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The Homosexual Condition: Can It Be Changed? Prevented?

By Mary Meehan

Suppose your teenage son haltingly tells you, "I'm gay - and I hope you won't hate me for it." Or a young woman tells you of lesbian temptations that she is experiencing, hoping for your advice. Or suppose you experience homosexual desires of your own. In any of these cases, you may be bewildered, even desperate. What do you do? Where do you look for help?

There is a network of people and groups dedicated to helping those with same-sex attractions - and their parents and friends - to face the condition, understand it, and change it or control it. They say that properly handled efforts to change the homosexual tendency - especially in teenagers - have a much higher chance of success than the public realizes. They also suggest ways to prevent the condition from developing in the first place, an approach that can save much heartache all around.

Many of these people, including former homosexuals both male and female, took part in an important conference sponsored by the American Public Philosophy Institute in Washington, D.C., in June 1997, which managed (despite noisy protests outside and shouts of "homophobia") to have in depth discussion of the issue. Although there were no speakers defending the "gay rights" position, homosexual activists were vocal in the question and answer sessions. The dialogue was respectful on both sides.

Some conference speakers suggested that criticism of homosexual behavior should be offered with humility, given the undeniable evidence that heterosexuality, too, is out of control these days. Some also stressed the need to respect homosexuals as human persons, for they cannot be defined by sexual behavior alone. "Your brokenness is not who you are," ex-lesbian Jane Boyer told the conference, echoing what Fr. John Harvey says about the Christian with a homosexual tendency in his book The Truth About Homosexuality: "In no way is his orientation the most important part of him. He is ... capable of transcending this difficulty and leading a full Christian life." Still, homosexual feelings are a disaster to many who indulge them.

Any discussion of ameliorating, changing, or preventing a homosexual disposition must begin with an understanding of what it is. It involves sexual attraction primarily toward persons of the same sex as oneself, as evidenced by sexual fantasies or by sexual activities that persist into adulthood. (Homo is from the Greek adjective homos, meaning "same," not the Latin noun homo, meaning "man.") This does not mean attraction toward everyone of one's own sex; homosexuals, like heterosexuals, have "crushes" or infatuations, and they fall in love with particular persons.

Male homosexuality, though, often involves extremely promiscuous sex; sometimes one mate has hundreds of sexual partners over a lifetime. Male homosexual practices include mutual masturbation, oral sex, and anal intercourse. The last named practice, in particular, leads to a high rate of AIDS and other diseases, including hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, shigellosis, acute rectal trauma, rectal incontinence, and anal cancer - a true catalogue of horrors.

The AIDS epidemic has prompted many homosexual males to reduce the number of their partners and sometimes to have only one regular partner in a longterm affair or "marriage." (Others had such unions well before the AIDS crisis.) Yet many men in such relations also have outside sexual partners. When Andrew Sullivan argued for "gay marriage" in Virtually Normal, he wasn't speaking of mutual and lifelong fidelity. There is, he wrote, "more likely to be greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and woman; and ... the lack of children gives gay couples greater freedom."

Female homosexuals, or lesbians, tend to be less promiscuous than males. They are more likely to have long-term or mutually faithful unions, although many have a series of lovers over a lifetime. Their sexual practices include mutual masturbation, oral sex, and sometimes intercourse using a dildo. Medically speaking, their sexual practices are less dangerous than those of male homosexuals, especially where AIDS is concerned; but promiscuous lesbians are at risk for other sexually transmitted diseases.

There have been, and still are, people who have tenacious same-sex attractions but do not act on them because of religious, ethical, or practical reasons. The Catholic Church holds that a homosexual disposition, although not sinful in itself, is an objective disorder that tends to lead one to serious sin. The Church realizes that many people have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" which are "for most of them a trial," to cite a 1997 revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. From reading many case histories, I would add that the tendencies are a torment to many.

In his 1986 letter to Catholic bishops on the pastoral care of homosexuals, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger supported traditional Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual behavior with scriptural citations (Gen. 19: 1 -11; Lev. 18:22 and 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9 Rom. 1:1832; and 1 Tim. 1:10) and with Church teaching on marriage. "To choose someone of the same sex for one's sexual activity," he wrote, "is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator's sexual design." He added: Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a fife of that form of selfgiving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially selfindulgent. I believe it would be well to stress, also, the selfdestructive nature of homosexual practices and, among males, the high risk of giving a sexual partner a painful and possibly a lethal disease. Certainly these, too, are serious moral issues.

How does a homosexual tendency originate? There are theories aplenty, each with its partisans. (The Catholic Church has no position on this matter. As Cardinal Ratzinger said in reference to the revised Catechism, "We have left room for all the hypotheses on the origin of homosexual tendency - whether it is innate or developed under certain circumstances.") Extensive reading of the literature leads me to believe that there are many causes, which often reinforce one another.

National Institutes of Health scientist Dean Hamer and colleagues caused a stir several years ago with a report suggesting a genetic contribution to homosexuality. They did not contend that genetics was the sole cause, but they did suggest a linkage between an area of the X chromosome (Xq28) and sexual tendency, based on a study of 40 families each of which included two homosexual brothers. Media reports led many to believe that Hamer's group had found a "gay gene," or that someone soon would. But Hamer makes clear in his book The Science of Desire that his median estimate was merely that the Xq28 area "plays some role in about 5 to 30 percent of gay men."

Other scientists challenged even this limited conclusion. Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist, is critical of Hamer's work, contending that most such studies to date "have many flaws." Satinover suggests that a genetic contribution may operate, but in an indirect way, just as a gene for great height may provide a capability for basketball-playing, but it does not cause someone to become a basketball player.

In Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Satinover notes that some innate traits result at least partly from intrauterine influences on the unborn child. "Hormones, infections, exercise, general health, the ingestion of licit or illicit drugs, and many other variables," he writes, "influence this environment." Sometimes, he notes, the normal "chemical signals get crossed" so that a baby who is genetically male appears to be a female but is infertile, or a baby has both male and female sexual features and is a true hermaphrodite. These cases, although rare, suggest the importance of considering intrauterine influences.

Psychological theories abound. Until recent decades, psychiatrists called homosexuality a "pathology" or "neurosis" and generally viewed it as a developmental disorder. Some efforts to cure the condition must be consigned to the sorry history of unethical medical experimentation: brain surgery, aversion therapy by electro-shock, and ham-handed schemes to push homosexual males into sexual intercourse with women, sometimes including marriage. "Gay rights" activists in the late 1960s brought to public attention some of these horror stories about psychiatric mistreatment. With noisy demonstrations and quiet lobbying, these activists pushed hard for the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. It obliged, and the American Psychological Association followed suit. Not content with those victories, some activists now agitate against therapy sought by homosexuals who want to change their sexual tendency. So humane professionals trying to help such people work in a climate of hostility that has even inhibited research and publication.

One of the oldest psychological theories still makes sense: that a child may develop a homosexual disposition because the same-sex parent has been distant, cold, or hostile. Elizabeth Moberly writes that the child has a normal need for love from the same-sex parent and attachment to that parent. When love and attachment are missing or defective, the child suffers emotionally and has a "defensive detachment" from the same-sex parent. That is, to avoid more emotional pain, the child rejects the parent and the masculinity (or femininity) the parent represents. But the child still needs the same-sex love he or she should have received from the parent, and later homosexual tendencies are essentially an effort to make up for the missing love.

Psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, whose therapeutic approach is based partly on Moberly's insights, told the Washington conference mentioned above that male homosexual behavior is a "search for the lost masculine self." In Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, Nicolosi describes defensive detachment as a "selfprotective stance" in which a boy expresses his anger by ignoring his father and denying that the father "has any importance in the family" and by "conspiring with mother in collusion against father." When the boy is roughly between the ages of five and twelve, Nicolosi, writes.

He is typically fearful and cautious toward other boys his age, staying close to his mother and perhaps grandmother, aunts, or older sisters. He becomes the "kitchen window boy," who looks out at his peers playing aggressively and, what appears to him, dangerously. He is attracted to the other boys at the same time he is frightened by what they are doing. Defensive detachment emotionally isolates him from other males, and from his own masculinity. Females are familiar, while males are mysterious. Then when sexual needs begin to seek expression in early adolescence, it is understandable that the direction of such a young man's sexual interests will be away from the familiar and toward the unapproachable. We do not sexualize what we are familiar with. We are drawn to the "other-than me."

According to Nicolosi, defensive detachment is usually preceded by the boy's unsuccessful effort to gain his father's attention and love. His "crying, demanding, and disruptive behavior" is ignored or punished; so he learns "that he has no alternative but to retreat to mother carrying a sense of weakness, failure, depression, and victimization." Moreover: "Having learned that direct assertion - at least in relation to other males - is useless, he will perceive himself as passive and weak in relation to male peers." All of this results, Nicolosi believes, in great ambivalence in the adult male homosexual: "Although he may love other men, he is also hostile and distrusting of them. This frustrating ambivalent attitude toward men is one explanation for the great promiscuity in male relationships."

Some experts place greater emphasis on poor relations with playmates in early childhood. Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist who has worked with many homosexuals, believes that a little boy's lack of hand-eye co-ordination and athletic ability causes peer rejection so strong that it can lead to homosexuality. "It's hard for many people to believe," Fitzgibbons said in an interview, "how important it is in the development of masculine identity to be good in sports. It's essential in this culture. It shouldn't be, but it is." He believes that boys are rejected by their peers as early as three or four years of age if they are not good in sports. If a little boy lacks athletic ability and is rejected by other boys, he may play mainly with girls and may adopt their mannerisms in exaggerated form. Other boys may then reject him even more definitively as "sissy" and "queer" and "fag," so he stays with the girls and becomes convinced that he is very different from other boys - which eventually he is. He may also develop a deep, although possibly unconscious, anger at boys who have tormented him. Fitzgibbons says that some men with this background would like to kill those who treated them so badly.

In giving their life histories, many homosexuals mention that they were molested by male family members or strangers when they were young. Although this can be terrifying and repulsive to them initially, it can also lead to sexual arousal and to a habit of homosexual behavior. It often leads to their typing themselves as innately homosexual; males would not be attracted to them and molest them, they reason, if they were normal. Teenage sex play can have similar results. Regular indulgence in homosexual fantasy and masturbation often deepens the homosexual orientation.

Many therapists are alarmed by organized efforts to tell teenagers with homosexual tendencies that "gay is good" and that homosexual behavior is simply a normal, even laudable, variation in human behavior. This, they believe, encourages more "acting-out," establishing a habit or addiction that is hard to break.

The pathways to lesbianism are not necessarily the same as those to male homosexuality. Moberly believes, however, that defensive detachment from mothers plays a major role, and some case studies support this. But sexual abuse by a male - a relative, neighborhood boys, or a stranger - may be a larger factor; it certainly appears with depressing regularity in the literature. So do poor relations with a father. Often several negative factors combine to produce the condition, as described by ex-lesbian Jane Boyer:

I was raised by two alcoholic parents. My father was a violent and rageful man. I developed an intense hatred for men, and determined in my heart I would never let a man get close to me. I was also sexually abused as a child - which only reinforced my feelings of hatred. Because my Mother was a victim of my father's violence, I became her protector and caretaker. "Mom," I vowed, "I hate it that you are weak, clingy, and powerless. I will have nothing to do with womanhood."

Other factors contributing to male or female homosexuality may include:

* a father who, having wanted but failed to get a son, treats his daughter as a boy;

* a mother who favors a "more feminine" daughter over one who is "tomboyish" or a father who favors a "more masculine" son over one he perceives as too sensitive;

* a mother who over-protects or "Smothers" her son, possibly competing with the father for the son's love;

* the combination of a weak father, who does not draw his son into the world of men and masculinity, with a domineering mother who draws the son into her world;

* the work-addicted or television-addicted parent who is just "too busy" to spend time with a child;

* alcoholism in one or both parents, especially when this leads to emotional neglect of the children;

* parents who are hostile to each other and constantly fighting, so that their children learn to fear marriage and the heterosexual patterns leading to it.

In fairness it should be said that parents are not always at fault, or they may be only minimally at fault. Sometimes a father's rejection of his son is perceived rather than real; for example, if the father is working overseas while the son is very small, the little boy may have no male role model and may be smothered by female relatives. Sometimes simple bad luck plays a role, bringing together several unfavorable circumstances. Any single one might not have mattered too much, but the combination can be powerful.

How can the homosexual condition be prevented? Parents might study the list above to see how a dysfunctional, unhappy family lives - and do the opposite. Positively speaking, parents should give added attention to the way each child relates to the same-sex parent. A child is likely to have a normal sexual disposition when the parents have a happy marriage and when they give much love to all of their children, never favoring one over another but recognizing and encouraging the special gifts of each. In a large family, it is important to avoid neglecting older children as younger, cuter, and more demanding ones come along.

The father should spend some time just with his sons in "guy things" such as sports or car repair. A boy who is fearful or clumsy in sports should receive extra help from the father, who should praise each little success but not expect an athletic star. A boy who doesn't care for football or basketball may do very well in quieter sports such as bowling, fishing, canoeing, or anything in the Boy Scout line. Some boys - like some dads - may never develop a great interest in sports, but it seems a boy should learn enough to talk with and get along with other boys.

When a father is absent because of death or divorce, an uncle or a much older brother can step in as a father figure. In an interview, Fr. John Harvey, who leads the Courage support groups for Catholics struggling against homosexual temptations, suggested that this should not be left to chance. He would encourage the boy's mother "to look around among her brothers and uncles" so her sons will have a man "to take them to the games and to do the various things that boys want to do at that age." The mother, he added, "can't very well do it, you know. She's put in a very difficult position, being father and mother." When there is no other male in the family, a "mentor" program such as Big Brothers may provide a volunteer to fill the role. Most mentors, Fr. Harvey said, "are doing a beautiful job." Unfortunately, though, reports about child sexual abuse have "caused many people to be frightened to accept the mentor role" because they may "be suspected of being a pedophile."

The mother, of course, should spend time with her daughters in clothes shopping, decorating, cooking, and such. Rigidity should be avoided, though; these are by no means the only things that girls are interested in or that can be of practical value to them. If your girl shows an occasional interest in "guy things" - such as changing the oil in the family car - don't panic! That in itself does not mean she will become lesbian.

Parents should not normally worry about young girls' "tomboy" interests, for they may simply indicate an attraction to outdoor fun. Don't be fixated on the mantra, "Girls can't ... Girls don't." Of course, there is cause for concern if a girl is determinedly mannish, but this is highly unlikely in a happy family where the mother is a good model. If the mother is absent through death or divorce, the father should ask an older female relative to be a mentor to his daughters.
Good parents are concerned about their children's playmates, and one concern should be to make sure that each child has friends of the same sex. Parents should not tolerate children's taunting of playmates with namecalling such as "sissy," "queer," or "fag," or, for that matter, "fatty" or "retard." Not only is such name-calling cruel, but it may cut so deeply that the victim never feels accepted by other children. The names can be selffulfilling prophecies. Parents should teach their children to help other kids instead of making fun of them.

Good parents can also prevent much trouble by teaching their children modesty in wearing apparel and expression, and by telling them that no one should touch them "in an unholy way" - to use the phrase of one ex-gay who was himself molested as a child. Experts on child sexual abuse recommend telling children in a matterof-fact way that they should protest in a loud voice if anyone tries to molest them. They should move away quickly and tell a parent or other trusted adult about the incident right away. Child-molesting depends on secrecy, and secrecy can result in a child's suffering for years. Quick and loud response - by the child and the parents - can prevent more abuse and warn others about the offender.

When a child shows early signs of confused sexual identity, a psychiatric intervention may be needed. Prof. George Rekers of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine has developed treatment methods to help youngsters who seem to be headed toward homosexuality or cross-dressing or to wishing for surgical change of sex. Rekers uses "play therapy" in which a therapist and the father help an effeminate little boy learn simple athletic skills such as throwing a ball. They may also discourage effeminate behavior by pointedly ignoring it, while rewarding masculine behavior with praise or candy or other small signs.

Homosexual activists are appalled by this kind of intervention, which they view as manipulating a child away from a "natural" homosexual "orientation." For those who doubt that this orientation is ever simply natural, the Reker method seems to offer help to families when the problem is evident at an early age. Often, though, signals are missed until a child is a teenager.

When a teen approaches parents with a "coming-out" announcement, parents have the delicate task of expressing their abiding love of their child while also firmly discouraging homosexual behavior. They should explain that, despite what the child may have heard in school or on television or in the newspaper, a homosexual disposition is probably not innate and need not be lifelong. Fr. Harvey, mindful of sexual confusion in some teens, suggests that a teen in this situation be evaluated by a clinical psychologist to see if there really is a homosexual tendency.

Fr. Harvey's Courage support groups now exist in 29 U.S. dioceses and have spread to six countries abroad. Most of the participants are adults, but some younger people take part. Fr. Harvey held a conference for Catholic youth leaders in November 1998. He hopes that "each diocese will begin to take this question more seriously and organize [its] own little conference on it and find ways of helping teenagers to get into spiritual support groups and learn to be chaste."

Fr. Harvey has said he used to believe that "people couldn't get out of" the homosexual condition. But he changed his mind, partly because "two of the first five members of Courage came out of the condition - and they weren't even seeking to come out of it. " The main emphasis of Courage is still on helping its members be chaste through prayer, the sacraments, sound spiritual direction, and a twelve-step program patterned on Alcoholics Anonymous. Fr. Harvey does not think Courage members should feel obliged to seek a change in the condition itself. Therapy is not cheap, after all, and there are no guarantees that it will work in a given case, but he believes that those who want to seek a change in sexual tendency should be encouraged to do so. He and other experts think that teenagers have an above average chance of changing, so it is crucial for families to be aware of available resources, including therapists who specialize in this area (see box)

Dr. Fitzgibbons claims a high recovery rate among teenagers he works with, especially "those who really are willing to work" and who "have not become sexually addicted." He emphasizes healing the emotional pain his patients have suffered. "As that emotional pain is healed," he says, homosexual attractions usually "diminish and resolve completely." Fitzgibbons stresses a spiritual approach and one that encourages patients to forgive those who have harmed them in the past, including playmates who taunted and rejected them. He realizes, as he notes in an appendix to Fr. Harvey's The Truth About Homosexuality, that in some cases "the person has been wounded so deeply that he cannot forgive," so he "asks God to forgive or to remove his anger." Such "spiritual forgiveness," Fitzgibbons says, is "particularly effective with those who were severely scapegoated by peers; profoundly betrayed by a parent, sibling, or spouse; or sexually abused."

Fitzgibbons also encourages Catholics to use prayer and the sacraments. Those whose human fathers have failed them can develop "their relationship with God the Father as their other loving and caring father at every life stage. His love diminishes their feelings of being cheated and makes it much easier to let go of resentment toward their fathers." He also encourages them to be aware of "Jesus as a best friend and brother" and of "Mary as another loving mother."

Nicolosi uses reparative therapy to help male homosexuals who want to change. Using Moberly's insight about defensive detachment from the same-sex parent, he tries to repair the break by helping the patient recover his lost male identity. To this end it is essential, he believes, for a man to develop nonsexual friendships with other men, which will "demystify" other males and help the client resume the process - interrupted when he was a child - of finding his male identity. Nicolosi is certainly not an aloof therapist in the classic tradition. That, he has written, "is precisely what the homosexual client cannot tolerate. He experienced hurt from a toodistant father, and he now desires and requires authentic personal contact." This is what he gets from Nicolosi, who often gives practical advice about developing masculine identity and self-confidence.

When Nicolosi first worked in this area, most of his clients were "in their late 20s to early 30s," he said in an interview, "but now they're coming younger ... and I've had them as young as 12." He believes that reparative therapy can work for teens, but only when "the teenager himself is motivated." While his professional writing describes his approach in secular terms, Nicolosi believes that religious faith "furthers the therapy."

Fr. Harvey advises parents to talk quietly with their teenager, avoiding "harsh and hurting words" and sharing information and hope. He urges: "Turn to the Lord in your powerlessness, giving your child over (no matter what his age) to the care of the Lord." He also suggests that parents contact the nearest EnCourage group (a support group for family and friends) and promises "you will profit spiritually and emotionally from this encounter" (see box). If a psychological evaluation indicates that the teen does have a homosexual tendency, he or she should be encouraged to try therapy or to join a Courage support group. Parents may take part in therapy by reviewing family problems that may have been contributory, and may find they need to ask forgiveness for neglect or abuse.

Most writing about growing out of the homosexual condition deals with males. Fr. Harvey, however, included a chapter about women in his recent book, and he recommends Jeanette Howard's book Out of Egypt. Howard, a counselor and ex-lesbian who appears to be writing from an evangelical Protestant perspective, offers useful suggestions about overcoming emotional dependence and loneliness and about developing healthy woman-to-woman friendships.
Success in counseling or therapy means a great reduction in homosexual feelings. Many people find that, as their homosexual feelings decrease, they do become attracted to members of the opposite sex. Some eventually marry and have children. Some who are professed religious find that they are far less troubled by homosexual temptations and are able to keep their vow of celibacy for the first time in years. This does not mean they will never again have homosexual feelings or attractions, but these are likely to be fleeting and manageable as time goes by, as with people who have given up smoking or drinking for years; they may feel the occasional temptation but can overcome it.

The "gay rights movement," of course, strongly resists the idea of trying to overcome homosexuality. "What's to overcome?" they want to know. If asked for an explanation of how a homosexual disposition develops, they generally posit a physical determinism, for this fits with the memory of many that they have "felt different" since childhood. Some, especially those with a religious background, tried for years - alas, with little help - to resist homosexual temptations and finally gave up the effort as hopeless. Others tried therapy with incompetent professionals and found it useless. Many are deeply sexually addicted, and some are drug-addicted or alcoholic. More than a few have committed themselves so fully to the "movement" that their social lives, their volunteer work, even their jobs, are entirely movement related.

Sometimes it is not until adulthood that a son or daughter shocks parents with a coming-out announcement. This grown-up person may resist any suggestion of therapy or intervention, and may even request or demand the right to bring a sexual partner over for dinner or home for the holidays. How can parents keep close to this child while not affirming homosexual behavior? Fr. Harvey said he advises parents about visits: "Once in awhile, okay - but not coming over regularly and certainly not staying overnight." He noted, though, that some parents believe visits with a partner are "not permissible at all. And the parents have a right to make the statement." I suspect that meeting the child's partner, perhaps on neutral territory, may help avoid bitterness and ill will that would drive both parties deeper into self-destructive behavior. Parents can express disapproval of the behavior, and can set limits, quietly and without rejecting the persons. With kindness and love, and by providing helpful literature, parents can keep alive the possibility of change for both parties.

Friends can help someone struggling with a homosexual condition by remaining friends, providing encouragement, and possibly even serving as a guide or coach when the person cannot find - or afford - a good therapist. Dutch psychologist Gerard van den Aardweg, in The Battle for Normality, suggests a selftherapy program for homosexuals using a coach. The van den Aardweg program "has worked well with some people," Fr. Harvey said, but he added that many "would not make it without a professional therapist." He also noted that van den Aardweg's book is more helpful for men than for women.
What are the implications of overcoming homosexuality for the Catholic Church? Those who challenge Church teaching against homosexual behavior rely heavily on the idea that a homosexual disposition is a matter of biology, rather than psychology, and that it cannot be changed. If they are wrong about this, then they are wrong about much else that relates to homosexuality.
Unfortunately, a committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops relied partly on dissenters in preparing the 1997 document Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. Prepared by the NCCB's Committee on Marriage and Family, the document was curiously not submitted to all the bishops for their approval.

The document upheld Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual behavior - but halfheartedly. Just when the practicality of a Harvey or a Boyer was needed, we got a bowl of mush - offering much rhetoric but little practical aid to homosexuals or their families. A revised version, issued after many complaints from orthodox Catholics and an intervention from the Holy See, is certainly an improvement over the original document. But instead of seriously examining evidence that it is possible to grow out of a homosexual disposition, the revised Always Our Children still suggests recognizing "its relative stability in a person." It does not even mention Courage or EnCourage, much less describe their work or tell people how to get in touch with them. Nor does it warn Catholics against Dignity and New Ways Ministry, two supposedly Catholic groups that undermine Church teaching on homosexual behavior.
Will there be more battles in the Church over homosexuality? Undoubtedly, but they can be conducted with civility and a certain calm. Supporters of Church teaching might concede that some Catholics have lacked compassion and charity for people struggling with the homosexual condition. They might also concede that a homosexual relationship that is exclusive and loyal is not precisely better, but at least less destructive than a pattern of one-night stands. Extreme promiscuity treats others as mere objects, as things; it also involves great risk of giving them a serious, possibly lethal, disease.

Dissenters often agree that promiscuity is bad - only to offer homosexual "marriage" as an alternative. They should study cases in which both members of a homosexual couple have concluded that their relationship was not in accordance with God's will and have ended it. "Neither one of us knew of the conversion of the other," an ex-lesbian told Jeanette Howard, "until we found each other reading the Bible. Changes started deep within both of us." She continued:

More than anything, I wanted to please God. As I grew, two things happened. First, the Lord began a divine division between my lover and me. Eventually, we stopped sleeping together. Second, the Holy Spirit swiftly convicted me of my need to honor my parents as Ephesians 6:2-3 commands. Also, I knew that unless I forgave my parents, especially Dad, I would be stuck forever in bitterness and hatred (see Mark 11:25).

She had much to forgive, including sexual abuse by her father, but she managed to do so. This is the kind of difficult but rewarding spiritual growth that needs encouragement.

Homosexuality can reach a point of addiction, but that rarely happens without behavior (homosexual fantasizing, masturbation, sexual relations with someone of the same sex) that involves free will. True compassion for people with homosexual temptations means advising them to avoid places and situations likely to lead them to homosexual behavior and eventually to addiction. These "near occasions of sin," to use venerable Catholic terminology, include "gay" bars, "adult" bookstores, and pornographic or salacious movies.

The question of public policy on homosexual behavior is difficult on many counts. If the reparative therapists are right, a homosexual disposition is indeed a serious disorder, but one that can be overcome by many people and probably by most when intervention comes early. To the extent, then, that public policy encourages a homosexual disposition, that policy actually harms those who have the tendency. This should be the first point in public debate. It invites, of course, fierce fighting among psychiatrists; but that would at least enlighten the public that division does exist among professionals. Obviously, public policy encouraging homosexual behavior also harms young people who could go either way. Compassion for those who have AIDS is empty if we do not have compassion for youngsters who may get AIDS if not discouraged from risky behavior.

Critics of public policies favoring the homosexual disposition should not state their objections in religious terms only. There are major philosophical, psychological, and historical points to be made. They should be made with recognition that public policies and programs often encourage misbehavior by heterosexuals too. This is true of many sex education programs, public funding of birth control (especially for the unmarried), and laws forcing the rental of housing to unmarried couples. It is time to reconsider these policies too.
Certainly it is time to ask: Does the sexual revolution -not just homosexual behavior, but promiscuous and sterile heterosexuality as well - really contribute to happiness? Or to anxiety, discontent, depression, and even premature death?

Source: Mary Meehan is a Maryland writer who has been published in many periodicals ranging from The Human Life Review to the Washington Post.

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