Attractions and Distractions

This past week, I’ve posted a series of brief columns on the same-sex marriage issue. The reader will notice that I frequently use the term “same-sex attractions” (SSA). That’s intentional. It’s a more precise, inclusive term. Words like “gay” and “lesbian” tend to be used by those who have embraced the homosexual lifestyle and the “gay agenda” as it’s commonly understood.

Persons with SSA would include not only those who identify themselves as gay or lesbian, but also those who have never acted upon such inclinations and who don’t buy into the “gay agenda.”

Homosexual or homosexuality in its common usage is a little more vague than same-sex attractions. To be clear, homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex (Catechism, no. 2357).

The problem, in my estimation, comes with using “homosexual” as a noun. Then it’s really no different from gay and lesbian—in other words, it’s defining a person based on his or her sexual inclinations. Rather, God made us male and female, and some males and some females experience SSA.

Our society has largely lost its sense of the intrinsic worth of the human person, so we tend to define ourselves through external, secondary characteristics. That is never good, but it’s especially tragic when those with SSA define themselves as “gay.” Once they are so defined, they give up hope of ever being anything else, and so through force and illusion they strive to change their environment—including the laws of society—to accommodate their lifestyle.

In the face of this, we must be ambassadors of hope and mercy, not wimpy enablers. Woe to us if out of silence or misplaced tolerance we allow homosexual relationships to take further steps toward becoming the legal equivalent of marriage. As St. Paul urges, “we must not be deceived” (1 Cor. 6:9).

To conclude this series, after Easter I will post one final column on this topic, in which I outline some practical things we can do to strengthen the institution of marriage.

8 responses

  1. Leon, You make a very important, humane distinction. Living in San Francisco, I see daily the fall-out of pressuring people to identify themselves primarily with how they use their body parts sexually. It’s the ultimate indignity. Until we can change the terms of discussion, and detach SSA from personal identity and worth, the conversation is dominated by emotional competition between differing drives for pleasure – and we miss entirely our common human claim to dignity in the eternal plan of a loving Creator. Blessings for a Joyful Easter. Marjorie Campbell

  2. As a person who has “SSA” I just want to say that I find no problem with being referred to as homosexual, gay, or lesbian. I’m married. I have three children. Both my husband and children are aware of my attractions. They also know that I am in love with my husband and have no intention of acting on those feelings–which doesn’t change the fact that I experience them.

    I guess, sometimes, I find it a bit tiring to keep rehashing what to label my feelings. While I understand that for many the connotations of gay and lesbian are indicative of a lifestyle, if you ask those with SSA, many will tell you that it’s more important to be treated with love and respect than to worry about semantics.

  3. Samantha, thanks so much for your comment, especially your final sentence. I for one want to be held to such a standard of “love and respect,” and I hope my posts and articles on the subject live up to that standard, which is nothing other than the standard of the Gospel. Easter blessings to your family. -LJS

  4. I see littel to NO “love” OR “respect” when I see the continued bearing of false witness against God’s gay and lesbian children who are continually diminished and demeaned by descriptives as living “the homosexual lifestyle”.

    Gay people have LIVES. Have you ever been told you are living “the straight lifestyle”???

    My gay life includes church, tithing, volunteering, housework, business, friends and family, reading, recycling. In other words, the exact same “lifestyle” lived by you heterosexuals. (Hint: the word “lifestyle” refers to a person’s way of living. I assure you that ours lives are pretty similar to yours.) There are plenty of heterosexuals who live the ‘club’ lifestyle – they go to clubs an ddrink, dance and do drugs every Friday, Saturday and Sundy night. Some of them even have indiscriminate, promiscuous, anonymous sexual encounters. Are THEY living “the heterosexual lifestyle”??? And does my describing them that way offend you because it, ipso facto, MUST include ALL heterosexuals???

    Another lie: “the gay agenda”. Our ‘agenda’ is equality bvefore the law. That must be something fearsome for it causes you to repeatedly lie about us, diminish us, demean us, debase us – hardly “Christian” traits.

    “it’s especially tragic when those with SSA define themselves as “gay.” ”

    Reductionist poppycock!

    “Once they are so defined, they give up hope of ever being anything else”. Hmmm. Once YOU label YOURSELVES as “heterosexual”, do YOU likewise “give up hope of ever being anything else”???

    If you are to (rather self-righteously) call yourselves “ambassadors of mercy”, you could start with a modicum of TRUTH.

    “I for one want to be held to such a standard of “love and respect,” and I hope my posts and articles on the subject live up to that standard”

    Hint – they DON’T! They’re hateful. They’re hateful because they are NOT TRUE.

  5. This is my first time visiting and I find myself impatient. As a devout Catholic who left the faith at 18 years of age, in 1972, and rejoined it circa 1990, I remain astonished at the imprecise thinking surrounding many Church/civil issues.

    While, in the old testament, Homosexuality (the act) was condemned, there is no such directive in the new testament. It’s not being mentioned in the new testament does not mean it is not a sin–the old testament directive should remain. In the new testament, Paul says much about the sanctity of marriage. He tells us that the highest order a man or woman can have is to remain unmarried and cellibate. The value of this is that there are no distractions for the individual wishing to focus upon God solely. A family man or woman is also concerned about the worldly needs of their worldly loved ones. There is nothing, as far as I know, in the new testament which preaches that those choosing a Homosexual lifestyle must be denied civil equality. In fact, I think that the thrust of the new testament is towards tolerance just as that of the old testament is towards intolerance of those offending God. The reason for this was that, before the time of Jesus, there was no belief that we humans entered either Heaven or Hell. The society in general was punished for evil;therefore, a village stoned a harlet because they feared God’s wrath upon their entire group. By the way, people sometimes mistakenly think that “Gehenna”, as mentioned in the old testament refers to “Hell”. It does not. Gehenna was the name for an annonymous burial ground. The old Jewish tradition held that we lived and we died. No more. Jews today, often do believe in an afterlife, but this idea only came about just before the time of Christ.

    The important occurance in the new testament concerning the sins of our neighbors is when Jesus protects the lady from being stoned by the mob. This is profound for me in that a new ATTITUDE seems to be encouraged. Jesus did not say that the lady had not sinned–He merely said that the accuser who has not sinned should throw the first stone. HE SPOKE OF INDIVIDUALS.
    Now that Heaven was to be opened up for Christians and Jews alike, it was ,and is, no longer our societal concern to regulate the morality of others. Individuals, not society, are punished for our evil acts. The sins of our neighbors should not be our concern–AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT SCANDALIZE OR FORCE CORRUPTION UPON US.

    To bring this all back home: Homosexuality is a sin. SSA ( I do not like that term because it sounds like a disease)is not. We are in agreement on this. The correlation could be made that SSA is the temptation and Homosexuality is the sinfull act. The bad news for blind Catholics and others who feel the need to deny these people the right to insurance coverage from one partner’s workplace, to the other partner, or to have a civil cerrimony to celebrate their union, or to give weight in a partners will when other family may contest the distibution of an estate because they do not wish their relative’s homosexual partner to be given what is his/her rightfull share–none of these are the business of Christians. If a Homosexual and his/her partner works, pays taxes, respects the law, pays their rent or mortgage and is in general a good citizen, that person has the right to walk the streets without being harrased, go out to dinner with their partner unbothered and enjoy all of the freedon and civil rights which we all enjoy. THAT PERSONS SIN IS BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND GOD–NOT BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND YOU OR I.

    I also disagree that the VALUE of families is somehow threatened by the Lesbian couple down living down the street from me (They actually moved about a year ago–most people in the neighborhood had no problem with them-they kept their house clean and were quiet but friendly).

    Seeing them has made neither of my children adopt a gay lifestyle. Neither of my children has expressed SSA to me. The success of my family is due to the love and dedication which my wife and I give and expect of the four of us. By the way! We did practice birth control. Our family is perfect as it is. The wife and I both have careers and felt that it was the responsible thing to do. I am not aware of anything in the bible declaring birth control a sin. THE CHURCH SHOUULD TAKE CARE NOT TO ADD TO THE BIBLE!

    I realize that I have taken up much time and space. I appologize for that as well as if I have offended anyone.


  6. One addendum to my rather long diatribe. I figured that it may be helpfull to admit—Now this is really uncool with my wife’s friends (Masters in Social Work–knows many Gay couples)–but I have to admit with some shame THAT I AM A WIFE LOVING, NON SSA, NON GAY, CHURCH GOING CATHOLIC. In fact, I am that rare breed of Catholic who actually reads the bible occasionally–as well as christian history–fascinating how we started.

  7. Ambrose,

    Welcome to our blog. We have visitors this weekend so I can’t devote too much time to a response right now, but I wanted to thank you for adding to this discussion and encourage you to visit periodically and offer your input.

    I do have a few minutes, so as I can I’ll try to address a few things you mentioned:

    (1) Homosexual acts are indeed condemned in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9) as well as by the Church Fathers and the constant teaching of the Church, including in our time the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 2357-59) and other magisterial documents coming from the Holy See. It is true, though, that the condemnation of homosexual activity is not only biblical and ecclesial, but also a matter of natural law, to which all men and women of good will have access (cf. Rom. 1:18-32, especially verses 26-27).

    (2) SSA is not a disease, but it is a psychosexual disorder, or what the Church calls in her documents an intrinsic disorder. Having SSA is not a sin, and for those trying to live according to the Gospel, it presents quite a trial. SSA has been treated through reparative therapy, but as you might imagine there is immense pressure not to treat SSA as a disorder, as that would undermine the relentless push to make the homosexual lifestyle socially acceptable.

    So you’re right to distinguish SSA from homosexual acts, but SSA should also be distinguished from homosexual temptations, though it is true that those with SSA would be more inclined to experience homosexual temptations than others.

    (3) Sexual activity apart from the marriage of one man to one woman has created an increasingly promiscuous society. The scourge of homosexuality is just one aspect of this immense problem. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and it creates escalating sexual addictions and perversions. Schools and the media have contributed to the sexualizing of our youth as well. Speaking out against all this is often politically incorrect–those who uphold the Church’s teachings are the ones being pushed into the proverbial closet. By way of example, here’s the opening paragraph of an article I recently read:

    “A San Francisco city and county board resolution that officially labeled the Catholic church’s moral teachings on homosexuality as “insulting to all San Franciscans,’ ‘hateful,’ ‘defamatory,’ ‘insensitive,’ and ‘ignorant’ will be challenged tomorrow in court for violating the Constitution’s prohibition of government hostility toward religion.”

    We are quickly catching up to places like Canada where Catholic teaching itself is considered “hate speech.”

    (4) Marriage by definition is not a private matter. I certainly agree that efforts should be made to ensure that those in homosexual relationships have fair access to health care. And certainly anybody can leave their money to anybody they want. The problem comes into play when we want to treat two or more gay men or two or more lesbians as “family,” as though our notion of marriage and family is simply a creature of the state that under intense lobbying can be perverted to accommodate any sort of relationship.

    Just one example of the negative public effect of all this is the ease with which homosexual couples are now allowed to adopt children, while Catholic agencies who want to place children exclusively in one man-one woman marriages are forced out of business. I think we have a right as well as a duty to speak out against these things. We don’t judge the state of individual souls, but charitably admonishing sinners is still considered a spiritual work of mercy, and Catholics indeed are called to work to promote the common good, to build a culture of life and love.

    Every legislative act involves some sort of moral decision, and in engaging the process we are not obliged to check things such as faith, objective truth, common decency, natural law, etc. at the door.

    (5) I have to go now, but I would like to take up with you at some point the contraception issue, both in terms of its biblical antecedents as well as the authority of the Church’s definitive teaching in this area and why it’s important.

    Blessings to you and your family.


  8. Catholic teaching on birth control finds biblical support in the Onan account. Interested readers: go to and search the Sin of Onan.
    As has been pointed out by many writers, the acceptance of marital contraception is the logical predecessor of the acceptance of sodomy. This has been pointed out by authors who advocate sodomy as well as those who say it is sinful. And it is a matter of fact that some heterosexuals’ forms of contraception are the same perverse anatomical acts performed by homosexuals. It deserves to be called marital sodomy. That is the unhappy legacy of accepting marital contraception.

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