Friday, 28 December 2012

Of course it's about homophobia...

One of the reasons that we are so ineffectual in our resistance to the destruction of marriage is that we are running scared.

It must never be thought that it is about homophobia, or that we discriminate in any way against homosexuals...  This fear, it seems to me, has eviscerated the Christian response to the assault on marriage, and left us looking irrational, hypocritical, and irresolute.

But the truth is that it is about homophobia, at least as that term is used by the gay rights lobby.  (It's not only about that, but I shall come back to that in another post).

When I say it is about homophobia, I do not mean an irrational fear or hatred of homosexual people (still less a rational one).  But I do mean a profound belief that the homosexual lifestyle is bad for them, for others and for society; that homosexuality is a disorder; that homosexual sex is a moral evil; that homosexual relationships are not morally equivalent to marriage, and so on.  Such beliefs, I expect, are sufficient for me to be branded homophobic.  But if I let the fear of that label prevent me from speaking the truth, then I really am scared.

I have a number of close relations who suffer from various degrees of autism.  They have done nothing to deserve this, and it would be wrong of anyone to blame them for it. I certainly love them no less because of this affliction.  However, it is an affliction, a disorder; to deny that is to do them no favours at all. Instead, we should seek to help them: a cure would be wonderful, but failing that, helping them to manage the disorder, and (of course) giving them love and support is the next best strategy.

However, occasionally the disorder may incline them to do things that are bad: bad for themselves and bad for others.  We do not say: 'Oh, that's OK: it's an alternative lifestyle,' as they bang their heads repeatedly on the floor, or attack their siblings, or refuse to eat.  We are sophisticated enough to recognise that these are bad behaviours, but they do not mean the person is a bad person, nor that we should withdraw our love and support.  But part of our loving response must be to help them to see that these behaviours are not good, and help them find ways to live that exclude these behaviours.

That is the challenge to Christians facing homosexuality: we are commanded firstly to love, but not in the shallow sense of condoning what is bad; rather in the sense that is motivated by the good of the other, and the good of all.  That good, we know, has been revealed by the God who sent His Son to live and to die for us, who sent His Holy Spirit to animate his Church, and who gave us Holy Matrimony as a sacred vocation, which we have a duty to defend and to pass on to our children in all its truth and beauty.

So we must oppose the destruction of marriage, confront the untruth that homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle that does nobody any harm, and tell the truth about these things clearly and without fear, but always in charity, seeking the good of the other.

And so far, we have been very poor at doing that.


Lazarus said...

I agree, Ben. One of the things that ought to make this easier to say (but in practice won't) is the recognition by Catholics that a) we are all struggling against sinfulness on a daily basis and b) that sexual desire is an area where we are particularly prone to corruption. So this isn't a narrative about nice heterosexuals picking on homosexuals, but all of us struggling in various, often shifting ways, against a stain on our nature.

Unknown said...

I'm sure others far more sophisticated and intelligent than I will take apart your conflation of autism and homosexuality as roughly equivalent "disorders" more completely but my intial reaction is that you make a logical (and also grotesque) error in claiming that "banging your head against the floor" (clearly harmful to you) or "attacking your siblings" (clearly harmful to them) is equivalent to "harms" that may arise from a loving consensual homosexual relationship. I'm sure you sincerely believe that homosexual relationships are harmful but you don't really make any attempt to explain why? How are they harmful? I'm afraid I can't accept the argument that your God says they are wrong ergo they are harmful, and it seems a pretty weak one to me, when I'm fairly sure you do a bunch of other things that the bible has also deemed "wrong".

Simon Platt said...

I'm with you on this one, Ben.

One thing that struck me about your post in particular, and what first prompted me to comment, was the phrase "condoning what is bad". For some reason it reminds me of the fact, as it seems to me, that promoters of homosexuality assert intolerance on our part (hence "homophobia") and demand "tolerance" from us when it is not, in fact tolerance that they desire but positive approval (hence, in part, the demand for homosexual "marriage".) Their position is, in fact, deeply intolerant: marriage is a public state which they demand that we recognise whether we like it or not.

Simon Platt said...

The second thing that encourages me to comment is Richard Coe's response.

Richard: Ben's post takes as a premise the fact that homosexual relationships are harmful, as the Church teaches. He makes that clear in his very first paragraphs in which he criticises the Church's response (really, Her failure to preach the Gospel out of season). We believe that homosexual behaviour is harmful to the individual because it corrupts our God-given sexual faculties and harmful to society because it undermines society's foundation, that is, the family. Promoting homosexual relationships is a grave matter because it is collusion with particular sins and because it causes scandal. Equating homosexual relationships with marriage is particularly harmful because it mocks and undermines what Ben rightly describes as the sacred vocation of marriage, increasing the scandal.

I think Ben's analogy is very apt.

Your caricature of Christian teaching on homosexuality "your God says [it is] wrong ergo [it is] harmful" and "the bible has deemed [it] 'wrong'" is particularly poor. Christian teaching is based on revelation and natural law and is both rational and constructive.

Of course you have no right to cast aspersions on Ben's moral life - except that it's obvious that even faithful Christians commit whole bunches of sins and need God's forgiveness.

Ben Trovato said...


I agree completely with your comment, and have, in fact, argued the same thing myself previously on this blog.

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks for your comment. I would say I was using autism as an analogy, rather than conflating the two.

You are quite right that I do not explain why I believe homosexual relationships are harmful. That was not the topic of this post.

However, it is one I will return to in due course.

Of course I am a sinner; but if only those free from all sin could comment on any moral issues we could not discuss them at all!

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks for your comments, too. You will not be surprised that I agree with you.

Clearly the SSM thing is about bestowing approval: all legal rights are already in place. This is a societal blessing to which we are being required to acquiesce.

And you are quite correct that I commit whole bunches of sins...

Patricius said...

While largely in agreement I'd suggest that a comparison with forms of addiction might be better than with autism and might offer more hope to those so afflicted. While no expert on autism it seems to me that the addiction model, while acknowledging the difficulties involved, at least allows for the possibility of ultimate cure.

Unknown said...

Does anyone else remember the campaign to repeal Section 28? It was argued (by some of those who are now campaigning for same sex marriage) that there was no need for legislative prohibition against the promotion of homosexuality as an equivalent lifestyle to heterosexual marriage, because no one would *ever* engage in such promotion.

Now we are faced with a situation in which a minister in the Department for Education announces that the right of teachers in Catholic schools to teach what the Church teaches about marriage cannot necessarily be defended.

It is simply untrue to say that legislation to allow same sex marriage will affect only those who wish to contract such marriages.