Some Points About Homophobia And The Church

Some Points About Homophobia And The Church April 2, 2014

I wrote a post this week that made the following points:

  • The Magisterium of the Catholic Church says that unjust discrimination against homosexual persons is sinful;
  • A number of laws debated or passed recently in a number of countries represent unjust discrimination against homosexual persons;
  • The authorities of the Catholic Church have been, at least in some cases, lukewarm and equivocal in their opposition to such laws;
  • The authorities of the Catholic Church should be outspoken and unequivocal in their opposition to such laws.

A great number of respondents objected to the conclusion of the post, while objecting explicitly with none of the points leading up to it.

Instead, many respondents objected to my use of the term “homophobia” to describe the sin of lack of charity towards homosexual persons.

Yet, I will not only reiterate my post, but offer the following points on this topic.


  • Some people, in the words of the Magisterium, “experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex” and for many of them this attraction is “deep-seated”;
  • In the words of the Magisterium, for many of them, this attraction or inclination is “a trial”;
  • These people are children of God, and, again citing the Catechism, they deserve “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and “every sign [emphasis mine] of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”;
  • These words about our duties as children of the Church towards our same-sex-attracted brothers and sisters are demanding; they are not to-be-sures or asterisks.

On homophobia:

  • Some people have deep-seated, irrational animus against homosexual persons because of their homosexuality;
  • The English language word for this irrational animus against homosexual persons is homophobia;
  • Historically and to this day in many communities, the prevailing culture treats homosexual persons with contempt and this no doubt contributes/ed to their “trial”;
  • Homophobia is a phenomenon that exists in the world;
  • Homophobia is a phenomenon that exists among some members of the Church;
  • Some people have accused the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or Christian sexual doctrine, or Christianity itself, of being homophobic; I view this accusation as false;
  • The fact that false accusations of homophobia are sometimes leveled does not mean that homophobia does not exist;
  • The fact that some accusations of homophobia leveled against the Church are false does not mean that there is no homophobia in the Church;
  • All members of the Church are sinners, called to repent, and take out the beam in their eye before they look at the straw in their neighbor’s;
  • The Church itself is a penitent on a pilgrimage on Earth; in this world, it is Christ’s suffering body afflicted by sin, of which it is most right that she should repent (if you disagree, take it up with Bl John Paul II);
  • Sometimes a word’s etymology can help to illuminate its meaning, but not always; etymology is not definition, that’s not how language works; when I use the word “philosophy”, nobody takes me to task for using it to refer to a very specific mode of intellectual inquiry rather than generic “love of knowledge”, because the meaning of the word “philosophy” is clearly established in the English language; you may not like the etymology of the word “homophobia”, but it is still the word the English language uses to describe a phenomenon that actually exists in the world, and it is therefore a useful word for that purpose;
  • Calling on the Church to denounce homophobia does not mean that no other sin exists and that it should not denounce any other sin; if I write a post about the evils of pornography, I don’t get comments saying “What about abortion???”; if I denounce greed, I am not being soft on sloth, or lust, or whatever;
  • This is a complicated time for homosexual persons: in some precincts of the West, homosexuality is held up as normative to the point that orthodox Christian doctrine is viewed as bigoted, but in many other places in the world–no doubt at least in part in reaction to this phenomenon–homosexual persons are scapegoated, unjustly discriminated against and, well, victims of homophobia;
  • The Good News of Jesus Christ stands as challenge and judgement of every culture;
  • There is therefore no contradiction, indeed great harmony, in the Church Catholic defending its precious doctrine everywhere; part of which doctrine includes condemnation of homophobia; this means standing up for traditional marriage where it is threatened (hint: everywhere, although not always by the same forces), and denouncing homophobia and, in particular, homophobic laws; in defending traditional marriage and denouncing homophobia everywhere, it will show that it is prisoner to no culture but instead truly the one holy apostolic Church, the pillar and foundation of Truth;
  • The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, stands opposed to every form of scapegoating; by scapegoating I mean the collective imputation of the community’s sin on a demonized, Othered sacrificial victim;
  • Scapegoating is a profound impulse in all human societies and at every time and in every place; we want to feel righteous by projecting our sin on somebody else and directing our collective anger at an isolated person (see: the Internet Outrage Machine); we can’t help having that desire, it is part of the Fall; but we can be aware of it and combat it;
  • Above all in His perfect sacrifice on the Cross as the most blameless one, but also in His defense of the woman taken in adultery, his denunciation of self-righteousness and hypocrisy, his inclusion of the marginalized, the sinner, the broken, the outcast, the Samaritan, the Publican, the Tax-collector, in the circle of God’s mercy, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has exposed the lie of scapegoating, and He has firmly instructed His followers to never give in to scapegoating and to denounce it everywhere;
  • Without a doubt, after Jesus defended the woman taken in adultery, many onlookers thought Jesus was too lenient or adultery, or had endorsed it, and they were angry;
  • If it is to mean anything, the bumper sticker slogan “Love the sinner, hate the sin” has to include actual acts of love and not just words; preferably costly ones, as our Lord’s love cost him;
  • Historically, homosexual persons, like adulterous women and teenage mothers, have made convenient scapegoats; to say this is not to endorse homosexual acts, or adultery, or unwed motherhood;
  • Globally, we live in a paradoxical situation where, in some quarters, the prevailing view of homosexuality turns Christians into scapegoats, but in many quarters, homosexual persons are still the scapegoats; to say one thing is not to deny the other; that Christians are scapegoated for their opposition to the postmodern doxa on homosexuality does not relieve them of their duty of solidarity and charity towards their scapegoated homosexual brethren; indeed, following the logic of the Gospel, it only enhances it;
  • The recent spate of homophobic laws is like blood crying out to the Lord for justice because they are so clearly instances of scapegoating, of bit-part demagogues scoring cheap political points on the back of a demonized minority; all of it is so, so foul and repulsive to the Christian mind;
  • To repeat: oh Lord, the pseudoscience: “The junk science about homosexuality that is peddled by American Fundamentalists has now found its way to Africa to do even more damage. Supporters of these laws claim that homosexuality is a Western invention foisted upon them by colonialism, and that it is a choice. They use eliminationist rhetoric. The Church of Aquinas and Bellarmine ought to vomit out this nonsense.”;
  • Charles de Gaulle was right when he said that doing the right thing occasionally just might prove to be the politically smarter bet; many people sincerely believe that Christian doctrine regarding homosexuality can only be driven by homophobia; on top of being the right thing, it would seem to me to be the strategically adroit thing to do to prove them wrong in deeds and not just words; because they are wrong; aren’t they?
  • Since we’re on the subject of political/rhetorical/apologetic strategy, the worst thing to do in a debate is to concede the terms; if we leave the “other side” with a monopoly on the word homophobia, we are handing them the reeds to beat us with; or, in the words of Lenin, “We will sell to the capitalists the rope to hang them with”; not smart, not right; the fact that the word “homophobia” has been misused is a call to reclaim it, not jettison it;
  • Dostoevsky’s Elder Zosima is right: “There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.”
  • Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

So there. I shut up now.


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