Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Theology Explains Same Sex Attraction

This is a male calico cat.  That makes it one unique and beautiful cat that happens to have a gender code of XXY.  In humans this is the genetic configuration for Klinefelter's syndrome.  I have met some beautiful humans with Klinefelter's.  Mr Avila's Halloween theology would blame this kind of beautiful gender confusion on the devil.

Here's the full article from the Boston Pilot written by Daniel Avila which has caused alot of angst on the Catholic inter net.  First heads up for me came from Bilgrimage.  I was so angry I had to find the whole thing.  Thank God for Google's cache feature.  I am hardly shocked that the editors of the Pilot saw fit to come to their senses and pull this article.  Or maybe it had nothing to do with sense.  As you read this remember Mr Avila is an associate director for policy and research for the USCCB.  Apparently his USCCB bosses were not happy with Mr Avila's research, which necessitated Mr Avila writing this retraction for yesterday's Pilot:

"Statements made in my column, 'Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction' of October 28, do not represent the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the column was not authorized for publication as is required policy for staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The teaching of Sacred Scripture and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church make it clear that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God and have inviolable dignity. Likewise, the Church proclaims the sanctity of marriage as the permanent, faithful, fruitful union of one man and one woman. The Church opposes, as I do too, all unjust discrimination and the violence against persons that unjust discrimination inspires. I deeply apologize for the hurt and confusion that this column has caused."  

Notice how Mr Avila could not bring himself to use the words homosexual or gay in this retraction, but he still found a way to make reference to the sanctity of marriage?  Mr Avila is certainly a single minded well paid true believing trooper--of some sort.  On to the reason for the retraction with my own commentary included:

Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction
Daniel Avila
Posted: 10/28/2011

More than once 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.  ('Same sex attractions' are never about real relationships, never about love, and always and everywhere about lustful perverted sexual acts. These same lustful attractions and sexual acts are rarely referenced when it comes to heterosexuals. They too engage in their share of lusts and deviant sexual behaviors. Behaviors which would certainly qualify to be designated 'opposite sex attractions' in exact the same sense Mr Avila uses for gays.)

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 the very least tragically mistaken about what God wants. 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.

The best natural evidence of what God causes and wants for us is our genetic code. Science has isolated certain genetic combinations that are typical to human creation and development. The most basic and the first genetic expression is that which occurs at our conception, when at the same time our individual human life begins our sexual identity as male or female begins. That which is genetically encoded, for believers, points to a codifier, and communicates through its design the codifier's intent. Interpreting from a spiritual perspective the genetic code which supplies our sexual difference, we have to conclude that God wants us to be male or female. (Mr Avila must not know about infertile male calico cats or humans with Klinefelters, or about a fairly large number of other gender or intersex syndromes.)

No one has found a "gay gene." Identical twins are always, of course, the same sex, providing further proof of male and female genes. If there was a gay gene, then when one twin exhibits same-sex attraction, his or her identical sibling should too. But that is not the case. The incidence of finding identical twins with identical same-sex attraction is relatively rare and certainly not anywhere near one hundred percent. Something other than the hardwiring found in the genetic code must explain the variance. (It would be nice if twin studies yielded such black and white results on anything, but the fact is they don't. Twins are precisely the reason  Mr Avila is not completely correct about our individual lives beginning at conception---twinning occurs two or three days after conception.)

So what causes the inclination to same-sex attraction if it appears early and involuntarily and "who," if anyone, is responsible? In determining the answer to the "what" question, the most widely accepted scientific hypothesis points to random imbalances in maternal hormone levels and identifies their disruptive prenatal effects on fetal development as the likely and major cause.

The most recent and most comprehensive discussion of this research is found in a book published earlier this year by a scientist who also happens to be a gay-rights advocate. Even though it discounts other environmental factors that other scientists believe also may play a role, Simon LeVay's publication, "Gay, Straight and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Attraction" is worth the read.

LeVay is not interested in the "who" question and describes same-sex attraction as just a variation among other human inclinations. Catholics do not have the luxury of being materialists. We look for ultimate explanations that transcend the strictly physical world and that stretch beyond our limited ability to mold and reshape reality as we know it. Disruptive imbalances in nature that thwart encoded processes point to supernatural actors who, unlike God, do not have the good of persons at heart. (And some Catholics have to invent these ultimate explanations when the real ones don't fit their preconceived ideas.)

In other words, 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 as people of faith look back to Scripture's account of those angels who rebelled and fell from grace. In their anger against God, these malcontents prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. They continue to do all they can to mar, distort and destroy God's handiwork. (The ubiquitous sneaky 'we' is used here to bolster Mr Avila's nonsensical ideas.  Most of us as people of faith, don't blame natural disasters on the devil.)

Therefore, 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. (Well all righty then, but if God hadn't given Lucifer free will we wouldn't be in this mess.  It's still all God's fault. So there.)

If in fact this analysis of causation and culpability is correct, then it opens new perspectives on the Church's teaching in this area. 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. Furthermore, 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. Ultimately, an accurate attribution of responsibility for same-sex attraction frees us to consider more fully the urgent question of why sexual difference matters so much to God. These matters will be addressed in my next column. (Why do I think there won't be a next column?)

Daniel Avila formerly served the Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts and now lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area.


If I take Mr Avila's thinking to its logical conclusion, the devil must be responsible for every single genetic and intrauterine environmental deviation from the norm.  Forget what we actually know about the genesis of these conditions, the devil did it.  Maybe the devil is also responsible for the right hand side of the Bell Curve. That unique mathematical relationship which describes the pattern of distribution for every human attribute--except for wealth distribution which is an "L" curve.  Where does the devil's machinations actually begin and end?  Or does Mr Avila want me to believe it's only in the realm of 'same sex attraction' that the devil has messed with God's scheme of things and the devil has nothing to do with the imbalance in wealth distribution?

I certainly can see where the Pilot felt the need to pull this article, but the cynic in me thinks this whole thing is following a script. A very sick script.  I can't wait to see if there is going to be a second installment.  I actually am curious as to how Mr Avila will use his demonic insight to consider more fully why sexual difference means so much to a sexless genderless God who utterly transcends creation and who Catholic scripture defines as Love.  Can't wait.


  1. Colleen, you can be entirely too kind sometimes. That's why you have the blog and I'm just a commenter. Because this is how I would have commented in one spot:

    Quote from the article:
    That which is genetically encoded, for believers, points to a codifier, and communicates through its design the codifier's intent.
    My comment:
    That must be the reason! The Great CodeMonkey did it! [followed by some sort of coded eye-rolling]

    And as for the next article to be written by Mr. Avila, I'd love to see the contortions of logic and compassion he must go through to insist God really does care about sex and sexuality in His human creation above and beyond all else...

  2. I've penned something about this myself, but I have EXCEPTIONAL difficulty believing that a director of policy and research for the USCCB would have an article published in official Church media without having checked with his superiors first.

    I find it far more plausible that the prelates in the USCCB said it was fine (quite possibly without reading it in full) only to wake up to a media frenzy about this article and had to hang Dr. Avila out to dry.

    In general, though, I find that this sort of rhetoric pushes my limits of being understanding and patient.

  3. Does Avila not seem to know he's given an excuse to every nutcase out there to continue hating on gay citizens? The Pilot should never have published this infuriating, hateful article. BTW, kudos on providing the photo of the handsome male calico. I have a pretty torbie girl and her mackerel tabby brother in my home.

  4. Tim, I completely agree with your take on the prelates at the USCCB.

    Who is the publisher of the Pilot? It's standard procedure for the ordinary to have this position. So the Publisher of the Pilot is Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley.

    This pains me because some of the most caring religious and pastoral people I know on gay and lesbian issues are the Franciscans.

    I fear that O'Malley has caught the hierarchical disease that infects so many of the bishops of this country and renders their work as pastoral people no more than hirelings.

  5. wild, on Bill's blog I commented that Cardinal Sean O'Malley has sunk to the gutter in my estimation, and like you that pains me.

    Kathy, I think Avila is well aware of that fact which is why I think this is scripted and terribly sick. This also speaks to Tim's point. I don't believe this scenario played out accidentally and that is really the demonic aspect of this whole story.

    T'pel, as you can see I save my angry stuff for the comments part of this blog.k

  6. Colleen-I think you are right about Avila realizing how damaging his remarks are, and not caring about the real world consequences. O'Malley has said stupid things before, when he criticized feminism, feminists, and refused to allow women to be included in the Holy Thursday foot washing ceremony several years ago. I hope the Pilot gets a lot of negative letters in response to the Avila article. It is very hateful to those of us who love our gay friends and family members. Avila ought to be reminded that history is replete with examples of popes, cardinals, bishops and other clergy who kept mistresses, some male lovers, and had large families to provide financial support with Church incomes. Does Alexander VI not ring a bell with him? He had a large family, sons and at least one daughter to marry off (this was Lucrezia) and scuttlebutt had it that there were "seven devils at his bedside." Personally I am skeptical of that, but he did die alone of malaria, and by the time they buried Alexander VI, his corpse had already begun to rot.

  7. Just sickening. I think of how poor children were abandoned or shunned for blindness, cleft-palate, cerebral palsy and other conditions because they, the children, were thought to be the work of the devil. Is this the medieval church that some want to return to?

    The starkness of contrast for most of us is in the religious imagining of any physical human flaw to be the responsibility of some unseen devils. How different a world that is from one where science, or in these cases, medical science predominates. We can operate on cataracts to cure blindness. We can destroy the insect vector that causes so many cases of river blindness. Cleft palates can be surgically corrected at birth or shortly thereafter. (Some can be corrected before birth.) Cerebral Palsy is more difficult, but these are God's children, and treatment can help many but not all. Progressive Catholics certainly do not believe it is divine retribution for the original sin of the child, or the parents' sin, do we?


    I have considered that there might be a genetic component to male homosexuality but is it a "defect"? (I suppose it might be if viewed from the perspective of reproductive success.)

    The argument for sexual happiness seems pretty weak. Heterosexuals commit mortal sin when thinking of sex lustfully. They commit mortal sin when masturbating, condemning almost everyone past the age of puberty. They commit mortal sin whenever engaged in sexual activity outside the Church's narrowly defined repertoire of officially sanctioned marital reproductive acts. The whole idea of achieving heterosexual fulfillment seems outside the bounds of the Catholic Church.

    Church teachings that are based upon polemic reasoning of white or black allow no shades of gray. Too many sociopaths and perverts find comfort in a church which equates the moral offense of masturbation to the sexual abuse of minor children.


  8. "the urgent question of why sexual difference matters so much to God" - this is just so wrong on so many levels it leaves me exasperated. Urgent to whom? What hubris to presume that such concerns and arguments matter to a Supreme Being on the one hand or that such issues can matter at all to our god-construct on the other.

  9. What an awful article. More demonization of gay people and others. Or should I say the same sex attracted. For some reason that expression sticks in my throat. Thank you for your welcome comments.


  10. Colleen, I checked back on your comment at Bill's blog. My goodness! My gaydar went off at that picture Bill put up, I presume, of Avila. Self loathing gay? I'll bet on that.

  11. p2p, your comment reminded me of this passage from John's Gospel--Chapter 9:

    "As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

    Substitute 'gay' for 'blind' and the truth is the same. It's time we stopped looking for the devil and started looking for the works of God in gay human beings. How many of us owe some part of our lives to the gay men and women who work in the healing or spiritual fields? I think it's this insistence on looking for the wrong in the existence of gay people that so sickens me.

  12. wild, that's not a photo of Avila on Bill's blog. It's a photo of a young openly gay man-Stuart Walker- burned to death in Scotland just over a week ago. Most likely a hate crime, but not yet declared so by local authorities. Jayden Cameron has been following the story over at Gay Mystic.

  13. Thanks, for the correction. I am late to this story and, of course, busy about many crazy things.

  14. I think that we might well look at Avill'a wild ideas of genetic explanation as a projection of his as well as the Episcopacies own dark sides. I remember my own son telling me how awful his math teacher was and when I visited the man found a very kind, considerate, very well educated teacher. My son was putting into him his own feelings of being awful at math because he was not spending the time to do his home studies. So for those who look for the devil in everyone else perhaps a little soul searching of self would be in order and that includes the very top of the hierarchy of the RCC. I suspect this article was pulled more because of the uproar it caused in educated catholic people, not because the Bishops got together and took a vote. This why it is so important to continue to speak reason and logic to very poor intellectual thought that projects a fearful self rather than an erudite thinker. dennis

  15. Who/what is Avila blaming really? Not what everyone so far as I have read points to--not even the devil, but the maternal environment, the womb, Mommy. As usual. Of course, what's truly nonsensical in Avila's screed is that gender is not determined until around the 7th week after conception when the androgen receptors are activated:

    "Testes formation: During mammalian development, the GONADS are at first capable of becoming EITHER OVARIES OR TESTES (my emphasis).[1] In humans, starting at about week 4 the gonadal rudiments are present within the intermediate mesoderm adjacent to the developing kidneys. At about week 6, epithelial sex cords develop within the forming testes and incorporate the germ cells as they migrate into the gonads. In males, certain Y chromosome genes, particularly SRY, control development of the male phenotype, including conversion of the early bipotential gonad into testes. In males, the sex cords fully invade the developing gonads." [androgen receptors--Wikipedia]

    What's truly quaint and antiquated in Mr. Avila's thinking is his tantamount equating of science and the devil. I thought that went out with Dr. Faustus and his conjuring of Mephistopholes.

    Of course, what everyone seems to "get wrong" is that the Roman Catholic church fathers ever thought that anyone, whatever their gender preferences should enjoy sex--and THAT'S what I read in Mr. Avila's piece--his jes' plain agin' lust and well within ancient tradition that sex for fun is a bad thing.

  16. Just want to say that I came across this blog from Vox Nova about a month ago and I've found the posts and comments made here very interesting. I've managed to read through most of your archives ,colkoch, and I've found it stimulating reading. Coming from a conservative Catholic background, I've grown pretty weary of the steady drumbeat of sermonizing against against gays, contraception, abortion etc. AKA "pelvic issues" as one blogger I've heard refer to them. Your blog has been helpful in articulating another point of view on why the hierarchy takes such a hard stance on these issues.

  17. Wow. Just... Wow. I did NOT see this coming...

  18. "If I take Mr Avila's thinking to its logical conclusion, the devil must be responsible for every single genetic and intrauterine environmental deviation from the norm."

    Precisely, Colleen. That is one of the most pernicious logical consequences of his wildly illogical and dangerous argument.

    When you start demonizing human beings this way, in their very nature (and I use the term "demonizing" very precisely here), you open the door to a process of demonization that can eventually target anyone.

    The Nazis started with the Jews. But look how little time it took them to move on to the mentally and physically challenged, to gays, to Slavs, to Gypsies, etc.

    What was Avila thinking?!

  19. Avila did the right thing by resigning.

    I wonder how close this piece was to the actual thoughts of those at the USCCB. There is a cultural war against gays in the USA which is quite unlike anywhere else in the world.


  20. I agree with you, Bill. Great response.


  21. Just guessing that there are enough gay staffers of the USCCB (not to mention the members) that Avila's bigotry was just too much for them to sanction.

  22. I think this is what is really going on. It's a comment left on the NCR article noting Avila's resignation. I so agree with this comment.

    Submitted by Athanasius O'Connell OSB (not verified) on Nov. 04, 2011. (NCR)

    I think Avila was sacrificed by the people who put him up to writing this piece in the first place. They thought they'd run this flag up the pole to see who would salute it and found the reaction wasn't quite what they had expected and hauled it down. Then to distance themselves from this PR disaster, they fired Avila. Avila's views are all too representative of the wave of superstition and gay-baiting which reactionary clergy have indulged in of late.

    As the Church hierarchy becomes increasingly irrelevant to the life of the Church, we find them retreating more and more into some role more reminiscent of witch doctors and shamans. They keep shaking the rattles, but aren't able to conjure up the demons anyone is prepared to worship.

    Educated, caring, and thoughtful Catholics are dismissing the religious leadership of the Church and so they should. The worthless clerical elites are descending more and more into the gutter of political partisanship, pitting groups against groups, and now seem inseparable from their neo-fascist ,evangelical Protestant counterparts. I think it was Avila's role to appeal to that element, but it misfired.

  23. "Therefore, 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."

    ## Nonsense. And dangerous nonsense. That is disgraceful. Sorry, but this Cat is spitting mad.

    "Furthermore, 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."

    ## To say of being gay that "Satandunnit", will merely acheive the wonderful end of making gay people even more hated & feared - & endangered - than they are already. They will be pointed out as devil-worshippers, or as possessed, or some such thing. Avila's remarks are appallingly irresponsible.

    "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."

    ## Why is it out of the question that God should bless & approve & strengthen gay unions ? All sorts of things were out of the question in the OT, that are part of Christian life in the NT.

  24. Colleen, thank you for digging up and sharing Avila's original article...I was only able to see the retraction...and my heartfelt THANKS to you and ALL THE PEOPLE who contributed to this stream of comments today...I think that all of us gay people no matter how strong and positive we feel about ourselves still feel a painful psychic blow from people like Avila who are given space by Bishops in diocesan newspapers to spew their medieval ignorance and hatred about gay is comforting to know that there are people like yourselves out there who are sensible and supportive and care about how gay people are treated....Michael Ferri