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Is anyone predestined to homosexuality?

Article #2358 of the Catholic Catechism is becoming the source for claims that the Church must change her attitude towards the homosexual lifestyle. For details, see News in Brief in this issue, under USA.

Article number 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

"The number of women and men who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition."

I believe this statement is misleading.

"The operations of the brain result from a balance between inputs from heredity and environment -- nature and nurture -- and this balance should always be reflected in research into the biology of behaviour." (1)

Factors affecting homosexual behaviour

1. Environmental factors:

a) Intrauterine hormone effects on the brain are suggested by the fact that male homosexuals perform more like average females than average males on certain measures of mental function. However, repeated homosexual behaviour may cause changes in brain structure.

b) Studies on females show a correlation between a "masculinizing' fetal environment and subsequent female bi-sexuality, homosexuality, or trans-sexualism. The masculinizing influence is due to an excess of androgens in the mother, perhaps due to stress.

c) ". . . no hormonal difference has ever been discovered between homosexuals and heterosexuals (as is dramatically the case between males and females), no matter how exquisitely sensitive the test." (2) In the words of Byne and Parsons, "Data pertaining to possible neurochemical differences between homosexual and heterosexual individuals are lacking." (3)

2. Childhood trauma:

a) Lack of availability, rejection, or even harsh verbal, physical, or sexual abuse on the part of the same sex or opposite sex parent may result in male childhood gender disturbance.

b) Parental separation -- which is associated with an increase in homosexuality. Actual physical trauma does not have to occur to cause psychic trauma. What is a severe lifechanging trauma to one child may not affect another. (2)

"As an epidemiologist, I do not find scientific evidence supports the commonly proposed stance that it (homosexuality) is innate, genetically determined, and irreversible. People do change. Too many people have altered their orientation to make those statements. . . I only want to say, behaviour is a choice. It can be modified." (3)

If homosexuals were so from birth, the population of homosexuals would decrease from one generation to the next, and eventually disappear. But its incidence is not decreasing. It is not known how much correlation there is between genes and behaviour. Research so far shows that genetic correlation does not cause homosexuality, but may be a predisposing factor in 10-25% of homosexuals.

It is of interest to note that the incidence of homosexuality varies greatly depending on the culture of the population. Permissive cultures have a high incidence, non-permissive a low incidence. Mores clearly are an important factor: "The relationships between genes and environment probably have a somewhat different effect on a conservative in Salt Lake City than if the person were growing up a liberal in New York City. There is a difference in the rate of homosexuality between conservative Mormons and liberal New Yorkers." (4)

3. Homosexual activity as conditioned behaviour:

The brain has certain areas whose primary function is the feeling of pleasure. When `orgasm' is experienced, `opioids' are released in the brain in this area. A similar pleasurable experience is present when a person takes heroin or cocaine. This helps to explain why disordered sexual behaviour, whether heterosexual or homosexual, becomes an `addiction', resulting in `compulsive behaviour.' Methods which effectively break addictions effectively change compulsive behaviour.

Psychotherapy has been reported as having a 65% five-year follow-up success rate. (5) All forms of obsessive, compulsive and addictive behaviour involving alcoholism, drug abuse, promiscuous sex, are found in bulimic women and homosexuals. Those behaviours are an attempt by the affected person to soothe anxiety, depression, and self-hatred which result from internal distress. These persons can be greatly helped by anti-anxiety, anti-depressant drugs like Prozac. Real progress is only made when a person ceases to calm his or her anxiety by themselves and turns to others and to God.

The facts are that character depends only partly on genetic inheritance, hormonal and other environmental factors. It is known that the environment and behaviour affect not only the character of the person, but the physical development of the brain. Virtues are good habits: the `acting person' makes who he or she is by choosing to act through the help of God's grace, in keeping with the natural law. These good habits may well affect brain structure and function.

It is true that, as the Catechism states, people "do not choose their homosexual condition" -- but only if we restrict the meaning of that "condition" to environmental or developmental or cultural trauma. However, with the help of God's grace, all of these factors can be overcome. The wording of article number 2358 is susceptible to misinterpretation or dishonest use by those who wish to avoid taking responsibility for their moral life. It should be redrafted in a way which avoids giving any impression that homosexuals are predestined to sin. It is of interest to note that the Catechism makes no mention of the notion that people do not choose their `condition' when it refers to heterosexual lust, fornication, prostitution, rape, theft, sins of anger, and sins of hate. No genetic or environmental predisposing factors are acknowledged in these cases.

Recommended reading:

J. Satinover, M.D., Homo-sexuality and the Politics of Truth, Baker Books, 1996.

Father John Harvey, O.S.F.S., The Truth About Homosexuality, Ignatius Press, 1996.

(1) ) Torston Weisel, President of Rockefeller University, "Genetics and Behaviour," Science, p. 1647.

(2) ) H. Meyer-Bahlburg, "Psychoendocrine Research on Sexual Orientation: Current Status and Future Options," Progress in Brain Research 61 (1984), pp. 375-98; J. Downey et al., "Sex Hormones and Lesbian and Heterosexual Women," Hormones and Behaviour 21 (1987), pp. 347-57, cited and discussed in Byne and Parsons, "Human Sexual Orientation."

(3) ) Byne and Parsons, Human Sexual Orientation, p. 230.

(4) ) J. Satinover, M. D., Baker Books, p. 106. Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth.

(5) ) Address by L. P. Gisela, M. D. M. P. H. (Harvard), FRCP (C) on International Medicine and Infectious Diseases . . . To Calgary Board of Education, Sept. 24, 1996. Published in Western Report, Oct. 14, 1996, p. 33.

6) C. Mann, "Genes and Behaviour," p. 1687.

7) Schwartz and Masters, "The Masters and Johnson Program for dissatisfied Homosexual men" Am. J. of Psy. 141 (1984), pp. 173-81.
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Author:Shea, John B.
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:May 1, 1997
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