistance to facts.  Honest disclosures of homosexuality particularly arouse strong emotional responses, even disgust and contempt, rather than sincere concern or Christian support.

What is homosexuality?

Homosexuality is a genuine preferential attraction to people of one’s own gender and, like heterosexuality, a natural and normal variant of human sexual make-up.  It has existed at every time and place, from early-recorded history to the present generation, from the cold of Alaska to the warmth of Zanzibar.  Lesbian/gay persons are found in all walks of life, regardless of economic situation, educational opportunity, or religious upbringing.

How does it differ from heterosexuality?

Homosexuality differs merely in that a person’s strongest emotional and sexual responses are aroused by members of the same gender, rather than by individuals of the opposite sex, independent of whether or not they engage in genital contacts with each other.  Homosexual people, contrary to popular opinion, do relate with ease to both genders on a social level.  Lesbians do not experience repugnance toward men, nor do gay males have contempt for women.  (Two-thirds of heterosexual men, according to Kinsey, do not like women except as sex-objects, while a significant number of women find more warmth from gay males.)

How many are homosexual?

Most authorities generally estimate that at least ten percent of the population is homosexually oriented.  Hence in the United States alone there are about 30 million gay/lesbian persons of all ages, backgrounds, and occupations.  In each diocese we are speaking of thousands of Catholics, not to mention many other prospective members of the Church.  When we include their parents, siblings, spouses, children, other relatives and friends, we are talking about a significant number whose lives are touched in a very real way by homosexuality.

But isn’t homosexuality sinful?

Despite assertions by most fundamentalist Christians and many charismatic groups, homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is not sinful.  The U.S. bishops, in their 1976 pastoral letter To Live in Christ Jesus, clearly distinguished homosexual orientation from same-sex behavior.  Pope John Paul II, in Chicago in 1979, quoted the bishops’ all-important distinction and praised their refusal to “betray those people who, because of homosexuality, are confronted with difficult moral problems… Rather, by your witness to the truth of humanity in God’s plan, you effectively manifested fraternal love upholding the true dignity, the true human dignity, of those who look to Christ’s Church for the guidance which comes from the light of God’s word” (Origins, v.9, n.18, p290).

Why do I not know any homosexual people?

The greater number of lesbian and gay persons remain in the closet out of oppressive fear of hatred and discrimination.  Even in today’s world of changing attitudes, homosexual men and women oftentimes lead lives of quiet desperation and anxious secrecy.  If their real affectional preference became known, they might love the love of their families as well as the security of jobs and housing.

The few activist groups that parade with banners around the country represent only a small fraction of all gay/lesbian individuals, whose total is about as large as our African American population and about five times the size of our Jewish citizenry.  Most homosexual people hide their same-sex feelings from the dominant heterosexist society, whose hostile treatment stems from the same kind of dangerous mythology that kept African Americans in a position of degradation for years and led to the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany.

What causes homosexuality?

Modern social scientists are virtually unanimous in the opinion that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, originates long before puberty, in the earliest experiences of the very young child.  They also generally agree that no single factor causes a particular orientation, whether heterosexual or homosexual, but that multiple biological, sociological, and psychological circumstances determine constitutional make-up.

In the eighteenth century, a popular book about Plain Reasons for the Growth of Homosexuality claimed it was caused by the habitual drinking of English tea and the pernicious influence of Italian opera.  Some recent explanations, or plain reasons, seem no more enlightened than earlier theories.

Can homosexuality be changed?

Nearly all contemporary experts believe that a genuine homosexual orientation is as irreversible as heterosexual make-up.  Indeed, historical studies show that same-sex temperament remains unchanged despite imprisonment, torture, and mutilation; despite electroshocks, lobotomies, and aversion techniques; even despite threats of damnation, charismatic blessings, and long hours of prayer.

Therapists can modify sexual behavior by many different methods, including surrogate heterosexual partners, obviously immoral means.  However, they are unable to change affectional feelings, even after years of counseling and great financial strain and possibly unethical treatment.  Instead, their persistent attempts to alter same-sex feelings often result solely in the serious distortion of one’s basic character and personality.

Isn’t homosexuality a sickness?

Homosexuality has been called an “affliction of the body” or a “twist of the mind” or a “cancer of the soul.”  Yet same-sex orientation if not a disease of vice which can be contracted or spread through association.  Nor is it a habit, like smoking, which can be acquired but broken again if the will is strong.  Rather it is an existent quality or characteristic, like having red hair or being left-handed, which persons do not choose and cannot change without harmful psychological consequences.  Because people have tended to be preoccupied with the narrowly genital aspect of some lesbian/gay lives, they have ignored the much more important psychic feelings and emotions which compromise the homosexual temperament.