Thursday, February 14, 2008

Debunking NARTH (Part I)

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d write more about CPCSM’s recent program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo Science of NARTH.”

Accordingly, I’m sharing with you today an article I wrote for the February 2008 issue of
The Progressive Catholic Voice. As you’ll see, it’s the first in a two-part series that looks at CPCSM’s January 29 program, and basically summarizes the contribution made by Dr. John C. Gonsiorek.



On January 29, 2008, the
Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) sponsored an educational program entitled, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo Science of NARTH.”

Held in Minneapolis at the House of the Beloved Disciple, this program featured two local licensed psychologists, Jeffry G. Ford and John C. Gonsiorek, who shared their perspective on the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH) and the theory and practice of “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, advocated by NARTH and other so-called ex-gay ministries and organizations.

These “ex-gay” entities are adamant that homosexuality is preventable in childhood and treatable in adulthood, and that most gays and lesbians can successfully convert to heterosexuality through what they label “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy.”

The program was prompted by recent efforts on the part of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolisto promote NARTH as a credible scientific organization. For instance, in the November 8 issue of The Catholic Spirit (the official newspaper of the archdiocese), Fr. Jim Livingston (1) endorsed NARTH by citing the organization as a useful resource and by encouraging people to visit its website so as “to learn . . . about the emotional root causes of homosexuality.”

Fr. Livingston also recommended an audio CD of a talk given by NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi, an individual whom Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt, when he was a bishop in Detroit, invited to speak to the priests of the archdiocese as an “expert” on homosexuality.

Many Catholics are concerned by the local archdiocese’s increasing reliance on the perspective and “findings” of NARTH to support and validate church teaching on homosexuality.

In this first of two articles, CPCSM executive coordinator Michael Bayly highlights the insights and information presented by John C. Gonsiorek, PhD (2) during his January 29 presentation at the House of the Beloved Disciple. In the March issue of The Progressive Voice, Michael will share highlights from Jeffrey Ford’s contribution to CPCSM’s program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH.”

Part I – A “Fraudulent Healthcare System

Dr. Gonsiorek began his presentation with words of advice for Catholics troubled by the Archdiocese’s efforts to present NARTH as a legitimate scientific organization and to use its “findings” to validate church teaching on the “disordered” nature of homosexuality.

“If you’re going to challenge the archdiocese in its attempts to introduce what I consider to be a ‘fraudulent healthcare service,’” said Gonsiorek, “then you need to become educated about what the behavioral sciences say about sexual orientation. That has to be the base from which you operate as opposed to reacting to the ‘flakiness’ of organizations like NARTH.”

For the most up-to-date information regarding sexual orientation, Gonsiorek recommends the website of the American Psychological Association, and in particular, this site’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns page, its Guidelines for Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients, and its Division 44, also known as the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues.

The Origins of NARTH

Dr. Gonsiorek then proceeded to provide some insightful background information on the origins of NARTH – origins inseparable from the wider cultural debate on homosexuality and, specifically, the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its official manual that lists mental and emotional disorders (followed two years later by the passage of a similar resolution of the American Psychological Association).

This change in the diagnosis of homosexuality was the result of the wealth of research data gathered since the early 1950s that showed no difference between homosexual and heterosexual populations in terms of “adjustment.”

Gonsiorek also noted that a significant “sea change” took place in the early 1970s when biological psychiatry began taking over the field of behavioral science from the psychoanalytical establishment. Indeed, the change in the diagnosis of homosexuality, says Gonsiorek, was “essentially a run-up of a long-standing fight” between these two groups, and was an important moment for the biological psychiatrists, “not only because they had a strong data base to support such a change, but because the psychoanalysts had always considered human sexuality to be their domain.”

In time, the psychoanalytical establishment also changed in its understanding of homosexuality; it now has the same sets of policies and principles about sexual orientation as the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association. Yet there were “old guard” psychoanalysts who were disgruntled about being displaced and seeing their organization change its views on homosexuality. This disaffected group of psychoanalysts formed an alliance with conservatively- and religiously-oriented psychotherapists. It was from this alliance that NARTH was established.

The problem with “conversion therapy”

Gonsiorek then outlined the problem with “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, the theory and practice that treats homosexuality as a pathology, as a disorder that can be “repaired” and changed.

“It’s nonsensical to have a treatment for a diagnosis that doesn’t exist,” says Gonsiorek. “With homosexuality being de-pathologized in 1973, what exactly is being treated? There is no data to support that sexual orientation can be changed and there’s no reason to change it; there’s no impairment.”

So why do people subject themselves to such a “nonsensical” treatment? Gonsiorek notes that there can be a “a great deal of coercion, a great deal of social pressure in some families and communities for those struggling with homosexual feelings to submit to conversion therapy. If they don’t, they’ll be socially ostracized.

Some ex-gay therapists insist that in recommending and/or offering conversion or reparative therapy they are merely giving people a choice as consumers to meet their personal health goals. This argument, says Gonsiorek is “specious and borders on malpractice.” Healthcare providers, he insists, “should not just do what consumers want but offer services that are based on established standards of care. And if the consumer wants something that is flakey, the answer is ‘No.’ To give them what’s flakey is malpractice.”

Gonsiorek also noted an “obvious sexism associated with the ex-gay movement.” “Most of the change efforts are focused on men,” he says. “Women are not so important to the ex-gay ministers and therapists.”

And there is yet another issue: If women marry supposedly ex-gay men and the marriage fails, it’s these women and any children produced by the marriage that suffer. “There’s a lot of this type of ‘collateral damage,’” says Gonsiorek, “but it’s rarely talked about by NARTH and the wider ex-gay establishment.”

Big business

Gonsiorek also observed that: “This whole discussion on reparative therapy is occurring in a socio-political context in which it’s becoming standard practice for both corporations and right-wing religious organizations to heavily fund institutes and think-tanks, and to purchase the science they want.”

“We saw this very dramatically with the tobacco company lawsuits, where the tobacco companies, for decades, bought their own science to support their positions,” he said. Yet despite the pseudo-science being exposed in such cases, “the funding by right-wing organizations within the scientific community and within church organizations [remains] big business,” notes Gonsiorek.

Above: Dr. John C. Gonsiorek at the House of the
Beloved Disciple,
January 29, 2008.

“It’s understandable,” says Gonsiorek, “that the lay public can become confused when every behavioral health organization does not support reparative therapy, and yet there are these official-sounding organizations, endorsed by people like archbishops, that make the argument that they are just one more credible voice among many.”

The real issue

At one point during his presentation, Gonsiorek was asked: “How do the people involved with groups like NARTH respond to the reality that every major professional organization in the behavioral sciences disagrees with them?”

Gonsiorek noted that they often attempt to “re-pathologize” homosexuality by making the following argument: Because certain subsets of the lesbian and gay population have higher rates of certain problems, it must mean there’s inherent pathology.

In response to this ploy, Gonsiorek notes that: “In reality, every group that is treated as second class has higher rates of both mental and physical health problems. If you treat people badly, they get messed up. You don’t need a PhD to figure that out. Yet we don’t say that women are inherently pathological because they have a higher rate of depression and eating disorders. Neither do we say that Native Americans are inherently pathological because they have higher rates of alcoholism.”

The “real issue,” says Gonsiorek, “is that if you can find anyone at all in the given population who is not pathological, then that disproves that the group is pathological. If you have a 20 percent higher base rate of a particular problem within a population, and if there are people within that population for whom that particular problem is not an issue, than it’s clear that something else is going on other than inherent pathology.”

Exploring the issue further, Gonsiorek noted that: “What often happens with people who are maneuvered into reparative therapy is that they’ve been trashed for years by churches and communities – even by their own families. As a result, they’re often depressed and anxious. That’s what the problem is, and that’s what requires treatment. So the reparative therapy is often done instead of what needs to be done – which is to undo the damage caused by harassment, ostracism, and disparagement.”

Science and religion

Gonsiorek concluded his talk by noting that “both the behavioral sciences and religion attempt to understand the human condition and to respond to problems within the human condition.” Yet he was adamant that science and religion are “not the same, and that one cannot speak for the other.”

“For a church leader to tell you what is good behavioral science,” he said, “carries about as much weight as your Uncle Joe telling you.”

Reflecting on the current situation in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Gonsiorek said: “As a psychologist, I find it almost fraudulent for someone [like Archbishop Nienstedt] who claims to be a moral authority to be grandly operating in an area in which they have no competence.”

– Michael Bayly
The Progressive Catholic Voice
February 2008

For Part II of “Debunking NARTH,” click here.


1. Fr. Jim Livingston serves as lead chaplain to the local chapter of Courage (which, as I noted above, goes by the name of Faith in Action in the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese). Courage purports to help people move beyond “same-sex attraction” by encouraging a life of “interior chastity in union with Christ.” The movement labels itself a “pro-chastity ministry,” and equates chastity with celibacy.

Although Courage, which, along with NARTH, Livingston enthusiastically promotes in his November 8 commentary, acknowledges that the “inclination of homosexual attractions” is “psychological understandable,” such attractions are nevertheless considered “objectively disordered” – a view promulgated by the hierarchical church. Courage often substitutes the words “homosexuality” and “gay” with the NARTH-coined phrase, “same-sex attraction disorder” – a term unrecognized by any professional health association. Following NARTH’s lead, Courage likens homosexuality to alcoholism, and conducts its “support group” using the 12-Step format developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. Some members of Courage even consider their “disorder” to be curable, and explain its origin using debunked theories of dominant mothers, distant fathers and abusive family relations.

Livingston’s commentary in The Catholic Spirit is clear evidence that the quackery of NARTH is actively endorsed and encouraged by some within the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

2. John C. Gonsiorek, PhD, is a fellow of American Psychological Association (APA) Division 9 (also called the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues), and Division 12 (the Society of Clinical Psychology).

John is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, and a Past-President of APA Division 44 – also known as the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues. For 25 years, he had an independent practice of clinical and forensic psychology in Minneapolis.

John has published widely in the areas of professional misconduct, sexual orientation and identity, and professional ethics. For many years, he provided expert witness evaluation and testimony regarding impaired clergy and professionals, standards of care, and psychological damages. He has also provided training and consultation to a variety of religious denominations and organizations.

A consulting editor for Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, John is also the author of a number of publications, including: Breach of Trust: Sexual Exploitation by Health Care Professionals and Clergy
, Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy (with Weinrich); Male Sexual Abuse: A Trilogy of Intervention Strategies (with Bera and Letourneau), and Homosexuality and Psychotherapy: A Practitioner’s Handbook of Affirmative Models.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“Conversion Therapy” and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH
Former “Ex-Gay” Shares His Experience of NARTH
Far from “Innocuous”
When Quackery Goes Mainstream
No Place for Dialogue in Archdiocesan Newspaper
Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Learning Curve”: A Suggested Trajectory
What Scientists in the UK are Saying About Homosexuality


Anonymous said...

NARTH is a totally decadent and unsound organization. It amazes me that the American Bishops should have leapt aboard this sinking ship. The Vatican is not much better, with the prominence it gives to the homophobic rantings of Fr Tony Anatrella, who has done much damage to his teenage readers in France.

kevin57 said...

The Church will rue the day it invested so heavily in opposing what the social sciences and society in general have come to believe about homosexuality. As John McNeill wrote (paraphrasing), this could be the Holy Spirit's shrewd way of transforming the Church.

Frank Partisan said...

It is difficult to believe, the church would do different.

Having people like you in the inside, is the best that could be made of the situation.

Anonymous said...

At the expense of sounding like a "rabid anti-gay right winger," NARTH membership consists mainly of ROMAN CATHOLICS.

After all, Cardinal Ratzinger now POPE BENEDICT XVI, your spiritual leader and universal pastor, insists homophiles are "intrinsically disordered."

For heaven's sake, it's not merely stated in the Bible in Romans 1 as the PROTOTYPE OF ALL IDOLATROUS SINS, it's in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But you'll defends the SAME theorists who say A and then do Y, if it comports with YOUR confusions?

When "pigs fly" and "penguins soar" maybe the "rabid anti-gay right winger," is actually the one slinging mud and lobbing the ad hominem accusations to protect himself, as another victim of the Stockholm Syndrome, lest HE is forced to reconcile factual TRUTH and real VALUES, rather than live as a celibate in a schizophrenic dualism that all RELIGIONS require?

kevin57 said...

I'm not sure if I "get" your last paragraph. It was like a shotgun blast: lots of explosive power, but not much focus.

The fact is that chastity is a gift from above. As Michael has said ample times: God's transforming love can allow some to live in chastity. It is not a common gift, but God's variety is what makes faith beautiful.

What you call "schizophrenic dualism," others might call "mystery" or "paradox." The classical scientific model cannot deal with this (although more and more it is), but please reflect on your relationships (your lived experience) and you will note abundant cases of mystery and paradox.

Anonymous said...

Chastity is not a gift from anyone. Some people prefer no sexual expression for various reasons; priests and religious have no choice.

Michael has stated he is not called to chastity. Chastity is the notion that sexuality is "impure" which is repeatedly throughout the New Testament, including Romans 1, and to be avoided by MEN. That the mind set upon the flesh is hostile to god (Romans 8). That homoerotic passion is ALREADY the punishment due to sin in the participants' bodies, which god has "handed over" and "given them up" to their degrading passions.

"Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error,. If the scriptures form part of the Word of God, then homophiles are ALREADY condemned as Jude also attests (Jude 7).

Homophiles who aspire to change divine revelation to "allow themselves in" is FUTILE, being ALREADY barred by Christian and Jewish scripture as ALREADY condemned -- before god's judgment! The Didache and other subsequent documents follow in toe with the SAME message. If not killed, as Leviticus demands, Paul and Jude insist homophiles are already condemned -- and many other citations can be cited to emphasize Pauline theory.

The same people who brought us NARTH are the same people who NOW claim we homophiles have a healthy and fulfilling lives, while forty years ago are the SAME people who insisted the EXACT OPPOSITE. They all use the SAME methodology, a methodology refuted as valid or sound for much of anything, other than polling at the moment.

For further info:

Just recall, Reparative Therapy was invented by Psychology, not Evangelicals. Having tormented their clients, now they propose to help us adjust?

kevin57 said...

Yes, reparative therapy was devised by psychologists...not many, mind you, and dismissed by every reputable association of therapists, largely because they do not submit their 'research' to peers for evaluation. There are quacks in every profession. That does not define the profession.

The biblical citations you list are problematic, I agree. Lots of the bible is problematic for lots of reasons. That's why to have a process of prayerful and studied reflection on the Word is indispensable. That's what is lamentable about the Church's reflection on sexual questions in general, not just homosexuality. They use a Augustinian theological framework and a Thomistic method, with little, if any, more modern methods. When the Church calls humanity to higher "values" (such as caring for the poor and marginalized), she is an excellent, an invaluable instrument for this world. When she delves into science and sexual morality, she often looks foolish...and as I contend in my first post, she looks increasingly foolish and will "rue" the day. I'm certain that the double teachings on artificial contraception and homosexual acts will equal the damage caused by the Galileo due course, of course!

To tackle these biblical texts, I would refer you to Andrew Sullivan's "Virtually Normal" which takes these verses seriously and seriously challenges the traditional understanding. As a hint, it is well worth noting that the Church itself rarely refers to biblical texts when asserting its doctrine on this subject, and they never allude to the Leviticus text...something to ponder.

As for what Michael believes about the topic of chastity, well, let's let him speak for himself.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Interesting conversation taking place here, and I appreciate the various perspectives being shared.

For the record, I've never said I'm not called to chastity. What I'm not called to is celibacy.

Chastity and celibacy are not the same thing. Chastity means "purity of heart," whereas celibacy is, of course, sexual abstinence.

I'm of the mind that we should be chaste in everything we do. To me it implies a certain level of intentionality and consciousness; a self-awareness of one's connection with the sacred in and through all things, and the living out of that awareness of relatedness with compassion, honesty, and integrity.

So, understood in this way, I'm definitely called to chastity - including in my sexual relations.



Michael J. Bayly said...

Gay Species,

Are we really talking about the "same methodology" and the "same people"?

Reread the section on the "Origins of NARTH." It's clear that forty years ago there were two different groups and two different methods at odds with each other over homosexuality.

I write, for instance, that:

Gonsiorek [notes] that a significant “sea change” took place in the early 1970s when biological psychiatry began taking over the field of behavioral science from the psychoanalytical establishment. Indeed, the change in the diagnosis of homosexuality, says Gonsiorek, was “essentially a run-up of a long-standing fight” between these two groups, and was an important moment for the biological psychiatrists, “not only because they had a strong data base to support such a change, but because the psychoanalysts had always considered human sexuality to be their domain.”

. . . Yet there were “old guard” psychoanalysts who were disgruntled about being displaced and seeing their organization change its views on homosexuality. This disaffected group of psychoanalysts formed an alliance with conservatively- and religiously-oriented psychotherapists. It was from this alliance that NARTH was established.



CDE said...

Not to change the topic.... but I have a question re: what you consider reputable scientific/psychological research. I know that many here consider NARTH to be completely debunked and discredited.

But I have to ask: what do you think of Alfred Kinsey? His methodology and conclusions are very problematic from the p.o.v. of scientific method. Your thoughts?

Michael J. Bayly said...


You said: [Kinsey's] methodology and conclusions are very problematic from the p.o.v. of scientific method."

Oh, really? I think if you're going to drop a clanger like that you need at least to back it up with an example of Kinsey's "very problematic" methodology and conclusions and who exactly is making the charge that it's "problematic."

This link summarizes the "objections" to Kinsey's "statistical approach."

I find the following interesting:

In a response to these criticisms, Paul Gebhard, Kinsey's successor as director of the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, spent years "cleaning" the Kinsey data of purported contaminants, removing, for example, all material derived from prison populations in the basic sample. In 1979, Gebhard (with Alan B. Johnson) published "The Kinsey Data: Marginal Tabulations of the 1938-1963 Interviews Conducted by the Institute for Sex Research." Their conclusion, to Gebhard's surprise he claimed, was that none of Kinsey's original estimates were significantly affected by this bias.

In short, the criticisms of Kinsey's "statistical approach" do not compare to the almost universal criticism that NARTH engenders from the scientific community.



Michael J. Bayly said...


I received your second comment re. Kinsey, but feel it's irrelevant to this discussion on NARTH.

Basically, I feel as if you're attempting to insert your own agenda into this discussion and, in doing so, muddying the waters around this discussion on NARTH.

If you feel that strongly about Kinsey, then I suggest you share your thoughts, along with the opinions of those who disagree with him, on your own blog.

I haven't the time or energy to refute your comments on Kinsey - especially as this post isn't about him. It's about NARTH.



Anonymous said...

In order for a discipline to be "scientific" it must have testable theories capable of being falsified. That is how science, the scientific method, operate, and have operated since the 17th century. For extensive discussion of "science," its methods, and its achievements through falsification (not just verification), consult Karl Popper, e.g., Conjectures and Refutations, Logic of Scientific Discovery, Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach. Popper is universally acclaimed as the sine qua none of the philosophy of science.

Psychology meets none of the minimal scientific requirements. It has not a single testable hypothesis, rather it has hundreds of untested hypotheses. It has no way to falsify (much less verify) its experiments, and claims that cannot be falsified cannot be determined to be true.

The professions' "self-reports" by patients and psychologists are invalid for anything other than polling. Even psychiatrists Michael McGuire (UCLA) and Alfonso Troisi (UofRome) both eminent professors and researchers, (as well as hundreds of others)have assailed their profession for a lack of standards, which is why NARTH is not eliminated as malpractice. In order for malpractice to occur, some theory has to be violated, and currently no theory exists. Whatever the Cult determines is satisfactory. The use of statistics for polling people is not "scientific," nor is statistics valuable for anything other than measuring the mean and variances of the moment, which may change in an instant. The very same polling of happy homophiles begot the opposite results forty years ago. Does that mean if the statistical mean claims X, then X is true? Valuable? It was not to Jews in Nazi Germany. In the Fifties and Sixties, after millennia of oppression, repression, and criminalization, the polling begot large numbers of unhappy, discontent, and emotional unadjusted homophile responses, justifying psychology's "pathology" and "cures." Albert Ellis, Ph.D., still made those claims in print in 1965, based on polling.

For an introductory preface to the problem:

For sustained critiques, Frederick Crews, Philip Reiff (Susan Sontag's ex), Christopher Lasch, and hundreds of others can be consulted.

The difference between psychiatry and psychology is that the former is part of medical practice, and therefore must have a thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology, including neurobiology, while the latter does not. The former can and does prescribe psychotropics, very few psychologists are allowed the same privileges.

From 1950 to 2005, mental illness, attention deficit disorder, etc., went from statistically minimal to the greatest epidemic in the U.S. More people are dispensed pills to "solve problems" that make great profits for the pill pushers -- which did not exist 50 years ago. Psychotropics are the most prescribed medications in the U.S., while fifty years ago virtually non-existent. Then Electro-Shock Therapy, Lobotomies, and confinement to state hospitals were the "solution."

The DSM-IV has over 450 mental disorders, each and everyone a "multiple choice" of "five-out-of-eight" descriptive features, except if (exclusion) applies. How does one treat 450 mental disorders? How does one diagnose the distinctions? On the basis of which theory? Psychoanalytic? Biochemical? Socio-cultural? Chaos? Behaviorism? Or some combination? Which therapy, if not biomedical, to use? For a list, see:

How did people solve emotional and affective disturbances before medication and therapeutic analysis costs thousands of dollars and years of talking? One thought about his problems, what caused the dysregulated thinking, and corrected the thinking, which accounts for the majority of mental disorders.

I'm not denying "madness," or forms of psychosis, affective disorders, or personality disorders, much less emotional disturbances. With the possible exception of personality disorders, all three disorders have been documented since antiquity. Nor am I denying the efficacy of psychotropics use with appropriate discretion in cases of affective and psychotic disorders, but these drugs are not benign, not sugar candy. Anti-psychotics have tardive dyskinesia, neuroleptic syndromes, and mental clouding to tranquilize (that's why they are called major tranquilizers). The minor tranquilizers (benzodiazapines) are highly addictive, and not two psychiatrists are of the same mind about short- versus long-acting being more addictive. But in no case, is any class of psychotropic more than 65% effective, at best. That's not much higher than a coin toss. That's assuming the right one of 450 diagnoses is established.

Androphiles would not be caught in a psychologists' offices, as reparative therapy continued into the 1980s, contrary to the opposite. The reason it stopped was from external, not internal, pressures by biologists and philosophers at the Cults Council in Hawaii, 1973. The critics demanded proof that homosexuality was "pathological" and that the cult had successful "cures." Unable to substantiate either claim, afraid of further disclosure of its voodoo practices, already tarnished, the convocation VOTED to change a pathology into a sexual variance. When's the last time a VOTE determined a scientific issue? NEVER! Why does NARTH and Dobson's silly-ass practices, along with thousands of other voodoo practices continue? Because no "licit" practice has been established, no "testable theory" exists, and no "treatment" can be evaluated without bias.

You proceed at your own risk and for their profits.

Anonymous said...


The Church does indeed cite Saint Paul to justify its condemnation of homosexuality, and where do you think Saint Paul, as Saul the Pharisee, got the idea?

You are correct in claiming the Church uses Thomistic Natural Law Theory to condemn contraception, homosexuality, and any sexuality that is non-procreative. But Thomistic Natural Law Theory is wrong. It commits the naturalistic fallacy, the is/ought fallacy, and conflates "natural teleology" from Aristotle's Physics with human "instrumental teleology" from Aristotle's Ethics. Natural teleology is untrue. Instrumental teleology is true. For further observations:

So, Kevin, the Church, which is the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim 3:15) was wrong about Galileo? It is gravely wrong about Natural Law Theory? The defects of NLT have been known openly since 1740, reiterated in 1903, but the bearer of god's truth continues to tell falsehoods?

I think those who are not mentally fragmented by contradictions are more likely to be "rabid anti-gay right-wingers" than those who pursue the truth where it is found, not by conciliar, papal, or biblical pronouncements. Just one person's view of the defenders of the indefensible, which bans the use of condoms to prevent AIDS, even among heterosexual married couples. The Church is not only against the truth, it is hostile to life, "since the mind set upon the flesh is hostile to God . . . and those in the flesh cannot please God" (Rm 8:6-8); indeed, the flesh is so vile it defiles clothing placed on it (Jd 23). From the "same god" who pronounced humans "good" (Gen 1:31)?

But make no mistake: Homosexuality is the prototypical sin of all gravely idolotrous sin, along with judging others as equal to, or superior, to god (Rm 1-2). Those who indulge in sexual immorality and pursue unnatural lust serve as an EXAMPLE by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire (Jd 7), who not only defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones, that archangel Michael will slay for your "love-feasts." But it is Jude who has the audacity to claim the ungodly indulging their own ungodly lusts are devoid of Spirit, cause divisions, and are already in the fires of torment.

So much for distinguishing between love-feasts, eros, agape, philia, because all eros, save those men who marry rather than perish, is blemished, condemned, and hostile to god. And god never changes his mind, as his words are eternal, true, and veritable, just like the Church.

Anonymous said...


You argue your points well and passionately. I applaud you for that. Your critiques are often dead-on.

Yes, I think the Church's analysis by way of Natural Law is flawed. Many even conservative moralists since the 1800s have tried to move the Church at least to a broader perspective...with some, albeit, limited success. Unfortunately, right now in Rome, even that is being scaled back. However, as much as right-wingers lap up the latest encyclicals (and I believe that is for their consumption), there are counterbalancing truths right within doctrines and catechisms of the Church. As a priest I can tell you that within the confessional, it is perfectly legitimate for a priest to aid the "penitent" (or I prefer "directee") to follow his/her conscience. Right-wingers rant and rave over that, but this is completely justified by Church tradition and practice.

But my central contention is that before too long the Church's pronouncements on sexual morality will be viewed with the same mockery as her views on science are viewed (cf. Galileo). She seems to have (kind of) learned a little about avoiding arguing about planets and biology, if for no other reason than she invites disdain. So, too, with rulings like condom use to avoid AIDS, contraception, etc. people will/do simply ignore it. Ol' Ben has tried to excite the rabble by making gays the bete noire (as have most political and religious leaders worldwide by the way), but this too shall pass.

So, I consider a lot of this to be irrelevant in the larger picture. What is a shame is that the Church could have served as a truly prophetic voice in so many of these questions, and she chose the wrong path.

Oh, well, one's "mother" is not always right. Part of growing up is working through the disillusionment of discovering that our parents are not infallible, yet still learning to love them in their fallibility.

CDE said...


you wrote:
Yes, I think the Church's analysis by way of Natural Law is flawed. Many even conservative moralists since the 1800s have tried to move the Church at least to a broader perspective...with some, albeit, limited success.

What broader perspective are you referring to? The Theology of the Body? If so, I would say it is way too early to evaluate the success or failure of this new movement in theology based in the personalism of Karol Wojtyla. But I have to say that the way this theology has captured the minds of young Catholics between the ages of 18-40 over the past 20 years has yet to make its mark on the face of the Church. I tend to agree with George Weigel, who believes that when this theology comes into its own, it will precipitate a new way of thinking about virtually every article in the Creed.

CDE said...


My intention was not to derail/distract from the topic you proposed. I can appreciate your decision to keep the discussion focused.

However, I raised the question of Kinsey because it seemed germane to the larger question -- why did the APA do an about-face of its diagnosis of homosexuality in the 1970's? I submit that Kinsey, SEICUS, and Sanger were major contributors to this reversal of opinion. So the credibility of such thinkers/viewpoints is a worthwhile question. Question everything, retain what is good.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Anonymous can obviously speak for him/herself, but somehow, Clayton, I don’t think it was the Theology of the Body that he/she had in mind when talking about a “broader perspective.” I mean, how broad is any theology that doesn’t attempt to even listen to and incorporate the experiences of non-heterosexual people?

Catholic theologian Luke Timothy Johnson has written a incisive critique of John Paul II’s “Disembodied Theology of the Body.” First published in Commonweal, it can also be found online here.

Contrary to George Weigal, Johnson believes that:

For all its length, earnestness, and good intentions, John Paul II’s work, far from being a breakthrough for modern thought, represents a mode of theology that has little to say to ordinary people because it shows so little awareness of ordinary life. . . . The pope’s Theology of the Body is fundamentally inadequate to the question it takes up. It is inadequate not in the obvious way that all theology is necessarily inadequate to its subject, and therefore should exhibit intellectual modesty, but in the sense that it simply does not engage what most ought to be engaged in a theology of the body. Because of its theological insufficiency, the pope’s teaching does not adequately respond to the anxieties of those who seek a Christian understanding of the body and of human sexuality and practical guidance for life as sexually active adults.

I’d wager that the Theology of the Body is popular among some young Catholics partly for the simple reason that they’re not “sexually active adults,” and thus are yet to experience the beauty and complexity of human sexuality.

A more “adult” perspective on sexuality - a perspective grounded in the lived experiences of people, gay and straight, who are open to the presence of God in all aspects of their lives and relationships - can be found in the works of Catholic theologians like Johnson, Joan Timmerman, Daniel Helminiak, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Mary Bednarowski, Diarmuid Ó Murchú, and Mary Hunt.

Also, Evelyn and James Whitehead wrote a wonderful little book in 2001 entitled The Wisdom of the Body: Making Sense of Our Sexuality. It’s insightfully reviewed here by Catholic theologian Joan Timmerman.



Courage Philippines said...

Let me just add a thing or two in this Courage-NARTH issue.

In Courage, the main thrust as you know is adherence to the Five Goals. None of the goals is directed specifically towards conversion from homosexuality to heterosexuality although this is somehow encouraged and should be made as a personal decision.

What if indeed NARTH is espousing something you do not want to face or confront in yourself. Many of us are in the state of denial and confusion in regard to our homosexuality. In our desperation for finding answers, we throw it all up and give in to what you may consider as normal. Do you personally believe that sexual attraction should define the core identity of an individual? Are we not more complex than our sexuality?

In its simplest form, the message that NARTH is trying to convey to us is that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE. People can and do change and change does not have to be a 180-degree turnaround from homosexuality. It can come in many forms. See for more details.

Maybe at the back of your mind you are deeply convinced that homosexuality is genetic and thus cannot be changed. If you really want to find some answers on this issue, this scientific website is most helpful in debunking that myth:

God bless.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on to your website. I was googling about homosexuality and research into its causes. I am gay Indian (Asian). Till I was 26 I was confused, stressed, worried, depressed, angry, troubled. I am married with 2 kids. I told no one so far that I am gay. Although my parents and maybe even my wife may suspect. When I was in highschool, I was teased sometimes. Anyway, it may be surprising to hear that my parents and friends were all extremely supportive too, but of course, in a very discreet, casual way. For instance my mom once told that I can live life the way I want to, I dont have to marry. At that I was confused. I was wondering what was she talking about. There was no pressure from my parents to conform to a heterosexual identity. However, I felt a strong sense of being let down. I felt God let me down. I felt natural justice was not done. I had extremely strong urge to determine and find out what made me gay. This strong sense made me visit libraries (no internet 10 years ago) I read plenty of books. I could not find any resources or some which did not make any sense. Fast forward 10 years. I had access to the internet. I probably have spent hundreds of hours. I visited Narth. My experience about that is what I would like every single person to read. Reading most of their documentation made me extremely shocked. Some of the examples they gave in there, felt exactly as something which was picked up straight from my life. I had a distant father, a father who I remember never ever hugged me....going back to my earliest memories of 4 yrs. He was always someone I feared approaching, not because he was rude or scary, but I did not get any emotional love from him.I had an overly protective domineering mother. I had a elder brother who was extremely competitive and a rival. He was also a brilliant achiever. My life as a child was never cheerful. Always live under the shadow of my elder brother. He was the shiny example, I was the underachiever. He also had a friends group of around 4 boys, all of whom never included me in anything. So I had no one to play with.I had always felt for years now, that there was something during those ages of 4-6 when something went wrong. I was incredibly shocked to read that whatever I had gone through during those years, was already mentioned in Narth. I was extremely excited, shocked, and it was like the discovery I was waiting for ages. I wanted to jump up and down and tell to the whole world, to not totally dismiss this research! But this is where the trouble started. I was secretly gay. Neither my wife nor my children know about me. There is no way, I am going to openly talk and say that there is atleast some truth in this research. But really deserve to be said, as I feel these guys may have some truth in it. I strongly do believe that there is a very strong link to the life we are exposed to in our early life which wires our brain in certain way. I mean I really dont have a problem with any of the other people like me, who are openly gay, but I dont want to be gay. Even now I can see that even now, the attraction towards a man for me is not towards his sexuality, but towards his charisma. I can see that I want to be like him, I want to be as confident, as good looking, as popular, as perfect as him, and the more I admire those qualities, I start sexualising my admiration. I have analysed all this for years. And Narth says this too. I dont get turned on by the sexuality of men at all. I long for the companionship rather.