Franciscan University of Steubenville, where I have been a long-time faculty member, recently found itself again in the national news involving the culture wars—as it was during the summer when an aggressive atheist organization pressured the City of Steubenville, Ohio to remove a depiction of the University’s chapel from its logo—when a group of its homosexual alumni objected to its catalog description for a social work course that included homosexuality on the list of “deviant behaviors” to be studied. The Cardinal Newman Society viewed this as one of the many attacks on religious liberty that are now “coming from all fronts.” This conclusion is underscored by the fact that the alumni group made sure to send its objections to the social work accrediting agency. The obvious intent was to pressure the university by threatening the program’s accreditation. I’m not an official spokesman for Franciscan University. I am merely providing my own thoughts about a case striking close to home that is part of the larger context of threats posed to the Church and all serious Christians by the homosexualist movement.
One of the spokesmen for the homosexual alumni group claimed that it wanted to make sure that the university was “teaching proper social science and not offering biased science.” They suggested that the course was propounding “pseudoscience,” and emphasized that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973. It is curious that they were ready to use the term “pseudoscience” when that DSM action resulted from homosexualist lobbying and political maneuvering within the APA, and not any new scientific findings. It was an early example of “junk science,” along the lines of what has been witnessed in the climate change debate, in which the imperatives of ideology were allowed to trump genuine scientific inquiry. In the meantime, I wonder if the alumni group considers Professor Mark Regnerus’ findings about the adverse effects suffered by children raised by same-sex couples as “proper social science.” What would they say about the data showing that a disproportionate percentage of sex crimes against children are committed by homosexuals? Are they ready to embrace the “gay gene” theory, even though there is no evidence for it? I know something about social science, and despite their suggestion to the contrary secular social science is laced with ideology and predetermined conclusions and is intolerant of viewpoints that don’t conform to the biases of the academy and the intelligentsia. Support for the homosexualist agenda is one of these biases. There are even a growing number of these “proper” social scientists today claiming that pedophilia should be viewed as entirely normal.
The group demanded that Franciscan University line up “with the truth of the matter.” Nevertheless, one of their spokesmen, a former philosophy professor who was trained in the realist philosophical tradition, now seems intent on constructing a new reality: that same-sex attraction is normal—as if the obvious complimentarity (psychologically, as well as biologically) between the sexes somehow doesn’t exist. The thinking animating the same-sex “marriage” movement is that husbands and wives, fathers and mothers are somehow interchangeable. Like the proponents of homosexualism within the Church—such as Dignity, New Ways Ministry, and the “gay ministries” that sprang up in certain dioceses—the Franciscan alumni group wants to pretend that the perennial teaching of the Church was wrong and can somehow be changed. Not only are they ostensibly not happy that the Church teaches that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can never be moral, but completely contrary to St. Paul’s insistence (Gal. 3:28) that the defining characteristic for Christians must be their faith (they are neither Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female), seem to view their same-sex attraction as the crux of their identity.
Some Christian churches, like the Episcopal Church that this former philosophy professor said he switched to partly because of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, have accommodated the homosexualists and other advocates of sexual liberation in this attempt to remake traditional teaching. The Catholic Church, the authentic guardian of that teaching, never will. I suspect that the alumni group, even if some are now Episcopalians or liberal Catholics or non-believers or whatever else, are deeply bothered by this fact. Maybe deep down they still feel called to the Church and know what they are doing is wrong, but having bought into the ideology of homosexualism think that with the right combination of pressure and denunciation they can somehow make it happen.
The homosexualist crusade of which this is just a small part has gone far beyond seeking tolerance or changing law. It now seeks nothing less than acceptance and, in fact, endorsement of same-sex sexual behavior as normal and mainstream in every walk of life—and it will get it by coercion if necessary. This intolerant and even repressive attitude—by those who started out seeking tolerance—is shared by the larger sexual liberation movement; it is seen vividly in the HHS contraceptive/sterilization/abortifacient mandate. Even the churches cannot be spared. Forget religious liberty, all must embrace the new morality of secularism. The homosexualists are driven by a particular zeal and deep-seated anger. I think it has nothing to do with how others act toward them, in spite of claims such as those in the alumni group suggesting they were mistreated by being ushered off to therapy when they were students (which actually could not have happened because a person has to voluntarily agree to enter therapy). I am not a psychologist, but I suspect it is a result of despair at their condition (which, like it or not, is unnatural), guilt about their actions, a desire to justify themselves, and the uncanny hold of ideology. Neither ideology nor secularized religion offers hope, however, which is the very thing that those with same-sex attraction need most.
In a certain sense, the Franciscan University case is “small potatoes.” The homosexual alumni group apparently wants Franciscan to fall in line or lose accreditation of its social work program. In Canada provincial human rights commissions are banning clergy from speaking from the pulpit against homosexual acts or referring to pertinent scriptural passages, and fining other citizens for expressing such opposition; an English street preacher was arrested merely for answering a question that he disapproved of homosexual practice; Christian protesters at a homosexual fest in Philadelphia were arrested and could have received forty years in prison; some homosexualist groups have called for banning commentators from the airwaves if they uphold the perennial Christian teaching against homosexual acts; the California legislature has passed a law that makes it illegal for parents to seek therapy to change same-sex attraction of their minor children; Christians have been disciplined or fired from counseling and other jobs for expressing disapproval of homosexual activity; Catholic charities in Massachusetts was forced to stop arranging adoptions because they refused to place children with same-sex couples; reports in recent years abound with public school children being disciplined for stating their opposition to homosexual practice.
How should Catholics and other believers—and defenders of traditional culture, generally—who are concerned about upholding the natural law on homosexual practice respond to the onslaught of the increasingly repressive homosexualist movement? One of the major ways would be to vigorously and consistently expose homosexualist pressure tactics and intolerance. The homosexualists have been successful at portraying themselves as victims, when in truth they have become the victimizers. As I am fond of saying, the best defense is a good offense. Christians are the ones under attack now, and the nature of that attack needs to be driven home in whatever ways it can be to a public that, in spite of much confusion in its own thinking, does not support bullies. Second, we have not gone as far down the road to intolerance as the Canadians have. We have a First Amendment. Christians should take advantage of it whenever appropriate to: explain why homosexual acts are wrong, and why same-sex attraction is not normal and cannot be the equivalent of heterosexual behavior; bring out the correct scientific facts and expose the ideologically-driven “junk science” about homosexuality (the work done by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the Family Research Council can be very helpful here); discuss how persons with same-sex attraction should be treated with charity and point out the organizations such as Courage that are available to help them lead chaste lives; and explain the impossibility and destructive implications of same-sex “marriage.”
They should also be ready to face down sham legal threats from the homosexualist movement aimed at stopping people from speaking up against it (besides continued aggressive efforts by groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom to provide legal defense, the legal tables should be turned on homosexualist groups with suits for civil rights violations, abuse of process, and defamation). If we’re reaching the point where Catholic universities have to compromise their commitment to Church teaching to satisfy secular accrediting agencies in professional fields, maybe it’s time for them to think about forming their own accrediting bodies. The infrastructure is already there with such organizations as the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, Society of Catholic Social Scientists, Catholic Social Workers National Association, and Catholic Psychotherapy Association.
Catholics and other Christians must take the offensive in this latest arena where religious liberty is on the ropes.