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USCCB staff member retracts column linking Satan to origins of homosexuality

November 03, 2011

Daniel Avila, an attorney who serves as policy advisor for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has retracted a Boston archdiocesan newspaper column linking Satan with the origins of same-sex attractions.

Avila said:

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.

The archdiocesan newspaper column did not identify Avila as a USCCB staff member, instead noting that he “formerly served the Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts and now lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area.”

“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,” Avila said in his column. “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 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.”

Avila continued:

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.

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.

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.

In the passage that has perhaps provoked the most controversy--part of which has been frequently cited in other news stories--Avila said:

Disruptive imbalances in nature that thwart encoded processes point to supernatural actors who, unlike God, do not have the good of persons at heart. 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.

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.

“If in fact this analysis of causation and culpability is correct, then it opens new perspectives on the Church's teaching in this area,” he concluded. “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.”


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  • Posted by: djpeterson - Nov. 05, 2011 12:22 PM ET USA

    Many competent social scientists who are not compromised by the liberal or gay lobbies have shown that a homosexual condition is not innate. Human sexuality is (in large part) LEARNED and is developed in early childhood. In boys the issue is an early inability to identify with the male role model, in females it results mainly from abuse by or fear of men.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2011 4:56 PM ET USA

    The alternate magisterium is alive and well in Boston.

  • Posted by: timothy.op - Nov. 03, 2011 4:33 PM ET USA

    How on earth is it possible to engage in theological speculation on the aetiology of homosexuality and not adduce Romans 1, which clearly identifies, in a general way, the human abandonment of God (original sin) as the fundamental cause of ssa? Do we not know this to be the ultimate cause of every other disorder known to man?

  • Posted by: wojo425627 - Nov. 03, 2011 3:43 PM ET USA

    I question that supposition that god wants everyone happy. God wills that all men be saved, but happiness on earth is a somewhat transient thing. We as humans are also called to attain to holiness, to follow the commandments and to live moral lives. Priests monks and nuns have been living chaste lives for thousands of years, people with homosexual attractions are called to also. The 4th paragraph also presents a false dichotomy about god as the cause of same sex attraction.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2011 3:38 PM ET USA

    All of it is bizarre. "Obviously the whole thing got away from him" was my best, followed by "humankind". How kind of the bishops. Can they be recalled and then their organization not be created again? Please, Lord Jesus?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2011 3:23 PM ET USA

    Human nature is fallen. That's always worth remembering, whatever your sexuality is.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Nov. 03, 2011 1:29 PM ET USA

    I have an attraction to gossip. Does that mean that I have the "gossip gene" and that a life free of gossip would be cruel and unhappy? Give me a break, folks. I have seen too many high school kids play with homosexual behavior as if it had no consequences, either in this life or the next.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2011 11:59 AM ET USA

    Wow! He's an attorney and a member of the Bishops' staff and he believes in the devil. We need him; all the rest can go. One more thing: where does it say that God wants us to be happy? Assuming that means on this side of heaven.

  • Posted by: Hal - Nov. 03, 2011 11:34 AM ET USA

    Obviously Avila's sin was publishing this in Boston, which continues to be a disappointment, especially O'Malley. I think it does indicate the strength of the gay lobby in the Church and the willingness of the Catholic hierarchy in Ameirca to suppress any point of view inconsistent with the liberal sexual mores of a grt number of Catholic bishops. No wonder amny of the faithful have departed the Church.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2011 10:00 AM ET USA

    This is bizarre reasoning. So the earthquake in Haiti & the tsunami in Japan were caused by Satan? So genetic abherations that lead to Down Sydrom & other disorders are caused by Satan? There is yet no proof of a biological foundation for homosexuality, but even if it's true, Satan shouldn't be blamed every time biology goes wrong. Satan is certainly USING homosexuality & the gay-rights movement for his own ends, but that doesn't mean he CAUSED it.

  • Posted by: Adeodatus109 - Nov. 03, 2011 9:49 AM ET USA

    So, do our bishops deny the existence of Satan? Or do they deny his role as the Father of all Lies? So homosexuality is a lie, I don't see another option here...

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Nov. 03, 2011 7:54 AM ET USA

    This is just letting the other side set the terms of the debate, once again. If anything, Mr. Avila underrated the fallenness of man and its resulting concupiscence and overrated the direct responsibility of the devil. However, if the other side can claim that a good God causes same-sex attraction, then it is certainly within bounds for our side to suggest that it is caused by evil. Lastly, the Pilot is responsible for what it publishes, and should be ashamed to throw Mr. Avila "under the bus."