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, 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.