Homosexuality as Handicap

Robert Royal, who normally appears every other Monday, is still in Rome and will provide a final report on Tuesday’s papal installation and up-to-date analysis about Pope Francis on Wednesday.  – Brad Miner


Homosexuality can best be described as a Janus-faced condition – a murky vice rearing its ugly head – or an anomalous attraction that can be dealt with rationally and honorably.

Those of us who have been subjected as children or adolescents to unwanted physical approaches by homosexuals may tend to view homosexuals as perverts, purely and simply. Before the massive media-driven changes in attitudes during the last few decades, even Freud, in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, categorized homosexuality as a perversion:

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.

Among Catholics, one sometimes hears the claim that the upsurge of the numbers of gay priests is due somehow to the deficiencies of the Second Vatican Council and/or the laxity of morals since the 1960s. They might be shocked to read Chapter 124 of St. Catherine of Siena’s fourteenth-century Dialogue with God the Father. This is a chapter devoted to sodomy among clerics, a vice which, says the Father, even the devils find distasteful:

It is not its sinfulness that displeases [the devils], for they like nothing that is good. But because their nature was angelic, that nature still loathes the sight of that horrendous sin actually being committed. It is true that it was they who in the beginning shot the poisoned arrows of concupiscence, but when it comes to the sinful act itself they run away.
But we in the twentieth century, hearing of numerous cases of individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions, have come to the conclusion that SSA, like any other form of concupiscence, can be a source of noble struggle rather than ignoble vice.

In a previous column, I discussed some of the widely varying hypotheses about the causes of homosexuality. For some reason, the opinion is widespread that homosexuality is a biological condition, although there is no reliable scientific evidence for this supposition. The fact that most psychiatrists do not engage in “reparative therapy” is due in part to the fact that the cure of a pathology depends on a knowledge of causes. And no clear etiology has been discovered in this case. Psychiatrists also shy away from the problem partly because many (since the official APA reversal in 1973) do not consider homosexuality a “pathology.”

       Romantic love: unity-in-difference

For some cases, however, there exists an obvious cure. I am referring to bisexuals – the type of individual who, often after years of marriage and children, leaves the family, deciding that he or she is really meant for same-sex liaisons. The cure is simply to exert on oneself some restraint, realizing that one cannot always “have it all.”

Aside from bisexuality, homosexuality as an unwanted condition is a multi-faceted handicap – comparable to physical disabilities, in spite of the attempts of gay propagandists to portray it as “normal” (or even correlated with heightened talents or intellectual gifts). The physical handicaps – especially the greater danger of contracting STDs – are just the most obvious dangers. Current social science research – under-reported in the media – brings out the severe handicaps in families, where two people of the same sex try to ape normal mother-father patterns, after resorting to adoption or various medical circumventions to have the children they instinctively desire.

I would suggest that there are two other handicaps, rarely discussed – one metaphysical, and the other existential.

The first has to do with the metaphysics of love. The ancient Greek philosophers argued about whether attraction was more among “opposites,” or  “similars.” Arguments could be, and were, adduced for both. But the question was wrongly formulated as an “either-or.” The answer has to do with “compatibility” – which involves a unity-in-difference, a similarity-in-otherness.

In the milieu of philosophical anthropology, there is no otherness comparable in degree to the otherness of the opposite sex, and “romantic” love can be explained as finding oneself in someone completely other. Gay liaisons are pale imitations of normal sex, finding at best some degree of otherness in one’s similars.

Existentially, attractions contra naturam generate a psychic disharmony that can be more distressing than other punishments. As Cicero puts it:

He who does not obey [the natural law] flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man. And by so doing he will endure the severest penalties even if he avoid the other evils which are usually accounted punishments.
To be frequently or even occasionally tempted to a type of sexuality that cannot be fruitful is both painful and burdensome.

As with any handicap, however, it is important that those of us not saddled with it respond appropriately, without discrimination. There should be no discrimination, for example, in areas of employment, as long as there is no question of employees given over to seduction or unwelcome flouting of sexual lifestyles. A basic respect for co-workers has to be required.

But common sense should prevail. Alcoholics are rightfully dissuaded from bartending jobs, and the visually impaired from truck driving. Those with hearing loss, lameness, learning disabilities, color-blindness, etc., are directed to occupations that don’t conflict with their handicaps.

Just as we would not place a heterosexual man in charge of a troop of Girl Scouts, going on camping trips, overseeing sleeping arrangements, etc., we would not reasonably appoint a known homosexual as a leader for Boy Scouts. And, in general, homosexuals should conscientiously remove themselves from positions where they may experience inappropriate sexual attraction to minors – for example, as teachers or as priests dealing with young people.

At least that should be the case where people truly seek to avoid temptation. We’ve lost almost all sense of that kind of prudence in modern America.

Howard Kainz

Howard Kainz

Howard Kainz, Emeritus Professor at Marquette University, is the author of twenty-five books on German philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and religion, and over a hundred articles in scholarly journals, print magazines, online magazines, and op-eds. He was a recipient of an NEH fellowship for 1977-8, and Fulbright fellowships in Germany for 1980-1 and 1987-8. His website is at Marquette University.

  • Grump

    The idea of sexual relations between people of the same gender is repugnant to the approximate 98% of the population. That 2% are allowed to intrude upon society’s traditions and norms, which have prevailed for thousands of years, in the guise of “civil rights” is beyond my understanding.

    Only with the complicity of the mass media, Hollywood and the political elite could the push to make homosexuality a “normal” behavior succeed. That the President and Vice President of the United States would vigorously support so-called “same-sex marriage” is the ultimately affront to those of us who can differentiate between right and wrong.

  • Aramis

    The depth of the salient formed by Cultural Marxism’s offensive into the heart of Christendom and western civilization is only now becoming apparent, similar to an awful sunburn which once contracted takes several hours to reveal its magnitude. The end goal of marxism is a uniformity of human beings rendering them indistinguishable on the basis of race, sex, etc. and with no remaining loyalties (family) that could conflict with loyalty to the state. The promotion of sexual perversions, and a general promiscuity is thus very much in keeping with a doctrinally-designed Cultural Marxist assault on a host society. Were it not for my Christian duty to retain Hope, I think I would have no remedy for the futile sorrow and trepidation I feel when I realize that even beginning a discussion on these topics is impossible with a massive swath of otherwise reasonable people whose minds have been uncritically formed by the zeitgeist.

  • Manfred

    Hello, Howard: I was not going to comment but one item did catch my eye-your comment re St. Catherine of Siena vis a vis the Second Vatican Council and the problem of homosexual priests in each era. You can go back to Peter Damien of the 11th century warning the Pope of the problem, Catherine of Siena, or the number of homosexual priests in the priesthood/hierarchy today–they were allowed in seminaries and they were ordained! There is no mystery here.The A’dioc. of N.Y. ordained one priest last year and, BTW, he insisted his first Mass would be the TLM. I know that within the last decade(?) the faculty and seminarians were told that no men with homosexual tendencies would be ordained at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, from that point on. I would have preferred that all the vestments used at the Conclave had been kept out of sight as I know that homosexual men find the pomp, colors and lace very pleasurable. Instead, I would recommend that Cardinals, Bishops, et al. wear what other fallible men wear: a suit!

  • Andrew

    Today, many are calling evil good and good evil, that is, they are calling homosexuality as good and being a Christian as evil. Many people today look to culture and people for approval rather than the truth. Jesus said in John 8:32 that the truth that you know will make you free. This truth is His Word, the Bible. Many do not know the truth. 2000 years ago the Apostle Paul was dealing with the same issues that we face today. Reading Romans 1:24-32 opens ones eyes to the truth that homesexuality is a sin: no one is born a homosexual; it’s a choice to change the natural use of one’s body; it’s an error in one’s thinking, and it’s a road to spiritual death. Romans 1:21 explains the process: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” God hates this sin because it’s the sin of idolatry. But, there is hope! God loves the sinner. Jesus died for the homosexual so that he could repent of his wrong thinking and come to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. John 3:16 is the answer for the homosexual!

  • bonzano

    The A’dc of N.Y. delayed ordaining more than one priest this year because the other ordinands were delayed for an additional year for the study of philosopohy.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Manfred: Cardinals, bishops et al should wear a suit??! Like Mormons, maybe? Catholicism is too colorful? Or maybe “gay,” in the original classic meaning of that adjective.

  • Gian

    Mr Kainz,
    You might have referred to Mr Esolen’s speculations on the genesis of same-sex attraction. He points to the lack of male affirmation in boyhood, particularly around puberty. It is not merely father-affirmation but also peer-affirmation that the homosexual is starved of. CS Lewis in his Preface to Paradise Lost also referred to the fact that normal desire needs to be carefully molded–the molding is cultural, not conscious. That is, humans are cultural animals and there is no bare biology that underlies culture.
    So healthy cultures provide critical male affirmation to the growing boys and mold them towards normal desire while broken cultures promote all kinds of deviation.

    This being so, there is no law that says that deviants would always be 2-3% of the population. Depending on the specific way the culture is broken, we may see the deviation to any degree, say 20%-30% or even more.

    Prof Esolen’s ideas may be tested. The brokenness in different cultures may be roughly estimated by proportion of fatherless families. That should also give the prevalence of deviation in that particular culture or community.

  • JMorgan

    Having a nephew with Down Syndrome, another nephew who is gay, and lesbian niece, I have often thought that, if homosexuality, really is hard-wired into some people, then it is, like Down Syndrome, a birth defect of some kind. When I recently suggested this to a liberal friend, he went ballistic and angrily informed me that there was plenty of medical evidence that proved this not to be the case. He didn’t actually cite any but assured me that there was “plenty.”

    I don’t buy it. Homosexuality, as a condition, is not evil but it certainly is, as the Church says, disordered. The behaviors that spring from it are sinful. But does anyone know of any medical evidence that the condition is not some kind of birth defect?

  • Manfred

    @Howard: I am on solid ground! A priest named Joseph Ratzinger who served as a peritus for Cdl Frings at Vat II reported to work each day dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black tie. I have photographic evidence to prove it. Yes, that’s the one. He became Benedict XVI. Nota Bene: I am not discussing the vestments worn at Mass where God is worshipped. I would not be surprised if Pope Francis dispenses with addressing the Cardinals as “Princes of the Church”. Otherwise Mahony, Bernardin et al. could be addressed as the Black (signifying diabolic) Princes.

  • Howard Kainz

    @JMorgan: As I mentioned in a previous column (linked to in the column under discussion here) the multiple studies looking for a biological cause of homosexuality have been inconclusive. I think the most impressive studies have been of identical twins raised separately, where there is hardly any correlation with homosexuality. The “jury is out” as far as causation is concerned. Possibly because the cause is unknown, the general public has gravitated to a belief that gays are “born that way.”

  • Howard Kainz

    @Manfred: Well, you said “vestments used at the Conclave.” So I tried to visualize cardinals deliberating in suits. As you know, the red vestments worn by cardinals are meant to symbolize willingness to be martyred for the faith. This is a powerful symbol, if it is taken seriously.

  • Andrew

    Dear JMorgan and Howard Kainz, With all respect I submit that the answer to what homosexuality is and its cause is not found in the wisdom of man but in God’s Word. Please read my commentary on March 18. It is a choice that is made by man to pervert God’s plan. It is anti-Biblical. The lifestyle is a lie of the enemy. In the Old Testament time, in Genesis 19:1-29 God dealt directly with the city of Sodom and Gomorrah by destroying the city out of mercy because the sin was out of control. The media of the world is trying to justify this behavior in the eyes of natural man with its cultural and economic agendas. God answered this lack of understanding in I Corinthians 2:14 which states, “But the natural man (without the Spirit of God in them) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he (the natural man) know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” But, there is hope through Jesus Christ.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Andrew: Both JMorgan and myself make a distinction between sodomy as an act and homosexuality as a temptation (SSA). The latter is not necessarily sinful in the Biblical sense; and a search for its cause is worthwhile. Lack of knowledge of the cause has led to the unverified common supposition that it is biological.

  • Tony Esolen

    I thank Andrew above — and Professor Kainz for his superb and brave article.

    A couple of suggestions:

    1. The gay men who insist they were “born that way” seem to be alluding to two things. One of these is perfectly common, and that is a feeling of sexual attraction, during and after puberty, around other boys in certain circumstances. Boys should be taught that those feelings mean exactly nothing, and that they are part of growing up. More than that, the need for masculine affirmation, often expressed in rough play, is almost universal among boys. What the gay men don’t understand is how darned ordinary they are — although their attractions have been tangled up with unmet emotional needs, or disappointments, or loneliness, or a compulsive desire to be noticed. The second thing they often allude to is a strong sexual attraction at a very early age — five years old — and a strong sense that they should have been born female instead. THOSE feelings are pathological, exactly as if a five year old boy were to be found fascinated by or terrified by continual thoughts of death.

    2. Boys very much need to be advised NOT to concentrate upon such attractions, or upon transient sexual thoughts, not to dwell upon them, not to try desperately to eliminate them, but to think of something else or to do something else, to understand that they are common and of no special import, to be confident that some day they will fade if they are not acted upon and not made the object of delight or terror.

  • Viveladifference

    Why can we not treat homosexuality as we do masturbation. We do not allow people tempted to masturbate to parade even their temptations, let alone any such actions in public. Why do we need to hear about the homosexual “condition”, when to describe the act one is tempted to, in detail, is revolting?

    Darned straight I would discriminate against someone applying for a teacher job, who insisted on telling me they had a masturbatory “condition”, even if it was un-acted upon.

    The Catechism says there should not be unjust discrimination, non that there should be none.

  • Robert Hill

    Let’s use the phrase “so-called gay,” shall we? Words matter. As your readers have said before, we should not imply that we have bought in to the plan of those who wish to shape the culture so that laws and customs teach that evil is good.


    Robert Hill

    The shift in thinking we’re seeing is very, very sad–—tragic——but not surprising; it is, after all, an “Obamanation.” (I wonder what the grandparents of all the mental lemmings would think?) Most Americans have fallen for the lie——direct from the mind of the evil one, and aggressively promulgated by his myriad allies (Hollywood, the Democratic party, the American Psychological Association, etc., etc.)——that “LGBTism” is inherent and good, rather than habituated depravity. (Another example would be cannibalism: Would you not interpret the smell of roasting flesh differently if you had been raised in a tribe of such? And how do we expect kids, and all the intellectually immature, who are exposed to the current “culture” to think?)

    Where are the Bonhoeffers when we need them?!!

    Protecting our kids is increasingly difficult, but we must try. (Loving the sinner does not mean that we stand by while they corrupt the innocent.) Turn off the TV!!

    Diabolical influence really is the only explanation for how this deviant behavior (“gayness”) become the definition of a class of people, analogous to ethnic origin. A sudden widespread faith has arisen that a thing that is in fact learned/taught behavior is, rather, the inherent behavioral demarkation of a sub-type of humanity——one that our ancestors failed to notice. Or perhaps what we’re really talking about is in fact a new kind of pagan religion. If so, the terms used are in effect a smokescreen for this.

    Either way, if the wholesale shift in thinking on this subject is astonishing. We’ve seen it before: The rabid anti-semitism of the Nazi’s was also utterly illogical. (The behavior of the Japanese in the 1930’s might have been the same. On its face, it was more simply a decline into animal savagery. But I don’t know enough to opine.) But this certainly does not make it any less shocking.

  • Robert Hill

    Thoughts → actions → habits → character → destiny

  • Howard Kainz

    @Viveladifference: This is a good point. Changes in attitude with regard to masturbation were an opening salvo for a Pandora’s Box of other changes. I will be discussing this in my next column.

  • Verberat

    There is nothing wrong with encouraging full acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality in society. It certainly won’t hurt anyone. It should be seen as normal and equal to heterosexuality, because it is! A huge benefit to society is that same-sex couples can adopt babies to give them a loving home and family.

  • John Cornell

    Your last point about avoiding temptation might be qualified by some consideration of friendship, which is essential if the “homosexual” person is to satisfy their genuine and just erotic need. Eros is not just about sex. The greatest ancient philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) and Catholic moderns like Montaigne understood this well. They understood the nobility of same sex friendships (even with some age difference) as the natural resolution of men’s confused passions.
    Leo Strauss (who would agree with you in general) emphasizes how “homosexuality” is often a latent vocation for philosophy – for learning and conversation – i.e. for the highest bond with other human beings. Or, from a less conservative 20th c. perspective, you see this vocation portrayed in George Santayana’s novel The Last Puritan. This higher goal is typically forgotten today. People can hardly imagine human connection without the friction of flesh. Even clerics underestimate the meaning of friendship and thus fall into the sexual reductionism of our times. The result is that teachers of natural law theory end up sounding censorious and pharisaical: they emphasize the negative, the thou-shalt-not — they teach sadness (to paraphrase Spinoza) — instead of a positive vision.

  • John Cornell

    I was the first to comment and the system lost it. Why bother?