The Catholic Church has recently had several opportunities to reiterate its traditional teaching that homosexuality is disordered.

The U.S. bishops expressed their opposition to same-sex “marriage.” The Vatican issued its guidelines for seminaries, directing that men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies be barred from holy orders. And the Archdiocese of Boston has shut down its 100-year-old adoptions program rather than place children with same-sex couples. Although the Church has taken heat for each of these positions, there is increasing evidence that the Church is more humane and realistic than her opponents.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’” (No. 2357)

We can now offer a more mundane explanation, with tangible evidence to support it. People with same-sex attraction experience a whole variety of psychological stresses that are different in intensity and in kind from the experiences of others.

For instance, homosexual youth are 2½ times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. Homosexual teens are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, fantasies and plans. Surely the desire to end one’s life is evidence of internal distress.

Some commentators attempt to blame these behaviors on bullying by straight teens. But the evidence for this proposition is thin, at best. Same-sex attracted youth are still 70% more likely to attempt suicide than other teens, even when their higher probability of being victimized is taken into account. In New Zealand, a more welcoming environment for homosexuals, the probability of a homosexual youth attempting suicide is no lower than in America.

Turning from suicide to other forms of psychological distress, we find that the more extreme the behavior, the more likely homosexual youth are to be involved in it. In a 1998 study in Pediatrics, students with six or more sexual partners in their life were 7.62 more likely to be classified as “GLB” (gay, lesbian, bisexual) than were students who had never had sexual intercourse. Of the self-identified same-sex attracted youth, 25% had used cocaine in the last 30 days and 22% had used injected drugs, compared with under 3% of straight youth.

Similar results hold for homosexual adults. Men and women with same-sex attraction have higher rates of self-destructive behaviors, including suicide, suicide attempts, drug and alcohol abuse. Homosexual men and women experience higher rates of mental health problems such as phobias, anxiety and mood disorders. Lesbian women exhibit lower levels of self-care behaviors, including higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use, and lower probability of obtaining pelvic exams or mammograms. Lesbians also have a greater prevalence of obesity, as well as a lower probability of describing themselves as obese.

As we go farther down this list of self-destructive behaviors and lack of self-care behaviors, it becomes increasingly less plausible that these differences are due to discrimination. All this evidence points to a high level of psychological distress among people with same-sex attraction. No matter how welcoming or inclusive the social environment, these persons with same-sex attraction continue to experience these kinds of problems.

In other words, even if straight people are nice to homosexual people, some homosexual people will still have problems.

But homosexual rights activists continue to insist that greater acceptance and more sensitivity will relieve their psychological distress. At first, same-sex attracted people said they wanted to be free from arrest and legal harassment. Live and let live. Americans saw the sense in that, and said, “Why not?”

But that did not solve all their problems. Instead, we hear demands for greater inclusion, and louder complaints about ever more trivial slights. In Massachusetts, a man was not permitted to continue as a volunteer firefighter because he signed a petition for a marriage amendment, and this was considered hateful. In California, the state Legislature passed a requirement that the history books include the contributions of homosexuals. The whole movement for same-sex marriage is, at bottom, an attempt to make homosexual people feel better.

But if same-sex attraction really is disordered, as the Church teaches, then these attempts will fail, and not only because the diagnosis is inaccurate.

Human pride undermines the “self-esteem project” under the best of circumstances. We think we will feel better if only enough people tell us good things about ourselves and we never look at anything negative about ourselves. But the deep truth, for all of us, is that we feel better when we behave better, and not the other way around.

Trying to satisfy the soul by telling us we are okay is like trying to feed a ravenous teenage boy with baby food. We need more substance, and we know it. We need to confront our disorder, do what we can to correct it and allow ourselves to be changed by grace to do the rest.

In spite of all the sneering by activists and “queer theorists” about “hetero-normativity” being the equivalent of white supremacy, heterosexuality is deeply normative. When the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality as a psychological disorder, the idea was to foster greater acceptance of “virtually normal” people with same-sex attraction.

While not all homosexual people experience all these problems, it is beyond doubt that some are seriously troubled. The politically correct chattering classes do not want to deal with that fact. Doing things like mandating that school textbooks include the contributions of homosexuals not only dodges this problem, it makes it almost impossible to face. And there is nothing humane about that.

Jennifer Roback Morse is a

Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, and the author most recently of

Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World.