Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
“Break the Conventions. Keep the Commandments.” I am reminded of that as a reader writes:
The Boston Pilot, the diocesan paper, pulled the following article from its web pages. From various reports about this, it seems that the editors of the Boston Pilot believe Daniel Avila made a theological error in supposing that the devil had a hand in same-sex attraction. I fail to see how this is an error.
It seems to have direct bearing on the problem of evil. Does God cause tidal waves, and earthquakes? Does God create blind people, deaf people, or people with same-sex attraction? Does God cause cancer? I do understand that human nature was corrupted by the Fall, so by this it’s not necessary for the devil to intervene in each individual case of fallen human nature, but I’m not seeing the theological error by supposing that the devil could so.
Here is a copy of the google cache…
Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction
More than once I have heard from or about Catholics upset with the Church for its insistence that sexual relations be limited to marriage between husband and wife. Does not this moral rule force people with same-sex attraction into lives of loneliness? If they are born that way, then why should they be punished by a restriction that does not account for their pre-existing condition? God wants everyone to be happy, and for persons with same-sex attraction is not their happiness to be found in the fulfillment of that attraction? Some seek to change the Church’s teaching on marriage or have left the Church because of it. They believe either that God through the Church ignores the needs of people or that the Church misunderstands what God desires.
That is, if God causes same-sex attraction, and yet commands that it not be satisfied, then this is divine cruelty. Or, if God causes same-sex attraction, then it must be the divine will that those with the attraction should act on it and it is the Church that is being cruel in its teaching or at the very least tragically mistaken about what God wants. In either case, the belief that the Church is wrong on this issue starts from a faulty premise. God does not cause same-sex attraction.
The best natural evidence of what God causes and wants for us is our genetic code. Science has isolated certain genetic combinations that are typical to human creation and development. The most basic and the first genetic expression is that which occurs at our conception, when at the same time our individual human life begins our sexual identity as male or female begins. That which is genetically encoded, for believers, points to a codifier, and communicates through its design the codifier’s intent. Interpreting from a spiritual perspective the genetic code which supplies our sexual difference, we have to conclude that God wants us to be male or female.
No one has found a “gay gene.” Identical twins are always, of course, the same sex, providing further proof of male and female genes. If there was a gay gene, then when one twin exhibits same-sex attraction, his or her identical sibling should too. But that is not the case. The incidence of finding identical twins with identical same-sex attraction is relatively rare and certainly not anywhere near one hundred percent. Something other than the hardwiring found in the genetic code must explain the variance.
So what causes the inclination to same-sex attraction if it appears early and involuntarily and “who,” if anyone, is responsible? In determining the answer to the “what” question, the most widely accepted scientific hypothesis points to random imbalances in maternal hormone levels and identifies their disruptive prenatal effects on fetal development as the likely and major cause.
The most recent and most comprehensive discussion of this research is found in a book published earlier this year by a scientist who also happens to be a gay-rights advocate. Even though it discounts other environmental factors that other scientists believe also may play a role, Simon LeVay’s publication, “Gay, Straight and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Attraction” is worth the read.
LeVay is not interested in the “who” question and describes same-sex attraction as just a variation among other human inclinations. Catholics do not have the luxury of being materialists. We look for ultimate explanations that transcend the strictly physical world and that stretch beyond our limited ability to mold and reshape reality as we know it. Disruptive imbalances in nature that thwart encoded processes point to supernatural actors who, unlike God, do not have the good of persons at heart.
In other words, the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil. Any time natural disasters occur, we as people of faith look back to Scripture’s account of those angels who rebelled and fell from grace. In their anger against God, these malcontents prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. They continue to do all they can to mar, distort and destroy God’s handiwork.
Therefore, whenever natural causes disturb otherwise typical biological development, leading to the personally unchosen beginnings of same-sex attraction, the ultimate responsibility, on a theological level, is and should be imputed to the evil one, not God. Applying this aspect of Catholic belief to interpret the scientific data makes more sense because it does not place God in the awkward position of blessing two mutually incompatible realities—sexual difference and same-sex attraction.
If in fact this analysis of causation and culpability is correct, then it opens new perspectives on the Church’s teaching in this area. Being born with an inclination which originates in a manner outside of one’s control is not sufficient proof that the condition is caused by God or that its satisfaction meets God’s purpose. Furthermore, a proper understanding of who is really at fault should deepen our compassion towards those who experience same-sex attraction and inform our response to the question of loneliness. Ultimately, an accurate attribution of responsibility for same-sex attraction frees us to consider more fully the urgent question of why sexual difference matters so much to God. These matters will be addressed in my next column.
Daniel Avila formerly served the Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts and now lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area.
Yeah. I don’t really see the big deal either (aside from the fact, of course, that gay activists are militant persecuting fascists who are radically intolerant of anybody suggesting anything less than that homosexuality is the source and summit of all that is noble, good, true and beautiful).
The real problem is not that Avila suggests that sin, disorder, and disease ultimately trace back to the malice of the devil at work against God’s created order. They do. That’s why Jesus spoke of a woman with a physical disorder—not a sin—as being “bound by Satan” (Luke 13:16). He was not saying that she was evil or possessed. He was simply saying that the evils and illnesses we suffer in this life are part of the fall and the fall part of the devil’s work. The enemy does not simply tempt. He also attacks and means to harm us. And so we struggle with many sorts of disordered appetites that are no fault of our own and do not have the character of sin but merely of concupiscence. Not just homosexual attraction, but heterosexual randiness, gluttony, sundry addictive temptation and so forth are all part of the flood of concupiscence that came in with the fall as our race was overwhelmed with disordered appetites, a darkened intellect, and a weakened will. In that sense, there’s nothing particularly special about homosexual temptation. It’s just one more in a whole menu of ills that stem from the fall. And the fall is, as Genesis 3 and Revelation 12 reminds us, the work of that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the accuser of the brethren.
However, in our present atmosphere, one cannot make this mundane observation without being attacked by the militant persecuting fascists of the homosexualist movement, who are absolutely intolerant of the Church’s teaching concerning the sin of homosexual acts and the disorder of homosexual orientation. So the teaching of the Church that homosexual orientation is disordered and that homosexual acts are sinful is shouted down. Instead we are instructed to chant that homosexuality is a “gift” (though nobody is instructed to chant that obesity is a “gift”). Soon we will be punished for failure to accept the pretense of gay “marriage” just as the Obama Administration is trying to punish Churches for not ordaining women.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that homosexual orientation is disordered. That’s not what sex is for, just as eating bricks is not what our God-given digestive tract is for. Since it is disordered, the question naturally arises “How did our appetites get that way?” Answer: original sin. And original sin springs, not from God’s creative intention, but from the fall due to our first parents’ listening to the devil.
Avila has, of course, been duly punished (to the general cackling of the Right Sort of People)for basically stating the Church’s ordinary teaching about where sin and the disorders and ills of this world come from. Everybody knows that homosexuality may not be questioned or criticized and that mention of such infelicities as sin and the devil in the same breath as the Glorious Gift of Gayness is hopelessly gauche. Nonetheless, he was not wrong. Indeed, he wasn’t even particularly original. He was merely a victim of a Church culture which prefers to keep the conventions and break the commandments.