Monday, September 19, 2011

This statement is not bigotry: Public displays of homosexual affection should be illegal

There has recently been quite a fuss over a rather simple blog-post from Stacy Trasancos over at Accepting Abundance. In her post, Dr. Trasancos expressed her frustration about having her young children exposed to public displays of homosexual affection while simply trying to enjoy a day at the park. The story should have ended here.
However, a handful of very hateful atheists and homosexuals (as well as a large number of more moderate individuals from the anti-Catholic, pro-choice, pro-gay sub-culture) have been stampeding her blog and writing about her all over the internet.
In this post, I do not intend to get into the particulars of this situation. I will simply state that I have great respect for Stacy, that I have been keeping her and her family in my prayers (since they have received death threats), and that the blog Accepting Abundance is an excellent site and one of the few blogs that I find to be worth the time of regular reading. Please pray for Stacy, and consider sharing a word of support for her work over in the comment box of her blog. If you have blog yourself, why not make a post in support of her? We need to speak out when a woman and her family are receiving death threats.
What I do propose to consider in this little article is the question of whether it is bigotry to think that the State (not specifically the USA, but any nation in general) ought to enact laws restricting homosexual and other deviant sexual behaviors in public. I am not trying to prove that any particular nation should (at the present moment) impose laws outlawing homosexual PDAs [public displays of affection]; rather, I am proposing a hypothetical question: Am I a bigot, if I think that homosexual PDAs should be illegal?
[for the record, Stacy Trasancos did not claim that homosexual PDAs should be illegal; as I understand it, she only stated that they made her uncomfortable and that she did not want to have to expose her children to them]

Ground-rules for this article
This post is not meant to be a proof of the Church’s teaching that homosexual actions are immoral. That would be a good topic, but there are already plenty of good articles about that. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a good explanation of the purpose of human sexuality and why homosexual relations are contrary to the very nature of the human person.
But that is not the point of debate in this article. What I want to show is that I can think that homosexual PDAs should be illegal without being a bigot.
Furthermore, though I am a Catholic priest, most of this article will be written from a non-religious perspective. I will write all but the final portion of the article from a purely rational and philosophical foundation – not relying in any way upon the truths of revelation.
What it is to be a “bigot”
Again, the purpose of this post is to show that one can think that public displays of homosexual affection should be illegal without being a bigot. Generally, what we mean when we say someone is a “bigot” is that they have an irrational hatred for a class of individuals, not based on any merits or demerits of their own, but solely on account some ideological bias.
It is quite ironic (as an aside) that the very word “bigot” is itself very nearly a form of hate-speech: You see, “bigot” probably comes from the old English “by God”, and implies that all religious people who swear by God are hateful and intolerant of others. Specifically, the word “bigot” was probably a derogatory way of referring to Normans.
How ironic! Those who cry “bigot” are themselves using what is quite probably very judgmental, intolerant, and hateful language! [then again, if a man is willing to threaten a woman and her family, it is no surprise that he would use hate-speech against theists generally]
I think public drunkenness should be illegal, but I do not hate alcoholics
As a first analogy, I argue that although I think public drunkenness should be illegal, I do not hate alcoholics and I am not a bigot. I assert that public drunkenness should be illegal (in fact, in the United States, it is generally illegal). The principal reason why public drunkenness should be illegal is that it is degrading to the morals and good order of society.
I do not say that public drunkenness should be illegal simply because I find it to be unsightly, my opposition to public drunkenness is not motivated by emotion or sentiment but by reason. Drunkenness is wrong, and it is harmful to society; therefore, the State should not want drunkenness to become socially acceptable. Hence, because I think drunkenness is wrong and harmful to society, I should want public drunkenness to be illegal; since public displays of drunkenness would make such activity to become (little by little) socially acceptable.
However, all that being said, there is no reason for anyone to think that I hate alcoholics or intoxicated persons. When I say that public drunkenness should be illegal, I am not thereby advocating that drunks should be rounded up and executed. I am not even claiming that they should necessarily be imprisoned (except, perhaps, overnight for their own safety).
While I believe that drunkenness is harmful to society, I have no ill-will toward alcoholics or intoxicated persons. In fact, it could be argued that I have great concern and love for them, insofar as I believe that the State can help them avoid the pitfall of drunkenness by outlawing public intoxication.  To this end, a reasonable deterrent would be helpful – for example, a citation, and perhaps a small fine for repeated offenses.
It should be clear enough that, although a man might believe that public drunkenness should be illegal, this belief does not make him (ipso facto) to be a “bigot” or a hater of alcoholics. Much less does the simple claim that public drunkenness should be illegal imply that all alcoholics should be persecuted generally or led off to imprisonment or execution.
Now, is it not also possible that a man could believe that homosexuality is immoral and harmful to society, that same-sex “marriage” should be illegal (as it is in most states in the USA), and that therefore homosexual PDAs should be illegal; and that, all things considered, that same man might not be a bigot, might not hate homosexuals, but might in fact have a true charity and concern for their well-being (as well as the well-being of society at large)?
While it is certainly possible that some might disagree with the claim that homosexuality is immoral and harmful to society, that is a point which can be debated; but is anyone so narrow-minded as to think that one who questions the morality of homosexuality is therefore a hate-filled “bigot”? Is there no room left for civil discussion in the public square?

Update: It was pointed out in the comments that outlawing homosexual PDAs would be more like prohibition that outlawing public drunkenness. Even if this were the case (and I'm not sure it is), the point still stands - A man does not necessarily hate alcoholics and is not a bigot simply by the fact that he wants prohibition.
Public nudity should be illegal, but we shouldn’t kill nudists
For my first analogy, I purposely chose an example that was not related to sexual immorality; now I will consider the question of public nudity. If I think that public nudity should be illegal, does that make me a “bigot”? Does it mean that I hate nudists? Are the current laws throughout the USA which ban public nudity a dangerous threat tending to bring our nation to the establishment of “death camps” for nudist colonies?
I think that public nudity should be illegal, and I do not think this on account of a hatred for nudists. Rather, I believe that public nudity would be degrading to the morals and the good order of society. The mere fact that I want public nudity to be illegal does not mean that I want nudists to be arrested or beaten or killed. I do not hate nudists, I just don’t think that they should be able to walk around naked in public.
Furthermore, my belief that public nudity should be illegal is not motivated simply by emotion or sentimentality – it is not simply that nudists make me think “yuk”. While it is probably true that most nudists would not be particularly attractive “in the buck”, it is also likely that at least some would be appealing. Still, even in this case, I would hold that all public nudity should be illegal (and not just the nudity which I find to be personally disgusting).
Public nudity should be illegal, not because of an emotional discomfort or distaste which I might feel, but because such nudity is harmful to society. Since I believe that public nudity significantly damages the good order of society, I believe that it should be illegal. It should not be punishable by death (that would be absurd), a simple citation (and perhaps a fine) would do just fine.
By analogy, it is not hate-speech for an individual to claim that homosexual PDAs should be illegal. A man is not a “bigot” simply because he thinks that homosexual PDAs should be outlawed. Moreover, one can believe that homosexual PDAs should be illegal without going to the bizarre and sinful extreme of wanting those suffering from same-sex attraction to be arrested or killed.  
If same-sex “marriage” should be illegal, so should homosexual PDAs
Dating (or, rather, courtship) is meant to be preparation for marriage. If two individuals should not be married, neither should they date. If it should be illegal for two individuals to marry, likewise it should be illegal for those same two to be romantically involved in public.
For the same reason that marriage should be defined by the State as being between a man and a woman (namely, for the good order of society), homosexual PDAs should be illegal. If homosexual “marriage” is recognized as harmful to the good order of society (and this is why it is illegal in most states in the USA), then homosexual PDAs should also be recognized as harmful to society.
In a similar respect, I would argue that, since heterosexual adultery should be illegal, so too public actions of heterosexual adultery should likewise be illegal. This claim does not mean that I hate adulterers, nor less does it indicate that I believe that adulterers should be killed or even arrested. Neither then does the claim that homosexual PDAs ought to illegal indicate a hatred of those suffering from same-sex attraction.
[In an earlier article, I wrote one the folly of those who want to legalize same-sex marriage. Surprisingly, they are far too “spiritual”. See the article here.]
Christianity protects those suffering from homosexual attraction
It is quite interesting to note that the majority of the GLBT “rights” movement is centered in Western Europe and North America. In actual point of fact, it is principally in Christian societies (or societies which stem from a profoundly Christian heritage) that the “gay” community has found enough tolerance and protection to be able to form as a group and protest for “gay rights”. Why do you think this is?
Islamic Iran is notorious for the horrific human rights violations against homosexuals – it can happen that a person convicted of homosexual activity may even be executed for the crime. Likewise, the secular Reich of Hitler’s Germany (a highly “scientific” and “progressive” nation, motivated especially by certain principles of evolutionary theory) exterminated as many as tens of thousands of homosexuals.
Medieval Europe, on the other hand, (as has been argued by many pro-homosexual “historians”) was extremely tolerant toward homosexuals. It is a simple fact that Christian (and especially Catholic) Europe throughout the height of the so-called “Dark Ages” allowed for much more freedom in the discussion of same-sex attraction in literature and art. It is this general tolerance toward homosexuality (a tolerance which sprang from Christian principals) which has allowed for the “gay” activist movement in modern Western society.
This is all quite ironic, since many in the GLBT community want to argue that traditional Christianity is repressive and hateful toward homosexuals, while at the same time arguing that many of the prominent leaders of medieval European life were either homosexual or had some degree of homosexual tendencies. The GLBTers simply can’t have it both ways: Either Christianity is repressive and “bigoted” (and then we would expect that there would be no room for the GLBT crowd in Western Civilization, compared to great acceptance in places like Africa, Asia, and the Middle East), or Christianity has historically provided a safe-haven of true tolerance for homosexuals (as the GLBT “historians” seem to claim).
This is my claim: While traditional Christianity (and specifically, Catholicism) has always condemned the immorality of homosexual acts, it has also been the primary force in world history toward the protection of the human rights of persons suffering from the homosexual disorder. Catholicism teaches that homosexual activity is sinful, but the Church has also been the principal defender of the rights and dignity of the persons who commit this sin. This is true tolerance, and it is also true love.

Update: Msgr. Charles Pope recently posted an article explaining more fully the Church's teaching on issues related to homosexuality. It is worth the read: here.
Ground-rules for comments
All comments must be approved by me in order to be published.
Anonymous comments will be rejected without any further consideration. Each comment must be accompanied by either a name or a pseudonym, at least at the end of the comment.
Any comment with profanity or with a personal attack (against either me or Stacy, or against homosexuals) will be rejected without any further consideration.
This is a place for civil discussion. If any desire uncivil discussion, they are free to start their own blog.


A Sinner said...

I don't know if this went through, if so ignore this second one:

The problem is that unless they involve a sex-act...PDAs can't be called "homosexual" particularly.

Unless you just mean that they involve two members of the same sex (or even two homosexuals). But then, any display of affection between friends would be outlawed.

I think deviant (and, frankly, ANY) "sexual" behavior in public should be outlawed, to be sure. And, certainly, some forms of currently legal "PDA" may have a lustful motivation; I don't want to see ANYONE "making out" in public, heterosexual or homosexual, for example.

But above that thresh-hold, we can't read minds or jump to conclusions without things becoming, yes, a witch-hunt of 1950s Pleasantville Puritanism.

Maybe those two men holding hands are just Arab, maybe those two women sharing a brief kiss are just French, etc. For all I know, those two guys playing footsy and sort of canoodling playfully are just very close brothers.

Unless explicit sex acts are involved (and I would include heavy petting/"making out" in that category)...I really don't think we can essentialize "homosexual affection" without a certain type of bigotry in the form of this sort of conclusion-jumping, baby-with-bathwater-throwing, or double-standard-holding.

Speaking of "dating" and "romantic involvement" (and then relating them intrinsically to the sacrament of matrimony) is to essentialize categories of interaction which are in fact social constructs, and this troubles me.

But, even if two people engaged in such things were to declare openly "We are proudly involved in unchastity with each other!" (and even if that is true in many cases)...I really don't think we should go the route of being more concerned with publicizing sin (as opposed to sin in general).

Rather than discouraging sin in a culture, the attitude "Don't do it, but if you do at least be quiet/secretive/discreet about it!" tends to just drive things underground where they fester, and leads to a lot of keeping up of appearances without substance and structural dishonesty ("winking") in society.

For example, if I were a wife being cheated on...I'd probably WANT adulterous PDAs to be legal so that I'd be able to FIND OUT my husband was cheating. Hey, if he wants to be open and shamelessly honest about his sin, that makes it easier for the spouse who's the victim, at least, to figure it out. And then THEY can decide how to react.

And while public drunkenness is one thing, for example, the analogy to outlawing "PDAs" isn't outlawing drunkenness (which seems analogous to outlawing full-blown sex acts) but to prohibition of alcohol entirely.

Petrus Augustinus said...

Thank God I'm living in Hungary. Homosexuality is pretty much a non-issue here, outside their yearly parade. That said, I totally agree with everything you've said and the Church stands for.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A sinner,
I see some of your points, but I would remind you that this article was not trying to show so much WHY homosexual PDAs should be illegal [much less, HOW that law should be enforced].
That would be a good and worthwhile article, but it is not the one I have written.

Rather, the point of the article was to show that a person could think that homosexual PDAs should be illegal, without himself being a "bigot".
That is what the examples of drunkenness and nudity have been used to illustrate.

Regarding your final point about prohibition ... here I would say that even if I did want prohibition, that still wouldn't mean that I am a "bigot" or that I hate alcoholics ... so the analogy would still serve its purpose.

Peace! +

elcid said...


These are great rational arguments you put forward, if homosexuals are going to accused us of bigotry I guess we as christians can accused atheists of the same thing, of course I would never do so, I welcome the debates from atheists but just making a point, as ArchBishop Sheen once said it's not intolerance but tolerance of sin, immorality,etc, that's the problem in America.
During the events of 9/11 I heard a priest make the opening prayer at one of the events, not once did he mention the name Jesus, I quickly assume it was to be politically correct, therein lies part of the problem, christians afraid to speak the truth for fear of offending other people but have no problem offending God, I don't know how far we can continue to fall morally before our eyes are open to the realization that we christians are a big part of this rabid immorality that has infected our society.

Paul Rimmer said...

Your analogies fail. Alcoholism is a disorder. Homosexuality is not. Public nudity does not connect to Gay PDA's, because public nudity is illegal for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, and so does not discriminate between the two groups.

Gay PDA's should not be illegal because they are protected by free speech and expression. Opposition to free expression by a minority group must be founded on prejudice. Since the prejudice does not possess even a shred of intelligence or rationality, the prejudice is bigotry.

Anyone who supports making gay PDA illegal is a bigot.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

The modern Catholic Church has rhetorically painted itself into a corner vis a vis homosexuals and human rights.

There can be no human right to engage in a sin crying to heaven for vengeance but Holy Mother CHurch will not talk forthrightly about the perversion of homosexuality.

And so behavior that once used to remain behind closed doors becomes a public spectacle.

There is endless talk about the dignity of the person but rare are the words condemning this evil vice.

We have had one-half century of New Ways Ministry and Dignity Masses but we do not have the dignity to confess that our new ways of "being church" have totally failed.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

" Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided...." is a Catechism entry that can be taken to mean that there are just acts of discrimination that may be used.


The LIberal idea that all discrimination is bad is satanic.

Mike said...

This may not be very edifying and is not particularly crucial to the argument which has been very eloquently put but I was struck by the argument about not wanting to see people naked in public to let you know about the Naked Rambler. He is a British nudist who wants the right to be able to wander about anywhere in public without wearing any clothes. He gets put into prison and when he comes out he insists on going naked so gets put back into prison. I take it that nobody in Britain who agrees that this man should be put into prison considers themselves bigoted in any way.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Paul R,
Nudists are a minority group ... do you think that it is bigotry if a man believes that public nudity ought not to be protected by "freedom of expression"?

If not, then why would it be bigotry for a man to think that homosexual PDAs ought not to be protected by "freedom of expression"?

btw, if analogy is worthless and incapable of communicating truth, then human communication will surely crumble ... since we constantly make use of analogy in speech.
There is a "healthy" man, a "healthy" diet, and "healthy" teeth ... analogy is very important.

Anonymous said...

The world makes me sick.
I think I've lived too long.


A Sinner said...

The analogies you give are not analogous on these grounds. Nudity is illegal for everyone. Public drunkenness is illegal for everyone (and not merely for the sake of alcoholics, but just because it is bad for society whether the public drunkard is an "alcoholic" in any given case or not).

A law that sought to Prohibit ALL alcohol for EVERYONE based merely on drinking's association with alcoholics (even though plenty of people can drink moderately) would be a biased law; it would involve letting "concern for" (in reality: fear or contempt of) one group taint intrinsically neutral behaviors for everyone else just by association.

But a law that sought to make drinking illegal only for "alcoholics" would likewise be discriminatory, as (though alcoholics should voluntarily abstain based on their own weakness, usually) would have to involve officially identifying a class of people known as "alcoholics," essentializing that category for the purposes of law, and then treating them differently based on this enforced identification.

Now, with alcohol it might be a bit easier to do non-discriminatorily. Rather than banning "alcoholics" from drinking, you could use some criminal BEHAVIORAL definition, like "Anyone who has ever been caught driving drunk" with the ban on future purchase of alcohol being a punishment for that crime.

But the PDA thing would require legally identifying "homosexuals" and that's a scary road to go down. (Should they have to wear some sort of distinguishing mark so that everyone knows if they're committing illegal PDAs?? A pink triangle perhaps??)

Paul Rimmer said...


Nudists may be some sort of minority group, but you completely miss my point nonetheless.

There is no way to phrase an enforceable law against gay PDA that would not refer to specific genders. Restricting public behavior based on gender is at the very least sexist.

Making public nudity generally illegal requires no mention of gender. "People must completely cover their genetalia with something opaque". That's it. If you want stronger nudity laws, you can make the phrase stronger.

But comparing gay PDA to public nudity is an error of degree as well as of type. I would be against male-on-male sodomy in the streets (as I've witnessed, sadly, in the streets of San Francisco during a gay pride rally). I'm against homosexual name-calling of heterosexuals. When my wife and I passed through the street holding hands, we were called "breeders." It's not all one-sided.

But making laws restricting men from holding the hands of other men is making a nitpicking law, making a virtually unenforceable law, a sexist law, and, since there is no good reason for such a measure and it's already prejudiced (you have to mention specific genders, right?), supporting this law supports hate. And anyone who supports this law is a bigot.

It's not that all analogies are bad. Many analogies are good. It's that your analogies are bad.

The analogy doesn't connect in type (nudists are in general nothing like gays), degree (holding hands is not stripping), or subject (PDA laws and nudity laws don't even deal with the same social issue or moral taboos). The only connection is that both are public. It's a bad analogy.

It's as bad as saying "Priests shouldn't hold the hands of boys because we don't let pedophiles proposition children in public." One has nothing to do with the other, and making the connection illustrates a strong and irrational bias.

I don't have that prejudice for priests, for straights (I am one), or for gays. Or for anyone else (as far as I'm aware).

Joe M said...

Good Post Father.
I found it very informative and neutral, but out of curiosity I wounder what should constitute PDA inappropriate for the public (be it homosexual or otherwise). After all, the states have specific Blood-Alcohol measures to determine drunkeness just like nudity is a specific condition (total lack of clothing). Where do we draw the line between say, handholding and public fornication?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A sinner,
Your position would force you to accept same-sex marriage.
Perhaps you are willing to go down that road ...

Your final point about forcing homosexuals to wear "pink triangles" is a good example of the lack of rationality and civility in discussion of this issue ... if anyone questions the public display of homosexuality, that person is immediately compared to the Nazi's ... I think it is quite offensive that you would suggest that Jews are not much different from homosexuals (such that one who does not want public homosexuality is [ipso facto] like the Nazi who wants to kill off the Jews).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Paul Rimmer
(please let me know if you would prefer me to call you either "Paul" or "Mr. Rimmer"; for my part, I generally prefer "Fr. Ryan", but if "Ryan" is easier that is fine),

First, thank you for the clarification on analogy ... I had misread earlier -- I thought you had said "all analogies fail" rather than "your analogies fail".

Second, a question: Do I "hate" youngsters because I believe that they should be deprived of many activities (e.g. drinking, driving, voting)? Am I a "bigot" because of this belief?

Third, the analogies were not meant to compare either nudity or drunkenness with homosexuality ... the comparison is on the part of the intention of the lawmaker.

Finally, I wonder if you realize just how hateful a word "bigot" is ... do you realize that the word you are using degrades me simply because I believe in God?
What would you think if other slurs were used in the public square (say against homosexuals or against blacks)?

Ok, last of all, the hypothetical law would not discriminate against homosexuals in particular -- for ALL PEOPLE whether gay or straight, the law would make it illegal for two men or two woman to be romantically involved in public.
The hypothetical question is not about a law outlawing homosexual PDAs solely for homosexuals, but outlawing them for all people ... just as laws against public drunkenness apply to all people and not just alcoholics.

Peace to you! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Remember that anonymous comments will not be posted ... the comment must at least have a pseudonym or name at the bottom of the comment text.

Paul Rimmer said...

Fr. Ryan,

To be clear, I don't refer to you as a bigot because you believe in God. Many people who believe in God do not think modest gay public displays of affection should be illegal. It's not a slur. It's accurate. And it is my hope such labeling increases in the future, in order to discourage suggestions like this.

I think that future generations will look at the kind of laws you are discussing now with embarrassment, thinking "what a great priest and what an inspiring writer, Fr. Erlenbush is. It is so sad that he was a product of his times, and held to such a prejudiced notion of gays and gay rights."

The analogy about youth is better, but it still doesn't quite capture the sexism. It's ageist, but I don't know of anyone who thinks discrimination on the basis of age is always bad (although it can be). Also, laws about drinking age, voting, etc. don't quite restrict things anyone can do in public.

A better analogy would be "women can't have physical contact with men in public. But men can have contact with men and women with women." No holding hands, no kissing, no shaking, no physical contact, except with a fellow man. This sort of law would be discriminatory and wrong. Anyone who would actually try to advocate for this law would be a bigot. Even if he or she were religious. Even if he or she were gay.

It's possible to be both gay and a bigot. I am sure such people exist. There are Jewish anti-semites, after all!

The intention of a lawmaker for banning gay PDAs could be nothing but malicious. Just like the above law is cruel and unjust, banning gay PDAs is also cruel and unjust.

Paul Rimmer said...

Oh, and you can call me Paul.

I'm not religious, but I think you are a spiritual father in the eyes of many, so I can call you "Father", even if you are not my spiritual father.

That and you seem like a very balanced and decent guy, for the most part. It would be great to discuss these things with you over a cold beer sometime.

bobfett11 said...

I find the phrase "persons suffering from the homosexual disorder" to be very insulting. It is dehumanizing and makes gay people out to be inferior and defective. I went to Catholic school and never heard people referred to like this. We were considered brothers and sisters in Christ. It hurts to hear some people referred to as disordered and defective. I find this more troubling than any public displays of affection. Mark

bobfett11 said...

Mention here was made of dating. Where does the Church stand on gay people dating? How old should gay teens be before they are allowed to date? What is the guideline for parents?

Msgr. Pope said...

Thanks for this article. Some very good analogies here. Thanks too for some very good responses to the combox here.

James Locke said...

Just my own 2 cents: This was a a well reasoned argument, but as we know already from experience, reason has nothing to do with the support and celebration of the sexual (homo and hetero). Often people are fully illogical and simply angry. Hardly a good way to get people to cooperate.

I agree with your reasoning and maybe some of the those trolling hacks do too, but to them, Logic is a waste, emotion is king.

A Sinner said...

"Your position would force you to accept same-sex marriage.
Perhaps you are willing to go down that road ..."

I don't see how. Same sex marriage could be illegal for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

I see now that a first half of my above post was missing that perhaps makes my position clearer. I will try to reconstruct it below.

"if anyone questions the public display of homosexuality, that person is immediately compared to the Nazis"

No. Indeed, I am not concerned with "questioning the public display of homosexuality." Rather, I am concerned with this idea you have of a notion of "public display of homosexuality" in the first place.

Outside public homogenital acts, I'm not sure what exactly "public display of homosexuality" even means. This is where the discrimination comes in as I explained in my deleted post which I am going to attempt to reconstruct below.

For now, suffice it to say, the problem that warrants comparison to Nazis and their triangles is that your position ultimately requires "official" identification of what is actually an invisible and subjective category.

"I think it is quite offensive that you would suggest that Jews are not much different from homosexuals"

They are similar in regard to being an "invisible" minority inasmuch as you cannot look at someone and know with any sort of certainty whether they are a Jew OR a homosexual. Laws that would require official recognition of these categories (in order to treat their members differently) are troubling in the same way.

A Sinner said...

My attempt at re-writing the post of mine that was missing above:

I don't know about "bigoted" but what you propose would certainly involve discrimination, not of behavior, but of a type of person, which is very troubling.

You speak of "public displays of homosexuality" or displays of "homosexual affection"...and what such an objection ultimately comes down to is not an objection to certain behaviors in themselves, but to behaviors AS manifesting or externalizing the fact that people belong to a certain category.

For example, I don't think sodomy laws would necessarily be discriminatory like this. That doesn't mean I support them in our society/culture today, but at least they would target a type of BEHAVIOR in a non-discriminatory fashion, because that behavior was considered bad (in terms of civil law, bad for society). Sodomy laws, assumably, apply equally to homosexuals and heterosexuals. There is no probing of the person's internal "sexual orientation" when it comes to sodomy laws, the external act is what is criminalized.

However, when you start talking about "PDAs" or "displays of homosexuality" start talking about acts which are not intrinsically bad. Which are in themselves neutral, and which at most are bad only "contextually" based on the fact of the participants homosexuality or homosexual attraction one for the other. And that's where there is a leap from criminalizing behavior to criminalizing people that is extremely troubling.

Actually, I wouldn't be inclined to call any mere external act "intrinsically wrong" except inasmuch as it engages the Will. However, some acts (like genital acts) are at least "inextricably" wrong, inasmuch as it is practically impossible to separate the external juxtaposition and motion of body parts from the lust/pleasure which is what really engages the will. Sex acts are certainly like this absolutely, and I'd even include up to "making out" as relatively so (sure, people, like actors in movies, may be able to do it passionlessly as just a mechanical act of their mouths, but in real life people are always doing it for arousal).

However, you get past a certain threshold, and things become much more subjective. Holding hands, brief kisses, hugs, calm cuddling, playing footsy, whatever...are not in themselves intrinsically or inextricably wrong like this.

Presumably, there would be no objection to straight people doing these things, even with members of the same a world where the spectre of homosexuality was not looming. Presumably such acts are in themselves neutral without sexual attraction between the parties (or an assumption by the public that such acts express such attraction.)

So there are two ways the law could approach same sex PDAs (which, for the purposes of law, would have to be defined objectively and concretely in terms of specific types of acts). It could ban them for everyone, or it could attempt to ban them for just homosexuals.

If a law was passed banning them for everyone (say, two men can't hold hands in public even if they are straight) this involves a form of discrimination by overgeneralization. Besides just the fact that some cultures do this (in the Middle East for example), what it basically does is ban a morally neutral act for EVERYONE just because of its association with one type of person.

A Sinner said...

Such a ban would basically amount to saying that such acts are wrong, perhaps not in themselves intrinsically, but simply because they are a sort of act "homosexuals" might engage in. The implicit jump here from type of behavior to category of person is EXTREMELY troubling. Behaviors would be outlawed not because they are seen as bad intrinsically, but merely because they are "tainted" by homophobia.

I can only imagine a protest movement emerging whereby all sorts of HETEROSEXUAL men and women would start engaging in same-sex PDAs simply to demonstrate the absurdity of such an attempt.

Or, the other approach the State might take (even scarier) is to ban such acts only for homosexuals (after all, it can't be "homosexual affection" if the parties involved aren't homosexuals). However, this does have extremely scary fascist implications. Does the State then start identifying (and registering??) homosexuals officially in order to specify who can engage in such behaviors "safely" and who can't? Do homosexuals need to wear some sort of external identifier to let everyone know that they're in the class of people for whom such acts are problematic rather than otherwise neutral?? Especially given that "the homosexual" is a social construct, who gets to determine?

Basically, attempts to outlaw "displays of homosexual affection" involve accepting an essentialized notion of "sexual orientation," but as a NEGATIVE category, and then discriminating based on those categories of people, rather than the intrinsic (or at least inextricable) nature of a behavior.

So, as I said above, my opinion does NOT mean accepting same-sex marriage. Presumably, same-sex marriage is forbidden to both heterosexuals and homosexuals, as it is the act which is considered problematic in itself, without any reference to the internal invisible inclinations of persons.

Outlawing acts in themselves neutral, however, simply because of the assumption that they (while not wrong in themselves) manifest a problematized disposition, or just because of uncomfortableness (even when it is heterosexuals involved) over their mere ASSOCIATION with extremely troubling.

In fact, this is what is meant by homophobia; a fear/contempt/disgust/hatred/uncomfortableness with homosexuals as a type of person. In contrast to legitimate concern with types of ACTS (that, in reality, both homosexuals and heterosexuals could theoretically commit).

You try to portray a proposed ban as about types of acts rather than types of person, but this falls apart when one considers that the acts in question this time are not intrinsically problematic (as, say, certain types of sex acts might be), but rather that they are problematized only by association with homosexuals as a type of person or the assumption of homosexual orientation (and a blanket aversion to "expressing" it, even in forms that are not in-themselves problematic except AS an "expression" of it).

The difference from sodomy laws or not allowing same-sex that presumably in those cases the acts would are considered problematic in themselves and thus forbidden for EVERYONE, whether the parties involved were "homosexuals" or "heterosexuals." Whereas, in this case, neutral acts are being legally problematized only for a certain [naturally invisible, and socially constructed] category of person (or, if for everyone, mainly because of an association WITH that type of person).

It basically amounts to bigotry against homosexuals as category of persons. Because it illegalizes acts, NOT because the acts in themselves are problematic, but only because of what the acts are taken to be expressive OF (homosexual orientation). Which amounts to a condemnation of that category (through condemnation of neutral acts merely because they express/manifest it).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A sinner,
I'm sorry, but your comments are just too long for me to discuss all the many points.
I do wish I had more time to keep up this blog, but I simply cannot.

Again, I just don't see how you can say that such a law would be trying to find out the secret thoughts of mens' (and womens') hearts -- for all people, whatever their orientation, it would be illegal for them to engage in homosexual PDAs.
If two straight guys did it to make a point, that would be illegal.
If two homosexual women did it - not out of attraction, but to make a point - that too would be illegal.

And I do believe that homosexual PDAs (between any two persons, gay or straight) are harmful to society, insofar as they encourage what I believe to be a disordered lifestyle - one which is harmful not only to individuals but to the institution of the family.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm sorry that you found my phrase "persons suffering from the homosexual disorder" to be offensive ... that was not at all my intent.
In fact, I was specifically trying to use wording which safe-guarded the dignity of the person while at the same time describing the wrongfulness of the action.

You are quite right that "It hurts to hear some people referred to as disordered and defective."
That is why I specifically DID NOT say that the people are disordered, but rather that they suffer from a disorder.
Is it wrong to say that alcoholism is a disease? If I say that alcoholism is a bad thing (i.e. a disorder), am I thereby saying that I hate alcoholics?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Regarding the Church's teaching on homosexual dating ... because we see dating as preparation for marriage, and because the Church rejects homosexual marriage, she also teaches that homosexual dating is sinful and causes great (spiritual, emotional, and psychological) harm to the individuals involved.
Parents should not approve of homosexual dating, but should calmly and lovingly explain the call to chastity.

A man/woman is not a "gay" or a "homosexual", he only has (or suffers from) a homosexual orientation.
Just as no one is a "straight" or a "heterosexual", he only has a heterosexual orientation.
What is really sad about the "gay"rights movement, is that it identifies a class of people solely according to their sexual orientation (ultimately demeaning the dignity of those persons).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I thank you as well for your balance and rationality in this discussion!
I'm sure a beer would indeed make the conversation even more enjoyable.

Regarding the word "bigot" ... I did not intend to imply that you were using the word in that way -- I admit that I am not always as clear in the comment box as I would like to be.
What I meant to point out is simply that the etymology of the word is extremely offensive and hateful -- I wrote about this toward the beginning of the article.

More to the point: The proposal would not be that homosexual PDAs be banned just for homosexuals, but that homosexual PDAs would be illegal regardless of who engaged in them. It would be illegal for two "gays" to engage in a homosexual PDA, and it would also be illegal for two "straights" to do the same.

This is why the proposal is not prejudice ... the law is not being applied selectively, but across the board.
[and I do recognize that this explanation will not hold much water with many people ... but it is true, the law is applied to all and not simply to a small minority (as opposed to laws relating to age, for example)]

In any case, thank you for your charity in this conversation. +

A Sinner said...

"And I do believe that homosexual PDAs (between any two persons, gay or straight) are harmful to society, insofar as they encourage what I believe to be a disordered lifestyle - one which is harmful not only to individuals but to the institution of the family."

But this is exactly where the "bigotry" lies.

You are condemning acts in-themselves neutral, merely because you believe of a connection to a lifestyle (through a category of persons) which is far from airtight.

I find it odd how you use "to make a point" as the only possible motive two straight guys might have for holding hands. It's possible they're just doing it to express homoSOCIAL affection, etc.

To ban acts that are not intrinsically problematic (and which people might engage in for a variety of good or at least neutral reasons) merely because of their ASSOCIATION with gay people (and, by even further conclusion-jumping extension, with unchastity) seems homophobic to me.

Seems to be more about having a problem with a type of person rather than with the behaviors in themselves.

To me it seems like saying something along the lines of, "No one can wear overalls, because poor people do that, and we all know poor people are thieves!"

Poor people are here problematized because of an (albeit "logical") connection between poverty and theft (by their very situation, the poor are more inclined to steal). This is already one unfair leap.

But an even more absurd leap is made when a totally neutral behavior (wearing overalls) associated (again "logically") with poverty is condemned on the grounds of merely that association.

I think it would be fair to say this just downright classism. It amounts to "I think we should avoid signifiers associated with poverty, because I am suspicious of poor people, because of the connection between poverty and criminality."

Holding hands is in itself a neutral act. Condemning it because of an association with homosexuals (homosexuals made suspect in your mind by a connection between homosexuals and unchastity) strikes me as, yes, homophobic.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A sinner,
I'm sorry, but if you think that "holding hands" qualifies as a PDA (either "straight" or "gay"), you are far more of a "prude" than I!

I fear that you have failed to grasp an essential point (perhaps the phrase "PDA" means something different in the USA, than in other parts of the world) ... a PDA is not any display of "affection", but specifically of sexual affection.
Hence, (for example) a father and son holding hands or hugging is not a PDA, much less a sexual PDA.

I'm not going to go into detail about what exactly constitutes a PDA ... that is not the issue ... as I say in the article, I am not trying to lay out the specifics of a law.
My point is to say that the desire to outlaw homosexual PDAs (for all people, gay or straight) is not bigotry.
This is not homophobic.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

That should read: "Hence, (for example) a father and son holding hands or hugging is not a PDA, much less a homosexual PDA."
I typed "sexual PDA" instead of "homosexual PDA" at the end.

Peace! +

A Sinner said...

"The proposal would not be that homosexual PDAs be banned just for homosexuals, but that homosexual PDAs would be illegal regardless of who engaged in them. It would be illegal for two 'gays' to engage in a homosexual PDA, and it would also be illegal for two "straights" to do the same."

That can still be bigotry though, as I explained, if the reason it is being banned even for merely because of the association with homosexuality.

Holding hands, or a kiss on the cheek, or walking with arms around each other's shoulders, etc...are neutral acts in-themselves. Especially for heterosexuals, they are assumably non-problematic considered in a vacuum.

However, you are problematizing them, in historical cultural context, based not on anything intrinsically problematic about the behaviors, but rather based on nothing other than their association with homosexuals. And that is classic homophobia.

As, under this proposed law, even when the two men are heterosexual and it involves nothing intrinsically morally problematic (no lust or sexual attraction of any sort)...the attitude is basically:

"Oh! [or Ew!] I am offended by seeing two men hold hands because that's now been tainted by association with the gays, since gays attracted to each other do that, and so as a knee-jerk reaction it's very important to maintain overtly heterosexualized gender-scripts that avoid anything, even in itself neutral, that might even remotely be confused with something people might do due to homosexuality."

Ironically, this all involves ACCEPTING an essentialized notion of "sexual orientation" whereby, suddenly, all sorts of gestures are sexualized, and where formerly these things (a kiss, holding hands, a hug, etc) were merely "displays of affection" (as between friends)...they have now become parsed as either displays of "heterosexual" affection or displays of "homosexual" affection, depending on the sexes of the parties involved, even if there is nothing intrinsically "sexual" about the acts in-themselves at all.

A very sad situation.

A Sinner said...

"a PDA is not any display of 'affection,' but specifically of sexual affection."

The problem is that, for me, this is either meaningless, or it equally applies to heterosexual and homosexual PDAs.

For me, any display of affection that makes it unambiguous that the affection is "sexual" already too much for the public sphere.

And so if we are to ban unambiguously "sexual" public displays of "affection"...we should ban both the heterosexual and the homosexual. To SINGLE-OUT the problematic bias.

On the other-hand, if you're proposing that there are some sorts of display of affection which are unambiguously "sexual" but which CAN be appropriate in public ["but only for heterosexuals!"] I am left rather baffled.

To me, truly UNAMBIGUOUSLY "sexual" displays of affection (say, two people "making out")...are already too much for public, heterosexual OR homosexual.

But, on the other hand, I think it is a recipe for a witch-hunt to start identifying certain more discreet actions as nevertheless "sexual" for the purpose of outlawing them (for homosexuals but not heterosexuals), as by the very nature of their reserve or mildness they are more ambiguous.

Simply put: I can't think of a type of display-of-affection I'd allow in public for a man and a woman but NOT for two men.

All the PDAs I can think of (like making out) that I would ban, I'd find problematic for a heterosexual couple ALSO.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

I think that future generations will look at the kind of laws you are discussing now with embarrassment, thinking "what a great priest and what an inspiring writer, Fr. Erlenbush is. It is so sad that he was a product of his times, and held to such a prejudiced notion of gays and gay rights."

I think future generations will wonder why Priests like Fr E. are in jail simply for publicly teaching that homosexual acts are gravely sinful and, unless repented of, will lead that person to Hell.

Thanks be to God that Priests like Fr E are not a product of our times.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Laws and rights are newly spoken about in isolation with nary a thought given to how a right has a corresponding obligation.

I write that any sane society (that excludes ours) would not have to draft positive laws re the public displays of perversion so as to protect the rights of Mothers and Fathers because in a healthy society, men, especially Fathers, would take care of the matter themselves.

And the perverse pretense that we must acknowledge claims of homosexual rights is antithetical to the Common Good whereas the assertions of rights by Mothers and Fathers are now labeled bigotry.

Evil is an inversion of the good and that is the subtext of all of these discussions. Homosexual acts are gravely evil and any society which tries to accomodate evil in its positive law is committing suicide.

There is no Catholic tradition of speaking and writing about rights this way and it is not only irrational, it is evil, to insist that The Church established by Jesus take its directions from the propaganda of perversion.

Maybe a bit of review of "rights" in the old Catholic Encyclopedia will be helpful.

And as far as the name-calling, any Christian worth his salt is going to be, at minimum, called names.

Anita said...

It is illegal for me - someone who does not use alcohol - to be drunk in public. Therefore, the law applies to alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike.

Following that line of thought - a law against homosexual PDAs would NOT be directed at homosexuals alone. It would also be illegal for me - a heterosexual - to engage in same-sex PDAs.

It's silly to claim a law is discriminatory simply because some groups may feel more inclined to break said law than others.

By the way - wasn't there a time when such things were illegal? Scandalous behavior was a punishable offense in many jurisdictions -- regardless of a person's 'sexual orientation'.

Paul Rimmer said...

Fr. Ryan,

Thanks for your reply.

If the ban of homosexual PDA is not discriminatory, then the ban of heteroesxual PDA is also not discriminatory.

After all, the ban I proposed in my previous message doesn't mention gays or straights. A man, gay or straight, cannot hold hands with a woman, gay or straight, in public. But a man, gay or straight, could hold hands and kiss another man, gay or straight, in public.

If the above law is discriminatory, then your proposed law is discriminatory. If your proposed law is not discriminatory, then neither is this one, and it might as well be enacted.

Discrimination on the basis of sex is sexism. Your proposed law has to mention genders, and it is (as I think you already realize) discriminatory.

It's sexist. It's hateful. It's wrong.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I apologize, but as I am currently at a conference, I will be a bit slow in responding to comments.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Father Erlenbush, I completely agree with every point you have made.

You as a blogger should be proud of ALL of the work you have done! Please keep up the good work and thank you. PEACE+


Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Sexism. Good Lord. Jesus, I 'spose, was sexist because He chose only Males to be Priests.

The charge of sexism was cooked-up in the cauldron of feminism which was but an evil eruption within communism.

The idea that identifying as sexist some normal action renders that action unacceptable is flat out silly.

And of course positive laws are sometimes discriminatory and the idea they ought not be is but a conceit of liberalism before which all are supposed to bow.

LIberalism is a sin (a book by that name is available for free to read online) in addition to being insane.

The principle of non-discrimination that Liberalism champions has been totally unmasked and exposed by Mr Auster at his VFR (View From the Right) site and he explains how self-destrutive it is and how it kills society

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

"The reason people don't understand why PC becomes so entrenched is because "political correctness" is itself a phrase that obscures the institutional rationale for things. PC is nothing more or less than advanced, institutionalized liberalism. I have come to dislike the phrase "political correctness run amok" very strongly. It suggests that just a little bit of PC would be sensible, or that PC is just an extreme version of something basically rational, which it's not. You can't identify and combat "political correctness run amok," because it's a meaningless way to describe the phenomenon.
The phenomenon is liberalism, and the reason Western society is in the death grip of political correctness is because PC is an expression of the death grip that liberalism has on all our institutions--the media, the military, the universities, the mainline churches, etc. All of them are PC because all of them have, in ways unique to the character or charism of each, adopted the essentials of liberalism. In particular, the belief that erasing distinctions--and particularly categories as they apply to human beings--is the highest possible calling in life, somehow residing at the core of the institution's mission, is the liberal ideal to which all We3stern institutions now subscribe.
What Larry Auster sometimes calls the non-discrimination principle, that is, the notion that discrimination is the single greatest possible evil and that all goods are tertiary to the good of advancing the liberal ideal of non-discrimination, really is the ruling principle of our society. Recognizing this fact makes every single instance of PC madness fully comprehensible. It also explains why everyone knows by instinct the seemingly byzantine demands of PC, even when they aren't written down anywhere. Being based on such a simple principle, people are able to instantly and without reflection apply it to any given situation at all. Finally, recognizing this fact also explains why people are so hopelessly confused by it all--they accept the basic premises of liberalism, and they largely know precisely when and how to cringe before its demands ("Not that there's anything wrong with that!"), but they nonetheless are baffled when they see institutions behaving in accordance with the raw, anti-rational radicalism of the non-discrimination principle. They fail to identify liberalism as such as the source of the problem, being basically liberals themselves, so they blame it on some hazy thing called "political correctness." Moreover, they realize that this is an expression of something that they basically accept, and cannot repudiate utterly, so they say that it is somehow "run amok."
If people would simply call it what it is, that is institutionalized liberalism, we could at least hve a debate on the real causes of such insanity and decide whether we really do think the sacrifice worth it." Sage

Liberalsim is a sin

Michelangelo said...

Dear Father Erlenbush,

Thank you for an elegant argument. I couldn't agree more. The differences between the Catholic world and the Islamic world on this subject are stark, as you have mentioned.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

A man/woman is not a "gay" or a "homosexual", he only has (or suffers from) a homosexual orientation.

Dear Father. "orientation" is not apt. The Cathechism teaches it is a disordered inclination not an orientation.

Folks have to stop treating the 1-3% of the population who are homosexual as though they were the most important people on the planet whose very existence commands us to change the entire society/culture so they will not feel bad about their perverse actions.

Any sin ought make one feel bad. If not, that is a sign the Holy Ghost has been successfully resisted by the sinner.

Mareczku said...

Dear Father: But to me being gay is not a disorder. It is not a disease. I am somewhat offended when people compare being gay to being an alcoholic (they are 2 different things). Some gay people may be alcoholics.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Same-sex attraction is a disorder, whether it is a disease is another question.
Obviously, it is not a disease in the way the flue is a disease, i.e. it is not contagious.

I say that homosexuality is a disorder insofar as it inclines one to actions which are contrary to nature -- for sexual intimacy between two individuals of the same sex is unnatural.
How do I know it is unnatural? Because homosexual intimacy cannot produce life, and sex was given humanity for the propagation of the human species (and also for the union of the couple).

Now, I know that this is hard to hear ... but sometimes the truth hurts.

Still, whether homosexuality is a disease is up for question -- some want to say that it can be genetic, in that case I would say that it is a disease (like alcoholism). Others say that it comes mostly from disordered experiences [either suffering from someone else's sins or actively sinning, or both], in this case it would not be a disease but would be an induced disorder (like post traumatic stress syndrome).

In any case, those suffering from the disorder of homosexuality are called to a life of chastity (i.e. celibacy), to unite their sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, and to trust in the Lord who loves them more than they can possibly imagine.

Peace to you. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

(sorry for the delay in responding)

You are correct, a ban of heterosexual PDAs would not be discriminatory either. [though, to be a just nation, that State would also have to ban the greater evil of homosexual PDAs]

A law is not discriminatory simply for recognizing real differences in the nature of things. It is not discriminatory to recognize that two men or two women cannot conceive a child. Neither is it discriminatory or bigotry to state that they ought not engage in PDAs.

Would it be "discriminatory", "hateful" and "wrong" to outlaw alcohol but not outlaw other drinkable liquids?
Is prohibition bigotry simply because it recognizes the difference between beer and soda?

Peace to you, and thank you for this fruitful discussion! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

To all,
there have been a couple of comments which contained profanities and/or (what I consider to be) excessively aggressive speech against homosexuals.
Hence, they were not posted.

Lizzz said...

While I feel that your discussions of public drunkenness and public nudity have merit, I do not feel that they are analogous to a discussion of banning homosexual PDAs. The simple fact that you would be illegalizing homosexual PDAs, rather than PDAs in general, is clearly prejudiced. I certainly would not assume that you wished to see all homosexual people stoned to death. But the fact of the matter is that you would be attempting to legislate against the rights of many of my friends and one of my brothers. Church and state are separated in this country for a very good reason.

Do I assume that you want to kill all homosexual people? No, of course not. That is a straw man argument you designed to steer attention away from your own unfounded prejudice. Matters of linguistics from centuries ago are unimportant when you are attempting to deny rights to people who exist today.

Let's be honest, the Bible is a book of ancient myths just like any other. I could just as easily believe in the Epic of Gilgamesh and claim that enormous, frightening kings should be allowed to rape the virgins of their kingdoms.

Elizabeth S. A heathen in Salt Lake City.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

First, it is not discrimination or bigotry to recognize that a man is not a woman and a woman not a man.
A man and a woman can do something which two men cannot do and which two women cannot do -- they can have children.
Thus, there is no bigotry in having a law against homosexual "marriage" ... neither then is it bigotry to have a law against homosexual PDAs.

And the law wouldn't being denying anything to one group of people alone ... it would be illegal for all people, "gay" or "straight", to commit homosexual PDAs.

Finally, your silly speech about the Bible doesn't deserve a serious response ... so I will give you a non-serious response: Are you really so foolish as to think that the Bible is ONE book, written in ONE time, by ONE person, for ONE people?!
To compare the Bible to the Epic of Gilgamesh betrays your ignorance both of Scripture and of literature in general.
If only the Bible was as simple as you claim it to be ... if the Bible was no differ from any other ancient book of myths, it would at least be much easier to interpret!

In any case, though you apparently did not notice, my argument was not in any way based on Scripture or on the Christian faith .


Frank said...

"Thus, there is no bigotry in having a law against homosexual 'marriage' ... neither then is it bigotry to have a law against homosexual PDAs.

And the law wouldn't being denying anything to one group of people alone ... it would be illegal for all people, 'gay' or 'straight', to commit homosexual PDAs."

La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Anatole France

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Do you think that an argument is of greater value simply because it is in French? That's a bit bigoted isn't it?

... oh, did you want to have a serious discussion? ...

bobfett11 said...

Dear Father: To me saying that homosexuality is a disorder lessens the humanity of gay people. I wonder if people who keep going on about how it is a disorder and also about the "gay lifestyle" realize the effect that this has on gay teens and young people? Some misguided young people might think that by bullying and attacking gay kids that they are fighting evil. This lays a heavy burden on our young gay people, many of whom are Catholic.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The truth will set us free.

Therefore, it will do no good for us to lie and tell young teens who suffer from homosexuality that it is "normal" or "natural" ... neither will it do them any good if we stand by while bigots harass homosexuals or are unjust towards them.

What we must do is speak the truth in love.
Homosexuality is a disorder, it is unnatural, and those who suffer from this need help -- especially they need the love and support of the Church to help them live a chaste lifestyle.

Just as recognizing that autism is a disorder does not lessen the humanity of the autistic, neither does the recognition of homosexuality as a disorder less the dignity of those who suffer from this unnatural inclination.

All must come from love and return to love ... the Church (especially the priests) must help those who suffer from this disorder to carry the heavy burden.

Peace to you! +

A Sinner said...

"A man/woman is not a 'gay' or a 'homosexual,' he only has (or suffers from) a homosexual orientation."

This isn't how we use language though. If this were the case, we could never use adjectives or verbs (ie, participles) as nouns.

Then no one could be "a runner," merely "a human person who runs." No one could be "an American," merely "a human person who happens to have American citizenship" etc.

In reality, there is no grand metaphysical claim in using "a homosexual" or "gay" to describe people or oneself. It is not a claim that a species of essence exists known as "the homosexual" in the way there is a human nature.

To require such tortuous verbal constructs (in this case and this case only, it seems; as Catholics don't seem to have a problem with "I'm an alcoholic" or "I'm a sinner") is unnecessary, absurd, and reveals a clear double-standard and bias. There is no need to "talk around" the fact that people are homosexuals.

A Sinner said...

"I say that homosexuality is a disorder insofar as it inclines one to actions which are contrary to nature -- for sexual intimacy between two individuals of the same sex is unnatural."

Ah, but I think THAT is the necessary caveat, Father: "insofar as it inclines one to actions which are contrary to nature."

However, I'm not sure homosexuality in-itself necessarily does.

That is to say, you seem to be constructing "homosexuality" as primarily about desires for homosexual sex acts. And such desires are indeed disordered, because such acts are disordered (and a desire for a disordered act is clearly disordered).

However, I'm not sure "desires" are what homosexuality essentially is.

Homosexuality is a complex social construct combining several psychological (in the theological sense) phenomenon, but even if we just reduce it to the question of the genital faculty...I'd still be inclined to define it merely as the fact of arousal by a certain class of stimuli, rather than as "desires" intrinsically.

Because, of course, arousability by a given stimulus doesn't, in itself, imply DOING anything in particular WITH that stimulus (and, in fact, that very question could be asked: do WHAT exactly?)

To accept the notion of homosexuality as "disordered" in this sense...implies to me constructing "homosexuality" as basically (to use scholastic categories) some sort of "acquired desire" (whether acquired genetically or experientially) or even a vice (ie, a habit of the will towards a certain type of sin). Would seem to mean accepting that arousal by same-sex stimuli is, in fact, actually ORDERED towards homosexual sex acts specifically.

However, I'm not sure that is at all clear. I'd tend to think that the telos of sexual arousal is the marital act REGARDLESS of the stimuli which (involuntarily, for example) caused such arousal.

If a man becomes aroused due to (involuntary) exposure to a same-sex stimulus...and then goes and "uses" that erection to have sex with HIS WIFE (assuming he doesn't deliberately entertain any sexual thoughts about anyone except his wife to maintain that arousal) this still "disordered"? I don't see how.

A Sinner said...

I think a notion of homosexuality as essentially "an inclination/desire for homosexual sex-acts" is mistaken.

I mean, to go back to my own analogy in a post above...just because someone is poor doesn't mean they desire or are inclined to steal. If I recognize possession of the Hope Diamond being somehow desirable (for my lower appetite), that isn't necessarily equivalent to a desire to steal it just because the accidental situation in the world is such that stealing would be the only means for me to obtain it. We can be inclined to an end without being inclined to a means (even if it is the only means available)

Likewise, I'm not sure that the mere fact that for some people the only way to obtain maximal sexual satisfaction is through interaction with same-sex stimuli...means that they desire such means (even though our lower appetites are naturally inclined to the end of such satisfaction).

To me, it just seems to be a situation that is and which they must work within meaning certain things are closed to them. I can't have the Hope Diamond because, even though it is attractive to me in itself, I'd have to steal to get it, and I don't want to steal. They can't have maximal sexual satisfaction because, even though pleasure is naturally attractive to our lower appetites...they'd have to "steal" (ie, be unchaste) to get it.

So I think "insofar as it inclines one to actions which are contrary to nature" is the necessary caveat for speaking about "disordered" relative to homosexuality. However, I think the incorrect assumption (even just from the perspective of theological-psychology) that people in the Church are making is that homosexuality necessarily or essentially constitutes such an inclination of the will. I don't think it does (nor do I think heterosexuality, in itself, can be constructed simply as an inclination towards vaginal sex with the stimulus of arousal).

I would construct homosexuality as less like "desires" and more like the simple raw fact that, for example, our genitals will respond to manual self-stimulation (thus enabling masturbation, etc). We can't help that. It's just how the nervous system works. However, the fact that our genitals all naturally respond to such stimulation...doesn't mean we all DESIRE such masturbatory stimulation, nor is the fact that genitals respond to any sort of stimulation other than from the body of a spouse "disordered." It just is.

Likewise, I'd argue, the fact that certain people happen to get psycho-physiologically aroused by certain types of VISUAL (or more abstract eidetic) stimuli...doesn't mean they necessarily desire to use that fact in any particular way (anymore than the fact that all of us could be pleasured by tactile stimulation of our own genitals means we are inclined to pursue such stimulation). It just is, a raw fact of the world, just a "side effect" of however sexual imprinting works.

In other words, if the physiological responsiveness of ALL of our genitals to illicit TACTILE stimuli does not, in itself, constitute an inclination to pursue such stimulation, and is not in-itself disordered (but merely a side effect of how they work)...I don't see why the physiological responsiveness of SOME people's genitals to improper VISUAL stimuli would be necessarily so.

Or take heroin. ALL of our brains are wired in such a way that (as a side-effect of how neurochemistry works) we could achieve unnatural pleasure through injecting heroin. But the mere [potential] neurological responsiveness of our bodies to this stimulus...doesn't mean we necessarily desire such a disordered act (even if pleasure is naturally appealing to the lower appetite), nor is the raw fact of the mere responsive-potential to that stimuli in-itself "disordered." It just is.

bobfett11 said...

Dear Father: I went to 12 years of Catholic school and no one ever told me that homosexuality was disordered. I have read some of the CCD documents on this but they were written after I graduated from high school. But I do not believe that homosexuality is a disorder. Gay people are not unnatural. We are part of nature. We were also created by God. So to me telling people that they are disordered and unnatural is not speaking the truth in love. Do you really believe that telling gay teens that they are not normal and that they suffer from an unnatural inclination is any type of charity?

Peace - Mark

bobfett11 said...

Dear Father: It is chilling that some people would resort to profanity to attack people they despise. I was lucky because as a child I was never exposed to much profanity at all. Most kids never used bad language around me and I didn't hear it at home. To read what some people think about gay people is sobering. I have read that some people think it is caused by original sin, some say it comes from the devil and one guy said that it is punishment from God for sins one's ancestors committed. I think propaganda from some of the hate groups is sinking into the minds of some Catholics. As I mentioned, I was never exposed to such stuff growing up and I am thankful for that.

Peace - Mark

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@bobfett11 (Mark),
You are certainly correct, homosexuals are not unnatural, but they do suffer from an unnatural desire/inclination.

This is my main point ... to claim that homosexuality is wrong, is not the same as saying that homosexuals are wrong; to say that homosexuality is disordered is not the same as saying that homosexuals are disordered or unnatural, but they are suffering from a disorder.

It is so important for the Church to pray for those suffering from this disorder, and to help them to live an authentically chaste life -- every one of us is called to become a saint, it is possible for each and every one of us no matter what the obstacles! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@a Sinner,
Once again, I have to ask you to keep your comments succinct ... I simply do not have time to respond to really long comments.

I will make one point: You are correct that we speak of a man as a "runner" and as an "American" ... but have you ever heard of a "straight"? Do you speak of "straights" and the "straight agenda"?
Of course not!

Then, if we do not speak of a "straight" and of "straights", why do we speak of a "gay" and "gays"?

Human beings ought not to be defined (nor to define themselves) based on orientation ... it is disordered and bizarre.
We do not say he is "a straight" (even though we might say "he is straight"), so why do we say that he is "a gay"? It's wrong. It's disordered. It is an abuse of language which destroys society.

I am not suggesting that we "talk around" the epidemic of homosexual inclination ... that is why I refuse to speak of "gays" and "gay rights", just as I do not speak of "straights".
A man/woman is not defined by orientation.

A Sinner said...

I've heard "a gay" only slightly less rarely than I've heard "a straight."

Few people ever speak of "a gay" with "gay" as a noun rather than an adjective, except sometimes for humorous effect.

I do, however, hear "a homosexual" and "a heterosexual" quite frequently.

"Gay" and "straight" seem to be pop-culture slangish labels that tend to be used as adjectives (except, interestingly, in the plural; you hear of "the gays" and "straights" more than you hear of "a gay" or "a straight")

"A homosexual" and "a heterosexual," however, are used quite frequently.

Insisting on a clunky phraseology in order to reject the perceived ideological baggage attached to mere WORDS is a troubling phenomenon, and again seems to indicate homophobia rather than the substantive moral objection.

In itself, saying someone or oneself is "gay" (or even "a gay," though no one says that) seems little worse than someone being referred to (casually; again, these aren't precise metaphysical claims being made!) as a "nerd" or a "jock," as "black" or "white." They're just socially constructed categories, but to deny legitimacy to their existence (at least linguistically) AS identifications with real sociological effect...IS a form of bigotry, mere condemnation-by-association.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A Sinner,
Where you live the people must use English in a manner quite different from where I live!

I have never heard of "straights", to me this shows how silly it is to speak of "gays".
It becomes even more obviously silly when we put the words into the singular "Did you see that straight walking down the street?", "Did you see that gay walking down the street?"

I'm not really fighting about language usage (as you accuse me of doing), I am talking about how people identify themselves.
It is not helpful for a high school kid to identify himself as a "jock", to see this as his most important and fundamental attribute.
Neither is it helpful for people to identify themselves, fundamentally, according to orientation.

Accuse me of bigotry and "condemnation-by-association" (whatever that is supposed to mean!) all you want ... there is something truly disordered and wrong with the "gay rights" movement when many of the individuals see "being gay" as their most fundamental identity.
Far too often, even on things like Facebook or Blogger, you can see people who identify themselves in the "about" section of their profile simply as "I'm gay", or (sadly) "I'm a gay ex-Catholic/Christian". This is highly disordered.

Have you ever seen a person write, "I'm straight" or "I'm a heterosexual practicing Catholic/Christian" ?

... and don't accuse me of homophobeia ... such name-calling (homophobia, bigotry, etc) brings the conversation down.

Nina said...

Saying public PDAs should be illegal does make you a bigot because you'd make illegal any physical act of affection between any two members of the same sex based on the _assumptions_ you're making about them.

Saying you want to make all PDAs illegal is not bigoted, although it's pretty ridiculous. We've seen what that sort of zero tolerance policy gives rise to -- five year old boys being suspended for sexual assault for kissing a little girl while at the school playground, or those awful college rules re dating some of the liberal feminist groups at some colleges tried to institute.

It flies in the face of natural law to make illegal any and all physical expressions of affection between any two human beings. We were created, like God, as naturally affectionate beings. We hold hands, touch, hug, kiss for reasons other than sex, and it's a natural inclination. Aversion to physical affection is probably a symptom of an abnormal, cold, unaffectionate, if not outright abusive, childhood.

As far as public drunkeness goes, we have that one covered under drunk and disorderly laws, or public nuisance laws. This makes sense -- it's not great to be drunk in public (or private), but it happens, and sometimes it's the result of a devastating disease. However, it's not a crime unless your drunkeness infringes on another's rights.

Also, there's a problem with making everything that's a sin a crime. Civil law and municipal police forces can't be used to enforce God's commandments, nor would God want them to. Besides, do you really want to go there? Do you want the sins you're guilty of criminalized the way you'd criminalize nonsexual expressions of affection between two members of the same sex? Really? Think about it.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A few points:
1) Are you a psychologist? You seem to think you are, since you take it upon yourself to speculate that I was abused as a child.
Who was the "bigot"? The one who assumes the worst about another person without really knowing anything at all about them...

2) I never said that all displays of affection should be illegal ... the question refers to sexual affection, specifically homosexual affection.

3) I never talked about "God's commandments" ... this is another sign of your hateful prejudice ... if anyone says that homosexuality is a disorder you immediately presume that (on top of having been abused as a child) they are a religious fanatic who wants to start a theocracy.

"Really? Think about it."

A Sinner said...

"many of the individuals see 'being gay' as their most fundamental identity"

I think most would balk at you putting words in their mouths like "most fundamental." It is you who've decided that identification as gay is to "define oneself" that way rather than just describing an aspect (like we do with any other category-word we use in various circumstances), even while ultimately recognizing that our humanity unites us more than anything else divides us.

But, while "most fundamental" may be a stretch, I think is a relatively important identification for many homosexuals if only because of how it is a relevant minority status for them, especially in this cultural/political climate. Marginalization is a powerful incentive for identity.

"Primary" identity may be a better term, or even something like "organizing principle" of identity. This is clearly true for some/many self-identified gays and, admittedly, this is troubling (whether an agenda of unchastity is involved or not, but especially if it is) if only because we would hope, of course, that "Christian" would be people's primary identity or the organizing principle.

I think, however, that to get all outraged over one Idol being made central to identity more than any other in the lives of non- or nominal Christians (whether it be race, class, ethnicity, nationality, career, clique, sex, etc) clearly a form of bias.

And I don't think they can really be blamed either. People tend to make a primary identification based on their social network, based on which community they feel most integrated into or accepted by or part of. It's really the fault of the Christian community if many homosexuals have found a better support-network in THAT subculture/community than in the Church.

[And, btw, accusations of homophobia are not ad hominem if they are directed at ARGUMENTS rather than people. I don't recall saying "You are a homophobe" or anything like that. However, certain arguments/attitudes may be demonstrably homophobic.]

A Sinner said...

"I never said that all displays of affection should be illegal ... the question refers to sexual affection, specifically homosexual affection."

So what we all want to know is...what the hell, concretely, is unambiguously "sexual affection" if not sex (or foreplay) itself??

Or, rather, if you're going to target displays of HOMOsexual affection specifically, then what sorts of "sexual affection" could possibly be okay IN PUBLIC for HETEROsexuals?

If none, then there's no reason to specify homosexual. If there are some (ie, displays of affection clearly "sexual," yet appropriate in public, at least for heterosexuals)...I'm having a hard time imagining what they'd be.

Unknown said...

Hey Fr Ryan,

Great article, and you've also given great responses to various people's comments.

For some reason people hold that thinking/saying that homosexual acts are immoral is equivalent to hating anyone who has an inclination to homosexual acts. The argument is ad hoc. E.g. plenty of people have inclinations to cheat on their spouse, but to say that the act of adultery is wrong isn't equivalent to saying that one hates anyone who feels such an inclination.

Same thing with the argument that because someone was born with an inclination, therefore the inclination is good. Again, it's ad hoc. People are born with all sorts of inclinations that we don't think are good. But it does not thereby follow that we hate those people, think that they are less than human, or are bigots.

Thanks for your well-reasoned post.

no theocracy please. said...

You cannot punish only one group without being a bigot. If you were to say that all acts of PDA should be outlawed, then you would not be a bigot, but in this case, you are targeting a very specific group of people. That is bigotry. It suggests a movement from a democracy to a theocracy. Is a theocracy your goal? Because a law like this cannot be justified in a country that claims to be a democracy.

To "A Sinner" I am very happy to see your balanced, well thought out posts.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@ no theocracy please,

First, you asked "Is theocracy your goal?" -- I reply, Please re-read my article and point out where I make any argument for theocracy. Where at all do I refer to arguments based on faith?
In this, your own bias and prejudice comes out ... you think that anyone who believes that sex is ordered to procreation must be a religious fanatic who wants to re-instate the Holy Roman Empire. You are ridiculous.

Second, do you think that I would be bigot if I thought alcohol should be outlawed without outlawing all drinkable liquids?

@ A sinner, the fact that "No Theocracy Please" agrees with you ought to serve as a word of caution.

no theocracy please. said...

You write this article under some delusion that you are not basing your argument on faith. I do not understand how you could possibly makes such a claim. What does nature and science have against homosexuals? Many animals display homosexual acts. If you argue that we are above the animals, then you are making an argument based on God and Faith. If I were you, I would give up on this delusion. There is no way this is not a "faith-based" argument.

You are making this article based completely on religious convictions. We live in a democracy where we have freedom of religion and freedom to choose our own morals. If we did not, perhaps we would all be baptists, or latter day saints by now. We did not have a Catholic President until Kennedy, so we probably wouldn't be Catholic.

What your suggesting is that our legislation should be based on Catholic religious convictions in much the same way that Muslim states use their religion to create their laws. Now, maybe that works for them and maybe that's what they want, but I for one am proud to live in a country where I can make my own moral decisions.

I can make them based on my upbringing and my religion if I so choose, this is my right. For me to enjoy this right, I understand that I must respect the rights of others to live in ways that are different from my own moral code.

No, you do not come right out screaming theocracy, but there is no other way that a law such as the one you suggest could possibly be exist.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@no theo. please,
I don't think this conversation is going to go anywhere ... you think of yourself (and me as well) as a dog, a brute, and a beast ... you say that there is nothing which justifies thinking of human beings as in any way "above the animals" ... if you think one has to be a theologian to recognize the difference between a brute animal and a human, then we are clearly not in a place of fruitful conversation (after all, dogs and fish do not discuss philosophy together).

Do I have to be a theologian to recognize that a man and man cannot make a baby?
Do I have to be a theologian to recognize that, although a grizzly bear will sometimes eat her own cubs, human mothers ought not do this?
Does it really take "faith" to see that humans are not the same as all the other animals?

It is not a faith-based argument that I have presented ... I have not even argued that homosexuality is wrong ... I have only said that someone could think it wrong and think that it ought to be outlawed without being a bigot.
Some of the ancient Greek philosophers knew this ... and they were very explicitly NOT religious (they believed in God for philosophical reasons [which really are arguments from physics] and not as a matter of faith).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
I see that I never answered your final comment (September 27).

What would constitute a homosexual PDA that would be outlawed?, and what would be a heterosexual PDA which would not be outlawed?

My answer: You should be able to recognize that any PDA (of one sort or another) which would be outlawed is to be outlawed on account of the harm it causes to society, through corrupting public morals.

Now, while I do not like the idea of public passionate kissing between a man and a woman, I think that this does significantly less harm to society than public passionate kissing between a grown man and a young female child (for example).

By a similar point: While I think it is sinful for a heterosexual couple to engage in public passionate kissing, I could see that it would generally be a bit much to actually outlaw it.
On the other hand, a person could be convinced that the harm caused to society by homosexual public passionate kissing (which is a homosexual PDA) is great enough to justify a law forbidding the practice.

Treat different things differently. Can you really not see the essential difference (in the object of the act itself) between homosexual PDAs and heterosexual PDAs?
Or are you just one of those who are unable to recognize that there is a gradation in sinful actions? -- some being much worse and more harmful than others.

no theocracy please. said...

Your sophistry is sinful to me. You argue for the sake of argument. You do not wish to have a discussion, you just wish to pass judgement. You have no leg to stand on if you take faith and religion out of your argument. The secular world does not agree with you when you claim an inherent wrongness of homosexuality that is greater than that of heterosexuality. If you take this out of the context of a christian blog, then it becomes pure bigotry. I agree, a discussion between you and I will go no where if you continue to claim you are not acting out of faith.

I do not think of myself as a dog. I think of myself as a human. A human that is non-the-less part of this world. I am not ashamed to associate with homosexuals. I am not ashamed of their love. I see it is a valid right that they have. That their morals are different then mine does not mean that I try to take away their rights so that I may feel just a little bit more comfortable.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@no theo. please,
Again ... I don't know how many times I have to say it ... I did not argue that homosexuality was wrong, I argued that someone could think it was wrong without being a bigot ... are you really unable to see the difference?

You say that you do not "think" of yourself as a dog, but as a human ... and that you "love" homosexuals ... do brute animals "think"? ... do brute animals "love"? ... are you changing your claim that only faith can tell us that we are different or above the brute animals?

Precisely because I do not think homosexuals are dogs (though you said earlier that you and I both, as well as homosexuals, are no better than beasts), I am able to accept them and love them.
But to accept and love a person means also that I want what is best for them ... I do not want them to perform actions which are contrary to nature (and two men cannot procreate, hence the act [on the level of science] is fruitless and lacks its essential natural/physical purpose).

You say that I am too focused on "faith" ... I say that you (and all others who are pro-homosexuality) are the ones who are blind to science and to the physical world ... this is the great irony, you are the one who is being far too "spiritual" -- since you ignore the natural/physical side of sex and focus entirely on the "spiritual"/emotional union.

I wrote on this earlier:


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