Monday, October 11, 2010

At the service of an ideology

Sadly, yet predictably, many have turned the recent suicides of five homosexual young men into propaganda at the service of an ideology. The good news is that these movements tend to reach a tipping point almost as quickly as they emerge by, ironically, turning into just the kind of thing they set out to oppose in the first place. I was thinking about all this yesterday afternoon, trying to determine how I might approach this issue in writing in a constructive and charitable way, which is why I am very grateful that my dear friend Deacon Greg Kandra's response to an article by Michele Somerville for The Huffington Post over on his blog The Deacon's Bench does just this.

Somerville's piece is a great example of what I tried to describe above. Stated simply, it is intemperate, unfair, and at the service of an ideology. All she does is further polarize and alienate people from each other by reducing the beliefs of others, in this case Catholics, to so much idiotic simple-mindedness. At the level of both Christian experience and reflection is the divinely revealed reality that "God is love" (1 John 4:8.16- ESV). From this one can easily deduce that God does not hate anyone. Her article reminds me of the well-intentioned, but very unbalanced, editorials I used to read in the campus newspaper at university. It takes the tone that "If you don't agree with me, then there is something really wrong with you."

Like the term islamophobia, with which I took issue during the great Ground Zero mosque debate, I think the term homophobia is slung around far too carelessly. Besides not describing any actual psychological malady, it has a disturbingly totalitarian ring to it, the kind employed by dangerous ideologies, like in the Soviet Union, where people were institutionalized for refusing to toe the party line. After all, a phobia is not merely a fear, but an irrational fear, one that needs therapy.

This is not to insist for one minute that homosexual people do not often experience prejudice and unjust discrimination, they certainly do in many quarters. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church states unequivocally that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." More apropos to the subject at hand, the Catechism goes on to assert that "[e]very sign of unjust discrimination" against homosexual persons "should be avoided" (2358). To wit, we have perfectly acceptable ways of discussing prejudice, unjust discrimination, and even bigotry, without inexpertly condemning others to the psych ward. Increasingly, the epithet homophobic is employed to stifle honest discussion.

With his post, Homophobia in the Church? Really?, Deacon Greg makes a valuable contribution to the current discussion by bringing balance and perspective. I think his conclusion is worth repeating:

"Catholic teaching on sexuality is more complicated and nuanced than many realize. And, despite what writers like Somerville may think, there is a moral framework on which that teaching is built -- a framework constructed on something truly radical, and audacious, and sacred, a framework that not only offers dignity to those people who experience same sex attraction, but which also demands that they be treated with Christian love."

Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam

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