Sexuality as a condition, not a behavior
by Steve Dupree
So, I’m driving down the interstate the other day listening to NPR, as I usually do on the way to and from work. I hear this one news piece that struck me as hugely momentus. I was literally talking back to the radio and looking around to see if anyone else was possibly listening to NPR and had noticed what I noticed. Apparently not. As a matter of fact, I did not see where anyone blogged on it or commented on it or anything. Still I’m pretty sure it is big stuff.
The piece was a report about the Vatican saying that homosexuals would no longer be allowed in the seminary, even celibate homosexuals.
See? No? No problem, I’ll be happy to explain.
If you ask Joe Sixpack what homosexuality is, you will likely get some version of: “That’s when a guy wants to be another guy’s bitch.” You would probably have no trouble getting a litany of the acts that constitute homosexuality.
What is so huge here, is that by the church even coining the phrase “celibate homosexuals,” it admits and declares that homosexuality is more than just behavior. If it were only behavior, then the phrase “celibate homosexual” would have no meaning whatsoever. The same would, of course, be true of “celibate heterosexuals.” Either human sexuality is more than simply behavior, or those who are celibate would be described simply as “asexual.”
In the past, I have argued against the idea that, for most folks, their sexuality is a choice. I think, without any specific scientific backing to cite, that most folk are like me, in that they were of a general sexual type well prior to ever having sex or engaging in any sexual acts. As I say, heterosexuality chose me (I’m really happy that it did, because as much as I like women, I would be one seriously weird gay guy). Basically, it appears to me that the Vatican is heartily agreeing with me.
Obviously, one cannot infer science from a religious edict, so I am not claiming that this is proof of a genetic cause for sexual traits. I am not claiming anything that must be rooted in science, except that if it isn’t one thing, it must be another. (That is a little known scientific constant which, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just call Steve’s Law of Stuff.)
Also obvious, at least to me, is that if one cannot define sexuality as a behavior, there should be some other way to define it. If that definition doesn’t already exist, then one would think that there would be an active effort to work up such a definition.
In any case, we are back to some ethics issues. It makes perfectly good sense to hold someone responsible for what they do, for their behavior, but it is not ethical to punish someone for any condition over which they have no control. It is only slightly better, ethically speaking, to reward someone for things over which they have no control, unless in the rewarding you are unfairly denying someone else some reward. In that case, the ethics are still in the negative range and are reproachable.
Those conclusions being the case, the church seems to have a pretty serious ethics problem. In this day and age, could the church reasonably deny access to the seminary to those born with physical handicaps? Could it deny access to the seminary to those of a specific race with out hearing a withering volley of criticism? What if it used gender to deny access to...well, nevermind that.
I don’t personally see much wiggle room here. Oh, I suppose that I could be missing something, and that some of you reading this will be generous enough to clue me in. But if I have it correct, then either way, the church is wrong. If it is a behavior, whether it is a chosen one or not, then those choosing not to behave in that manner should not be punished (the celibate of course).
If it is something other than a behavior, then it is clearly not something that they (or we for that matter) chose, and it becomes like billions of other events in the universe that they (or we) have no control over.
If one takes the church’s apparent “logic” to the extreme, it makes perfectly good sense to hold musicians responsible for ugly cars or, to compliment a mathematician whenever the stars are especially bright.
It seems to me that, if there is a serious breech of ethics in the church, and clearly, I believe there is, then the church’s calls for ethical behavior in others rings hypocritical. Someone in Vatican City needs to get his own house in order.