This article, in January's Furrow, is rather ironically titled, for it is a reply to Fr Owen O'Sullivan's piece in the same review in March, 2010. O'Sullivan's ability to reply is hampered since he has to show all his writings to the CDF before publication. So when Kiely says, "Freedom must include freedom to think", one is left wondering what his view would be of the freedom to express and publish what one thinks. Recently it was revealed that an article in Theological Studies, by Germain Grisez, had not gone through the normal channels of peer review etc. but had been imposed on the editors by the Vatican. Fr Kiely is an ardent defender of Humanae Vitae, very much in the Grisez camp.
Kiely refers to "anyone who thinks that the Judeo-Christian tradition on homosexuality has been mistaken for about 3000 years". But the tenets he himself focuses on are of quite recent vintage. They are ideas on the psychology of homosexuality that date principally from the 1950s. Fr Kiely would not, I presume, want to defend long-standing aspects of the Judeo-Christian understanding of homosexuality such as the burning of Sodomites at the stake (one of the first importations of missionaries to Asia in the 16th century, when gays were burnt in Goa and Manila). When Fr Kiely says that "it is possible to think one's way into a tradition as well as out of it" he misses the fact that gay theologians are indeed doing both -- thinking into the authentic spirit of biblical and Christian tradition on love, conscience, community and thinking against the violent and dehumanizing elements that have also attached to that tradition.
Examining critically the chapter on homosexuality in the nine editions of Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry (CTP), Kiely notes that the first edition, 1967, sees homosexuality as "a form of immaturity". This sounds like a mild version of the standard American Freudianism of the 1950s that would see gays as failing to mature to the full, normative heterosexual position. In 1973 the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality per se from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which Fr Kiely sees as a dereliction of professional duty due in part to "pressure by gay activists, including disruption of the annual meetings of the APA in 1970 and 1971". Strange that in the 40 years since the APA has never considered reversing its decision: how powerful those gay activists must be! To be sure, a poll of 10,000 psychiatrists brought the result that of the 2,500 who responded 69% saw homosexuality as "a pathological adaptation". But if that result were representative, would not this be reflected in APA thinking? Is the APA some kind of dictatorship that reaches conclusions independently of the opinion of the majority of its members?
Apparently CTP came into line with the APA only in its seventh edition, 2000. Here, according to Kiely, "research in the psychoanalytical tradition, which had concentrated on the familial antecedents of adult homosexuality, is dismissed without adequate reasons being given". The research to which Kiely himself refers is that of Bieber and Socarides, figures that are not regarded with much esteem by psychoanalysts today. The great guns of psychoanalysis, from Freud and Lacan down, do not, as far as I know, regard homosexuality per se as pathological and do not seek blanket etiologies of sexual orientation. CTP's references to Kinsey and to the finding, reported as long ago as 1951, that "homosexuality was common across cultures and occurred in almost all nonhuman primate species" are viewed with skepticism by Kiely, who quotes the 6th edition of CTP: "no instances of adult preferential or obligatory homosexuality in any social context have been reported for any nonhuman mammalian species in the wild". Kiely gives no information on recet studies on homosexual behaviors in the animal kingdom. He complains that CTP-VII tells us "very little about the psychodynamics or psychogenesis of homosexuality". Could this not be because there is very little that can be said about a question posed in such sweeping terms? Again, Kiely urges that "the psychoanalytical approach... was at least a very promising beginning that could have been carried forward. In the recent past it enjoyed a widespread consensus".
A more telling criticism of CTP-VII is its use of social constructionist jargon: it argues with reference to Foucault "that there is no inner sexual drive, but rather that the human potential for thinking and acting is shaped by social forces of regulation and categorization into various types of sexual desire at different times in history and in different societies". Certainly, as applied to the exclusive heterosexual or the exclusive homosexual this remark has little relevance; the orientation itself is a given, though its evaluation and enactment are of course subject to cultural variation. Bisexuals may have more latitude in sexual self-identification.
In this social constructionist view "a person's identity as gay, lesbian or bisexual is not then subject to evaluation by any external criterion (psychological, moral or religious), and in that sense seems to be considered as self-authenticating". From a so-called "essentialist" viewpoint, this would be even more the case. Unless there are solid reasons to think otherwise, natural tendencies such as left-handedness should not be regarded as pathological. In fact, I think that an essentialism about sexual orientation is far more influential than postmodernist ideology in bringing about the normalization of homsexuality that Fr Kiely deplores. Fr Kiely misses a hugely important factor: the new openness of gays and lesbians in all countries where democratic values prevail. Because gay individuals and couples have been so frank about the texture of their lives, the ideas of people like Socarides have been shown up in all their tawdriness. This is not ideology, but nature, in the sense of Horace: "You may expel nature with a pitchfork, but it will alway come back", and Shakespeare: "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin".
Kiely then asks, "are homosexual persons fulfilled by homosexual acts?" This is again a very sweeping question. And the answers are equally sweeping: "homosexuals are more preoccupied with sex than are heterosexuals". The source for this claim: CTP-I, 1967. The promiscuity of gay circles in the pre-AIDS era shows that "such men were searching for something that they were not finding". While I would not dispute that male-male sex will have psychological factors conducive to promiscuity, I would urge that social factors play a large role too. With the advent of gay civil partnerships and gay marriage, we may expect to see a diminution in promiscuous behaviors among gay males. "Lesbianism involves different processes; limits of space preclude discussing these", adds Fr Kiely -- rather disappointingly.
On "the difficulty which homosexual men have with sexually exclusive relationships" Fr Kiely quotes a study of 156 stable couples which found that "none of the over 100 couples that had been together for more than five years had been sexually monogamous or exclusive". I know several such couples myself, and I think their stable and deep relationships should be admired and valued even if they are not waterproof against lateral episodes.
Then Kiely quotes CTP-VI for another sweeping diagnosis: "virtually all preferential homosexuals... did not identify with the sexual orientation of their same-sex parent" (this sounds like a pleonasm, unless the meaning is that in some cases their parents were themselves gay). Thus "except in possible instances of biological predisposition" the gay person suffers from "hostility towards that parent, which tends to extend to others of the same sex". Thus homosexuality means not a tendency to love people of the same sex but a tendency to hostility of the same sex. Of gay males, CTP-VI reports, "hostility towards other men is characteristic" and "contaminates male-male relationships", thus making monogamous commitment difficult. I must confess that I have never noticed this alleged "problem of aggression" nor indeed ever heard of it before. It rather sounds as if any old stick will do to beat a dog. It conflicts with a more common stereotype of gay men as wimps, who would only love to find aggressive partners.
Then, "jealousy and exhibitionism are described as frequent among male homosexuals" -- what a vague statement! The source is one A. Karlen, 1971. I am amazed that Fr Kiely would rescue such a nonsense from its deserved obscurity. Jealousy is frequent among all people, and is probably less frequent among gay males, given the relaxed attitude to sexuality in much of the gay world. Why exhibitionism should be mentioned side by side with jealousy is unclear, unless it is a question of piling up negatives indiscriminately.
Next Kiely tells us: "male homosexuals can also be seductive when they relate to women in non-sexual contexts" (source, Bieber, 1979). What that has to do with the question of fulfillment is unclear. Is he saying that gay men find more satisfaction in a "tea and sympathy" friendship with women than in their brooding, jealous, conflictual relationship with men. This really is a throwback to a vanished culture and its stereotypes, in which effeminate men are imagined pouting about their faithless lovers and being consoled by understanding motherly soulmates.
Next Kiely returns to jealousy: "homosexual relations seem to have a typical component of tension or jealousy". I think the stereotyping word he is looking for is "brittle". He contrasts this with romances between priests and nuns which contain at the start "an echo of The Song of Songs that I have never observed in a homosexual relationship". Me oh my! Do not Shakepeare's Sonnets to Mr W. H. and Michelangelo's to Tommaso dei Cavalieri come close to the Song of Songs? -- and that's only for starters!
Gays can't find no satisfaction, Fr Kiely continues, because homosexual acts "provide a temporary relief from tension or loneliness. But it is only temporary, and the promiscuity of gay men is a clear sign of insatiability." I would say that sexual acts are not the answer to loneliness for anyone; love and companionship are the answer; and in that context sexual acts can be a bonus or a cement -- the Church now says so in the case of heterosexual married couples; Fr Kiely gives no reason to suppose that sexual exchanges cannot also have a positive significance for gay couples.
"The situation of an elderly homosexual man, who has lost his youth, good looks and perhaps social status, can be very sad indeed." A beautiful sentence, but how does it bolster the argument? Supposing such an elderly man were suddenly blessed with the sexual companionship of a young lover -- such things are known to happen -- then he would be a churlish old man indeed were he to say "I find no satisfaction in sexual acts". It is said that the aged and lonely Henry James was thrilled by the hugs and kisses of young men -- satisfaction enough, and not to be scorned.
The last paragraphs of Fr Kiely's essay argue that gay people have "freedom to choose" -- to become heterosexuals! A moment ago they were condemned to uncontrollable promiscuity and terminal loneliness, and now, lo!, a path to happiness opens up before them: find a nice young girl, forget your silly gay feelings, and enjoy the heterosexual lifestyle. Constructionism wins. Sometimes homosexual desire "is superficial and transitory and can be overcome fairly easily" -- no doubt, but note that this does not mean the basic sexual orientation of the bisexual person experiencing such desire has been altered. "CTP-VI states that many homosexual persons, with therapy, can change if they really want to.. 'About one-third in most published surveys achieve a true shift to heterosexuality, and another third become heterosexually arousable and functional without losing their homosexual responsivity'". Study upon study, since Masters and Johnson's declaration of defeat on this front, have shown that such therapies are ineffective and damaging. I would estimate the chances of changing an exclusive homosexual (or heterosexual) into an exclusive heterosexual (or homosexual), even with the aid of the most ingenious Clockwork Orange therapies, at precisely 0%.
"Some are glad to escape the 'gay scene' even without a change of orientation". There is unconscious comedy in this. Sexual orientation is written in one's veins, neurones, genes, mind, heart. The gay scene is merely a congeries of pubs and clubs and lots of gays get tired of it. "Sorry, Billy, I can't change your sexual orientation after all, but at least I got you to stop patronizing the gay scene: that will be $5,000 dollars, thank you". A lucrative racket, indeed. Of course, "One of the ways you can tell you are probably gay is if you really 'hate the gay scene'" (http://outfrontcolorado.com/ofcblog/opinion/stuff-gay-people-like/stuff-gay-people-like-hating-the-gay-scene).
"Indeed, the more one learns about the 'gay scene' from listening or reading (Nicolosi, 1993), the more 'gay' appears as a misnomer". Perhaps Rome is short of gay bars etc., but Fr Kiely should really do some fieldwork. He appears to know nothing of the people about whom he pontificates. There are plenty of nice gay places where he would be welcome and where he might learn to humanize his discourse a little. (Indeed, it is said that gay venues are less threatening and aggressive than heterosexual ones, contrary to Kiely's odd "gays are aggressive" thesis; see http://www.bgiok.org.uk/being_gay/scene.html.)
"All sexual tendencies must be evaluated... Is the homosexual tendency a special exception?" Fr Kiely would like it to be evaluated negatively, as pedophilia is. But he has failed to give any substantial reason for such negative evaluation. "A young person with some experience of homosexual desire might be tempted to cut the Gordian knot, resolve his difficulties in dealing with the opposite sex, and claim an identity, a distinction, and perhaps a cause, all at once". What kind of young person is referred to here? A homosexual person would hardly be worried about "difficulties in dealing with the opposite sex", so the reference must be to a bisexual who takes a walk on the gay side because he finds women too much to handle -- but I don't think Fr Kiely has envisaged this scenario very convincingly.
The best-selling novelist in Rome this Christmas was Fabio Volo, whose first novel, Esco a far due passi, was a tell-all story of a young heterosexual man's life. In all his technicolor sexual adventures the young man never for an instant thinks of homosexual advenure (though excited by the idea of watching two women make love). Fr Kiely seems to underestimate the sturdiness of people's sexual make-up.
On the basis of his jejune portrait of the young bisexual tempted to go all gay, Fr Kiely concludes: "I do not think that this should be held up as a good object of choice, or as a reasonable alternative to marriage". I agree. The young man should live out his god-given sexuality and not pretend to be gay. But far, far more importantly, gay young men should live out their god-given sexuality and not pretend to be heterosexual, deceiving their prospective spouses. "What is in question is the value of a possible choice" -- but unless Fr Kiely really thinks that the average gay young man can choose to be heterosexual, his statement is vacuous. He concludes: "In the long run, especially, it is kinder to accept the tradition of the Church than to reject it". He seems to mean that gay men should marry women, to avoid loneliness in old age. It need hardly be pointed out that this is a formula for much unhappiness.
Fr Kiely should get out more -- the world is actually quite a nice place.
UPDATE I: the following was sent to The Furrow.
Homosexuality and the Freedom to Love
Fr Bart Kiely, in “Homosexuality and the Freedom to Think” (Furrow, January 2012 ) trawls through psychological literature in an effort to elucidate the phenomenon of “homosexuality”. He finds most convincing the work of Irving Bieber, Charles Socarides, Robert Spitzer and Joseph Nicolosi, all of whom are associated with the highly controverted Ex-gay therapies that promise anxious Christian parents to turn their gay children into heterosexuals. He quotes a manual to the effect that about one-third of gays who undertake these therapies can “achieve a true shift to heterosexuality”, while “another third become heterosexually arousable and functional without losing their homosexual responsivity” (p. 14). However, as long ago as 1967, such therapies were discredited when Bieber, in an interview, stated that despite his published claims of massive success in changing gays into heterosexuals he actually knew of only one successful patient – and that patient was no longer on speaking terms with him!
At a time when the suicide of teenage gays as a result of bullying and of religious mystification is a matter of grave public concern, Fr Kiely gives precisely the wrong advice. It would not surprise me if his article were to lead directly to tragedy if placed in the hands of vulnerable adolescents or their parents.
I searched through Fr Kiely’s article for the word “love” and the name “Jesus Christ”. All I found was a quotation from Owen O’Sullivan, which Fr Kiely holds up for the reader’s disapprobation: “If God is love, and if sex is loving, then sex between two people of different or the same gender can only be looked upon lovingly by God. The real sin would be to live without ever having had this contact with another human being” (p. 15). Although Fr Kiely is writing in a pastoral journal, he may say that his focus is on psychology, so that there is no need to mention Christ or love. But even on the psychological plane, what could be more obvious that the question of love is at the heart of homosexual experience, as it is at the heart of heterosexual experience? This forclusion of love is highly significant.
When Fr Kiely warns us against thinking that “the Judeo-Christian tradition on homosexuality has been mistaken for about 3000 years”, he does not advert to the most striking aspect of this tradition, namely the execution of “sodomites”. Many countries today still execute people for “sodomy”, often on the basis of fidelity to the ancient biblical tradition. In Iran hundreds of adults and minors have been executed by hanging from cranes, etc. One of the first imports of the Catholic missionaries in Asia in the 16th century was the Holy Inquisition, and men were burned for sodomy in Goa and Manila.
Curiously, the point on which Fr Kiely most insists, namely, that the homosexual orientation as distinct from homosexual acts is objectively disordered, is not part of the ancient tradition at all, unless we count the odd statement of Paul that because of idolatry “God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural” (1:26). If this were read as an etiology of lesbian orientation it would not match anything in current psychology or in current church teaching. Sexual acts, not sexual orientation, are the topic of the condemnatory Judeo-Christian discourse.
As far as I know, sexual orientation is first formally addressed by the Magisterium in Persona Humana (1975), which claims that some forms of homosexuality come “from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example” and are “not incurable”, while other homosexuals “are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.” Citing Romans 1:24-7, the document adds: “This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it.” Homosexualitatis Problema (1986) claims support for this Catholic perspective “in the more secure findings of the natural sciences” (#2), and adds that homosexuality is “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil” (#4). The traditional wisdom invoked by Fr Kiely is little more than an unreflective acceptance of the common view of the 1950s, that spoke of gayness as an “anomaly”, a “condition” which one has, an “inclination”, or a “tendency”. He deplores the current “normalization” of gayness as the result of postmodernist fallacies and lobbying by activists.
What Fr Kiely totally misses is the presence of real flesh and blood gays and lesbians who have openly shared their experience of life and love with their families, churches and society. He says he has “never observed in a homosexual relationship” (p. 13) anything like what we find in the Song of Songs. Yet most of us today do know loving gay and lesbian couples who do enjoy together romantic fulfillment that is phenomenologically indistinguishable from what heterosexual couples experience. Cardinal Martini says: “Among my acquaintances there are homosexual couples, very respected and social men and women. I have never been asked, nor would it have occurred to me, to condemn them”. Fr Kiely does not advert to any such positive constructive possibilities. Instead he laments: “The situation of an elderly homosexual man, who has lost his youth, good looks and perhaps social status, can be very sad indeed” (p. 14). He can think of no other way of avoiding this fate than by being magically transformed into a heterosexual or undertaking “heterosexual functioning” in marriage with a person of the opposite sex. When Fr Kiely talks about making people “heterosexually arousable and functional” he sounds more like a cattle-trainer than a humane psychologist. In many societies gay men are indeed forced into marriage with women, and are able to perform sexually in this fashion. In most cases the spouse will suffer, mystified by her husband’s lack to true sexual affection.
When Fr Kiely says that “it is possible to think one's way into a tradition as well as out of it” he misses the fact that gay theologians are indeed doing both -- thinking into the authentic spirit of biblical and Christian tradition on love, conscience, community and thinking against the violent and dehumanizing elements that have also attached to that tradition. Such theologians, Fr Kiely implies, are neither “respectful of tradition” nor “open-minded” (p. 8). It seems to me that they have read the Gospel with far greater insight and respect and far greater openness to the Holy Spirit than Fr Kiely has shown.
Like most ex-gay advocates, Fr Kiely lets slip that the therapy affects only behaviour, not the orientation itself: “Some are glad to escape the 'gay scene' even without a change of orientation”. Sexual orientation is written in one's veins, neurones, genes, mind, heart. The gay scene is merely a congeries of pubs and clubs, and lots of gays “really hate the gay scene”. “Sorry, Billy, I can't change your sexual orientation after all, but at least I got you to stop patronizing the gay scene: that will be $5,000 dollars, thank you“. A lucrative racket, indeed.
Joseph Nicolosi, the currently most influential of the psychologists Fr Kiely follows, is a leader of the very controversial group NARTH. As reported in The Guardian, 3 April 2004, Nicolosi says: “There is no such thing as a homosexual. Everyone is heterosexual. Some of you may have a homosexual problem. But you are still a heterosexual. ‘Homosexual’ is simply a description of a psychological disorder, prompted by an inner sense of emptiness”. This reminds me of the great composer Richard Wagner’s claim that the true vocation of Jews is to disappear, by becoming Christians. Indeed antisemitism is as old and venerable a tradition as the anti-gay tradition that Fr Kiely would have us think into, and the two share striking structural homologies.
In the same Guardian report, Wayne Besen, a critic of the Ex-gay movement, says: “I have never met a single person I believe has changed. I've met a few people who’ve changed their behaviour – but not their orientation”, and he “catalogues an astonishingly long list of ex-gays who became ex-ex-gays. There are counsellors caught giving nude massages to the men they are meant to be curing, and founders of ministries who fall in love and run off with each other. The stories are tragicomic, and in each the same cycle repeats: a honeymoon period of euphoria – I’m cured! – followed by the discovery that nothing has changed”. He adds: “Dr Nicolosi is a fundamentalist Catholic, a religious fanatic disguising himself as a secular therapist. The vast majority of these therapists come from a religious background”.
As to Robert Spitzer, uncritically quoted by Fr Kiely, “it had taken him more than 18 months to find just 200 or so people willing to describe themselves as successfully converted. He found his interviewees by advertising through ex-gay organisations. Almost half were recruited through ex-gay ministries, and nearly a quarter by Narth. Religion was ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important to 93% of them. One in five was a mental health professional… or director of an ex-gay ministry, and more than three-quarters had previously lobbied for sexual reorientation. These are people who get paid to say that therapy works”. “In addition, many of the participants appeared to have been not so much altered from gay to straight, as bisexual all along. Ten per cent of the men had never had gay sex before therapy, whereas half had already slept with a woman”.
Spitzer himself even admits: “Yes, I think change is probably extremely rare, otherwise it would not have taken so long to find the participants. And, yes, the change I found was seldom from one extreme to the other. But nevertheless, there was change”. This is very far from what Fr Kiely suggests in his essay, and yet a simple Google search turns up this information in one of the world’s best-known newspapers. Dealing with an issue that is a matter of life and death for many, and where at least the happiness and welfare of millions of individuals is at stake, Fr Kiely contents himself with biased and shoddy research.
Since I wrote the above Spitzer has publicly apologized to gays (and why not to everybody) for his mistaken research. That a Jesuit psychologist at the Gregorian University should embrace a moribund theory, despite all the massive contrary evidence, is disappointing. Well, I suppose it helps understand the Roman mentalities in the time of Galileo.See: http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/04/27/472502/spitzer-prop8/?mobile=nc http://michael-in-norfolk.blogspot.de/2012/04/robert-spitzer-apologizes-infamous-ex.html
Nicolosi says: “You see, sexual reorientation, half of it is to get rid of same-sex attraction. The other half is hopefully opposite-sex attraction. Most clients just can’t imagine being attracted to women. A lot of them say, I just want to stop being attracted to guys. And, hey, that is a workable treatment”. He sounds like a mad scientist happy to mess up peoples brains and careless of the misery he leaves in his wake. Is this the kind of “expert” a Jesuit psychologist should be quoting?
“The APA warns that reparative therapy can be deeply harmful, because a client who is fed false promises may experience his own failure to change as a shameful personal indictment. Guilt, depression and suicide can be the disastrous consequences of unsuccessful therapy. ‘Those who have integrated their sexual orientation into a positive sense of themselves’, it maintains, ‘function at a healthier psychological level than those who have not’”. Fr Kiely despises the APA and considers everyone to be out of step except his chosen band of highly controverted ex-gay advocates. But a responsible pastor cannot override such judgements blithely.
I am afraid it is a futile enterprise to argue with Fr Kiely. His subscription to ex-gay mythology, and his massive identification of it with “the tradition of the Church” (p. 15), bespeaks a stubborn defence-formation that argument alone cannot penetrate. I think he should open himself to the real experience of his gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, by mixing with them on terms of friendship rather than studying them as pathological specimens who need to be “fixed”. I also think he should open himself to what is deepest in Christian tradition – not its tragic and murderous homophobic deviation, but the abiding Gospel message of “justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23), and the godgiven freedom of love.
The following essay was penned in 1991 and submitted to The Furrow. Many of the arguments of “Family Solidarity,” a group that seems to have disappeared, were trotted out again by Professor Bart Kiely, SJ, in The Furrow in January 2012.
FAMILY SOLIDARITY ON THE GAY CHALLENGE
In 1988 the European Court condemned Ireland's laws against sexual activity between males as a breach of human rights. Three years later the laws are still on the books, though in the meantime similar laws have been quietly abolished by the Soviet Union and Hong Kong. [2012: The Irish law was finally changed in 1993.] Although the Church of Ireland has denounced these laws as "unchristian," some of our own [Roman Catholic] bishops have repeatedly defended them. Why? The answer may be found in a booklet distributed by Family Solidarity (= FS) in 1990: The Homosexual Challenge: Analysis and Response. Here I offer a critical review of its principal arguments. [2012: Did Irish bishops in fact inhabit the same mental swamp as Family Solidarity? Their silence exposed them to that suspicion. Meanwhile, groups like FS have succeeded in painting the Catholic Church as a rabidly anti-gay institution, which has been one cause of its near-collapse in Ireland.]
FS recognizes a duty to understand, help, and defend gays (p. 4), but finds the concrete demands of the Irish gay movement unreasonable. It should be noted that such gay demands as "conjugal rights and social welfare benefits for their partners" (p. 7) are not what was in issue in the European Court's judgment. This recourse to a domino theory from the very start is a weakness in FS's argument and prevents an impartial consideration of what is due to gay people in justice. [2012: 21 years later, these rights have been won, and the title of marriage is now demanded, so FS were not entirely off the mark.]
A discussion of the nature and causes of homosexuality ends in a division of gay people into three types: the compulsive (a loaded description of the constitutionally homosexual person), the symptomatic, and the episodic (pp. 11-12). The only possible etiology retained for "compulsive" homosexuality is "a problematic parental relationship in early childhood" such as "an unloving and distant father." This is in contradiction with the immediately preceding remarks on the obscurity of the origins of homosexuality.
The section on "homosexuality and health" claims that gay males are intrinsically promiscuous and "their subculture itself carries a high risk of disease." "It is natural for a parent to want to protect his child from entering a subculture in which disease is rife" (p. 13). But there is only a difference of degree in the health dangers faced by gays and heterosexuals. Over-protective parents could well wish to prevent their children having any sexual life at all, given the shadow of AIDS. The model of parenting here seems to take no account of the son or daughter as a free subject.
The criminalization of gay sexuality is as inappropriate a response to AIDS as the criminalization of heterosexual behaviour would be. It impedes the collaboration of gay people in testing, treatment, and reduction of risk. FS's logic here could justify criminalizing all sexual activity, even in marriage, except for purposes of replenishing the population. But FS wants to apply its draconian measures to gays only, not to the population at large. This savours of discrimination.
On the score of mental health FS speaks of "the alienation and loneliness of many of those who adopt the homosexual lifestyle" and their "frustration as they lose their sexual attractiveness with advancing age" (p. 16). "Adopt the homosexual lifestyle" is a misleading term, since normally people do not choose their sexual orientation. If the reference is only to those how socialize with other gay people or who are sexually active, FS gives no evidence that this increases rather than diminishes gay loneliness. Again, even if there were any evidence that gay people are by their nature more prone to "mental misery" (p. 16) than others, it would be only a matter of degree. Loneliness and aging are not in any case a matter of "mental health" but normal features of human life. The signs that gay people are happier and more fulfilled in a more tolerant culture are not considered.
FS protests against language that puts homosexuality in a favorable light, the term "gay" being the clearest example (p. 19). Certainly, the spread of such language indicates a widespread revulsion against the old vocabulary that categorized homosexuality as something monstrous. The new language removes a barrier to tolerance of human diversity and a source of psychological oppression to gay people. FS should try to build a person-centered moral discourse without recourse to language that stigmatizes individuals.
The linguistic innovation which most disturbs FS is "a new definition of 'family' which would include male-male, female-female, temporary or permanent, exclusive or non-exclusive forms" (p. 21). However, it is not clear that acceptance of gay couples undermines the normal family; for one thing, it might lessen the frequency of matrimony between a gay and a non-gay partner. Some families have been enriched by the friendship of their son's or daughter's gay companion. In any case, it is not a sign of serious reflection on the crisis of the family to propose the criminalization of gay sexuality as part of the solution.
Ten Gay Claims
The longest chapter rebuts ten claims of the gay movement.
1. "Gay is good": "The statement contradicts the wisdom of centuries of Judaeo-Christian civilisation... No civilisation considered [homosexual behaviour] as a norm for all, on a par with the family" (p. 23). The trouble is that the "wisdom" of our civilisation on this score is gravely in doubt: consider for example the impossibility of maintaining the etiology of homosexuality offered by Paul in Romans 1, the most influential Christian utterance on the subject. As to other civilizations, it is obvious that a generous place has been given to gay relationships in Arabic and Japanese culture, and in pre-Christian European culture. No one is seeking to impose homosexuality as "a norm for all"; rather, what is contested is the brutal imposition of a heterosexual norm on all, even on those whom nature does not intend for heterosexual sex and marriage. Even if FS could show that all civilisations impose this norm on all, this would still beg the question. The relative universality of sexism or racism has not been found to justify for their perpetual maintenance; humanity has often made progress by revolutionary change.
2. "Homosexuality is natural, inborn or God-given rather than learned or acquired." This is indeed the spontaneous conviction of many gay people. Heterosexual people feel the same way about their heterosexuality. FS shouts down the testimony of gay self-awareness in favour of Charles Socarides' theory: "a disturbed parent-child relationship produced a major obstacle to the normal development of the natural sexual orientation" (p. 24). Recent discoveries (1991) have revived interest in possible physiological foundations and reinforced the sense that one's basic sexual orientation is not a matter that one can change.
The dogmatism of Socarides is in any case quite discredited in contemporary psychoanalysis. According to Kenneth Lewes: "his accounts of homosexual viciousness and desperation rivaled Bergler's in intemperateness, though he lacked Bergler's smugness and cruelty... The accuracy of his findings is questionable because of his personal investment in the debate, which has no place in psychoanalytic research and treatment. If Socarides was so militant in his public utterances, one wonders what his demeanor was like in the treatment room" (Kenneth Lewes, The Psychoanalytical Theory of Male Homosexuality, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1988, pp. 203-4). Edmund Bergler is another of FS's authorities (p. 37). Here is a sample of his writing: "I have no bias against homosexuality... [but] homosexuals are essentially disagreeable people... [displaying] a mixture of superciliousness, false aggression, and whimpering,... subservient when confronted with a stronger person, merciless when in power, unscrupulous about trampling on a weaker person." (ib., p. 15). The only other well-known psychoanalyst referred to by FS is Irving Bieber. Lewes writes: "In buttressing his claim for the necessary psychopathology of homosexual orientation, Socarides referred to Bieber's 'findings' that 'one-third are schizophrenic, one-third, neurotic, and one-third, character disorders.' But Bieber's sample consisted of homosexual males in treatment, and his study had been criticized at length precisely because its sample had been preselected on the basis of psychopathology" (ib., p. 203).
FS quotes these authorities without giving any indication of the current status of their work. This reliance on outdated figures, who did so much to alienate gay people from psychoanalysis, testifies to the lack of support for FS's views among contemporary psychoanalysts. [2012: Two decades later, Fr Kiely still relies heavily on these “authorities,” alongside the recently self-discredited Robert Spitzer.]
3. "It is damaging for a homosexual to attempt to change." "This is an example of psychological determinism, whereby the homosexual is locked into his homosexuality, with no possibility of escape from it. This is, of course, what the movement wants; no politicized movement can be indifferent to the loss of its members" (p. 25). The question here is one of fact. Freud's judgment that "to undertake to convert a fully developed homosexual into a heretosexual is not much more promising than to do the reverse" (p. 67) is an observation, not the result of a deterministic theory. The suggestion that gay people are anxious about a possible decline in their numbers is sheer fantasy. Bieber and Bergler are invoked to prove that gay people "can and have” changed their orientation" (FS's italics). This desperate attempt to wish away the reality of sexual orientation, by making it a matter of deliberate choice, is what generates most of the fallacies and contradictions in FS's reasoning.
4. "Homosexuality is not a mental disease": FS invokes Freud's view that it is "a condition of arrested psychosexual development" (p. 25). But Freud is a treacherous witness on this score. He wrote: "Homosexuality... cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development... It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime and cruelty too." Moreover, "he contributed to the Festschrift for Magnus Hirschfeld, a manifest homosexual and pioneer researcher and activist for homosexual rights" (Lewes, 32, 31). FS deplores the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision that homosexuality is not a pathology. Lewes judges, in contrast, that "although it contained much that was polemical and angry... it can be viewed as the beginning of a new history, with a promise of... transforming what had been largely a discourse based on distance and judgment into a genuine dialogue in which troubled people can speak unguardedly to listeners who are open to hearing" (p. 229). Psychoanalysts sharing FS's views could never practice such "genuine dialogue" or be "listeners who are open to hearing." This weakens the credibility of these views.
5. "There is need for 'comprehensive' sex education that presents the homosexual lifestyle in a positive light." FS deplores an education in which "no contrary pressure is felt by the young person opting for a homosexual lifestyle" (p. 29). This ignores the fact that such contrary pressure (into heterosexual acting-out) can push gay adolescents to depression and suicide (a recent study shows that the suicide rate among gay adolescents in the U.S. is three times as higher than the average). Again, it is implied that sexual orientation is a choice made by adolescents, in contradiction with all the psychoanalysts quoted so far.
6. "Every homosexual ought to 'come out'." FS answers: "homosexuality and the homosexual temptation will always remain, since temptation is a part of the human condition" (p. 30). Decriminalizing gay sex encourages openness about gay sexual feelings and this "will have a bad effect on society." One might use the same logic to suppress celebration of heterosexual identities and feelings in all public media, for heterosexual "temptation" is no less a part of the human condition. To see a person's sexual identity only as a temptation is to miss the fact that temptation concerns the abuse of natural goods, not their intrinsic value. To say that the sexuality of gay people has no intrinsic goodness is dehumanizing, and savours of Manicheanism.
7. "Homosexuality has little to do with buggery and kindred acts, but is essentially a matter of fine feelings." FS denounces this "attempt to base morality on subjective factors alone." But this seems a straw man argument. What the gay movement is saying is that sexuality colours the entire reach of one's emotional and creative life, and that the essential freedom is the freedom to be oneself, rather than to commit certain isolated "acts." Legal prohibition of all gay sexual expression gains its most sinister significance from its implicit denial to gay people of this freedom to be.
8. "Society is afflicted with a disease called 'homophobia'." FS agrees: "It is quite true that homosexuals have been treated as if they did not exist, or as outcasts." FS proposes the following policy: "Today, in Ireland, the alcoholic, genuinely attempting rehabilitation, can expect understanding and support. If a similar attitude about homosexuality existed, the homosexual genuinely seeking rehabilitation would be able to find support and acceptance in the community" (p. 32). A subtle form of bullying is afoot here. Alcoholism is an addiction or disease, but there is no evidence that these categories fit the gay temperament or gay sexual acts. If by rehabilitation is meant change of orientation, the demand that one seek it is a piece of psychological violence reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984: only gay people who hate being gay are socially acceptable. If renunciation of sexual activity is what is meant, it would be logical to exact the same price of heterosexuals who wish to be accepted by the community. But a community which ostracizes its members if they are thought to be lacking in sexual purity is an oppressive theocracy, as in Calvin's Geneva.
9. "Homosexuals constitute a minority-group, similar to those racial and ethnic groups which are subject to discrimination." Answer: "homosexuals belong to their 'group' only by virtue of their homosexual acts," there is no "discrimination on the basic of their orientation alone" (p. 34), and so to accept them as a special status group would be to approve their immoral acts. In fact, however, homophobia does not distinguish so neatly between orientation and acts, any more than anti-semitism distinguishes between the practising Jew and the one who conceals his or her identity.
Moreover, the distinction between orientation and acts is intrinsically murky. Is a simple hug or kiss a homosexual act? To a homophobic person it would be. A zealous Irish policeman might consider it a case of "gross indecency," punishable by two years imprisonment. Ed Cohen comments on the 1885 law: "'acts of gross indecency' were entirely unspecified in themselves and only derived their 'indecency' from their appearance in the context of a relationship between two men... [They] had no particular specificity save for the sexual actors and were defined against a normative standard which deified the 'purity' of the middle-class 'household'"; in: Ronald R. Buttes, et al., eds, Displacing Homophobia: Gay Male Perspectives in Literature and Culture (Duke University Press, 1989), pp. 191-2. We have seen that FS's own use of terms such as "homosexuality" often leaves it unclear whether the reference is to orientation, acts or both. Thus virulence directed against acts is quickly transferred to the orientation, and there is no effective brake to prevent it being directed basically against the person. As no place is left for the voice of gay subjects, such rhetoric can only be felt by gay people as an aggression.
The lack of a clear borderline between orientation and behaviour means that such formulas as "loving the sinner, hating the sin" or "pitying the orientation, condemning the behaviour" can in this context feed into the hatred and condemnation of persons. If a person's sexuality is seen as intrinsically disordered - not just in this or that relationship but in its very roots -, then even the most innocent expressions of that sexuality are stigmatized. Thus it may be that the statement quoted on p. 10 is not as absurd as at first it seems: "The National Gay Federation rejects this audacious and hypocritical attempt by the Irish Hierarchy to differentiate between 'homosexual orientation' and 'homosexual acts'."
10. "Homosexuals are 10% of the population." FS tries to discredit the Kinsey Report (1948), but Kewes writes: "Kinsey's statistical findings, at least with respect to male homosexuality, seem to have been quite robust," and points out that subsequent studies support the findings while "Significantly, no study claimed to refute Kinsey" (Lewes, p. 129). 37% of the sample of 5,300 males had had, since adolescence, a homosexual experience to the point of orgasm; 13% were more homosexual than heterosexual. Nor would FS's panic be intelligible if gay people were an infinitesimal minority.
Judaeo-Christian Norms and Irish Law
In its argument that Christianity cannot accommodate gay sexuality, FS completely ignores contemporary moral theologians. The Bible is quoted at length (Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus, Romans 1) as is John Harvey, a priest-counsellor with a pessimistic view of gay sexuality. Otherwise we hear only of something called "'Gay' Theology": "Those who adhere to this special theology generally attempt to legitimise homosexual behaviour by fastening upon the unitive significance of the sexual act, while ignoring the procreative" (p. 47). Many gay people "share the natural human longing for a close friendship that is stable, home-building and fruitful, which is what marriage provides. At the same time, their choice of being 'gay' is a rejection of the very thing that makes marital stability necessary [possible?]" (pp. 47-8). Here again it is falsely insinuated that sexual orientation is freely chosen. "The homosexual can learn to live chastely. Hard as it may seem, this is the only genuinely Christian option for those homosexuals who cannot establish a stable heterosexual relationship and therefore [!] remain homosexual in orientation" (p. 53). This rhetoric of the "genuinely Christian" might be appropriate in a pastoral context, but here it is opportunistic and smug. FS's use of the term "chastity" gives the virtue a bad name; only a person-centered morality can restore meaning to this devalued word.
Utterly lacking in this document is any recognition of such values as freedom, conscience, or human self-realization. As a result FS misses the central thrust of the gay challenge and projects rigid, even fascist, images of family, Church and State. Thus, quoting Chief Justice O'Higgins on "the Christian nature of our State" and the potential "harm to the institution of marriage," FS argues that "the Constitution requires the criminalization of homosexual acts" (p. 56). If this suggests that the Irish Constitution has no respect for conscience and human freedom, the blame lies with the judges who could find no grounds in the Constitution for a defence of these values in the case of gay people. In FS they have found the admirers they deserve.
It should be noted that Norris had three clergymen among his witnesses, whereas the Attorney General was unable to produce a single witness of any kind. (The A.G.'s counsel had approached at least one moral theologian and one bishop, who declined to be of assistance.) The judgments against Norris ignored the clerical submissions on: freedom of conscience (Vatican II); the relation of law and morality; the immorality of discrimination and prejudice; the evil effects of the law; the grey areas in moral and pastoral theology, such as Paul VI's teaching that what is objectively immoral can be subjectively defensible. The only thing Christianity had to say on the subject, as far as the judges could see, was that "homosexual acts are wrong" (p. 53).
According to Justice Henchy: "the trial judge was bound in law to reject the Attorney General's defence and to uphold, at least in part, the plaintiff's case." The Irish Council for Civil Liberties comments: "the majority in Norris undermined the salient features of our constitutional democracy... The foundations of our constitutional democracy are principles of justice, including human rights, and judicial review is an institution created for the purpose of realising, impartially, in concrete cases, the requirements of these principles... Ireland has an obligation, which has the force of the European Convention of Human Rights behind it, to put aside its form of sexual apartheid. It is to the Convention we must now look for commonsense and justice" (Equality Now for Lesbians and Gay men, Dublin, 1990, pp. 21, 23.)
If this is correct, then the clergy, legal profession and politicians of Ireland are implicated in a grave breach of human rights. Family Solidarity's booklet reveals the poisonous thinking behind this injustice. By their silence, the clergy have allowed groups like Family Solidarity to represent the Catholic Church, driving a deep wedge of alienation between the Church and gay people.