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Healing Homosexuality

The following is a copy of some recent entries on a public blog. My comments are in purple.


Homosexuality is not merely a characteristic of persons who are sexually attracted by other persons of the same sex. It is a whole mentality. A homosexual subculture in a seminary or a monastery is a very nasty business indeed, and this may not necessarily involve actual physical relationships or a public scandal as occurred in the seminary of St. Pölten in Austria and several dioceses of the USA. It is summed up in the old Anglo-Catholic saying - old women of both sexes. That says it all! When a community life is marked by secrecy, intrigue, cliques, where seminarians begin to call their superiors old queens, then we have a shrewd idea of what is behind everything. This is one of the real problems in the Church, penetrating into the Vatican itself - the same secrecy, cover-ups, intrigue, cliques and behaviour that hardly suggests virility. A real investigation of this problem, instigated by the Pope, would have to begin - not in the seminaries - but in the Vatican. It is truly a question of gender identification and personal development.
"Homosexuality" is no more a "mentality" than "heterosexuality". Just because a person is gay does not mean that they belong to any kind of "subculture". For extended periods of history, to be gay was to not belong to anything; but rather to feel at best marginalized, at worst vilified and always isolated and alone. Not all gay men are "old women", just as not all elderly females are "old women". The fact that the author implies that all gay men are cast of the same says it all. Gay men are only "secretive" when the environment that they find themselves in forces secrecy upon them. They engage in "intrigue" and form "cliques" for exactly the same reasons that heterosexuals do, and it behoves the author to demonstrate that they do so more frequently; if that is what he means to insinuate. My experience of institutions and businesses governed by pretty blatant heterosexuals is that they are riven with "secrecy, cover-ups, intrigue" and "cliques". To insinuate that these evils are somehow characteristic of gay men is to contradict the common experience of mankind!
To find a way towards a via media, it is helpful to resort to the work of Catholic-minded psychologists. We need to find a balance to avoid both the inquisitorial "scapegoat" approach and the present permissivity and corruption in high places. One such psychologist is Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. His thesis is that not all "homosexually-orientated" men are "affirming gays" on one hand or "repressed wrecks" on the other. Many men who have suffered from developmental difficulties in life are not satisfied with the prospect of "coming out" and affirming their "gayness". They wish either to live celibately or discover a heterosexual dimension in their lives. They are self-critical and have a healthy approach to sin and the need for reconciliation with God.
While it is obviously fine for someone who is gay to wish to be straight (and in today's homophobic society, it takes considerable strength of character not to!) it is equally fine for a straight individual to wish to be gay: though why they would do is difficult to understand. There is no evidence that being gay has got anything to do with a lack of "personal development". What is so great about being straight anyway?
Dr. Nicolosi seeks a cause in stating, "Today, new studies place the homoerotic drive in better perspective by showing us that it originates from the search for health and wholeness. Many homosexuals are attracted to other men and their maleness because they are striving to complete their own gender identification. From this perspective, we now better understand the nature of the homosexual person's struggle. And with this understanding, we can offer more than tolerance, but - for those who seek it - hope for healing".
There is no more a "homoerotic drive" than a "heteroerotic drive". The "homosexual person" has no more of a "struggle" (except against prejudice, ignorance and hatred) than the "heterosexual person". Often (s)he has less, because there is no element of "the fear of the different and unknown" involved in homosexual relationships.
I have no wish to "complete my gender identification". I simply find the male physique pleasing to the eye and sexually stimulating. Moreover, I find it easy to relate to other males emotionally and enjoy physical intimacy with them. None of this seems to me to be any kind of sickness or disability or handicap and none of it seems to me to require sympathy or healing.
We are faced with the notion of psychological causes, not pathological phenomena. We could consider homosexuality as a result of incomplete personal development, or emotional growth that has to some extent been arrested. How many homosexuals are able to find stable and durable same-sex relationships? Probably very few. Probably, in most cases, if a relationship has stabilized and is durable, it is because the relationship has been transformed into a friendship based on criteria other than sexual attraction. But it is impossible to be cut-and-dried about every particular situation, for friendship and "affirming" homosexuality are far from being the same thing.
If "homosexuality" is not "pathological", then why does it require to be cured any more than does being left-handed? We could consider "heterosexuality" to be a result of "incomplete personal development" or "arrested emotional growth", but why should we? What is the motivation or rationale for such an outlook. On what basis does the author speculate that few "homosexuals are able to find stable and durable same-sex relationships"?
  • Given that another (married) heterosexual friend has only just said to me that it seems to him that homogender couples are better able to maintain committed relationships than heterogender ones, it seems that this view is far from universal.
  • Given that about one third of homogender marriages end in divorce, and the proportion of unmarried homogender couples that break up is much higher, there is reason to doubt the likelihood of his probability.

  • Given the pressure not to be obviously gay, and the total lack of societal support, it would be surprising if homogender couples were nowadays anywhere near as stable as unmarried heterogender couples.
Of course any relationship that "stabilizes" is going to be so because it has been "transformed into a friendship". Certainly this is true of the relationship that I have with my partner. Indeed, I doubt that our relationship was ever "based" on sexual attraction! I believe that this is one reason why it has been so robust and mutually beneficial, just as marriage is supposed to be according to the teaching of the Catechism of the Council of Trent and the landmark Encyclical "Casti Connubii". It is the teaching of the Church that homogender marriage is a particular friendship! The idea that any meaningful relationship worthy of Christians could be "based" on the criteria of sexual attraction is demeaning to heterogender married couples.

Of course friendship and "homosexuality" are "far from being the same thing"! If they were the same thing, it would be impossible for heterosexuals to have friends of either sex. "Friendship" with a woman would then always "have to be a sexual thing" [Motley Crue: "Girl's Girl's Girl's"], and so not friendship; and "friendship" with a man would be impossible altogether: because it would amount to homosexuality, a contradiction in terms! On the other hand, I believe that friendship is easier for gay folk. This is because on the one hand sex doesn't get in the way when they relate to persons of the opposite gender (many gay men have best friends who are women) and on the other they are socialized into treating those persons of the same gender in a non-sexual manner by their entire experience of society. In my experience, friendship for a male merges seamlessly into romantic feelings which may or may not be associated with any desire for physical or sexual intimacy.

Dr. Nicolosi's fundamental thesis is that there is an "option for those who find the gay lifestyle unacceptable - either because of disillusionment in having lived it, or because it is in fundamental violation of their personal identity". It is a Catholic attitude in regard to a person finding fault with himself and seeking reconciliation with God. He speaks of the "non-gay homosexual" - a category of homosexual men who will never seek fulfilment through "coming out" into a gay identity. These men have chosen to grow in another direction. In the opinion of the "gay" movement, this goes against every dogma of their ideology - surely all such men must be denying themselves and are unhappy as a result! "Coming out" in Gay Pride's view is a euphemism for rejecting the "burdens of fearfulness and self-deception to embark on the road to freedom and personal integrity".
If someone is deeply unhappy about their sexuality or gender as a "fundamental violation of their personal identity", then every effort should be made first to help them become reconciled to it (this, generally speaking, being the less painful option) but if this fails, then they should be helped to change it. I doubt, however, that the author would approve of gender reassignment surgery! I fail to see how unless homosexuality or heterosexuality or maleness or femaleness are "intrinsically evil" there is any issue of "fault" here.

It is not my  fault  that I am right-handed.

Generally speaking, it is in the best interest of a gay man to reject the "burdens of fearfulness and self-deception to embark on the road to freedom and personal integrity". To chose to follow any other path because of societal or ecclesial pressure rather than internal an dynamic is the gravest of folly.
But, there are those who do not wish to "come out", and who will find happiness another way. Such a person has to come to terms with a contradiction between his system of moral values and his spontaneous feelings. He holds conservative values and accepts the moral teachings of the Church, which can even motivate his conversion to Catholicism. Dr. Nicolosi has concentrated his research on this kind of person, offering him the choice of affirming a "gay lifestyle" or exploring other avenues. It takes a lot of independent thought to throw off the yoke of "gay movement" political ideology and peer pressure, and to choose an independent and personal path. Many have lived for a time in the "gay" lifestyle, but have become disillusioned, and turn to a quest for traditional Christian values. They can no longer tolerate living on these fringes of society and being in something of which they can never be a part. One young client of Dr. Nicolosi said "To me, embracing a homosexual lifestyle has been like living a lie. I have found it to be a painful, confusing and destructive force in my life. Only since I have started to look at what is behind these homosexual feelings have I really begun to find peace". You will not find these people in "gay pride" parades and rallies, nor are they repressed potential child molesters.
Whenever the believer encounters a contradiction between ought and is, then it behoves him or her to re-examine their premises. This does not necessarily mean that an entire "system of moral values" must be discarded. Generally it means no more than that some misapplication of an objective principle or criterion must be identified and adjusted. This procedure is familiar to physical scientists and is the means by which progress is made. No system of ethics that resist this procedure is worthy of the name, nor can it post any claim to truth. Elsewhere, the author rightly disparages the term "Conservative" with some vigour. I cannot but wonder why he here adopts the term as synonymous with "good" or "sensible" or "wise" or "correct".

I suppose that the choice Dr. Nicolosi presents to the person in distress is "Hobson's choice". No real choice at all. No choice between alternatives each of which can be affirmed as good and wholesome, though different (as between celibacy and marriage). As he sees it, I suppose the choice is between Life and Death: Heaven and Hell.

For myself, I can affirm that "it takes a lot of independent thought to throw off the yoke of" Conservative moralism "political ideology and peer pressure" such as the author recommends "and to choose an independent and personal path". "To me, embracing a" heterosexual lifestyle was "living a lie. I have found it to be a painful, confusing and destructive force in my life. Only since I have started to look at what is behind these homosexual feelings have I really begun to find peace."

It is simply not true that affirming oneself to be gay means living the "gay lifestyle" (if this means anything more than being lucky to find a life partner of the same gender as oneself). What is "the gay lifestyle"? Is this meant to insinuate a fixation on Cher, Abba, The Backstreet Boys, Clubbing, Smoking, Drinking and Recreational Drugs! I assure you that my life is not so characterized. The half suggestion that "affirming gay man" are generally "repressed potential child molesters" is unseemly.

All of a sudden, we are faced with a new category of persons, who are marginalized both by the "gay" lobby and by general opinion - it falls between the cracks. These people are only suspected when they don't get married before, say, their thirtieth birthday. Again, in the good Doctor's words, "For such a man, 'not coming out' can be a dynamic place of growth and self-understanding, a place committed to change. To him, 'the closet' is a place of choice, challenge, fellowship, faith, and growth - an interior place which has often opened up into transcendence".
This is the man that I was, except that for me "the closet" was a place of stagnation and self-deception, a place committed to subterfuge and dishonesty, a place of constraint and victimhood, loneliness, pain, and confusion - a place which often closed down into dismay and despair.

This is, perhaps, the man that is the author of these ramblings.

It will be important for the authorities of the Church to conduct research and explore the validity of Dr. Nicolosi's arguments. They certainly ring true.
Given their track record, I seriously doubt that the Vatican is capable of conducting any objective research into these matters. In my judgement, Dr Nicolosi's assertions are not even arguments, but merely expressions of prejudice.
There are many things that are hard to take, and many feel excluded because the Church's line seems so tough. The Spanish government has just legislated to allow homosexual "marriages". Is this really conducive to man's happiness? Will God bless a union of two persons of the same sex, who would tend to repel each other like the same poles of two magnets being brought together - north to north, south to south?
Why would they "tend to repel each other"? This sounds like the doctrine of the Moonies! Perhaps they would attract each other like two stars orbiting each other held together by their gravitational embrace. Fake analogies from the world of physics - with which I know the author has no familiarity or expertise whatsoever - do nothing to advance an argument. Do heterosexual men repel each other? Did David and Jonathan? Do heterosexual women? Did Naomi and Ruth?
Why does friendship have to be de-natured in this way, where deep friendships between men and between women have brought happiness - whilst they do not try to imitate the union between a man and a women in Sacramental Marriage, the basis on which civilization is built.
Why does the author harken back to his theme that "homosexuality" de-natures friendship? What does he mean by friendship? How do homosexual feelings "de-nature" friendship when (by implication) heterosexual feelings do not? Since when has civilization been built on marriage, let alone sacramental marriage? It is the teaching both of Plato and St. Thomas that society is based on friendship not marriage:

"Well then, Alchiabiades, what about a city? What is it that is present and what will be absent when a city is in a better condition and getting better management and treatment?"
"The way that I look at it, Socrates, mutual friendship will be present and hatred and insurrection will be absent."
[Plato: Alchibiades 126b,c]

“Society is maintained through friendship .... so let legislators do their utmost to preserve friendship among citizens
…. to avoid dissensions; for concord is assimilated to friendship” [Aquinas: In Ethic., lib. 8, l. 1 n. 5]

This is not an implication of "homophobia", but a consideration for the good of the whole of mankind, only a small proportion of which is inclined to same-sex sexual relationships.
But what is good for the many is not necessarily good for the few, and if what is good for the few can be accommodated with no harm to the many, then justice demands that the good of the few be accommodated.
Dr Nicolosi's early mentor was Irving Bieber, now emeritus in psychiatry at Albert Einstein Medical College, NYC. Bieber, et. al., [in Homosexuality: a psychoanalytic study, Basic Bks, 1962] saw "homosexuality as always pathological and incompatible with a happy life." Echoing Bieber, Nicolosi ["Reparative therapy of male homosexuality"] has stated, "I do not believe that the gay life-style can ever be healthy, nor that the homosexual identity can ever be completely ego-syntonic". In layman's language Nicolosi means he considers that gays are never able to face the reality of the flawed developmental course that led to their "illness." In other words, if you're gay, and your experience doesn't conform to the Bieber-Nicolosi model, you're in denial.

Douglas C. Haldeman ["The Practice and Ethics of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62 (2), 221-227 (1994)] notes Bieber's claim for reparative therapy of homosexuality: a "27% success rate in heterosexual shift (from homosexuality) after long-term therapy". Haldeman, President of the APA's Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay and Bixexual Issues, states of these successes, "only 18% were exclusively homosexual in the first place! 50% of the successfully treated subjects were more appropriately labelled bisexual".

["Healing homosexuality : case stories of reparative therapy Northvale, N.J. : J. Aronson (1993)] has a subtle veneer: that reparative therapy is not for every homosexual is a theme that dominates the introductory paragraphs of every chapter. But the core of the chapter always comes back to the Freudian claim that every homosexual is the product of a dysfunctional family, typically with a dominating mother and an absent father. There is no empirical support for that claim anywhere in the published literature.

In the Wall Street Journal (Jan 9, 1997) , Nicolosi and his colleagues sought to circumvent censure by the American Psychological Association with the plea "Don't unhappy homosexuals deserve a chance to change?" But three and four year old boys need not be unhappy because they dislike rough and tumble play and like classical music. Their happiness requires nothing more than the love and support a "good enough" parent would give any child: understanding and help in building self-esteem,  even in the face of cruel peer pressure, thoughtful assistance in building social skills in hostile situations.

Adapted from an article written by Prof Ed Manier in vol1 #1 of "Science, Politics and Morality" (1997)

 


 


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