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Homosexuality not an ‘objective disorder’

Ed Manier | Monday, December 1, 2003

On Nov. 24, a Notre Dame undergraduate wrote “Attempting to live out these (Christian) virtues in the context of a homosexual relationship is a manifestation of disordered affections.”She went on, “To be clear, I am not suggesting that homosexuals have a disorder; I am saying that their affections, which were meant to be ordered toward the good, are disordered. There is a difference.” Neither the rest of the letter, nor the bald assertion that there is a difference, enable me to understand what she thinks the difference amounts to.For example, I’m sure she wouldn’t say my deafness is a disorder affecting crucial parts of my ear or auditory cortex, but not a disorder of mine. Deafness affects my life in very serious ways, and only rarely for the better. If someone tells me my golf swing is disordered, I assume they mean I could be a better golfer if I just shaped up.This stuff about despising sin but loving the sinner is way too simple to put into practice given the specific circumstances of homosexuality. It’s as if one thought that homosexuality was like an addiction. But if it were, we’d need detox centers for homosexuals, maybe a special wing of the emergency room. If you think that’s what’s needed, have the guts to say so.Nor am I enlightened by the unspecified and unsubstantiated premise that there is a clearly specifiable sense of the “good” to which our affections are ordered. Gametes (egg, sperm) and genitalia are good things as far as I’m concerned.It is possible to do some obviously terrible things with them. I know enough biology and enough ethics to understand an argument supporting a conclusion that it is wrong to use genitalia for purposes that don’t entail the possibility that a sperm will unite with an egg.I don’t see such an argument in this letter, but standard versions of such arguments abound, as do standard and equally impressive rebuttals of all those arguments.Folks who like to talk about the “objective disorders” of others ought to consider the possibility that dogmatic and unsympathetic repetition of religious dogma to reject requests for equal respect and support for committed civil unions, by gay and straight couples alike, might be symptoms of an objective disorder of the intellect. Brains are even easier to abuse than genitalia.Wasn’t the question at issue, “What specific threat to straight marriage is posed by the legalization of gay marriage?” It’s not polite to ignore a direct question. Worse, it amounts to ducking a challenge to do some thinking for one’s self.The letter raises other issues, but there are times when less is more. It’s always a good idea to deal with one issue well before going on to others.

Ed Manierclass of 1953Nov. 25