Jul 19, 2006

Why the Church considers Homosexuality disordered

Over at the Spiritual Smackdown on BustedHalo.com, one of the more interesting debates is on Homosexuality. It should be noted that the American Psychological Association has not classified homosexuality as a disorder since the early 70's. Certainly there are psycholgists worldwide who dissent from that viewpoint, even if the majority hold this view.

While to the average viewer, the church and psychology seem at odds in talking with one another, but actually, the church is taking a more defensible position than one would think at first glance. Perhaps even a more charitable one.

In defense of the church, she indeed knows her science well. The church's position is that until something is definitively held by all scientists the church will not opine or teach anything contrary to that view.

As a quick example, Galileo taught heliocentrism (the sun is the center of the universe). Many scientists thought he was wrong--and they believed that the earth was the center. The church also believed biblically speaking, that the latter was the case.

Today NOBODY believes that the earth is the center of the universe and there isn't a scientist that would assent to that position either. Until recently, the same could be said about evolution--until all the creationists found their way to raising points about their viewpoints.

While many, maybe even most, psychologists believe that homosexuality is not a disordered orientation or act...there certainly is not scientific consensus on that point. And that is where the church is always going to take her cue in changing a piece of Catholic teaching.

Will homosexuality ever be accepted in the scientific community as readily as heliocentrism? Probably not. Or at least nobody has come up with an indisputable argument that makes the homosexual act one that is properly ordered..that convinces all scientists to hold this view.

In short, if 4 out of five shrinks think that homosexuality is peachy keen, the church will stand pat until that other shrink comes around to the side of the others.

My thought: Good luck in getting that to happen anytime soon.

8 comments:

Lisa said...

Actually, while your point is arguably logical, it is not accurate. "Disordered" in the world of the Church is not equivalent to "disordered" in the world of psychology. In the context of moral theology, wherein "disordered" is a moral theological concept, "disordered" has to do with the ability to procreate naturally within a couple. So where the text of the church references homosexuality as "objectively disordered" it is "only" saying that, in and of itself without outside intervention, a same sex couple cannot between the two parties naturally conceive a child.

Thanks for raising the discussion point.

ProverbialMike said...

Excellent point, Lisa. While the act of homosexuality is what the church considers intrinsically disordered--the catechism also admits to the "psychological genesis of homosexuality remaining largely unexplained."

Therein lies the crux of the issue, thinkest I. If we could explain the genesis of homosexual attractions could we then perhaps have an opportunity to discuss the morality of such "acts of homosexuality" differently despite the obvious lack to procreate naturally. If we find the genesis (good luck at THAT, BTW) might that lead to many unanswered questions about homosexuality that could lead people to see the church's point as being a definitive truth--or we could find the opposite and need to re-think our position in order to proclaim a continued moral position on sexuality.

Sean Gallagher said...

There's problem, I believe, in using scientific views on heliocentrism and on homosexuality to argue that the Church might change its teachings on the latter.

The scientific fields involved in the former are astronomy and astrophysics, i.e. "hard" sciences. The scientific fields involved in the latter are, by and large, psychology and psychiatry, i.e. those that are much more "soft" than astronomy and astrophysics.

Now one might argue that physicality comes in with the discussion of the search for a "gay gene." But, even if there were to be found definitive proof of the existence of such a gene, it would not necessitate a change in Church teaching.

After all, some people are born with a gene that makes them more pre-disposed to become alcoholics than others. Others are born with various congenital diseases.

Alcoholism is on the border land between natural and moral evils. Congenital diseases are natural evils. But they're both disordered. They don't allow humans to live and thrive in ordinary circumstances according to their nature.

That doesn't mean that they can't thrive. They just have to face the reality of their disorder (as so many do with disorders of countless kinds) and live well accordingly with the help of God's grace.

ProverbialMike said...

Another excellent point out of Sean! I don't think that I'm arguing for a change in church teaching on the issue by any means. But rather, there needs to be a more nuanced way to discuss the topic instead of resorting to the old media depiction of Catholics as middle-aged, gay-hating, conservatives named Chuck.

I'm not sure that the pre-disposition genetic argument works in this case though. Just because someone is pre-disposed to become an alcoholic doesn't mean that they will certainly become an alcoholic. If someone has an inherent attraction to members of the same sex--it's a lot different than deciding not to have a beer...or even trying beer for the first time.

Agree...disagree?

Sean Gallagher said...

...there needs to be a more nuanced way to discuss the topic instead of resorting to the old media depiction of Catholics as middle-aged, gay-hating, conservatives named Chuck.

I agree with you. But where is the source of the problem? Go to getreligion.com and you'll daily see problems of how religion--Catholicism and otherwise--in the mainstream media.

Now members of the MSM might use as a source a member of a relatively well-defined religious community that does not reflect well upon their defined nature. But that does not mean that the source's views are truly reflective of that community's defined beliefs or practices.

This should be noted by the media, but too often it is not. Because of bias? Sometimes maybe. Because of lazy journalism? That's probably more often the case.

Just because someone is pre-disposed to become an alcoholic doesn't mean that they will certainly become an alcoholic. If someone has an inherent attraction to members of the same sex--it's a lot different than deciding not to have a beer...or even trying beer for the first time.

If someone is genetically pre-disposed to alcoholism, they might have some sort of innate latent physical (if not initially psychological) attraction to alcohol. There is nothing morally evil in such an attraction.

Knowing that one has such an attraction and then acting upon it or putting oneself in an occasion of sin is another matter however.

In a similar manner, if one is pre-disposed to have same-sex attractions, having that attraction is not morally evil. Acting upon that attraction is another matter.

ProverbialMike said...

Agree totally about the lazyness of the MSM. As a former producer in radio myself I often tell people who are trying to place stories in the MSM that they "Have to think like a lazy radio producer and call them on a slow news day, or when their story hits the fan on day one."

Bubbles the Terrible said...

"While the act of homosexuality is what the church considers intrinsically disordered..."

It's my understanding that the church regards homosexual attractions or orientation as being "intrinsically disordered," however no moral culpability is ascribed to those who experience them. I believe the church defines the acts themselves as both disordered and instrinsically evil.

Lisa said...

Again, just to caution us to be accurate, the Church's reference to "disorder" solely means an objective inability to procreate without intervention, not disordered in the typical psychological way the term is used.

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