Homophobia and Fuzzy Thinking

This is a video making the rounds on my Facebook feed with the caption, “If every straight person honestly answered this question, we’d wipe out homophobia tomorrow.”

Um, no.  We wouldn’t.

The premise of the video is that if we can convince people that gay people are born gay, homophobia will disappear.  This is patently false.  It confuses fact and interpretation.  Even if everyone believed that it is a fact that homosexual persons are born that way, there is still a huge space for interpretation.  Indeed many interpretations already take “born that way” for granted and argue things like, “the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil.”  Or, perhaps only slightly less offensively, that people are born alcoholics too.

Seriously, since when does irrational hatred of a group evaporate because they were born that way?  Would racism end if we could convince the KKK that black people are “born that way”?  We all know the answer to that.

But I want to highlight a second reason that answering the video’s question honestly wouldn’t wipe out homophobia tomorrow:  namely, that the question itself is dishonest.  It presumes that the only possible answers to the question, “How does homosexuality come about?” are 1. By choice or 2. Born that way.  But, with the exception of the last respondent, none of the respondents to the leading question go with option 1.  There are a couple who go for an unadulterated option 2, but the majority give an answer that incorporates nature and nurture.  The follow-up question, “When did you choose to be straight?” completely ignores the fact that most of these people don’t actually believe that people choose to be gay.

Surely if there is a great number of homophobic people out there who think that homosexuality is a matter of pure choice, it would not have been too difficult to catch a couple of them on camera for this clip.  Heck, even the one woman who answered “choose to be gay,” struck me as more of a flake than a hater.  One wonders where the enemy this video singles out is to be found.  Where are all these homophobes that think homosexuality is a choice?  And why weren’t they interviewed?  Perhaps a couple were and the results weren’t good enough to make it out of the cutting room.

In any case, a more honest question to those who actually were interviewed and think that homosexuality is probably the result of some combination of nature and nurture would be, “What combination of nature and nurture do you think led to your being straight?” 

To ask someone who doesn’t believe that homosexuality is a choice when they chose to be straight is a manipulative bait-and-switch.  Did one of the interviewees ever question the premise?  And were they edited out?  The people who made it into the video were simply caught off guard, not argued out of a position which they never held.

Furthermore, the question seems to ignore the current state of research, which, from what I can gather, tends more and more towards some combination of nature-nurture, with the basic acknowledgement that the proportion of each will vary from individual to individual.  Most of the people who were asked to stand in for homophobes in this video were actually closer to the research than the questioner.  Beyond that, they were in a better position to have an intelligent discussion about other groups, like bisexuals or those who aren’t sure about their sexuality, that don’t fit into a strict 100% gay vs. 100% straight construction.  These kinds of false constructions completely abstract from the reality of those even more marginalized groups who don’t fit the narrative.  Imagine someone asking, “Do you think people who are confused about their sexuality choose to be confused about it, or are they born that way?”  The world is a lot more complicated than that!

Let us, by all means, combat homophobia wherever we find it.  But no one supporting a given cause, however noble, should sink to the level of dishonesty and manipulation.  Not only is it not right – it simply won’t work.  Real homophobes aren’t going to be convinced by this kind of tactic, and those people who don’t know what they think about homosexuality are not going to become more gay friendly if they feel tricked and manipulated by clever wordplay.

The simple fact is that homophobia is wrong whether someone is simply born that way or if there are other factors that contribute.  To obscure that fact is to saw off the very branch you’re sitting on.

Brett Salkeld is Hanrahan Scholar-in-Residence at St. Mark’s College in Vancouver. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one.

"If you don’t believe in God like me though you can have as many robit ..."

What would “pro-life” mean in a ..."
"If technology can solve these problems then we will be free, although if humans start ..."

What would “pro-life” mean in a ..."
"Was just looking back over my copy of Brave New World. Here's Controller Mustapha Mond ..."

What would “pro-life” mean in a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://clareflourish.wordpress.com Clare Flourish

    On Christian blogs, I find quite a lot arguing that we are not born that way. Just look at the “homosexuality” tag. I saw an argument citing Thomas Aquinas and Natural Law: homosexuality is Unnatural therefore Wrong. I saw one, OTOH, which said that even if we were BTW, so what, as everyone is born a Sinner, with particular temptations.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

      Reverse fuzzy thinking! Everyone starting with an end in view and not caring very much about the quality of the road that gets you there.

      • Kerberos

        But I want to highlight a second reason that answering the video’s question honestly wouldn’t wipe out homophobia tomorrow: namely, that the question itself is dishonest.

        ## There’s a lot of bad reasoning about the issue – but there is a lot of bad reasoning about a lot of issues, some highly contentious, some not; some politically and socially contentious, some not. So how significant or remarkable what you mention is, I’m not sure.

        I think it’s very naive – or perhaps simply muddle-headed – to suppose that knowledge will wipe out prejudice, about this or anything. Prejudice – properly so-called, that is; reflexive distaste for something is not prejudice, because it is pre-rational, not an exercise of the faculty of reason – is not in the intellect, but in the will. It is utterly ridiculous to suppose that further supplies of information about something will change value judgements about that thing: whether one is talking about gay issues, Catholicism, politics, or some other thing.

        Something that complicates discussion of this issue is that certain words have acquired a loaded meaning – this makes honest & frank discussion very difficult indeed.

        • Jacobitten

          “It is utterly ridiculous to suppose that further supplies of information about something will change value judgements about that thing”

          Very true.

  • Kurt

    But no cause, however noble, should sink to the level of dishonesty and manipulation.

    Okay. But it would also be fuzzy thinking to say that a cause has sunk to a certain level when really one guy make a vid that some folks posted on facebook. The gay cause is not one vidmaker.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

      Agreed. Good distinction Kurt. I’ll try rejig that sentence.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    Well, I know we scholars in residence, of whatever, by nature sit around trying to find intellectual deductions and arguments that make our institutions look better, or at least make them better understood, with a kindlier eye. So, I am not surprised at all surprised to find that you are trying to handle one of the thorniest issues, how it is that the RC church can claim to be a decent member of society, and yet seems at least some to have views that would have fit, mutatis mutandis, with proponents of racial segregation, even apartheid, of the past. And I appreciate that you are trying to carve out a more liberal and understanding and protective viewpoint for your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

    But pardon me, if I don’t take up your argument closely, because you seem to make a category mistake. It is not that your argument doesn’t make some sense. However, if you are trying to describe how fellow members of society should be treated, all these questions are pointless and moot even. For it does NOT matter why someone is a certain way, if his being that way does not hurt you directly, it is simply none of your business. And that my dear fellow scholar in residence is the rub.

    For you see that is what your particular institution, broadly speaking the RC Church, has a problem with. In a way, trying to carve out a different understanding is just another way to try to explain why it SHOULD be your business. A new definition, a new parameter, and new foray for the natural law even, a bit stretched perhaps. NO.

    It is just none of the RC Church’s business to intervene in society as if they had a “stake” in what other people’s lives are who are not adherents of their Church. This is the real point. If they spent more of their time actually trying to just sanely protect their own rights, instead of coming up with ever more encompassing definitions, then they might actually protect their own bailiwick, which naturally they have a right to do. Work on that, apropos the lives of gay people who are discriminated against. Someday I want one of these more right wing types — which I do not take you to be of course– to send me a check when they say they are not homophobes, for the extra costs of health insurance I have paid over the years even though my husband has spectacularly good health coverage. And his own employees in his branch get better coverage for all their kids than the boss of the branch gets for his own husband. If you want to know why gay people are pissed, there is a good example.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

      I certainly do not pretend that gay people have no right to be “pissed.” I’m afraid I’m not the target of your critique. And though you seem to acknowledge that at points, it doesn’t stop you from leveling it at me.

      As for whether the Catholic Church, or any other institution, for that matter, has any interest in the common good and not simply its own parochial survival, I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree, but I’m not going to let it highjack the thread. If you wish to be indulged with more patience, might I recommend not beginning your comments by casting aspersions as to my motivations.
      If you must know, I was not sitting around dreaming up anything. If I had such leisure, my contributions here of late would be much more frequent. I was simply seeing fuzzy thinking on Facebook that I thought perpetuated a completely unhelpful way of engaging an important issue and felt compelled to say something about it because I am interested in a conversation that does not simply vilify those with whom we disagree, a conversation that tears apart friendships and families and nations. That I am a Catholic does not de facto disqualify me from such attempts.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs


      Well it is your blog, and if memory serves you are one of the ones that started it so you can do what you want with it, including disappearing any comment you like. But assuming there is an open dialogue to be had here, let me say that you have moved the argument to a different level. It seems that “intellectual deductions and arguments” (my words) are for you “dreaming up.” Well the first is hard work I will tell you, especially since unlike the metier of real scholarship one has to be fair. I don’t what you are doing, but I can guess. If your attitude is that my having laid out how most gay people think of the RC church’s position, in a blog post ABOUT gay people is “hijacking” then may I suggest you just have a faulty methodology.

      What I find funny is that you seem to have not noticed my having said your views “makes some sense.” So much for trying to be civil, when you are surely already how this matter should be resolved it seems. Catholic have every right to think about the common good anyway they want. That is not, and never has been the issue. It is whether they have the right to require in some way that society shares their view. These matters demand close reasoning, something that natural law tending thinkers are simply not capable of in a democratic context it seems. I think I have rightly deduced with my hardworking and distinctly non-leisured thinking cap on that you are not a right-winger, and thus not likely to require a simply natural law explanation. Good, Very good. I spend my time trying to make particular distinctions in intellectual history, and before those ideas are published they are scrutinized not by those with imprimatures or nihil obstats in mind, but coherence and fairness. Because no one is fair all the time. I think you need a similar set-up if you are going to address the lives of gay people, or gay Catholics even.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

        I noted a tension in your post between trying to be civil (affirmations of my non-rightwingnuttiness are appreciated), with the not so subtle implication that I have some kind of ulterior motive (whether or not my views “make some sense”) and that I “sit around” looking for ways to impose “something Catholic” on the unsuspecting. Of course the Catholic Church doesn’t have a right to require that anyone share their views. But the Church itself has a right to share its views and make its case, as does everyone else. You seemed to suggest otherwise, and that’s what looked like highjacking to me. And it looked like highjacking because the post is not at all about the Church’s views and how to impose (or even propose) them, but about how to avoid fuzzy thinking and so to promote a more careful and productive conversation between groups that spend a lot of time vilifying one another. (If avoiding fuzzy thinking looks dangerously close to promoting Catholicism to you, I can hardly be faulted for that.) Despite your occasionally complimentary phrases in my direction, your goal looks very much like vilification, if not of me directly, then of me as a representative of a religious group whose villainy is so manifest that even my well meaning attempts are compromised from the start. You must forgive me if I find that narrative neither compelling nor appealing, especially since it is presented as narrative rather than argument. The whole thing runs on subtle insinuations and question begging, which makes it slippery, to be sure. At this you are the undisputed master. That you see something similar at work in my own post probably says more about you than me.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs


          Well finally some compliments for my blog style.

          Where you are wrong, and just peremptory, is thinking that I see such admittedly well-meaning attempts as a kind of “villainy”. That would require me to take them seriously first as arguments, and then judge them as malicious ones. I have no such view of you, and get no such vibe. I interpret you culturally, because I don’t know you personally, and likely never will. As a cultural manifestation your views can really only mean a few things. You are clearly a committed Catholic, and a liberal of sorts. That used not be a problem. I can remember well in Catholic when we were “grown up ” enough in theology class to start discussion “sex” how it was dealt with in those days. I can remember every single theology teacher there saying something to the effect that “The Catholic Church is not ever interested in having the government look into anyone’s bedroom, but here is what the church teaches on thus and so…..” Wow, how times change. That attitude seems to have vanished.

          So given the status quo in your faith community, which is not secret in any way, in either of our countries, I think a close cultural reading of a liberal in your position can ONLY be as a de facto defense at this point. I do think you are well-meaning, and btw, I agreed with your basic point, for what it is worth. My bad for not saying it to be courteous. Yet the basic assessment on my side is that you are engaged in a self-sillying rumination, since you 1.) liberal and Catholic, and 2.) want to be decent towards gay people. Right now your Church’s position is simply not amenable to anything but question begging if it is put into a democratic arena. For on the simplest level, it is almost (in Wittgentinian fashion) “meaningless”. I am not saying the RC church’s views have no meaning for its adherent. I believe they have a lot of meaning for them, and that it helps people live good lives, and they can take that goodness into the world. It is the the moral imperative that is meaningless in a civil society. It is a category mistake. Fuzzy would be a step up.

        • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

          For it does NOT matter why someone is a certain way, if his being that way does not hurt you directly, it is simply none of your business.–Peter Paul

          whether the Catholic Church, or any other institution, for that matter, has any interest in the common good and not simply its own parochial survival–Brettsalkeld

          I’m afraid that neither of the comments above are particularly constructive, and the latter reflects a level of discomfort with his interlocutor that is not conducive to a useful dialogue.

          And, here, we get to real vilification that is absolutely uncalled-for:
          The whole thing runs on subtle insinuations and question begging, which makes it slippery, to be sure. At this you are the undisputed master…–Brettsalkeld

          What NEITHER of you fellows—but, especially, Brettsalkeld—seem to understand is that you CANNOT have a fruitful dialogue with this culture on the subject of human sexuality because the Catholic Church’s definition of what it considers to be the PURPOSE of human sexuality—that is, the connubial relationship—is and has been, for four centuries, at variance with the dominant Protestant majority’s view of marriage.

          It really would help if someone well-versed in the contending theologies of the Reformation and Counter Reformation period would take a close look at WHY the Protestant reformers rejected sacramental marriage, and deliberately and carefully undid the prohibition against divorce in the Gospel of Matthew. It seems to me that Luther was pretty honest about it, in his Table Talk, when he said that the Lord “gave us that prohibition to convict us of our sins. It tied in with his belief in the total depravity of human nature and his idea that “works” in the world could never redeem man—which, by the way, sets Protestantism, much more than Catholicism, at WAR with the other major world religions—and that Jesus Christ, as Luther put it, “had His tongue far in his cheek,” when He forbade something that the concupiscence of mankind made ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to the human condition.

          And there you have it: Protestant cultures, like the American one, don’t see chastity–that is, a self-sacrificial posture in sexual matters—as being useful or even, perhaps, desirable; they see it, it seems to me, as being a hubristic and, therefore, a SINFUL aspiration. Divorce, then, becomes something that man cannot resist, and ought not to try actively to resist; instead, man can only beg forgiveness for it, and “throw himself upon the Blood.” The idea of a “promise” made to some “Saviour” intervening in the Catholic marriage sacrament, to insist upon an “eternal union” between the two must seem, to people who believe in “salvation by faith alone,” to be akin to some kind of presumptuous voodoo ritual. Their “serially monogamous” marriage arrangements seem to be more “enlightened,” more “reasonable,” more “accommodating” and “charitable” toward man’s natural concupiscence.
          I think that Peter Paul and I understand exactly WHY the SACRAMENTAL nature of Catholic marriage precludes it ever being offered to “same-sex couples” (and why Papa Bergoglio’s advocacy of the “civil union” compromise will be the only thing on the cards), but what you, Brettsalkeld, don’t understand—and don’t seem to even WANT to understand—is that the Roman Catholic definition of marriage (which was a REBELLION against Greek and Roman “natural law” regarding sexuality) makes the American debate over “gay marriage” irrelevant to Catholics who actually understand that the Protestant marriage “covenant” was ALREADY a perversion of what we call “marriage.”

          There are so many things about the Roman Catholic Church that seem sexually “abnormal” to Protestants, but perfectly reasonable to Catholics who aren’t tainted by American, and particularly Protestant Fundamentalist religious culture. Remember that, for the people of ancient cultures and religious traditions living in Christ’s time, His rejection of a hetero-normative lifestyle must have seemed to be a perversion in itself—and it led to the ancient Apostolic Christian Churches’ embrace of monasticism, the rejection of which, the literature of the Reformation makes clear, signifies a return to the “normalcy” of Mosaic and pagan lifestyles regarding something called “marriage.”

          Brettsalkeld, you, like Julia, like many others writing here at Vox Nova—like even the young priests, some of the time—don’t seem to understand that Catholicism in America is a radical counter-culture that has little or nothing to say to a dominant and profoundly Protestant Christian majority, whose heretical theological principles have infected every single aspect of their lives and lifestyle choices, from abortion, to capital punishment, to social and economic justice, to their concept of “total,” rather than “just” war—and, now, finally, to their embrace of “gay marriage”—which makes perfectly good sense to a culture wherein “marriage” is a temporary and serially monogamous arrangement. What they’re trying to tell you (and what you won’t listen to, Brettsalkeld) is that, by their lights, your ancient, and, to them, archaic notions of what marriage is, and what human sexuality is FOR, is “cruel” and “unjust,” because, among other reasons, it is an affront to their RELIGIOUS principle that concupiscence is NATURAL and only “redeemable” through “the Blood.”

          Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy had a better and truer view of the dominant culture in which they found themselves than modern Catholics, trying to “dialogue” with their Protestant brothers and sisters over “gay marriage,” seem to have.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

            It is remarkable how much you imagine to know about my views on gay marriage and the Catholic attitude towards public policy on the question from my little critique of a well-intentioned but fundamentally misguided and manipulative video that did not mention the subject even once. You might be surprised at how much of your cultural critique I already espouse (rather than “don’t want to understand”), though I would certainly try to avoid the histrionics. I think it is absolutely the case that the debate about gay marriage is utterly predicated on a cultural view about heterosexual marriage that is already at odds with the Catholic vision and makes the Catholic contribution to any public discourse fundamentally unhearable. Though I’m not as keen as you to throw every Protestant under the bus, I’m not sure where you got the impression I don’t know “that, by their lights, your ancient, and, to them, archaic notions of what marriage is, and what human sexuality is FOR, is “cruel” and “unjust,”” In fact, I espouse it regularly in many and varied contexts (though with reference to the broader culture, and not to Protestants specifically). Heck, I’ve said it to Roman Catholic Archbishops. You’ve missed the mark by a mile this time, I’m afraid.
            And I’m not sure when I became subsumed into the dominant culture in your books.
            Whatever happened to the guy who once wrote this?:
            And a pot shot at Julia? Seriously?

        • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

          with reference to the broader culture, and not to Protestants specifically

          And THERE, precisely, you make your fundamental mistake–one that’s as intellectually dishonest–or, at least, disingenuous–as, it seems to me, your deliberate and acrimonious misreading of what Peter Paul was trying to tell you about how this issue is not, for him, an “academic” one. For someone such as I, growing up in the Bible Belt of the American South, where I was CONSTANTLY being told by “pious” Protestants, that the sexual morality of priests and nuns was “perverted,” it wasn’t, either.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

            It would seem we have had very different experiences of Protestants in general. Forgive me if I don’t grant your experience more authority than my own.

  • Dave Carlin

    How can homophobia disappear, since, apart from a small number of teenagers, it doesn’t exist? The idea that fear and hatred of gays is widespread among those (Christians and others) who disapprove of homosexuality is a myth — that is to say, a lie — created by the gay movement and promoted by the liberal fellow-travelers of that movement.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

      Is it true that some groups try to tar other groups with the tag ‘homophobia’ unjustly? Absolutely. Does it follow that actual homophobia is virtually non-existent? Hardly.

    • Jordan

      Dave Carlin [May 10, 2013 3:32 pm]: The idea that fear and hatred of gays is widespread among those (Christians and others) who disapprove of homosexuality is a myth — that is to say, a lie — created by the gay movement and promoted by the liberal fellow-travelers of that movement.

      Dave, I’ll concede that few Christian leaders attempt the straight-up (pun intended) homophobic route anymore, at least in the public square. I suspect that some Christian churches have recognized that brazen demonization of LGBT people has merely resulted in further alienation from institutional religion. Even barely sublimated homophobia such as “Christian” behavior modification programs for gay people presume that only one modality of heterosexual life exists. What about heterosexual people who consciously choose not to wed? Who could care less about sports and have friends to match? Who’d rather not play pretend the picket fence and homemaker wife lifestyle? There are as many “heterosexual lifestyles” as there are heterosexuals. Conservative Christianity shoots the remaining foot while still nursing the gunshot wound in the first.

      There is no way any person can act, dress, or speak which will earn him or her justification. “Why can’t they just act like everyone else?” Who are they, and who are you?

    • Jacobitten

      Dave Carlin, I think you misunderstand “homophobia.” Homophobia is like racism. Yes, there is an “explicit” type, but perhaps even more insidious there is an “implicit” type.

      It’s true, many Christians who sincerely have simply a moral opposition to homosexual sex acts are not motivated by the overt “personal” type of homophobia that one sees among teenaged boys and boorish straight men attempting to prove their [heterosexualized] masculinity through heaping contempt or disgust on the gays.

      THAT sort of homophobia has little to do with Christian morality and more to do with a sort of “warrior ethic” of “manliness” or something like that, and is likely to laud heterosexual conquest even if (or, even, especially if) it is promiscuous and unchristian.

      Of course, some Christians (especially in lower socio-economic strata, rural areas, the South, etc) mix their Christian morality with these sorts of homophobic conservative “manhood” concerns. But many of the intellectual variety manifestly do not. For many, their belief is simply the abstract logical outcome of an idea of chastity that applies to everyone; the same idea which condemns homosexual sex (for everyone), also condemns masturbation, contraception, etc etc.

      In itself, of course, this belief cannot be called “homophobic” because it isn’t motivated by hating a type of person, its logic applies across the board to everyone, and it existed long before the notion of sexual orientation or the homosexual as a type of person ever had its consciousness raised, long before there even was a category of “gay person” conceptualized. An abstract moral condemnation of a voluntary behavior can never in itself be considered bigoted, true.

      However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of “implicit homophobia” in the beliefs of many of these people which comes from a sort of “creeping incrementalism” that develops when their beliefs enter into the political/social/cultural/communal sphere (ie, the question of how that abstract belief effects how they concrete treat real individuals).

      Specifically, I’d say, many people holding these beliefs do NOT make important distinctions, even when they claim to. What starts out as an abstract moral belief about a behavior…starts to extend to beliefs about individuals, about a type of person, a minority group, a community, a culture, a so-called “lifestyle,” and to human relationships and families.

      And people will see the bigotry here every time. Say what you will about the morality of private sex acts abstracted from everything else. If it leads to you condemning a human person or a loving human relationship…you will lose every time, because people will see the bigotry.

      For example, the recent case of the teacher in Ohio fired because her partner was listed in her mother’s obituary. This is a clear case of homophobia. It’s not at all a straightforward application of any “moral” idea. Where in the deposit of faith does it say that lesbian teachers have to be fired if it’s found out that they have a partner? It’s not like a video of them having sex was published or that she was teaching kids radical liberationist ideas. It’s just that it became known publicly that most important person in this woman’s life, the one she lives with and shares her life with, was another woman. And because she didn’t play semantic games with words like “good friend” or “room-mate” or “soul sister” or something like that, they fired her, though they don’t seem to probe into the marital history of other teachers (maybe they’re divorced and remarried) or anything like that.

      Of course, the divorced-and-remarried already do face a double standard. We don’t know if they’re “living as brother and sister” or not, or perhaps trying to but sometimes failing but going to confession before communion, etc etc. Really, it’s not our place to assume anything any more than with anyone else. As such, I don’t know why they’re singled-out.

      The “living in sin” category, this idea that potential private sex acts (sex being the only thing the concept seems to be applied to) are somehow “publicly manifest” by cohabitation or a legal arrangement or whatever…needs to be deconstructed. There should not be “two tiers” of sinners in the Church, the invisible (like, you know, all the married couples contracepting, the dating couples having premarital sex, the single folk all masturbating and using porn) and the allegedly visible ones whom the rest get to scapegoat as “scandalous.” The category of “lifestyle” needs to be done away with. There are no “lifestyles,” there are only individual acts.

      It’s one thing to identify certain discrete acts as sinful in the abstract. Fine. But once you start identifying people as being in “sinful lifestyles” as if that is some sort of quasi-permanent state that inheres in their person or relationship and which extends from the individual controversial acts in such a way as to make their whole life or relationship irredeemably tainted (even when the act in question might take up only a half-hour once a week or something like that)…then you have bigotry. Then you’ve crossed the line from having a mere belief that something is a sin, to essentializing people or relationships AS reducible TO their sins. And that’s clearly bigotry. Yet it is what many Christians seem to sincerely believe is the logical outgrowth of their moral beliefs.

      And I think gay couples already face a “triple standard.” The divorced and remarried, or the cohabiting, heterosexuals already face this double standard. But at least they can show up together at a parish and no one will necessarily “know” what’s up, they can blend in, can introduce each other as husband and wife without giving too much background on the fact that they don’t have an annulment etc unless they try to get really deeply involved in parish ministries (in which case that might come to light). They can become quite good friends with people before the fact of a prior marriage ever even needs to come up.

      And even though an unmarried couple (likely) may be having premarital sex, because they at least “look like” the “right configuration” they can get away with introducing each other as “boyfriend and girlfriend” without anyone jumping to any conclusions, rather minding our own business and giving them the benefit of the doubt (or, rather, just not assuming anything one way or the other).

      But a gay couple, instantly “visible” for being so, is really already singled out and made uncomfortable. It’s harder for conservatives to do the sort of “winking” there that they’ve gotten used to, and so you get ridiculous things like this which would never even come up for divorced-and-remarried (or unmarried/cohabiting) heterosexual couples.

      Or even if gays try to get involved as singles, the Church crowd has a way of getting nosy. They’d probe into your living situation, would find out you had a “room-mate” and maybe gossip would start. Or if you’re a single (or apparently single) man over a certain age they start pressuring you to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

      Or to be set up with the nice Catholic girl they know. A good friend of mine once said he got uncomfortable going to parish activities; he wasn’t going to lie and say he had a girlfriend when asked, but when he got to chatting with some of the young women he could tell that they had him in their sights to “make a bunch of Humanae Vitae babies with,” and even if you merely say “I’m taken” then that invites awkward questions or things like, “Oh, next time you should bring your girlfriend, we’d love to meet her!” And so you can’t really become close friends for fear of giving too much information (whereas heterosexuals can just “not mention” the irregularities in their situations since those are usually private business.)

      There is plenty of “implicit” and “structural” homophobia among well meaning Christians that is inspired by their teachings. Sloppy application of those teachings in terms of the “politics” of it (ie, the relationship between a moral idea in the abstract, and how that effects how you concretely treat people) perhaps, but there nonetheless.

      • Dave Carlin

        Jacobitten: May I suggest that there is something insidious about the notion of “implicit” racism or homophobia? Let’s say I want to call you a racist because you disagree with me about affirmative action. However, you exhibit no visible signs of dislike of black persons. But I’m reluctant to give up my racism accusation, for it is such an effective move in debate, and it gives me a feeling of moral superiority. So I charge you with implicit racism. There is no way for you to prove me wrong — except of course by agreeing with me on affirmative action. Ditto for implicit homophobia. Insidious.

  • Jane Louise

    The conception and execution is a bit clumsy – of course it makes no sense to ask someone who has just said they think homosexuality is “caused” by a combination of nature and nurture when they chose to be straight – but from my perspective the issue is more that the maker of this video wasn’t asking the more important questions. I used to think his question mattered, by which I mean that I used to agree with the argument that if people could be convinced that a homosexual orientation is not a choice (irrespective of how its origins might be grounded in nature/nurture), homophobia would go away. But you are right, for many who believe homosexuality is wrong, it seems not to matter what its causes are.

    The questions that interest me more are those that, I think, must inevitably be asked of those who advocate celibacy even though they might accept that sexual orientation is not a choice. Put very simplistically, the two questions seem to me to be these. First, if a homosexual orientation is not a choice but it’s nonetheless intrinsically evil, what hope is there? It’s not just a matter of resisting temptation if that’s the case. The state of being would itself be the sin. What kind of God would cause the creation of inherently “failed” souls in that way? Personally I find that position untenable. And secondly, if it is not a choice but not intrinsically evil (ie the moral question is purely one of the morality of expression of the orientation), can it really be the case that a fundamental state of being that is not intrinsically wrong can nevertheless have no morally right avenue of expression? I find that untenable too.

    Now, those are hardly the sorts of questions that can be thoughtfully addressed with strangers out doing a spot of shopping on a Saturday morning, even though they are obvious and familiar questions to anyone who is interested in the sorts of issues canvassed on Vox Nova. But to my way of thinking – and perhaps I’m naive – those are the sorts of questions that need somehow to be confronted in the broader public square.

    • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

      Jane Louise, your questions are brilliant, but what’s the point of a Catholic asking them of a culture that profoundly misunderstands the usefulness of chastity as a guiding principle in sexual relationships, and totally rejects monasticism, to the point of considering it to be almost a sexual PERVERSION (as Protestantism has, now, for centuries)?

      • Jane Louise

        Well, I’m new around here and I am not part of this crowd so I am sure others will be able to answer your question better than I can. Not long ago I described myself as a recent escapee from a humanist world-view. You can draw your own conclusions…

        Chastity and monasticism are two very different things as I see it, and I am not sure there’s much value in introducing the proleptic (as opposed to sacramental) notion of monasticism into this particular debate. I can agree with you, though, if you mean that the real question is one of sexual morality in general rather than the expression of homosexuality in particular.

        But is there really no point in trying to have that conversation? I think if the video that is the subject of this thread shows us anything, it is that empathy is actually alive and well in our communities, if only you can find a way to enliven it. The video maker’s questions might not have been conceptually well-founded, but all his interlocutors had a flash of guilty recognition when he asked them his “killer” question. So, did he achieve his purpose? Maybe he did, on one level, even if it is unlikely to satisfy those with a particular intellectual and theological perspective.

        But this is what interests me about your comment. Isn’t assuming that there is no point in having the conversation the same mistake Christians have been making ever since they realised, too late, that their strategic response to exclusively rationalist Enlightenment thinking might have been misguided? Is this a good enough reason to withdraw from the public square? I don’t think so.

    • Kerberos

      @ dismasdolben – re: post of: May 10, 2013 10:25 pm

      ## I trust you won’t mind if I take you up on a couple of points:

      “Protestant cultures, like the American one, don’t see chastity–that is, a self-sacrificial posture in sexual matters—as being useful or even, perhaps, desirable; they see it, it seems to me, as being a hubristic and, therefore, a SINFUL aspiration.”

      ## I have no “inside” knowledge of US Christianity – but, as a description of the Protestant POV, I can make no sense of that comment. Nothing in the Puritans supports it. The Protestant suspicion of “monkery”, and with that, of vows, & related matters, does not logically, or theologically, imply disdain for chastity. Catholics are apt to “zero in” on Luther, but Luther is not Protestantism; his function was – from a Protestant POV – to point men to something, or Someone, much more important than him. Protestantism & its witness to the Gospel is not Luther-centred, but Christ-centred. Protestantism is primarily a “testifying to” the Gospel – and only after that is it a “protest against” anything.

      The Bible has a lot to to say about sexuality & chastity, even if indirectly. What Protestantism does not trust, is self-imposed asceticism – because this is humanly self-imposed, not required by God; nor does it have any place for the notion of works of supererogation – this is a logical consequence of its rejection of the meritoriousness of good works whether before or after justification. The Protestant ideal is the Christian family, in which sexuality is used to the Glory of God. Not using it, is not perceived as a sacrifice, but as a form of departure from Scripture. The Christian vocation is conceived of as being lived in the world, without being of it – not of allowing the “leaving” of the world by “entering religion” as a religious or priest. To say that Protestantism regards self-sacrifice in sexual matters as hubristic, is a half-truth at best, and a dangerous one. It is given the lie by the self-sacrificing lives of many great men of God: John Paton, C. T. Studd, David Livingston, Willam Carey, Asahel Nettleton, to name only a few. Would they really have achieved what they did as missionaries, if they had no spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion to the work God had called them to do ? The hint – if it is present – that Protestants lack self-sacrifice is, in so far as it is true, as true of Catholics also. But neither group has lacked its Christian heroes, its martyrs, its livers lof consecrated and self-sacificing lives; nor is anything gained if either spreads half-truths about the other.

      US Protestantism is only one Protestant culture – and much or most of it is arguably not genuinely Protestant. Protestantism – like any religion or POV – should be judged by its highest & best examples; not by those which are most numerous. St Francis of Assisi is a better example of what Catholicism is like than are the millions of us who are “useless servants”.

      “Remember that, for the people of ancient cultures and religious traditions living in Christ’s time, His rejection of a hetero-normative lifestyle must have seemed to be a perversion in itself”

      ## An essay by Pieter van der Horst in “Japheth in the Tents of Shem. Studies on Jewish Hellenism in Antiquity” (Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology 32), Leuven: Peeters, 2002; 272 pp.), with the title “Celibacy in Early Judaism” suggests that the celibacy of Jesus would have been less unusual than is sometimes thought.


      As he mentions, Philo of Alexandria was not married. Here is note 26 on p.198: “The many popular books in which Jesus is presented as having married Mary of Magdala deserve no other destination than the trash.”. Judaism is a world-affirming religion, as it was so in the OT. Which is one of the reasons the Reformers insisted on the value of life “in the world” – they were not being “worldly”, but correcting, perhaps over-compensating for, a one-sided “contemptus mundi” in Catholicism. It has taken the CC 400 years to internalise the lessons that it could and should have learned not only from the NT, but also from St. Francis de Sales, St. Philip Neri, Ven. Louis de Blois, & others.

      • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

        All I can do with almost all of this–which seems to me to be largely untruthful–is respond to you exactly the way Brettsalkeld did to me:

        It would seem we have had very different experiences of Protestants in general. Forgive me if I don’t grant your experience more authority than my own.

    • Hoperite

      “if it is not a choice but not intrinsically evil (ie the moral question is purely one of the morality of expression of the orientation), can it really be the case that a fundamental state of being that is not intrinsically wrong can nevertheless have no morally right avenue of expression?”

      This assumes a lot about the ontology of “sexual orientation,” perhaps even assumes an “essentialist” construction of it.

      I see what you’re saying though. I could go on about this (but won’t), but I think the answer the Church would have to give is that homosexuality has a “fulfillment,” it’s just that whatever it is, it can’t ultimately be identified with gay sex acts.

      Of course, this raises questions about how specific you’re being or how you’re defining homosexuality. To me, orientation seems rather broader than, say, the Catechism seems to assume. The Catechism seems to assume homosexuality means specifically something like “a lust for gay sex acts.” But to me, it seems, it only means “attraction to the same sex.” And “attraction” is a much broader concept than just desire for sex acts.

      Indeed, it wouldn’t seem any particular act is implied by homosexuality; the same thing could also be said for heterosexuality of course, so we have to ask how “specifically” you’re identifying the appetite. Is a heterosexual man who wants to, say, do some act involving extra-vaginal ejaculation having a “fundamental state of being”? Or is that just one manifestation of some broader appetite (“the sex drive” let’s say) that we would admit can “misfire” and fix itself on objects that are not proper to it?

      • trellis smith

        We will act according to our being.

  • Ronald King

    When I hear “the radical homosexual agenda” or “same sex so called marriage” on Catholic radio I hear contempt. It is those who hold contempt who seem to be the loudest within our Church and whose minds will be the most difficult if not impossible to change. The video presents rational people who have not moved into contempt and may reside more in prejudice.

  • Jordan

    re: dismasdolben [May 10, 2013 10:25 pm]: I have already stated my agreement with you about the broad social effect of the Protestant doctrine of total depravity and (consequently) the conflation of concupiscence and sin.

    However, I would not jump directly from total depravity to a so-called depraved American Protestant culture. It’s important to remember that American evangelical Christianity does not have a well developed systematic theology. A faith founded on barely literate and educated circuit preachers never had a chance to develop a strong analytical tradition unlike European Protestantism. I realize that modern evangelicalism has attempted to systematize their tradition, but the tangled conglomeration of different strands of Protestant theologies complicates this process.

    It is extremely frustrating to hear evangelical preachers say that “homosexuality is a sin” without any attempt to disambiguate person from infraction. Similarly, the permissive attitude towards divorce in some evangelical communities smacks of a selective bigotry towards gays. But unlike the apostolic Sees, American evangelical Protestantism is a lifestyle and not the “I AM the way, the truth, and the life” reflected in every sacramental angle of the ancient East and West. American evangelicalism is a crude faith erected to regulate the social order of inchoate and rural societies. Debatably, American evangelicalism has failed in this regard. And still, this is its ostensible mission.

    Do not expect more intellectually from evangelical Protestantism than it can provide.

    • Kerberos

      “It’s important to remember that American evangelical Christianity does not have a well developed systematic theology.”

      ## So how come there are systematic theologies either by US Evangelicals, or widely read among them ? Nazarenes,Calvinists, Lutherans (and other Protestants) have written them. Catholics can be distressingly ignorant of Protestantism – just as Protestants can be equally ignorant of Catholicism. This is how lies and misunderstandings flourish – on both sides, to the harm of both and the good of neither. US Evangelicals are not all theologically literate – far from it; and exactly the same is true of Catholics. It is is uphill work with some Catholics to explain that despite the rumours about him, Abp. Mueller’s words on certain topics – the Resurrection, the Virginal Conception – are perfectly orthodox. Just as it is uphill work with some Protestants to explain that praying to the BVM does not mean she is thought to be a goddess.

      If Evangelical Christianity were so intellectually null, it would have evaporated long ago. One of the flaws with US Evangelicalism is its rationalism; this is a feature of Fundamentalism, whether Protestant or Catholic. Superstition is a different evil, but it is perfectly compatible with rationalism – in both forms of Christianity.

      • Hoperite

        Then they should talk about it more, like Catholics do. I have never seen ANYTHING like a “scholastic” approach or any sort of unified philosophical-theological system within any Protestant apologetics arguments. I see quotes from the Bible usually. Sometimes old ideas from back when Protestants DID have systematic theology filter through (usually having to do with either Calvinist or Arminian soteriology) but with any notion of a wider systematic philosophical context for those ideas having apparently gotten lost or decayed long ago.

        • trellis smith

          The reliance on Scripture as the basis of their systematic theology will necessarily lead to a diversity opposed to the unifying claims of a purer systematic theology like scholasticism.
          I believe the hesitancy is well founded as the hubristic scholastic approach hasn’t served us too well. The reformed traditions in their original sense have a greater humility in regards to the inherent failings of systematic theology stressing the distinction between archetypal theology and ectypal theology, once referred to as the theologium beatorum- theology of the glorified and the theologium viatorum-the theology of pilgrims.
          Vatican 2 incorporates much of this thought in its explorations of the pilgrim people of god and the the biblical principle of the already but not yet.
          or more succinctly to quote Paul, “We see through a glass darkly”…

    • Jordan

      re: Kerbreos [May 11, 2013 8:47 pm]: I have laid bare my prejudices against American evangelicalism. I particularly regret stating that American evangelicalism is “crude” and a religion of illiterates. Yes, all persons are at some level deficient at undertanding their religious tradition.

      The one, holy, apostolic, and catholic faith (Catholicism and canonical Orthodoxy) places the divine institution of sacraments, butressed by an continually unfolding theological inquiry and mystical tradition guided by the Holy Spirit, at the core of sanctification. Broadly, evangelical movements invert this process by often exalting the pietistic experience while simultaneously often suppressing or denying the theological construct of sacrament (e.g. ordinance instead of sacrament). The exaltation of being “born again” as the sole means of grace inverts the apostolic tenet that human intellect and reason serve ex opere operato grace. Be very thankful that the Church dodged the Jansenist bullet.

      How does all this tie into Brett’s video? The “homosexuality is a choice” meme which courses through the video echoes the “born again” notion that the Holy Spirit must be accepted through a subjective and personal conviction. If an evangelical believer must profess faith justification as the principal means of grace, then logically he or she is not regenerate and elected if he or she self-identifies with scriptural passages often interpreted as anti-homosexual. Unlike Catholicism, which recognizes that the homosexual orientation lived chastely is not a sin and not an impediment to sacramental grace, no such division can be made when concupiscence and sin are the same. In the later case, personal ontology is necessarily an impediment to the only means to God’s grace.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Scholar Salkeld wrote:

    ” I think it is absolutely the case that the debate about gay marriage is utterly predicated on a cultural view about heterosexual marriage that is already at odds with the Catholic vision and makes the Catholic contribution to any public discourse fundamentally unhearable. ”

    Well said. That’s where the meat is. It may be long and slippery, but its there.

    It is not so hard to understand this. I suggest thought experiments, which I entertain myself with sometimes so that I can understand others, and not imagine them as enemies. I prefer to think of the world as full of friends I have not persuaded yet. I know, dream, but still, its healthier.

    Anyways, I know that people don’t like thinking that moral convictions are like choices of taste. Well, the thought experiment is not that they are like preferring apples to oranges, but a more passionate kind of taste. Say, like my love of classical music. Now I hold views on this matter, that in my thought experiment, are like those of conservative religionists on sex. I promise you, no one is ever going to convince me that Mozart and Bach is just like whatever band is banging today. Mozart and Bach are better, nobler, and healthier. In my mind, people that listen to those composers are living better lives, think bettter thoughts, and make better judgments.

    Now would I legislate that people only listen to it. No. But I can understand a conservative in this sense saying……gay relationships are never going to be on the level of a straight one, because in my thought experiment, I feel the same about music. I would not enforce it, but I will always think it, and will judge people on that basis. Yet I know it is a self-limiting feeling or conviction. It does not lessen it, but it gives it perspective. This is the best I can do to be be tolerant of the opposite view on gay relationships.

    Dismas’ view is interesting as always, but a bit Polyanna. I have made this point before, and will make it again. What the prevailing view of sex and marriage was for most (say 95%) of Catholics who ever lived, was NOT guided by the subtle view Dismas offers which seems to be gleaned by a collated reading of the lives of the saints. Most people were illiterate, and what they were taught by sermons, is by extant evidence a lot more blunt than he is making it out to be.

    The see-saw was not between Protestant “concupiscence is natural” and Catholic saintly self sacrifice. it was between a tradition that mostly just looked the other way on sex (Catholic) as long as you didn’t question the basic morality, and a tradition which actually too the personal time to distentangle the threads of what was “natural” and what was “volitional”. The last one is what produced the “Wasp” view of sex. Part of the reason that Catholics used to have such a “healthy” attitude towards sex for centuries, is because they simply looked the other way. It was ideals that mattered.

    this brings us full circle to Brett’s notion of “unbearable”. It is unbearable because NOW somehow the Catholic ethos has morphed into a requirement that people start doing more than having that identity as Catholics vis-a-vis sex. thus they have gone from very inclusive culturally, to very exclusive. The toothpaste can be put back in the tube. All that “theology of the body” stuff actually has got Catholic people thinking that they can actually base their real live sex lives on these ideals. Instead of the earthy sex lives catholics were known for before because they culturally were not required to make them line up. Every time I hear the chosen euphemism of the “marital embrace” I cringe. I don’t know those people but they won’t convince anybody about hetero sex with that kind of euphemism. And showing how these conundrums breed other conundrums, there is a guy on Catholic Vote Action named Tom Hoppes whose answer to all this vexation is that everybody should imitate African tribes for sex. I have always thought black people handsome, and I love African tribal art, but imitating tribal sexual congress, is I think going in the wrong direction….I don’t think seeing people in very revealing tribal garments is very sexy anyways. Watch out for those types into Nat Geographic porn.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld


      • Peter Paul Fuchs


        Oh my eyes are not what they used to, and my blood pressure medicine seems to make hands a little weird feeling, so I don’t type very well. Yes, “unbearable” is a more precise word, and correct. With the caveat that it would have to be heard, a special way. And very “special” positions on things can and do gain creative (and also non-discrimnatory btw) audiences, if they are handled in the right way. Mutatis mutants, I would call my views on classical music (symbolized by Mozart and others) as quite “special”. I am aware of that. But case on point, my research paper on Mozart seems to have become a surprise hit online, and gets put on an ever-increasing number of college pdf. downloading site. According to a musicologist I know, it is being used by college students the world over in discussing Mozart’s views. I would never have imagined this for that paper, for it is not even, my best paper. And btw part of the point of that paper, is that Mozart was much more “Catholic” than people understand. Our views become “hearable’ sometimes in ways we don’t expect.

  • trellis smith

    As the mainstream creeds have receded the dominant strain of Protestantism in America is Evangelicalism to whom the Catholic hierarchy has allied itself politically (witness Archbishop Dolan’s reception of the Wilberforce award from Chuck Colson) but from which the laity naturally recoils. So while I can agree with Mr.dimasdolben’s hyperbole in part, Protestantism is simply too broad to lump under the inflammatory polemical rhetoric of the past. Much has evolved since the Vatican 2 and the convergence of ideas to where in the words of the popes ” what unites us is greater than what divides us” As an example the faith and works polemic is partly resolved by agreed understandings on grace where the proper emphasis should have always been placed,

    A lived chastity requires abstinence so like virginity it is not something one has but has not. Like the other two evangelical counsels there is a real deprivation and they thus are heroic and are for the few, not the many. His apparent views of chastity are orthodox in that the heroic is incumbent on all by the Church. So what is heroic is now common which i don’t believe would be orthodox at all.

    Regarding marriage, I am not altogether sure what he defends or attacks here as I know few Protestant Christians that would recognize Mr dimasdolbens description of what they believe of marriage. The common understanding at least in mainstream Protestantism is that unitive love is the guiding principle of marriage from which flows the birth of children but also the building up of community even from unions barren of offspring (which is a different understanding of marriage at the time of Christ.). So compelling was this argument that the Catholic Church recognizes unitive love as a secondary purpose of marriage. And so compelling is this view that gay people wish to make this the guiding principle of their relationships as well. By what convoluted logic would one wish to confine them from faithful unitive love to a perpetual adolescence of, realistically speaking, leaping from bed to bed with shirt tails aflame. Now that sounds like a perversion.

    In more oblique reference to your post i think most gay people are exhausted of having to explain the obvious and to be constantly used as specimens by friend or foe but want to get on with it. There must come a time when “the unexamined life is not worth living” gives way to its corollary, the unlived life isn’t worth examining.

    • http://gravatar.com/dismasdolben dismasdolben

      A lived chastity requires abstinence so like virginity it is not something one has but has not. Like the other two evangelical counsels there is a real deprivation and they thus are heroic and are for the few, not the many. His apparent views of chastity are orthodox in that the heroic is incumbent on all by the Church…

      With this comment of yours, I absolutely rest my case that American Catholicism is thoroughly and completely infected with Protestant Christian ideas regarding human sexuality and marriage:

      ALL of the married saints knew perfectly well that “chastity” is a spiritual virtue, encompassing an ATTITUDE regarding a self-sacrificial disposition regarding physical love or congress that was PERFECTLY realizable within the bonds of holy matrimony. You are confusing “chastity” with “celibacy,” which is the NORMAL confusion in this culture. Strange, too, that somebody who is apparently tolerant of “same-sex love” would do that, since a chaste love is realizable within a “homosexual union,” as anybody who knows real-life “gay” folk knows perfectly well.

      • trellis smith

        You’ve made a distinction without a difference. Chastity for gay people in the Catholic Church is celibacy, By its lights a chaste homosexual love is non physical. I am not confusing the two, Church teachings on one hand acknowledge the heroic celibacy as a choice made for service for the kingdom and then imposes it as a requirement on all unmarried people thus gay people because if I’m not mistaken they’ve spent a hell of a lot of money opposing same sex marriage even for non Catholics. I go far beyond tolerance of gay people and make no claim they are any different than southpaws It is rather the deplorable if not despicable teachings of the church regarding gay people that do not speak of their reality.

        • http://gravatar.com/dismasdolben dismasdolben

          I will only agree with you on one thing: the “teachings” of the Roman Catholic Church regarding “gay” people ARE “deplorable.” However, unlike you, perhaps, I believe that they will change–that, in fact, it won’t be too long before the Church blesses “civil unions.” The incumbent in the See of Peter has already suggested that as compromise, and that’s something that, as a supporter of “gay” rights, as well as a skeptic regarding the “institution of marriage” in the Protestant-majority countries or the secularist West in general, I can live with.

        • trellis smith

          Well as often the case the light of the church is a taillight. it will bless something which probably won’t exist in civil law in the US. In any case I believe the compromise of civil unions vs marriage was in regards to civil law in Argentina not church law. i wouldn’t hold my breath as his fellow bishops even there were against this accommodation.

  • David Nickol

    But no one supporting a given cause, however noble, should sink to the level of dishonesty and manipulation.


    You sound angry.

    It was good that you modified the above sentence when Kurt called you out on it, but you still seem to be implying that the people who made the video, and presumably the people who are publicizing it on social media, have sunk to the level of “dishonesty and manipulation.” In all likelihood, they think it’s a good question and are asking it in all sincerity. “Fuzzy thinking” is different from dishonesty and manipulation.

    I agree that “born gay” versus “chose to be gay” is a false dichotomy, but it doesn’t seem to me that after asking the initial question, the interviewer insists on an either/or answer or the people being questioned feel bound to answer with only one or the other. And no matter how people answer the question about how they came to be straight, the interviewer asks if they think it’s the same for gay people.

    It does not make a great deal of sense to ask adults if they were born gay or straight, any more than it makes to ask a tall adult if he or she was born tall. Sexual orientation and height are both characteristics that develop later in life. So “born gay” is not to be taken literally. It is shorthand—and I admit, inadequate shorthand—for something more complex. Pretty much everything that human beings develop into over the course of their lives is a matter of nature and nurture, and this includes height (60% to 80% heredity, 20% to 40% environment).

    I certainly run into many “homophobes” in blog discussions who think that homosexuality is a choice. I also run into people who think that all human beings are “born heterosexual” and that while gay people don’t actually choose to be gay, something in their environment damages them in such a way that their “normal” development goes off track. And despite the dismal record of reparative (conversion) therapy, these people often think that gay people can be “cured.” Sometimes they acknowledge that a “cure” basically requires some kind of divine intervention, but they still expect gay people to attempt to convert to straight and hope for a miracle.

    I think the basic point is that people become gay in very much the same way that people become straight, and there’s no definitive answer as to how people become gay or straight.

    “Catholic homophobia,” it seems to me, often takes the form of maintaining that homosexual acts are sinful, which of course is the “orthodox” position, but regarding homosexuality with a special horror. Heaven forbid, many seem to think, that a gay person might actually have sex even once in his or her life, while on the other hand they seem to take in stride that relatively few heterosexuals enter marriage as virgins, 41% of children are born out of wedlock, the abortion rate among lesbians is no doubt pretty close to zero, divorce and remarriage is practically the norm, almost all heterosexuals use contraceptives, and so on, and so on. I think I can make a pretty compelling argument that for “orthodox” Catholics, sex with contraception in marriage is a worse sin that a homosexual relationship. But contraception seems to be tacitly accepted by the Church, while homosexuality is condemned as “grave depravity.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

      Well, I think I admitted to being frustrated. I’m not aware of being angry.

      Apart from the fact that I think fuzzy thinking and manipulation are mutually implicative here, rather than exclusive, I agree with the vast majority of your comment. The manipulation need not be all that intentional to be genuinely manipulative.

      • David Nickol

        It seems to me that manipulative, in the sense you seem to mean it here—characterized by unscrupulous control of a situation or person—cannot be unintentional. You can’t be controlled without a controller or manipulated without a manipulator. If I make flawed and fuzzy arguments that I sincerely hold to be true, and you find them convincing, I haven’t manipulated you.

        Attempting to convince people that homosexuality is morally acceptable because gay people are “born that way” may be flawed. But the assertion that being gay (or more precisely, having a homosexual orientation) is a “choice” is just flat out wrong. You will perhaps find a handful of people who will claim they chose to be gay, but for the overwhelming majority of both gay and straight people, they will tell you that their orientation was something they discovered about themselves, not something they chose.

        The insidious implication of claiming homosexuality (that is, orientation alone) is a choice is that it effectively erases even this from the Catechism: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” If people are “born gay,” or if they become gay as the result of a combination of heredity and environment, they are still due compassion and respect. But if they “choose” for themselves a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” then they are culpable for their own situation.

        I would be hard pressed to understand why the Catholic Church revised the following statement in the first edition of the Catechism:

        The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.

        to read

        The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.

        Some choose to interpret this deletion of “They do not choose their homosexual condition” as implying a homosexual orientation is a choice. It certainly was a step backward by the Church.

        • trellis smith

          The trial for gay people is not their inclination but a Church that would foist this lie of objective disorder upon them.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs

      wow that was a great comment. Kudos.

    • Julia Smucker

      The really fuzzy thing about these interviews is that they are following a formula that presupposes the dichotomy. They don’t force an either/or answer, they just go on as if one had been given, ignoring any deviations from their script on the part of the interviewee.

      • David Nickol

        But I think that is a plus. Whatever the people say about their own orientation, whether they answer “born that way” or not, the interviewer asks if they don’t think it’s the same way with gay people. People say things like “it just happened” or “that’s just the way I am.” And the interviewer doesn’t say, “So you mean you were born that way?” He just asks if they don’t think it’s the same for gay people.

        I think one experienced in these kinds of on-line exchanges whose first experience with Vox Nova is this thread would catch right away that this is not an extremely conservative site, since on some sites, if anyone dares use the word homophobia, the thread erupts into an argument about what a horrible word it is, how it should never be used, how it is a “conversation stopper,” and how people who use the word homophobia are accusing anyone who doesn’t agree with them of being bigots.

        I don’t think this video needs to be analyzed as if it were a propaganda film tipping the hands of the secret architects of the homosexual agenda who are bent on sewing confusion, destroying all that is good and decent, and putting all faithful Catholics in reeducation camps. It’s basically good natured and non-confrontational.

        No heterosexuals were harmed in the making of this video.

        • Julia Smucker

          I wasn’t referring so much to the question, “Do you think it’s the same for gay people?” as to the one before that: “When did you choose to be straight?” Presuming that one would have chosen one of the two options given to respond to the previous question. I agree with Brett that a more honest follow-up question, at least for those respondents who nuanced their original answers a bit beyond the dichotomy presented to them, would have been, “What combination of nature and nurture do you think led to your being straight?” But the interviewers, by basing their project on the premise that they can wipe out homophobia by asking straight people when they chose to be straight, are stuck in the dichotomy and unable to deviate from the script.

        • David Nickol

          Not to argue small points to death, but who in the world can answer, “What combination of nature and nurture do you think led to your being straight?” I think the vast majority of people can answer, “When did you choose to be straight (or gay)?” That is the important question in the video, and nobody claims to have made a choice. The overall point seems to be that gay and straight people experience the origins of their orientations to have been determined in the same way.

          I see no need to be overly literal in interpreting “born that way.” How many traits can anyone actually say a person is born with? As I recall, one of the women in the video says, “It’s just the way I am.” As far as I am concerned, that’s at least as good an answer as, “I was born this way.”

          We’re dealing with a YouTube video here, not a peer-reviewed study in a social science journal. Fortunately Brett decided to tone his original complaint down, but initially it was an indictment of the whole gay rights movement—”But no cause, however noble, should sink to the level of dishonesty and manipulation.” This wasn’t a dispassionate analysis of “fuzzy thinking.” Brett admits to being annoyed, but he sounds more than annoyed to me. He sounds angry.

          For the overwhelming majority of people, their sexual orientation is something they discover about themselves or take for granted as something like their height, or intelligence, or musical ability, or any of hundreds of other traits. They didn’t choose it.

          The message of the video is that sexual orientation is not a choice. And that message is correct. And there are many people who work against gay rights who use the false position that gay people choose to be gay as an argument against gay rights. And many of them, in my opinion, qualify as homophobes (no matter how inadequate that word is).

      • Jordan

        re: Julia [May 11, 2013 7:43 pm]: I completely agree re: set questions. A more open-ended and potentially more interesting follow-up question to ask would be “why do you believe what you just said?” Vox Nova readers might be surprised (or dismayed, depending on how jaded they’ve become) by the responses.. Plenty of people have entirely non-empirical or non-rational “reasons” for deeply-held positions. For example, some people might say that homosexuality is a choice “because the Bible tells me so”, even if the Bible does not explicitly say that homosexuality is a choice. Still, a request for an explanation of an opinion is a better point of departure than the emotive “when did you know you were straight?”

  • Mark VA

    Perhaps we should admit that heterosexuals likewise have a set of objectively disordered sexual desires. The history of the Church does show that monogamy was not exactly the natural choice for the barbarians whose posterity became Christian, then “European”, later still, “Western”.

    History also shows that politics has uses for sexuality, in our age perhaps even more so than in the past. It’s a comedy of sorts, with various roles assigned according to the desired ends. To advance this or that “current truth” (thank you, People’s Cube), all sorts of characters are needed – ignorant, cold, and dogmatic religious fundamentalists and their clergy, caring and saintly politicians of a certain stripe (and their opposites), the enlightened academia that does its best to educate the ignorant, the good media that carries on the burden of spreading the good word, as well as the bad media that sows evil, the art world which “challenges” and “exposes”, the confused masses lurking in the crevices of these edifices, etc. If I were to pick a piece of music that in my mind best describes this insanity, it would be this:


    I myself think this: there is something to be said for good taste, modesty, privacy, for loving your neighbour, and if any of that goes astray, the confessional. We are all in some sense disordered, so why make a public farce out of it?

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    “No heterosexuals were harmed in the making of this video.” Bwahahahahahahaha!!!

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    I just read over the comments here again, because it is truly colorful. And I watched the video again, I I hope I can add just one more observation based entirely on my reading of early Christian church history. Namely, if there is a view being adumbrated for a more liberal Catholic view it is the following. That gay sexuality may be encompassed, in light of Catholic doctrines, as a sort of “felix culpa less-than” and not anathematized simply. I am not sure what else could possibly be left conceptually if one wanted to both be faithful to Catholic doctrine in some way, and not “be a homophobe”. (Leave aside for the moment that many non-Catholics might see the position as intrinsically homophobic, or so by definition)

    What thematizing the matter this way facilitates is actually being able to compare it coherently with history. With what?? Well, significantly, with the history of hetero relationships themselves. In this regard I assert, on a mountain of evidence, that the primary reading of early Christian source, and Patristic philosophy and orthodox mystics is this. Heterosexual relationships themselves were ENTIRELY see as a “less than” form of moral behavior, a sinful and broken nod to “do not burn” felix culpa ideation. The other interpretation of these sources that such unions were extolled as “just as good” is utterly a secondary interpretation. And it evolved very slowly, and was not even till the 19th Century that it started to even have a definite positive bourgeois connotation it has now. Familes as a “sign of societal health” and not just as what randy non-saints produced. Perhaps this is sort of Dismas’ point ultimately– he is trying to revive the early sense.

    I don’t buy any of it ultimately . But I believe there is clearly precedent. I am so helpful. I have done the Catholics’ work for them.

    • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

      You’re right, Peter Paul, I AM trying to revive “the early sense,” because I believe it’s the genuinely Christian one, and that the making of “family” into a feteshized idol is a direct contradiction of what Christ preached in the New Testament–a sell-out, if you will, of the “heroic virtue” of chastity that Trellismith (above) thinks is the same thing as “celibacy” (and apparently thinks that “gay” folk shouldn’t consider themselves capable of or eligible for).

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Mark VA,

    That reminds me of the Adelaide Concerto.

    Also, if there ever were a straight guy, way on the far side of hetero attraction on the Kinsey Scale (assuming anyone quotes that old letch anymore) if was Wolferl. Also, though very Catholic, he seems to have had a very apotheosized view of his own sexuality, in ways many other Catholics were unlikely to have, given your description here. A man who could set “Mann und Weib, Weib und Mann Reichen an die Gottheit an” so beautifully (though as I point out in my paper, there was likely another even better version he threw out!) was in some ways a very transcendental fellow.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    I wonder if you will allow a video here, for some serious comic relief, and feeling of fraternity, of what I think we are all against here. Namely, the mindless cultural vacancy which is the real killer of good relationships and love and kindness. The funny video is not about the gay issue per se, though at one point it mentions non-stop campy homosexuals as part of he problem, which I as a gay man kind of agree with:


    • Ronald King

      Hey Peter Paul, I was feeling special in my void until Brett allowed you to show this. Thanks for destroying my narcissistic reality with a cartoon after I had just removed the threat of mirrors from my home.

  • trellis smith

    I’m fairly certain most Catholics don’t buy it ultimately either. Instead of just jettisoning the whole natural law absurdities regarding sexuality JP2 crafted on TOB to support its conclusions under a phenomenological aspect that is suppose to incorporate subjective experience but somehow manages to ignore it in any meaningful sense.

    Our initial encounter with God comes mediated in this imago Dei
    So where is the papal encyclical Canticum Canticorum that truly celebrates the bodily creation and its mystery What is this concentration on chastity, concupiscence and control which is the antithesis of sexual passion and surrender. These are seen as obstacles to authentic love wherein fact they can be the gateway, the coming out of ourselves. Where in our bloodless theologies is it acknowledged the body’s joys, pleasures, sweetness and grace as well as its clumsiness betrayals and sufferings and disorders.
    The locus of our faithful and covenanted loves lies in self giving and sharing the intimacy and vulnerabilities of one’s body which is oneself not in the aridity of law or obligation.
    We are not some problem to be solved with detachment but an enigma to be engagingly explored.

    • http://gravatar.com/dismasdolben dismasdolben

      In general, I couldn’t possibly agree with you more, but I differ with you about chastitiy, which I think you misunderstand, as a “heroic virtue”; I don’t believe that “chastity” is the denial of sexual passion, but its PERFECTION. Maybe you’d understand where I’m coming from, regarding this spiritual virtue, if you’d consider its meaning in other contexts, e.g. “the chastity of the poet’s verse,” or “the chastity of the architectural design.” etc. To me, it means what is non-gratuitous, necessary for perfection of the work or act, and wholly self-abnegating, in the interest of another person, or in the interest of any higher purpose. To my mind, it’s also impossible to subtract it from true beauty and real love. And I absolutely DO believe that the love of two homosexuals for each other can manifest it.

  • Ronald King

    Brett, you stated above, “Well, I think I admitted to being frustrated. I’m not aware of being angry.” I am not being picky here when I say frustration is a certain level of anger. I have observed this form of denial over decades of work and have worked with individuals, couples and families to help them identify how to feel and express this feeling in a constructive way. It seems that we have been taught to deny or repress our passions through shame and intellectualization. In my simple opinion there is nothing wrong with the simple questioning in the video along with simple answers to get the majority of us within the average range of intelligence under the Bell Curve to begin to develop better insight and communication about underlying prejudicial core beliefs relating to self and others which can possibly initiate healing where there exists open wounds.

  • Thales

    I’m late to the party and I haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if I’m talking about something already discussed.

    When I read your post, half of my mind found it interesting, while the other half of my mind was thinking, “What does it matter?” Neither option is essentially relevant to the decision whether to act on the orientation or not. Whether to act on the orientation and engage in a sexual act is the real sticking point and that is where the moral calculus lies. I’m heterosexual, but whether that is by nature or nurture is kind of irrelevant to my moral calculation that I can’t simply go out and engage in heterosexual sexual behavior.

    • trellis smith

      True perhaps but it does go to the heart of justice unless you concur that the heterosexual inclination is objectively disordered.

  • http://gravatar.com/dismasdolben dismasdolben

    Some day soon, I hope and believe, the Catholics are going to stop paying attention to such romantic absurdities as “The Theology of the Body” and will start listening to COMMON SENSE such as THIS about human sexuality.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    I just saw something on EWTN while doing the dishes that kind of sets the severity of this whole discussion in context. Mitch Pacwa, of the same order as the Pope, the jesuits said this, and this is a verbatim quote:

    “Virtually 100% of people with same sex attraction have sexually transmitted diseases.’

    Now I do not put you Brett, or anyone on this blog in the same category as this man Pacwa. His words are by definition evil as they partake of the same hate mongering and deception that liars always have. The assertion is, as if anyone needed to say it, utterly false. But more is a stylistic matter of hateful ideation which only the most desperate partake of. Brett, I feel for you, I think you are a decent guy. but you need to understand that people like Pacwa are your confreres. They are the Pope’s confreres literally, as in the same order. And this wretched man literally meets the definition of a participant in a “Hate Organization” as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center. To get that official definition, it is not enough to say that you disagree morally with a position, like same sex marriage. That right is sacrosanct, by our freedoms. You must go a step further. You must willfully spread clear falsehoods which have not basis in any reputable fact. This Pacwa has done, as he is broadcast around the country and maybe the world. Where will Bishops and laity stand with manifest falsehood?? Pray tell.

    “”Virtually 100% of people with same sex attraction have sexually transmitted diseases.’

    Let us see.

    • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

      Peter Paul, stop watching EWTN; it’s not good for the soul.

    • Jordan

      re: dismas [May 16, 2013 1:18 am]: Peter Paul, stop watching EWTN; it’s not good for the soul.

      Amen that! EWTN is salafism in Poor Clare veils and Franciscan habits.

      Blessed Whitsun! Read Philip Larkin.

  • Liam

    Let’s cut quickly through this exercise: it’s *not* an exercise in logical reasoning, and doesn’t even pretend to be.

    It *is* an exercise in empathy. And empathy is a very strong rudder of our reasoning (particularly if you realize that what often passes for logical reasoning is something of a Potemkin village masking a reverse engineering process….).