In a recent interview, James Martin, S.J., clearly implied (by repeating gay-advocacy talking-points) that language in “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” directly contributes to the high level of teen suicides among LGBT young people.
[Interviewer] Well the people who’ve seen your book or know something about you are complaining that you want to rewrite some of the Catechism to differently ordered, can you speak about that. [Martin] Yeah, well part of the Catechism says that homosexual people are objectively disordered; their actions are objectively disordered and they themselves are intrinsically disordered. And so basically what I’m saying in the book is you know we need to look at how that language is received by people and heard by people and basically all I’m saying is that there are several bishops who said that that wording needs to be looked at. And now imagine someone telling you – you are intrinsically disordered, I mean how would that make you feel? [Interviewer] It’s a tough phrase. [Martin] I think it’s more than that. I was giving a talk in Washington and the mother of a gay boy came up to me, a fourteen-year-old young man, and said to me, I put this in a revised version of my book that’s coming out in a couple months, this is a quote: Do people understand what that kind of language could do to a young person? It could destroy him. [Interviewer] Wow. [Martin] What the book says is we need to listen to that, that’s all the books says. What does that mean? Can we listen to that mother? And its true. I mean LGBT youths are five times, five times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids. Five times.
This argument, which attempts to find a correlation linking a lack of institutional and societal acceptance and the disparity between homosexuals and heterosexuals with regards to mental health issues, has repeatedly been made by several LGBT advocates and pro-gay Catholic ministries.
For example, Javier Plasencia and his wife Martha started the “Always Our Children” ministry for the parents of “gay” children in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. On the official Catholic Ministry for Lesbian and Gay Persons (CMLGP) web-site, Javier and Martha Plascencia are listed as the contacts under “Parent Support Groups.” In a video for the Jesuit- run Ignatian News, the Plasencias were interviewed about their “gay” son and their ministry; Martha said that: “The language in the Catechism has to change. That word ‘intrinsically disordered,’ my son is not intrinsically disordered. And the bullets from the Catechism, they can harm a lot of children – I mean to the extent of suicide.”
Gay advocate Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center, who was raised a Catholic, has criticized the Catechism for what he judges as “homophobic expressions” which he claims have contributed to increased homelessness and suicide among LGBT youth. As a result, the Ali Forney Center produced a video entitled “It’s Not a Sin.” According to Siciliano:
As a Roman Catholic, I am particularly horrified by the homophobic expressions of our Catechism, which is the mechanism by which the teachings of the Church are conveyed. It’s stance towards homosexual persons makes no sense. While it indicates that homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” its’s stance towards “homosexual acts” utterly contradicts this with categorical condemnation that is anything but respectful or compassionate. The Catechism describes homosexual acts as being a “grave depravity,” as being “intrinsically disordered,” as being against the law of nature, and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”
I hope that this video will raise urgent moral questions for us Catholics. How do we stop being complicit in the harm to innumerable LGBT youths done by the teachings of our Church? How do we create an environment in our parishes and our schools that help parents love and accept their LGBT children? How do we protect children from being harmed by homophobic teachings in churches, schools, religious education programs?
As a former homosexual, I have met and conversed with thousands of “gay” men and women, many of whom were brought-up as Catholics and or attended Catholic schools as children, but I have never met a single person who said that a priest, deacon, or lay minister called them “intrinsically disordered;” or for that matter – even mentioned what the Catechism says about homosexuality. In fact, the only individuals that discuss these so-called problematic terms are gay Catholic activists and the Catholic parents of LGBT children.
Overall, the most vocal opponents of Church teachings pertaining to homosexuality are the militant mothers of gay sons. Usually, the sons are separated from the Church, and they themselves are comfortable with that decision, but the parents become angry and bitter because the Church supposedly rejected their child. The dissident group Fortunate Families, which has received support from several US Catholic Bishops, including former USCCB President Archbishop Wilton Gregory, serves as a sort of clearing-house for the submitted stories which typically detail how a family changed their opinion of Church teachings once a son, daughter, brother or sister or some other close relative “came-out” as a “gay.”
“Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children’s lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children…”
While the extraordinary high rates of homelessness and suicide among LGBT youth are incredibly troubling, I think it is also unhelpful and dangerous to simply ascribe this problem to discrimination, intolerance, familial unacceptance, and religious bigotry. While those problems certainly exist, there is a larger issue of untreated mental illness with those in the LGBT community which I believe is actually responsible for much of the unneeded suffering. Only, LGBT activists will not address this pervasive problem because of the other questions it possibly raises; such as the actual origins of homosexuality and whether legislation and social engineering are the keys to greater flourishing and happiness among those in the LGBT community.
As someone who endured oftentimes merciless bullying and teasing as a boy, because of my perceived sexual orientation, and as a young man who did not experience parental acceptance, I can testify that far more traumatic events occurred once I “came-out” and entered the gay male community. The hyper-sexualization, the preponderance of disease, and the pain caused by engaging in sexual acts which are physiologically harmful – made every disappointment and sorrow from childhood seem rather insignificant in comparison. I too once attempted to commit suicide, not because I was harassed as a boy, but after I found life as an adult “gay” man so incredibly unfulfilling. At least, in my case, it didn’t get better. (See the ground-breaking essay by Michael Hobbes: “The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness;” warning graphic content.)
Even the existence of persistent discrimination and oppression does not necessarily expedite an increase in suicides: for example, the suicide rate for African Americans is 70% lower than that of the non-Hispanic white population.
James Martin is worried about the Catechism “destroying” a young “gay” man or woman; but here are the real issues facing those same precious souls; indeed, LGBT youths are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals, but there are also many other disparities:
- LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.
- Gay and lesbian people reported more acute mental health symptoms than heterosexual people and their general mental health also was worse.
- Gay and bisexual men were more likely than heterosexual men to be diagnosed with at least one of the five mental health disorders…In particular, gay and bisexual men were 3.0 times more likely to meet criteria for major depression and 4.7 times more likely to meet criteria for a panic disorder than were heterosexual men. Further, nearly 20% of gay–bisexual men overall were comorbid for two or more disorders…a prevalence exceeding that seen among heterosexual men.
- Forty-six percent of the homosexual men in contrast to 7% of the heterosexual men reported homosexual molestation. Twenty-two percent of lesbian women in contrast to 1% of heterosexual women reported homosexual molestation.
- 80 percent of gay and bisexual men, compared to 20 percent of heterosexual women, who are sexually abused report experiencing “severe” abuse, often involving violence.
- Gay men have a 140-fold higher risk for newly diagnosed HIV and syphilis compared with heterosexual men.
- The risk of anal cancer is about 17 times higher in sexually active gay and bisexual men than in men who have sex only with women.
- Gay and transgender people smoke tobacco up to 200 percent more than their heterosexual and nontransgender peers.
- Twenty-five percent of gay and transgender people abuse alcohol, compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population.
- Men who have sex with men are 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana than men who do not have sex with men.
These men also are 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines than men who do not have sex with men.
They are also 9.5 times more likely to use heroin than men who do not have sex with men.
In nations with a long history of highly progressive LGBT acceptance and tolerance, significant mental health disparities between homosexuals and heterosexuals persist; in the Netherlands, the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage: “homosexual Dutch men have much higher rates of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and suicide attempts than heterosexual Dutch men.” And in Sweden, where the Constitution was amended to include prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, even same-sex married individuals continue to exhibit increased rates of suicidal behavior: “Among same-sex married men the suicide risk was nearly three-fold greater as compared to different-sex married.”