Recent statements by the German and the Swiss Bishops’ conferences, in anticipation of the next Synod on the Family, show them going soft on same-sex unions. The Germans issued a statement for the upcoming Synod on the Family in October that asserted alleged discoveries: “in the human sciences (medicine, psychology), namely that sexual orientation is a disposition that is not selected by the individual and that it is unchangeable. It is therefore confusing for the questionnaire [for the upcoming Synod] to speak of ‘homosexual tendencies,’ and this is considered to be discriminatory.”
As the highly respected Vatican reporter Sandro Magister has described the situation: “Not only do the German bishops approve of giving absolution and communion to the divorced and remarried, but they also express the hope that civil second marriages be blessed in church, that Eucharistic communion also be given to non-Catholic spouses, that the goodness of homosexual relationships and same-sex unions be recognized.”
Such unions, the German bishops have explained, will now, except in extreme cases, not be an obstacle to employment by the Church in Germany. It’s not difficult to detect that pressures to fall into line with this new sexual ethic, subtle and not so subtle, are being exerted on the Church everywhere.
But the German bishops’ claims do not faithfully reflect psychological and medical science on the origins of same-sex attractions. Catholic bishops should not only resist pressures to conform, but should be promoting the benefits of treatment, as well as participation in the Church’s Courage apostolate. A 2006 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recommended treatment and spiritual direction for those with same-sex attractions (SSA). Perhaps it’s time for an update: beginning with the scientific data about the serious medical and psychiatric risks to those in same-sex unions, and the severe dangers to the psychological development of youth who are deliberately deprived of a father or a mother as a result of being raised in same-sex household.
One of the most extensive studies of same-sex couples found that only seven of the 156 couples studied had a completely exclusive sexual relationship, and that the majority of relationships lasted less than five years. Couples whose relationship lasted longer incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity. The authors found that the “single most important factor that keeps couples together past the 10-year mark is the lack of possessiveness” – a rationalization to minimize the emotional pain of being victimized by repeated infidelity.
A 2011 Danish study found that the age-adjusted suicide risk for same-sex men in registered domestic partnerships was nearly eight times greater than the suicide risk for men in a heterosexual marriage.
Two systematic reviews were conducted of 47 studies examining interpersonal partner violence (IPV) among men in SSA relationships. As one concluded, “The emergent evidence reviewed here demonstrates that IPV – psychological, physical, and sexual – occurs in male-male partnerships at alarming rates.”
Two 2015 studies found that emotional problems were twice as prevalent in 512 children raised with same-sex parents. Another researcher found that, compared with traditional married households, children being raised by same-sex couples were 35 percent less likely to make normal progress through school.
A 2013 Canadian study analyzed data from a very large population-based sample. It discovered that children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as are the children of married, opposite-sex couples. The girls struggle more than the boys. Daughters of lesbian “parents” displayed dramatically lower graduation rates
Contrary to widespread propaganda, there have been reports for several decades, from both patients or clients and therapists, of professionally assisted change in unwanted SSA. The professionals used a wide variety of treatment protocols spanning the various schools of psychotherapy. Contrary to widespread assumptions, there is no scientific proof of harm from professionally assisted change of unwanted SSA.
Some clients receiving professional care for unwanted SSA have reported “complete” change, and others “no” change. Still, many clients have reported achieving sustained, satisfying, and meaningful shifts in the direction and intensity of their sexual attractions, fantasy, and arousal, as well as in their behavior and sexual orientation identity.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, asked the bishops throughout the world to “support, with the means at their disposal, the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons.” Such care “would include the assistance of the psychological, sociological and medical sciences, in full accord with the teaching of the Church.” [emphasis added]
A doctoral research study of members of the Catholic spiritual support group Courage demonstrates its effectiveness in helping those with SSA. (SSA respondents have more mental health distress than does the general population.) Those SSA respondents who were more chaste had improvement in their overall mental health. Authentic spirituality is also correlated to increased mental health. Positive correlations are also found between chastity, religious participation, and self-reported measures of happiness.
In my professional experience of almost forty years working with priests, a major psychological and spiritual obstacle to embracing and preaching the Church’s truth about human sexuality and homosexuality has been their failure to teach the Church’s truth about contraception proclaimed in Humane Vitae. Ignoring God’s created order is bound to produce further problem areas.
The Synod Fathers and bishops’ conferences need to be brought up to date on the psychological and medical science related to homosexuality. The Catholic Medical Association of the United States and the Courage apostolate provide such much-needed education in association with other international Catholic medical associations.
One valuable resource that has been translated into a number of languages is the Catholic Medical Association’s publication, Homosexuality and Hope (second edition in press). But there is much more as well – if our Catholic leaders really want to know the truth about these matters.