Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Helping Troubled Adolescents

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Helping Troubled Adolescents

Article excerpt

In 2003 City Journal, the influential publication of the Manhattan Institute, ran a much-discussed article on the widespread promotion (promotion is the necessary word) of homosexuality in public schools (see Marjorie King, "Queering the Schools," Spring 2003). Progay advocacy is of course advanced in the name of inclusiveness and justice. That this problem is not limited to public schools is evident in "Gay Adolescents in Catholic Schools," a long two-part article in Momentum, the official publication of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), by Father Robert Mattingly, S.J., of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.

That some adolescents in Catholic schools experience homosexual desires and that this is frequently the occasion of confusion and pain cannot be denied. The confusion and pain are no doubt very real and deserve honest discussion among educators. Such students are entitled to caring attention by teachers and counselors. Fr. Mattingly's analysis and recommendations, however, follow the line of gay advocacy organizations that have in recent years exercised such a great influence in our culture. Along the way, he seriously misrepresents the Church's teaching on homosexuality. He writes: "In 1986 the Church described homosexuality as 'intrinsically disordered' (CDF, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons). Phrases such as this may not sound pleasing to the ear, but must be seen as precise philosophical terms. The term 'intrinsic' confirms that this orientation is not chosen and that it is not changeable (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 566)." Wrong. In fact, the statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) says "homosexual acts" are "intrinsically disordered." The precise meaning of "intrinsic" is that the act is wrong in itself, quite apart from context, intention, or consequence. Nowhere in Catholic teaching-not in the CDF statement, nor in the Catechism, nor even in the much controverted and subsequently amended 1997 statement of the U.S. bishops, "Always Our Children"-is it taught that homosexual desires are unchangeable or represent, as Mattingly says, an "inborn disposition." (The pertinent sections of the Catechism unfortunately misrepresented by Fr. Mattingly are §§ 2357-2359.) Nor, it should be added, are Fr. Mattingly's claims warranted by scientific evidence.

Throughout his article, the author confuses homosexual desire with a gay "identity" that is to be publicly asserted and affirmed. His elaborate footnotes draw heavily and uncritically on "gay-friendly" research and advocacy literature. He stresses that gay adolescents need gay friends and suggests that, at least at first, such relationships not be sexual. "This is not to say," he adds, "that research holds that sexual relationships are always unhelpful, but if they occur they should come after the establishment of self-esteem-building friendships." "This position," he asserts, "does not contradict church teaching." Church teaching, by way of sharpest contrast, is this: "Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection" (Catechism § 2359). …

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