Dis-ing Truth

“If it bleeds, it leads.”

It is one of the peculiarities of the media to ignore good news and rivet itself to news that is not so good. Bad news sells. Crime is newsworthy. Gossip is marketable.

But acts of kindness do not make good copy. Since the Gospel is “Good News,” it holds little interest for journalists and reporters who are looking for the outrageous rather than the ordinary, the sensational rather than the commonplace, the heretical rather than the orthodox.

If a priest delivers a truly outstanding sermon, he can expect that the media will have no interest in it. On the other hand, if he says something from the altar that is scandalous and outrageous, the media will leap to be his megaphone to the world.

A few months ago a Catholic priest, pastor of a large Church in Alameda, Calif., announced to his parishioners during Mass that he is homosexual. The Tri-Valley newspaper interviewed the pastor and recorded his conviction that on the issue of homosexuality, the Church is in conflict with the Gospel. The newspaper quoted the priest as saying, “One can only take so much of hearing how disordered you are. I wasn’t baptized a disordered child of God. I was baptized like everyone else.”

The newspaper article goes on to state that the priest, upon making his announcement, received a standing ovation from his parishioners.

A priest who stands alone before his congregation and declares that he is not disordered, and therefore should not be stigmatized with that damaging appellation, can seem to be most courageous. And such a display of apparent courage can easily win over sympathetic support from people who have been systematically taught to be sympathetic and supportive to those who are in need.

Yet, there is something seriously wrong with this picture.

The line that separates love from sentimentality is easily blurred.

“The greatest kindness one can render to any man,” wrote St. Thomas Aquinas, “consists in leading him to truth.” Love leads people to truth. Sentimentality is content to make people feel good. Love cannot operate without truth. The crucial question is whether the homosexual inclination is truly a disorder, not whether the notion of disorder makes homosexual people feel uncomfortable.

It should be reiterated that we are all disordered because, owing to original sin, we all come into the world with a proclivity to sin. Ancient astrologers predicted dis-aster for anyone whose horoscope indicated that he was born on the wrong side of the stars. Likewise, sin dis-orders our lives because it puts us on the wrong side of God.

To know that we are all capable of living disordered lives is not to bear a stigma, but to recognize a truth that we should take seriously. A stigma, according to poplar parlance, is an unjust and hurtful label. Ironically, the Alameda priest had no qualms, when he made his startling announcement, about referring to a “dysfunctional grandfather” and “a crazy uncle or two,” despite the fact that being “dysfunctional” or “crazy” represents specific examples of being disordered.

An excellent example of a stigma is the term “homophobia” that people use recklessly to characterize anyone who believes that homosexual encounters represent a disorder.

Yet, the term “homophobia,” itself, is intended to denote a disorder, and a stinging one at that. In fact, calling all objections to homosexual conduct “homophobic” is equivalent to reducing philosophy to pathology, and thereby stonewalls any intelligent discussion on the matter. Will we be witnessing priests in the near future disavowing, during Mass, that they are afflicted with the disorder of homophobia? Can we expect them to receive standing ovations for their courage?

The Institute for Social Research at the University of Saskatoon in Canada reports that as many as 5,500 Canadians die premature deaths each year as a result of homophobia. Gens Hellquist, executive director of the “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community” at the university says that, “I think it’s safe to say that the 5,500 deaths each year from homophobia are only the tip of the iceberg.”

As far as some people are concerned, being “homophobic” is tantamount to being a serial killer. We are asked to believe that it is not the homosexual lifestyle that produces debilitating results, but the moral objections raised against it. Presumably, it is not bombs and bullets that harm people, but the anti-war protests made by “bellophobic” individuals.

The Catholic Church has expressed incomparably more kindness to homosexuals than her homosexual critics have offered her. The Church has always taken great pains to distinguish the person, who is created in the image of God and possesses inestimable dignity, from homosexual acts that, like all sins, are disordered by their very nature.

And there is no lack of evidence to indicate that homosexual acts are disordered physiologically, psychologically, morally and spiritually. Homosexual acts, not homophobia, are the chief contributors to illness, self-recrimination and premature death.

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer has pointed out that alongside of the social trend of “defining deviancy down” is the movement to “define deviancy up.” In other words, as people come to accept homosexual behavior as normal, they inevitably begin to castigate those who hold to traditional heterosexual norms.

Morality is organic. By praising immorality, one necessarily begins to condemn morality.

The Catholic Church is about love. But it is also, and in equal measure, about truth, since love can be effective only when it is linked with truth. Truth is the reality that saves us from illusory love. It is the truth that makes us free, not feeling good or receiving a standing ovation or having one’s plight sympathetically reported in the local newspaper.

We live in a disordered world that is the product of innumerable disordered lives. If we cannot recognize a disorder when we see one because we do not want to hurt someone’s feelings, we have taken a decisive step away from love, healing and civilization itself.

Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor

at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.