UPDATE: Author of controversial column on gays quits

After the column was pulled from the website of The Pilot, it drew even more attention and controversy.

From the AP:

The author of a newspaper column suggesting the devil may be responsible for homosexuality has resigned from his job with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic bishops said Friday that Daniel Avila (AH’-vee-lah) offered to step down and his resignation was accepted Friday.

Avila’s column appeared a week ago in The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. Avila had written that there’s evidence suggesting the devil is responsible for same-sex attraction. Gay rights groups and others condemned the column.

CNS has more:

Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, told Catholic News Service the column was pulled because Avila “retracted it and apologized and because it simply should not have been printed/published in The Pilot.”

“It is not the position of the archdiocese or the church and is simply wrong,” he said in a Nov. 3 email.

Avila has written several columns for The Pilot during the past year and has been a contributor to the newspaper for at least seven years, according to Donilon. The most recent column, which generated reaction in the blogosphere was titled: “Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction.”

In the column, Avila attempted to answer the question about what causes same-sex attraction. He pointed to possible explanations such as “random imbalances in maternal hormone levels” which he said could have “disruptive prenatal effects on fetal development.”

But he said Catholics need to look for spiritual answers to this question. And as he sees it, “the ultimate responsibility, on a theological level, is and should be imputed to the evil one, not God,” he said. “Applying this aspect of Catholic belief to interpret the scientific data makes more sense because it does not place God in the awkward position of blessing two mutually incompatible realities — sexual difference and same-sex attraction.”

In Avila’s retraction and apology statement he said his column did not represent the position of the USCCB and was not authorized for publication. “The teaching of sacred Scripture and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church make it clear that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God and have inviolable dignity. Likewise, the church proclaims the sanctity of marriage as the permanent, faithful, fruitful union of one man and one woman.”

He continued: “The church opposes, as I do too, all unjust discrimination and the violence against persons that unjust discrimination inspires. I deeply apologize for the hurt and confusion that this column has caused.”

Comments on this thread are closed.

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  • Joe

    Not much to say except I’m not surpised.

  • naturgesetz

    It’s unfortunate that it came to this.

    My first reaction was that letting him go was an overreaction. When he was at the Mass. Catholic Conference, his statements on their behalf were solidly orthodox and forceful.

    But I’ve had further thoughts. One is that the publicity has made him a “marked man” whose presence on the USCCB Staff would just give our opponents a pretext for dismissing the work of the conference. The other is that his flight of fancy has seriously undermined the confidence the bishops need to have in his work.

    From what I’ve seen before this, he appears to be a good, intelligent, and zealous Catholic, and I hope he’ll find a good employer soon.

  • http://www.ironiccatholic.com Ironic Catholic

    This was appropriate.

  • HMS

    naturgesetz:
    You make this appear to be a politically correct or motivated action. I don’t think so. I think that the issue is more one of the author’s credibility.

    Daniel Avila is a lawyer, trying to prove a case against the legitimacy of the claim that, since God has created a person gay, then same-sex marriage can be seen as a rightful fulfillment of a gay person’s sexuality. (At least that is how I read the ultimate motive of his article.)

    He is not a Theologian or Scripture scholar. Yet, he asserts things about the action of evil in the world that are way beyond what the Church teaches on the subject. (See Catechism, 395)
    e.g.,
    “Any time natural disasters occur, we as people of faith look back to Scripture’s account of those angels who rebelled and fell from grace.” (???)

    In addtioion, it does not surprise me at all that he has submitted his resignation and that it has been accepted. He was writing under the aegis of the USCCB and has a responsibility to promote the U.S. bishops’ position accurately. In fact, he may have step outside the boundaries of USCCB staff policy as indicated in his apology:

    “Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction of October 28, do not represent the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the column was not authorized for publication as is required policy for staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

  • naturgesetz

    I’m sorry what I wrote struck you the way it did. I agree with everything you wrote after your first sentence.

  • Oregon Catholic

    I think this is mostly about political correctness. Technically, all brokenness in nature can be traced back to satan and the fall, when sin and death entered the world. I think that’s all he is trying to say, not that gays are in league somehow with the devil. Substitute cancer or drug addiction for homosexuality and I think his point is clear.

  • ron chandonia

    Thanks for this note of common sense.

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    Daniel Avila may have written too strongly in his opinion piece–which seemed simply a speculative piece about the possible causes of single-sex attraction. But did it warrant the furor that has ensued??” In fact, it is not uncommon to see the Church or her leaders or her teachings villified and excoriated from the other side of the political-religious spectrum. What Catholic who has defended the Church’s teaching on ordination hasn’t been insulted with the label “misogynist?” And what Catholic who has defended traditional marriage hasn’t been called a “homophobe.” And not infrequently in the so-called Catholic Press or media.
    Where is the furor when those defending Catholic teachings and values are put under attack for “playing defense??”

  • HMS

    Ron:
    “Thanks for this note of common sense.”
    Can you explain why you think that way?

  • kenneth

    He made the USCCB sound a little TOO medieval on homosexuality. The bishops don’t have any problem with taking a swipe at gay America. It’s one of the biggest parts of their public ministry these days, but they have a gentleman’s understanding that its supposed to be couched in the scholarly language of theologians. You can’t just come out and call gays the Devil’s Own. You have to finesse it a bit. Say that that they’re human nature is “gravely disordered” or the like.

  • Greg

    Which, of course, Kenneth, is exactly what Avila did. Anyone paying close attention to the actual wording of the article can see that Avila is not saying anything along the lines of “gay people all worship the devil.” He is merely suggesting that if we have to point the finger at any sort fo intelligent agent as the ultimate cause of homosexual orientation, it would be the devil and not God. Homosexuality is a disorder. This is not the same thing as saying that homosexual persons are intrinsically worthless or evil people. On the contrary, given the magnitude of their cross, they make for greater Saints than the rest of us when they choose to love God in spite of their “disability.” They are greater heros in that rite.

    Incidentally, is everyone completely missing the fact that the article was an Op-Ed piece and not any sort of formal catechesis?

    The hysterical response this article has garnered is rather revolting. Avila and some other gentlemen need to grow spines and get on with life or the Church in America is in for way sadder moments than we’re already experiencing. What’s next? An apology and resignation for suggesting that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist?


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