People With Same-Sex Attraction Need to Be Shown True Compassion


The Church, by which I mean hierarchy, clergy, religious, and laity, must step up and face the challenge posed by the militant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer activists — the GLBTQ coalition. It is simply not enough to defend marriage; we have to explain to the people in the pews, to our children, and to world why the Church does not – cannot – accept sexual relations between two persons of the same sex. We must do so with love and compassion, but without sacrificing the truth.

First, while many people sincerely believe that individuals are born with same-sex attraction (SSA) and gender identity disorders (GID) and can’t change, there is no replicated scientific evidence to support that belief. There is overwhelming evidence that SSA and GID are not genetic or biological conditions. If they were then identical twins would virtually always have the same pattern of sexual attraction and this is not the case. That does not mean that SSA and GID are a choice. Nor is there a single explanation for all SSA.

Each person with SSA has his or her own unique personal history. A number of therapists are convinced that some babies are born more vulnerable to the anxiety. This vulnerability combined with early negative experiences can affect the babies’ ability to identify with their same-sex parent or peers. The child grows up trying to find the love and acceptance missed as a baby and this need becomes interpreted as sexual desire. Because these negative experiences occur during the first two years of life before memory, GLBTQ persons may honestly say they always felt different and were born that way.

Although persons with GID and SSA have free will and can choose not to act on their feelings, the inner forces driving them to engage in sexual behavior with persons of the same sex are very strong and their struggle and suffering should not be underestimated.  There are, however, numerous reports of change of sexual attraction – both spontaneous and through therapy. The more we understand about the origins of SSA, the greater the potential for prevention.

Therapists who work with people who want to be free of SSA and GID have made real progress in understanding the early childhood traumas and deficits which put a person on the path to GID and SSA. I strongly recommend Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy by Joseph J. Nicolosi and The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource by Janelle M. Hallman.

There is growing understanding of the part failure to attach plays in many psychological disorders. According to attachment theory in order to achieve psychological wholeness a person needs to successfully negotiate several stages in early childhood: attachment to the mother, separation from the mother, identification with the same-sex parent or peers. Failure to negotiate the first stage, makes it more difficult to negotiate the second, and third. While a history of failure to securely attach, separate, and identify probably accounts for many instances of SSA and GID, there are other less common reasons. When the individual histories of persons with SSA and GID are probed, the reasons for their patterns of thought can usually be discerned.

As Catholic Christians we have an obligation to treat every person as a fellow sinner in need of grace. We can thank God that we do not have these particular temptations, while at the same time making sure that therapy, counseling, support groups (like Courage), and understanding priests in the confessional are available. If the problem is never mentioned from the pulpit, if support and counseling are not easily accessible, if the priest in the confessional has no practical direction to offer, those who suffer from such temptations will rightly feel alone and abandoned. They will be tempted by the world which says “Come out. Join the gay community. Be proud.”

When they do so, they will join a community where psychological disorders, suicidal ideation, substance abuse problems, relationship instability, domestic violence, STDS, HIV, cancer and other health problems are far more common. They will cut themselves off from the source of grace and often become angry at God.

Compassion requires that we do not, like the priest and the Levi, pass by the man who fell among thieves, but offer real help.


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  • Noel Fitzpatrick

    Good article. I agree that people with same sex attraction should be treated with true compassion. We all should be. The position is clear sex outside marriage is wrong.

  • Evelyn

    Has it never occurred to you that maybe that long list of problems at the end is the result of a society that doesn’t support members of the LGBT community or same-sex couples the same way it does the rest of the population? Like…oh, maybe what you’re suggesting. I think I’d be pretty damn likely to have psychological disorders and various other problems if the community around me said that what was perfectly natural to me was pathological and needed to be “prevented” or “cured.”

    • Mary Kochan

      Society — at least a healthy, growing one — can never view same sex pairs (they aren’t couples because they cannot couple, which is a verb meaning to put together two parts that are different but are made to fit together) in the same way they view genuine couples. Same sex pairs (two of a kind) are parasitic upon heterosexuality. First off they owe their own existence to the union of egg and sperm. Secondly, in order to raise children they have to get children that are conceived from a sperm and an egg. What seems perfectly natural to you IS pathological. If everyone was as you are, the human race would die out. Anything that would cause the human race to die out would have to considered pathological by any rational person. Now you might respond that the human race is not dying out because ‘gays’ are a small percentage. That is true. But that merely emphasizes the point that you are dependent upon normal people to keep the world going.

      Assuming you are a woman, you were made — your body was made — to be united to a man’s in sexual intercourse. Period. That is how you were made. You can play all the games you want. But whatever you do with another woman can never affirm the goodness of your own existence, because it does not reflect the way you came into being. The way you got every gene that you have from all the previous generations that went into making you. You are a unique, wonderful, never existed before and unrepeatable creation of God. AND you got that way through the sexual union of countless generations of people. When a man and woman make love, they affirm and celebrate the goodness of their own existence because WHAT THEY DO is HOW they came into being. Get that? WHAT THEY DO is HOW they came into being. Even in fornication. Which is why, although fornication is a sin, it is not objectively disorded. “Gay sex” — really we should just call it genital activity because it is not sex — does not give life and it cannot celebrate life. Why do you think they are called genitals, anyway?

      Stop playing pretend games. Get married to a man and have children. That is real. That is life.

  • schmenz

    With so much talk about something called SSA it becomes very tiring to have to bring up, again and again, that there is no such thing as SSA…as a medical and/or psychological condition. We are making something that is extremely simple into something that is complex. We are dealing with sin. Yes, I know that “sin” is a word rarely heard these days but even though we hear little about that from the Church today, from the top on down, we need to realize the notion of sin is a real one. Put simply, people are tempted to engage in sodomy. Some succumb, some resist. If the temptation keeps coming, clearly the Head Fallen Angel has recognized a certain weakness of character in that person and is going to keep on tempting him. If that person gives in, he commits a mortal sin, one that cries to Heaven for vengeance.
    It troubles me that such basic Catholic morality has to be explained again and again. I am being condescending here; I am just tired of reminding good people of these basic truths. Sodomy is not a condition we are born with, it is not a psychological problem per se, it is a sin, and the sooner our religious leaders get off their complacent rumps and start preaching about this from the pulpit the better off the entire world will be.
    All sinners, as Noel said above, should be treated with compassion. But compassion means recognizing sin for what it is, without psychobabble. No one has an “orientation” to murder, adultery, theft or wife beating. No one has a Felonious Attraction or a Slothful Attraction or a Cheating Workers out of Their Just Wage Attraction. These are sins which all of us can be tempted to commit. So I ask writers, please, to start facing this issue as Catholics: with compassion, yes, but with justice also. Their souls, after all, are at stake.

  • schmenz

    One correction to my post. My sentence referring to condescention should have read: “I am not being condescending here…” My apologies.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful and balanced approach to this controversial subject. it is so much easier to be compassionate when we truly understand. All of us have sins we are prone to fall into. Some of my own are extremely hard to overcome. And whether they are inherited, part of a personal inborn quirk, learned behaviors or defense mechanisms, or a mix of all these, I can’t really say. As I hope to find God compassionate towards me, I must be compassionate towards others.