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Homosexuality, Civil Rights, and Natural Law

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By Howard Kainz   
Thursday, 01 September 2011

Massive and successful efforts have been made to characterize homosexuals as normal rather than deviant. Yet heterosexuals are still befuddled about same-sex attraction. And a long series of attempts have been made during the last century to “diagnose” the causes.

Sigmund Freud, not speaking as a moralist, but summing up the cultural mores in the early twentieth century, writes in General Introduction to Psychoanalysis:

It is a characteristic common to all the perversions that in them reproduction as an aim is put aside. This is actually the criterion by which we judge whether a sexual activity is perverse – if it departs from reproduction in its aims and pursues the attainment of gratification independently.... [Such activity] is called by the unhonored title of “perversion” and as such is despised.

Freud sought to understand, and possibly remedy, homosexual attractions. He came up with two possible “etiologies.” In some cases, a son over-identifies with the mother rather than the father, or a daughter over-identifies with the father. And in other cases, it may be the result of arrested narcissistic development, which causes attraction to same-sex reflections of oneself, rather than to the opposite sex.

Freud’s erstwhile disciple, Carl Jung, on the other hand, focused on the fact that, while boys in development normally repress their female characteristics to the unconscious, and “project” them later on to females, some boys repress their male characteristics to the unconscious, and later project them to males. He explained female homosexuality as the converse situation, where girls repress their female rather than male characteristics to the unconscious.

Some Christian groups trace male homosexuality to the cultural phenomenon of women wearing pants. This explanation probably merits about as much attention as the theories of Freud or Jung.

Enormous changes have taken place with regard to psychological perspectives on homosexuality and are reflected in revised versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. In the 1952 edition, homosexuality was defined as a “sociopathic personality disturbance”; in 1968 as a “sexual deviation”; but in 1973, reclassified as a condition of interest to psychiatrists only if an individual was dissatisfied with his or her sex orientation (“ego-distonia”).

Since that redefinition, the search for causes, very often by gay researchers, has focused largely on biological factors – the ratio of etiocholanolane to androsterone in the urine; the ratio of androgen to estrogen in early development; DNA anomalies in the X chromosomes of homosexual brothers; the size of the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain of homosexuals; increased probability of homosexuality in identical twins; or the possibility of a “gay gene.”

All these studies have been subjected to criticism by other scientists for their methodology, or for ineffective controls or lack of reduplicability, or for including bisexuals along with homosexuals.

What kind of evidence for a clear biological cause would be convincing? It’s almost impossible to imagine.  At the time of conception, the chromosomes are male or female and determine what kind of sexual organs will develop in the fetus. Male and female hormones are in both sexes, and develop in combination with environmental variables, making it unlikely that even the most advanced algorithm could predict the occasional appearance of same-sex attraction.


            Is “minor attraction” the next civil-rights movement?

Psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, who in 1973 spearheaded the movement in the APA for redefinition of homosexuality, has since caused consternation among his peers by reversing himself after a five-year study of 200 homosexuals, and concluding that homosexuals can change their sexual preference.

In spite of the complete lack of evidence that anyone is “born gay,” the theories ascribing homosexuality to a biological cause, rather than to contingent environmental situations, or to personal choice, have become very important because of their current relevance to political and moral issues.

If (in spite of the fact that many homosexuals have had children normally, and many have changed their sexual preference) it is thought that some or many homosexuals are born that way, homosexuality seems to become a civil rights issue – in analogy with race or ethnicity or gender. As a result, things that formerly seemed a matter of plain common sense – such as restricting homosexual men from becoming boy scout leaders, or living in close physical contact with other young males, as in seminaries or military units – become “discriminatory.”

But if, as the Catholic Church maintains, and the APA used to echo, homosexuality is an “intrinsically disordered” condition, it is certainly a handicap in the conduct of normal social and family life, but not something analogous to race, gender, etc., calling for new civil-rights legislation.

The “born gay” position also seems to militate against what has been considered to be one of the most obvious dictates of the natural law – propagation and nurturing of offspring.  This is, of course, a precept for the human species, but not for every individual; thus voluntary celibacy is allowed.

Some sexual acts contra naturam, such as rape, incest, and the molestation of children and minors, are still criminalized.  But the fact that some acts that formerly were considered contra naturam have been pronounced legal in the twentieth century does not mean that they are in accord with the natural law. Could 3 percent of the population, because of differing sexual attractions, be exceptions to the precept of the natural law relating sex and procreation? Only if the meanings of “natural,” as well as “sexual intercourse” and “marriage,” are changed arbitrarily.

And it may not stop there. Reminiscent of the movement to reclassify homosexuality as normal rather than deviant in the 1970s, a group of pro-pedophile activists and mental health professionals (B4U-ACT) organized a conference in August in Baltimore, including panelists from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the University of Louisville, and the University of Illinois, to support the declassification by the APA of “minor attraction” as a “mental disorder.”

If they are successful, we may eventually be confronted with new ethical positions about what is “natural,” new civil rights legislation, and even new “hate crime” guidelines.


Howard Kainz is emeritus professor of philosophy at Marquette University. He is the author of many books, including the recently published The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct.

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Comments (28)Add Comment
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written by Martinkus, September 01, 2011
Thank you for your excellent column, Professor Kainz. Additionally, even if homosexuality were to be proven to be congenital, so what? There are plenty of congenital conditions--psychological as well as physical--that are clearly bad. We must show the Naturalist Fallacy--that because something is natural, therefore it is good--as just that, a fallacy. We must also not equivocate "natural" as that which happens without human intervention with "natural" as that which is essential. May God bless all those who struggle with same sex attraction.
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written by Dennis, September 01, 2011
We should avoid the use of the word "gay" when discussing this issue. It's a sell-out.
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written by Louise, September 01, 2011
Ah, thank you, Dennis, you got to it before I did. I have said often on this site and others that, the first time a Catholic, especially an archbishop, a bishop, or any Catholic--clergy or lay in any conversation, no matter how insignificant--used the word "gay", the battle was lost. Sell out, is an even better description.

Prof. Kaintz, I am of the generation that has had no experience with homosexuality, at least not knowingly. Perhaps the thing that I least understand (and perhaps you can explain it briefly) is the need, now, to proclaim, to demand approval, to self-identify as a homosexual before anyone even knows your name, to demand not simply recognition, but total accommodation and total acceptance, to seek out and to challenge, even in court, those who refuse to accommodate, e.g., in beauty salons, in wedding photography, in B&Bs, in providing venues for homosexual gatherings, in adoption, to name but a few situations in which the enterprises of ordinary citizens and business people have been deliberately targeted for destruction. Acceptance has even become the new litmus test for public service. What lies behind that driving force? Is it simply another example of what Chesterton (I believe) pointed out, that Cain will not allow Abel to live? Perhaps you can shed some light and understanding on this aspect of the homosexual life.
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written by Ray Hunkins, September 01, 2011
Thank you Professor Kainz for an enlightening piece, devoid of hyperbole.We continue to "define deviancy down" to our cultural and moral peril. We must resist the continued descent into the depths. We do this for the sake of our children and grandchildren, not because of political or ideological reasons although those reasons may supply a means and method for resistance.Again, thank you for your common sense exposition of this societal problem.
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written by Brad Miner, September 01, 2011
Grump: I've held my tongue on just about every un-Christian thing you've ever written here, but your "creator's error" comment is simply outrageous. I have no idea why you waste your time dumping atheistic bilge into TCT. Clearly, to believe in God is to believe in His perfection: any other version of belief is actually disbelief. The error is not in Him, from which you can deduce where the error actually is.
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written by Grump, September 01, 2011
Brad, well I certainly don't want to be the skunk at the garden party and if I, as a non-believer, is not welcome here then, by all means, expunge me now and hereafter.

I was merely making the watchmaker argument. If the watch is defective, who is to blame? If this is somehow offensive or otherwise "outrageous" in your eyes, I beg forgiveness as to being ignorant as to how an imperfect human can be created by a perfect God.

Yes, we originally were born "perfect," then sin intruded, yada, yada. Still, for God to create a substantial number people with "intrinsic disorders" and not others, one reasonably wonders why the disparity and the special burden thus placed?

Is it that he reserves to Himself this prerogative: "I will bless whom I bless and curse whom I curse," as he is quoted in the OT. If this is the case and He calls all the shots, so be it. We then are mere players on a stage, pre-ordained to play whatever bit role He assigns to us. Kind of destroys the whole notion of free will, doesn't it?
Again, sorry to be the voice of dissent here. I realize this site is for Catholics primary and we who wander in the haze of agnosticism are merely curious as to how believers are so sure of things where we have doubts.
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written by Howard Kainz, September 01, 2011
@Louise: Re: the use of "gay," One of the secondary meanings of "gay" has been "lascivious," "promiscuous." The Oxford English Dictionary says "gay" is something peculiar to American slang. "Homosexual marriage" is of course impossible, according to the ordinary meanings of marriage; "gay marriage" is just a reference to an agenda of activists.
How did this massive movement come about? One source is the book, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90′s (1989), by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen. Their strategy: saturating our cultural environment, including films, TV, and other media, with images of gays who are respectable and as normal as the neighbors next door; pointing out celebrities and famous historical personages as gay; equating criticism of homosexuals by pro-family supporters as “hate” crimes; and so forth. They have been successful.
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written by senex, September 01, 2011
Kudos to Brad Miner. Someone needed to say what he said. To label every attitude as a psychological disorder is a rejection of free will and the effort and energy needed to overcome our weaknesses. It is a cop out. Everyone has his Achilles’ heel. Recognize it; deal with it, quit complaining, and stop looking for sympathy, social acceptability and preference.
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written by Louise, September 01, 2011
Mr. Grump, I have heard it said (rightly or wrongly) that people say that they are "born this way" because they can't remember themselves before say three or four years old, and if there were environmental or familial influences that caused a mis-identification of sexuality within those years, they would not have remembered it and assumed that they were "born this way." They say, "I've been this way for as long as I can remember." Well, they can't remember back very far.

You can tell that I am a complete amateur in trying to work through these ideas and may well be completely naive and off base, but there is a certain logic to that idea. (A person of good sense (unlike myself) would not even try to contribute to the discussion.)

Regarding physiognomy, etc. We once knew a young man who bore all of the physical and nonphysical characteristics of a heterosexual man. One day, he declared himself to be a homosexual. Slowly, everything about him changed: his walk, his voice, hie general demeanor and appearance, and he took on all the characteristics describe by Mr. Grump. Many people remarked on it. Human beings are very complex creatures.

(Mr. Miner, feel free not to print this if you don't think it appropriate in any way. My feelings won't be hurt.)
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written by Louise, September 01, 2011
"Re: the use of "gay," One of the secondary meanings of "gay" has been "lascivious," "promiscuous." "

Thank you, Professor Kainz for your reply. A quesion: who first attached that label to homosexuals--and when? Did they adopt it themselves as a code word for identification, a verbal wink and nod? was it given to them by heterosexual men for perceived (or actual or observed) promiscuous behavior?

I grew up with the definition of "gay" as lighthearted, happy, carefree. I well remember the play by Cornelius Otis Skinner, "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay." My husband played The Admiral in his high-school senior-class production of the play. There was not even a repressed snicker or giggle to be heard. I love the word "gay" and all it implies and I continue to use it to describe accurately a certain joyful lightheartedness. (I don't give up good words easily, no matter how they have been defiled.) So who defiled it?

Is all slang a lie as the use of "gay" is a lie, a euphemism to deny truth? I think of slang as being a distillation of truth, such as the slang phrase "hang up"--two words to describe the whole Freudian psychology. But "gay" is not truth; it is an avoidance of truth, a denial of truth. Therefore, I believe that the use of the word "gay" when "homosexual" is meant is to be complicit in the lie, and therefore, as Dennis said, a sell-out. Love-- more precisely, charity--demands truth, not complicity in a lie.

" 'gay marriage' is just a reference to an agenda of activists."

If the agenda is a harmful one resulting in social confusion and chaos and more wounded men, women, and children, why use the term? Why concede the point, as if it's no big deal, especially when souls are at stake? As is the case with feminism, if you concede a term, they will claim the whole paragraph, and truth has lost ground.

Thank you again for your reply, and thank you to TCT for allowing us to ask our questions and voice our concerns.
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written by JamesD, September 01, 2011
While my wife was watching MTV music awards the other night; I laughed out loud when Lady Gaga gave a message to the LGB and Trans-sexuals that "you were born that way".
My wife chided me for quite some time about my intolerance> And it continued on for quite some time again when I said "But you have to admit her statement was really funny".
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written by Grump, September 01, 2011
Mr. Miner was right in chastening me. I realize that I've been a thorn in his flesh for awhile and my comments are not mean mean-spiritedly but rather to provide a minority viewpoint that provokes more discussion.

Of course, there is no such thing as an "avowed agnostic" -- an oxymoron if there ever was one. I continue to search for truth and, like Jacob, have been wrestling with God for more years than I care to remember. So far I've wriggled out of his holds but I think that some day he just might be able to pin me to the floor.

Lastly, in elaborating on my comment questioning God's perfection, two examples of His limitations come to mind: He can never see His own equal, nor can he erase the past. Having limits then -- the inability to alter some things -- implies something less than perfection.
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written by Beth, September 01, 2011
So, Grump, what do you make of Martinkus' assertion that because some trait is naturally acquired that it ipso facto is morally neutral? Sociopaths can say they're 'born that way.' So can kleptomaniacs.

Secularists can make a case that homosexual behaviors correlate with a number of negative consequences (e.g., shorter life spans for homosexual males). Statistics at the CDC bear this out.

As for your examples of God's limitations, I encourage you to read (or reread if you already have done so) Peter Kreeft's many books dealing with Christian apologetics.

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written by Louise, September 01, 2011
"I continue to search for truth"

What was it that C.S. Lewis said about searching for truth, Mr. Grump? Something along the lines of "many people search for truth, and, when they find it, they keep right on going as if nothing had ever happened."
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written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., September 01, 2011
Thnak you Brad. and thank the rest of our real Catholics who have ahd the courage to defy soi-dissant enlightnened of our world who like the most cunning of creatures tells us that we surely will not die if we tell those who suffer this addlction to give in to the personal serpents. But just think, without Grump, we wouldn't be able to laugh ourselves to sleep with such locutions as "form the lips of ...themselves." I coulnd't resist that. Oh, yes I could, but I CHOSE not to. Thanks again, fellow Catholics for standing up, even in situations in which our weak kneed syblings have gone over to endording their offsprings' aberrations and threaen to ex-communicate os if cleave to the Teachings of Holy Mother Church and admonish them to pray for God's help. I am, by the way, a dreadful sinner myself, keep several confessors busy.
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written by Howard Kainz, September 01, 2011
@Louise: I think the word, "gay," started to be used in that connotation in the 60s. If I use the phrase, "homosexual marriage," as you suggest, this also involves a change of meanings, i.e., the common meaning of "marriage" from time immemorial. We are presently involved in the "newspeak" of Brave New World.
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written by Louise, September 01, 2011
"If I use the phrase, "homosexual marriage," as you suggest, this also involves a change of meanings,"

Well, that does put us in a quandary, doesn't it. We can't use the word "gay" and we can't use the word "marriage" because both words singly and together constitute a lie and a double lie and lie upon lie upon lie.

I think there is message here that goes beyond the fact that "We are presently involved in the "newspeak" of Brave New World." I think the message is that we have passed through the gates that bear the sign, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

I think it's time to change the subject before we all go mad--lit reminds me of that scene in Phantom of the Opera where we are in a round room whose walls are mirrors and we are unable to distinguish the real from the reflection. Scary.
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written by Manfred, September 02, 2011
Male, homosexual, HIV rates anyone? We do understand, don't we, that a man who has had a sexual episode with another man within the last five years, is prohibited from donating his blood at a blood bank. You see, when a blood bank or a hospital has its reputation or its liability on the line, regulations become very forceful and very clear.
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written by Michael, September 02, 2011
Louise, I too am of a generation, from a different country though, that has no experience or knowledge of homosexuality nor do I understand the the pressing need to proclaim, to demand approval, to self-identify as a homosexual before anyone even knows your name and I support the rest of your comment. Why on earth would I want to know you're a homosexual when I dont? Why foist this revelation on me? Am I now as a closeted adulterer (only kidding!) entitled to come out of the closet and continue, unabashed, with my lifestyle in public and propound there's nothing wrong with it? (I wonder what women, in general, and my wife in particular would say about that!)
But Howard Kaine is correct as well when he says the quest to "naturalize" homosexuality is deliberate, well documented and has been going on for many years.
I think so many of us normal folks just didn't take them seriously but clearly that's changing and with scholars like Professors Hainz, Arkes and George leading the push-back we wont let the gates of hell prevail.
I would just add that appropriating and twisting language to achieve one's end is nothing new but I do agree that it is very frustrating even hearing the terms "same-sex marriage" and "gay" which on their face are respectively oxymoronic and contradictory.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 02, 2011
To Grump, Mr. Kainz, Brad Miner, et al about Grumps Comment on "Intrinsically Disordered."
Grump’s comments on 1 September pulled the discussion down a dead end, but I’m afraid the wrong turn was made in Mr. K’s article, due to imprecise statement of the Catholic position. Here’s where things seemed to go wrong:
Mr. K stated “the Catholic Church maintains… [that] homosexuality is an “intrinsically disordered” condition.…” THIS SEEMS TO ME AN INCORRECT STATEMENT OF THE CATHOLIC POSITION. It appears that the Catechism restricts its language to homosexual acts, not so-called “homosexuality,” (whatever “homosexuality” happens to mean to whomever decides to employ the word). The Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357 states this: “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.”
This statement by the Church is not opining on how people are created, but Grump does opine as such, since Mr. K’s imprecise statement allowed that response. So Grump holds that homosexuals are “born that way.” The Church is agnostic on the “born that way issue.” So Grump is simply arguing his point with some Catholics who may share/ assert Grump’s “belief” that people with SSA are “born that way issue.”
A final note: interesting that The Catechism also does not discriminate against one intrinsically disordered sexual act versus others. It assigns homosexual acts to a wide group of other intrinsically disordered sexual acts, all of which violate God’s law.
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written by I know this beast, September 02, 2011
Please allow someone from the front line to chime in here:

For 20 years, I wrestled with SSA, and only by the grace of God and the strength of faith that He has given me, have I learned how to better that beast. In spite of Grump's patent blasphemy, the question he is asking is, in fact, THE question for those of us who are thus afflicted.

Almost 30 years ago, as a confused 17 year old, I snuck into a church one night and tearfully poured my heart out to our Lord asking Him THIS VERY QUESTION. Receiving no immediate answer, I stumbled into darkness for the next two decades. This trip ended when our Lord let my world violently collapse in on itself. Stripped of every physical and emotional attachment, the saga ends with my being shown the truth of SSA: it is nothing but a call of the Sirens.

At which time I finally received an answer to my question and yours, Grump, and you won't be happy with it: it is not an “error”; it is a mystery. (check out 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Let me end by saying: It is only because of my faith (through which our Blessed Mother taught me how to implement my own “fiat”) that I came through, loving our Church more than ever. I now feel blessed to carry this cross, for it has given me a greater capacity to love all of our brethren. However, I also know the weight of this cross, and it is no easy burden, particularly when we (for whatever reason) refuse to see that special Someone who wants to help us carry it.

So, yes, do stand up for the truth about “gay marriage”, but, while you’re doing that, please say a prayer for us. We need your strength AND your compassion.
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written by Louise, September 02, 2011
"I think so many of us normal folks just didn't take them seriously but clearly that's changing and with scholars like Professors Hainz, Arkes and George leading the push-back we wont let the gates of hell prevail."

Dear Michael,

What you say is certainly true. Of course it is deliberate. Such diabolical warfare doesn't just happen as if it were spontaneous generation. And this is why I have said that the FIRST TIME--long, long ago-- a Catholic, whether hierarchy, priest or lay person, conceded the language and accepted the legitimacy of their terms of debate, he conceded the battle. At that moment, it was well on its way to being lost, if not already lost, because he threw away his most powerful weapon, truth. A thing must be called by its true name if it is to be successfully challenged in the public square.

I fully concur that the gates of hell will not prevail--ultimately, but none of us may live long enough to experience "ultimately". We have lost so much ground, so much time, so many troops who have been deceived. We can be thankful that at last the battle has been joined seriously, thanks to the Professors Hainz, Arkes and George, and other less prominent voices, who wage war in the kitchens, at the lunch counters and coffee machines and maybe during half-time at the local football game. We look back at our history and are thankful that the battles over various heresies were won, but we seldom recall that those battles were waged for hundreds of years in some cases. Indeed, the battle against Protestant heresies has been going on for just about 500 years. Many a Christian who finally pushed back never lived to see progress, let alone, victory.

Thank you so much, Michael, and all others who have contributed so thoughtfully to this discussion and to TCT for providing a forum.
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written by Howard Kainz, September 02, 2011
@Chris in Maryland: Just before the statement you quoted, the Catechism says, "Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex." "Relations" seems to imply acts. One could argue psychologically that physical same-sex attraction is also intrinsically disordered, although not necessarily sinful. But I agree that "homosexual acts" would help avoid possible ambiguity on this issue.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 02, 2011
Michael, Louise et al:

On the language, since Jesus expects us as Catholics to be "on offense" (i.e., Jesus wants the Church storming the gates of hell - not Hell storming the gates of the Church - as one reader reminded us last month), we should be shedding, and not fretting about the language the radical homosexual political lobby has invented, and start engaging the issue using our language system (this is the only way persuasion will work).

Real "homo-phobia" imprisons non-assenting "progressives" who've been cowed by their own political alliance, and social conservatives who aren't really willing to fight for what they profess to believe in (in the case of Christians -the commandments of Jesus).

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written by Achilles, September 02, 2011
Chris, really good and important point. If we are not precise we open the door to misinterpretaton. However, I think Grump needs no such ambiguity to assert his beliefs.
Grump, like me, I think your only hope is for you to decrease and to let Him increase. May God grace you with the light of the Holy Spirit, Achilles
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 03, 2011
To Mr. Kainz - thank you for your response, and I appreciate your temperance.

Love the post by "I Know..." the truth will set us free...
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written by enness, September 04, 2011
Louise has a good point about very early childhood. It also may be worth noting that memories can be fabricated: one experiment showed that falsified pictures of a scene (I believe it was a picnic) could be mixed in with real pictures and people would convince r themselves they remembered it that way. How much of what we remember is actually stuff we only heard about from other people?
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Mr. Grump, I think there is an answer to your question in the Gospels. People asked Jesus about the blind man, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" Jesus replied (I paraphrase), "Neither; it was so the glory of God could be revealed through him."
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This brings me to the comment I have about this post. I have abandoned chasing after this red herring of nature/nurture as concerns homosexuality. There is some evidence for a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, but we expect them to moderate their behavior, don't we? One could also say that by being born female, I could expect to encounter certain difficulties, challenges, adversities...but not all of them are injustice. I try to save my ire for the real thing.
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On psychological disorders: armchair physician/scientist here...nevertheless, I wish everybody would read up on the myriad fascinating ways the incredibly complex human being can go awry. Moral implications aside, homosexuality is arguably not even the worst or strangest. When you know that some people wake up one day, like any other, and see a foreign, creepy, dead limb in bed with them -- which is really their own -- and are so repulsed that they try to throw it out (and themselves in the process), it becomes rather clear that the urge two males or two females have to mate with one another must at least be the kin of other body-image disorders. The term 'self-loathing' gets thrown around a lot in the context of homosexuality, but wouldn't you say it's pretty self-loathing not to be able to look at one's body and accept the physical realities about it, the way it is obviously designed to work or not work, and abuse it? Of course, psychological disorders are no less "real" than physical ones, and call for compassion.
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I know this beast: your post was moving. I will do what you asked, and do the best I can.

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