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Reviewing ‘alternative lifestyles’

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, October 6, 2004

With much interest I read the Oct. 4 story about the demonstration of the students with orange armbands, the purpose of which was to contest “Notre Dame’s No. 1 Princeton Review ranking for intolerance of ‘alternative lifestyles.'” The beginning was really promising. I thought that possibly I would find a real openness to a variety of lifestyles, such as celibacy for the Kingdom of God; or complete self-denial for the sake of the poor; or virginity until marriage and full fidelity after the wedding; or perhaps a life dedicated to promote justice among the rich and the poor without love for tyrants; or even a management career that, against the stream of the market, heroically takes care of both the workers and the customers. It must be said that, being the feast of Saint Francis, the date was particularly appropriate for this expectation. It was very disappointing to find out that in Princeton’s jargon the promising expression means only “intolerance of the lifestyle of gays and lesbians.” However, I think that the point deserves a little more reflection.

Slowly and subtly, liberal ideology is taking over all the spaces of thought in this country. It is trying to totally assimilate to itself even spaces that should be shrines of alternative thinking. The curious thing is that it is doing so under the banner of “tolerance.” Judges, the press, and liberal colleges are denying to Catholics and other minorities the right to organize themselves in health institutions – to live according to their Faith – and in educational or Academic institutions – to fully understand their Faith and propagate it. The argument is that life in society has demands that cannot be overlooked for reasons that are proper of a particular group. “Public order” demands a complete submission of every minority. “Tolerance” would be, thus, a requirement of public order.

According to liberal ideologues, Catholics have to accept homosexuality as a “normal” way of life. Why? This is not clear, but the issue is compared with the acceptance of the civil rights of the African-Americans. Here you have a complete confusion of every juridical or ethical concept. To “discriminate” means to give unequal treatment for reasons that are not relevant. To deny civil rights for biological reasons such as race is a monstrosity.

Homosexual behavior, however, is not a biological fact. One can accept that probably a small percentage of homosexual people have a biological root of their drives. But a sexual drive or desire is not an action. Married and unmarried people feel sexual desire towards persons that are not the legitimate spouse. But, we are not mere animals, utterly unable to control our passions. To indulge in such desire is, thus, for anyone, a sin.

What Catholic faith teaches is that sexual pleasure is ordered toward procreation, and procreation must take place within an environment of unconditional love and stable commitment, which environment we call “marriage.” Only this way can man and woman have responsible sex and parenthood. Any behavior that violates this order is a sin. Most of us are, in this or in other matters, sinners. All of us are in need of God’s mercy and all of us have to be compassionate with each other. Christ was compassionate with the woman caught in adultery. But He also said: “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8: 11).

This is not only a matter of Faith. It is also a matter of natural reason. Indeed, one can find very nearly the doctrine of the Church in a passage in Plato, a man who especially in his old age was able to stick to the truth of reason amidst a very corrupted society: Laws, VIII, 838 ff. To exclude “homosexual marriage” is not discrimination because “marriage” is an institution that is intrinsically ordered to procreation. Some people might not agree with this. It is a tradition proper of the Western world, however, that political power does not control the spirit, represented by the Church and by universities. Thus, even if the general corruption of society leads to the acceptance of giving the label of “marriage” to homosexual unions, the traditional freedom and tolerance of the Western world should allow institutions of the spirit to disagree with the state of affairs.

Carlos A. Casanova

Senior Research Associate of the Jacques Maritain Center

Oct. 6