Is the Devil responsible for turning people gay? A few Catholics may think so.
Massachusetts attorney Daniel Avila, who served as policy advisor for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), penned an October 28, 2011 column in The Pilot, the Boston Archdiocesan newspaper. His article, “Some Fundamental Questions on Same-Sex Attraction,” was retracted a few days later after a furious storm of protest. Avila resigned his position at USCCB.
Avila ignited a firestorm when he wrote, “the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the Devil. Any time natural disasters occur, we…people of faith look back to Scripture’s account of…angels who rebelled and fell from grace. In their anger against God, these macontents prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. They continue to do all they can to mar, distort and destroy God’s handiwork.”
Immediately after the article ran, the liberal Catholic Paulist Center of Boston sent The Boston Pilot an open letter asking other Catholics to boycott the newspaper. “The highly questionable theology of this writer…directly and intentionally causes pain for gay Catholics, their families, especially their mothers, their friends and their worship communities. The article has no scriptural basis, vague Catholic theological constructs, and no connection with the Gospel of Christ.”
“We have removed this issue of The Pilot from the Paulist Center and will not be offering part II of this article. We do not want to support Mr. Avila inflicting unnecessary unnecessary and undeserved pain on members of our congregation.”
Daniel Avila began his October 28, 2011 column, “Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction” – by musing about a situation many gay and lesbian Catholics and their supporters have also articulated: “More than once,” Avila started, “I have heard from or about Catholics upset with the Church for its insistence that sexual relations be limited to marriage between husband and wife. Does not this moral rule force people with same-sex attraction into lives of loneliness? If they are born that way, then why should they be punished by a restriction that does not account for their pre-existing condition? God wants everyone to be happy, and for persons with same-sex attraction is not their happiness to be found in the fulfillment of that attraction? Some seek to change the Church’s teaching on marriage or have left the Church because of it. They believe either that God through the Church ignores the needs of people or that the Church misunderstands what God desires.”
“That is, if God causes same-sex attraction, and yet commands that it not be satisfied, then this is divine cruelty. Or, if God causes same-sex attraction, then it must be the divine will that those with the attraction should act on it and it is the Church that is being cruel in its teaching or at least tragically mistaken about what God wants.”
Then, Avila drops his bomb…..”In either case, the belief that the Church is wrong on this issue starts from a faulty premise. God does not cause same-sex attraction….Disruptive imbalances in nature that thwart encoded processes point to supernatural actors who, unlike God, do not have the good of persons at heart.”
He finishes up: “…whenever natural causes disturb otherwise typical biological development, leading to the personally unchosen beginnings of same-sex attraction, the ultimate responsibility, on a theological level, is and should be imputed to the evil one, not God. Applying this aspect of Catholic belief to interpret the scientific data makes more sense because it does not place God in the awkward position of blessing two mutually incompatible realities–sexual difference and same-sex attraction..Being born with an inclination which originates in a manner outside of one’s control is not sufficient proof that the condition is caused by God or that its satisfaction meets God’s purpose. Further, a proper understanding of who is really at fault should deepen our compassion towards those who experience same-sex attraction and inform our response to the question of loneliness.”
Some ordinary Catholics weighed in on Avila’s remarks. Patrick O’Malley wrote: “Satan isn’t responsible for people being gay. Satan is responsible for:-pedophile priests raping thousands of children (in the United States alone); -bishops moving more pedophiles to places where they raped more children; -bishops covering up; -bishops lying about it; -Catholics shunning the victims. Satan is also responsible for making people think that God hates gays more than God hates child rapists and liars in His church.”
Another writer observed: “He’s (Avila) leading to an eliminationist doctrine. If gay people are created by satan, therefore, satanic, then it is ok to view them as sub-human vermin andfire up the nazi ovens again. Bigots always attempt to dehumanize the ‘other’ by attributing qualities to the ‘other’ the bigot does not himself possess. That makes it easy to justify any form of discrimination to outright killing. What a bigot never comprehends, is that my attempting to dehumanize another, he only succeeds in dehumanizing himself. That might be called a sin. On a positive note, his article many have caused some other heretofore anti-gay catholics to think about the road they are traveling on. It is good to see someone in the catholic organization reaffirm the dignity of all people gay or not, and this guy get the boot.”
However, Avila has gotten to the core of the argument, as David Gibson points out at Commonweal dot com: “On a somewhat more serious note, I wonder if this Avila kerfuffle and the anxious reactions of his defenders is symptomatic of a segment of the church that is painted into a corner on homosexuality. As evidence grows of an innate aspect of being gay, as is being straight, it provides a huge challenge to a church that preaches the innate dignity of each person. The responses from those who cannot square this circle seem to be to make arguments from pseudo-science that attempt to argue away the gay, while another fallback is to say that homosexuality is a thing but homosexuals cannot be themselves in the way every other person can be. They are in a straitjacket of celibacy, rather than receiving that as a gift, and yet for many (in the Vatican and elsewhere) they should not even be ordained celibates. This requires a cognitive dissonance, or understandably leads to a kind of panic, I think, that makes some look foolish when they try to reconcile the churchâ€™s best instincts with its worst, and perforce use bad theology or science or both to do so.”