“Why would anyone choose to be called ‘intrinsically disordered’”?
This question was asked by Ms. Elaine McMahon, president of the Ontario Catholic Teachers Association as part of a presentation she gave to the Standing Committee on Social Policy of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The Committee received the input of various groups regarding two bills addressing bullying in schools. A large focus of this conversation has revolved around bullying based on sexual orientation and whether or not student groups entitled “Gay Straight Alliances” are a necessary response to such bullying.
Ms. McMahon and OECTA support the creation of Gay Straight Alliances. Her position differs from that of the Assembly of Ontario Bishops who have argued for other strategies to address the same problem. Her question is clearly meant to be rhetorical – of course no one chooses to be called “intrinsically disordered.” Since the phrase “intrinsically disordered” appears in a variety of Church documents in reference to the homosexual orientation, one can assume the target of her comments is official Church teaching.
In her short sentence there are three implied statements, all of which misrepresent what the Church really teaches on the matter.
- The Catholic Church believes sexual orientation is chosen.
- The Catholic Church calls homosexual’s “intrinsically disordered”
- The label “intrinsically disordered” is distinct for homosexuals.
First, the Catechism states that the origin of Homosexuality is “largely unexplained” and same sex attractions are “a trial” for many who experience them (par. 2357, 2358). Nowhere does the Church argue that the orientation is normally chosen.
Second, the Church speaks of homosexual persons no differently than other persons. They are created in God’s image and likeness and called to sanctity . The document that Ms. Mahon is most likely referring to, speaks of homosexual actions as “intrinsically disordered” – not homosexual persons . This is an important distinction. Not all homosexuals are sexually active. Even if they are, sin does not destroy the fundamental goodness of the person. A convicted criminal is still his mother’s son. We are still God’s children, even if we are sinners.
Third, homosexual actions are by no means the only acts that the Church considers disordered. A simply word search will show you that the Catechism lists a lot of things as “disordered”: lust (2351), masturbation (2352), greed (2424), lying and calumny (1753). In most cases, the term simply describes our fallen passions and the general struggle against sin (37, 339, 1394, 1768, 1863). The phrase is by no means specific to the question of homosexuality. All of us suffer from a fallen human condition. We all have desires that are not in accordance with God’s law or the full flourishing of our human nature. Such desires the Church calls “disordered.”
The current conversation on bullying evokes strong passions. These passions have clouded reasonable conversation on the issue. Anger and fear make us assume the worse of our opponents. Ms. Mahon’s sensitivity to the issue of bullying has led her to imagine a bully who does not exist.