In my work within the Catholic Church, I am painfully aware of the misinformation that abounds regarding human sexuality, especially in the area of sexual arousal patterns. There is much discussion at this time about the Vatican decision regarding seminarians. Ideas prevalent in US culture that are based on inaccurate reports by media have led some people to mistakenly believe that our Church is operating on outdated information. Relevant information is often filtered out by politically charged opposition. Respect and compassion for the person with same-sex attraction requires us to challenge existing structures that restrict access to scientific research and social service resources. Self-determination is the cornerstone of good mental health.
The Catholic Medical Association (cathmed.org) has published an educational and reference tool for Catholic clergy, physicians, mental health professionals, educators, parents and the general public. CMA asserts, “Catholics have a right to know the truth and those working with or for Catholic institutions have an obligation to clearly enunciate that truth.” Drawing upon extensive research, the full text document is available online as “Homosexuality and Hope” for prevention and treatment. CMA claims, “attitudes toward same-sex attraction can be transformed provided that each Catholic institution does its part.”
Strengthening the message of CMA, both the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (cmdahome.org) have issued formal statements that “acting on homosexual attraction is voluntary” and “homosexual behavior can be changed.” Also, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (narth.com) asserts, “The public must be made aware that some homosexual people do seek and achieve change. The change is neither quick nor easy, but many believe---as we do---that the goal is a worthy one.” NARTH is composed of psychiatrists, psychologists, certified social workers, and laymen in law, religion, and education. CMA, SCSS, CMDA, and NARTH are among the many research-based organizations who oppose the claim that homosexuality is genetic.
Neuroscientist and gay activist Simon LeVay said recently, “Time and again I have been described as someone who 'proved that homosexuality is genetic' … I did not. Homosexuality is a behavior that anyone might be tempted to engage in.” (4-11-05 lecture). LeVay believes that society imposes labels (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual) on people based on observed masculine or feminine attributes that are later internalized as sexual identity. He has supported reorientation therapy for people with unwanted same-sex attractions.
Dr. Robert Spitzer removed homosexuality from the APA's list of mental disorders in 1973. As chief of the New York State Psychiatric Institute's Biometrics Research Department, he recently began to promote reorientation psychotherapy. His 2003 article “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change From Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation” appeared with twenty-six peer commentaries in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (32: 399-472). Spitzer was heavily criticized for designing a study that “is seriously flawed” because labeling people as heterosexual and homosexual is “out of step with the field of sexuality research.”
Sexual plasticity is the term that is used by scientific researchers to describe human sexual desire and expression. Sexual plasticity refers to the fluidity and flexibility that is natural in human sexual arousal patterns. Our sexual arousal template can be shaped and altered by many things, including religion, culture, abuse, exploitation, and pornography. Changing a person's sexual appetite requires 4 to 12 weeks of abstinence from all sexual fantasy and sexual behavior combined with appropriate psychotherapy and adequate social support.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, thousands of people have found comfort in the arms of Church ministries offering respectful, compassionate help for neurotic guilt and toxic shame about homosexual desires, fantasies and behaviors. In the past 25 years, the Catholic Church has endorsed the ministry of Courage (couragerc.net) to provide the necessary spiritual support for chaste living to people who experience same-sex attraction. Numerous other ministries also provide Biblical guidance and chaste friendships as refuge to reduce and eliminate unwanted homoerotic attractions, such as JONAH for Jews, Evergreen for Mormons, and Exodus International for all Christians.
Homosexuals Anonymous is the primary 12-step program that offers group support for chaste living to people with same-sex attraction. Catholics can also find social support for marital or celibate chastity within Sexaholics Anonymous groups (sa.org). In helping people to recover from any type of romantic or sexual addiction, the SA philosophy is faithful to Catholic Church teachings in all areas, including same-sex attraction. Online stories from Courage, Exodus, JONAH, Evergreen, HA, SA, and many other groups expose the personal freedom of desire attained by embracing chastity. Sadly, the pathway to peace and joy in the lived experiences of these people has been buried beneath a political agenda.
Advent is a time devoted to reflection on darkness being penetrated with the light of truth. Our emotions and habits may oppress our awareness of the nature of our free will and the grace of God to assist us in all our trials. Now is the time to sing, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” It is Jesus who makes it possible for our soul to feel its worth, regardless of our sinful thoughts, our errors in judgment, or our behavior choices. The light of truth affirms the goodness of God-given maleness and femaleness and the beautiful gift of human sexuality to enhance our social connection and our creative expression through marital and celibate chaste living.
by Monica Hidalgo Breaux, Ph.D. (HumanlyPossible.net)
December 6, 2005
Dr. Breaux can be contacted at HumanlyPossible@yahoo.com