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Check terminology

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, November 14, 2007

With the campus a little stirred up about gays and gay rights and gay sex, I think it’s time we went back and took a second look at the old Catechism, lest we go the route of Mary K. Daly and start throwing around pejorative terms like “disordered” and “the homosexual lifestyle” (“Campus, Catholicism and homosexuality,” Nov. 13).

While much of what Daly says in regards to the church teaching is accurate, she unfortunately makes the same misstep that so many Catholics have taken, and misinterprets Church teaching. Here is what the Church says: “Homosexual acts are gravely disordered.” Here is what Daly says: “Homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.” See the disconnect?

The church teaches that sexuality is a gift from God, not something chosen. As Father David Burrell notes on the Notre Dame Core Council Web site (corecouncil.nd.edu), “The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes pains to distinguish between homosexuality as an orientation, and homosexual acts.” This means that there is nothing wrong with being a homosexual, according to the Church, the problem comes with homosexual acts. Merely having homosexual desires no more makes you a sinner than having a desire to play the cello makes you Yo-Yo Ma.

Perhaps I may be harping too much on the comment “homosexuality is intrinsically disordered,” but it is necessary to do so in order to see where Church teaching is misconstrued: “Homosexual acts are gravely disordered” slowly becomes “homosexuality is gravely disordered” and eventually “homosexuals are gravely disordered.” This misreading is what leads people to don shirts that say “Gay? Go to Hell.” If they had wanted to be closer to the teachings of the Church, they probably ought to have worn shirts that replaced “Gay?” with, “Having gay sex?” As for the “Go to hell” bit, that is also a little misleading – there is no mention of ‘hell,’ per se, only a mention of disordered. But disordered in this sense merely means objectively disordered; that is, not ordered in such a way that is open to procreation, one of the Church’s requirements of sexual intercourse. Because two men cannot together produce a child, nor can two women, homosexual acts are said to be “objectively disordered.” I hesitate to bring up other times when sex is not “open to new life,” but I think anyone reading this letter can probably guess what I am talking about: contraception, oral sex and-you got it-masturbation. So perhaps people wanting to be true to their Catechism ought to wear shirts that say “Having Gay Sex? That’s as objectively disordered as wearing a condom!”

Otherwise their interpretations of Catholic teaching leave a lot to be desired.

Michael Redding


off campus

Nov. 14