Gingrich on homosexuality, celibacy.
In a stance that seems designed to tick off almost everybody, GOP presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich compared the “choice” for homosexuality to the “choice” for celibacy. Sigh…who catechized this man?
He gets the science right, gotta give him that. Recent studies point to a combination of genetics and environment as the source of sexual orientation, (gay or straight.) This, of course, doesn’t make sexual orientation a choice. Then he said people have a range of choices around sexual activity–also right.
So when pushed by a reporter at the DesMoines Register, “So a person can then choose to be straight?” the candidate said,
Look, people choose to be celibate. People choose many things in life. You know, there is a bias in favor of non-celibacy. It’s part of how the species procreates. And yet there is a substantial amount of people who choose celibacy as a religious vocation or for other reasons.
OK, let’s sort this out. Had Newt said “Gay sex is unnatural, so all gay people should endeavor to live lives of celibate chastity,” he’d be on solid RC ground. But the unnuanced comparison to celibacy doesn’t work. First, in RC teaching we think the ability to live celibate life peacefully is a gift, not a mere choice. Stories abound of people trying to live the life who just can’t. Sexual orientation, on the other hand, is experienced as a given, a deeply rooted aspect of our incarnate humanity. I’d say that sexual orientation is a gift, but it is universal–everybody’s sexuality is a gift, which THEN each person discerns how to respond to, in questions like that of whether that gift of sexuality came bundled with the gift of celibacy also. Newt’s confusion was to parallel two questions–orientation and celibacy–that simply are not parallel, but sequential.
This is not unlike the earlier kerfuffle when Newt said life begins at implantation. Many Christians of good will hold this position, but it is incompatible with Catholic doctrine at present. In the fray, he quickly revised his opinion for a purist life-at-conception stance. Again–who catechized this man?
Of course, the church’s stance on sexuality requires a presumption of natural heterosexuality, an assumption that homosexual orientation is a disordered state, since sexuality is naturally ordered to procreation. The magisterium then tosses in the moral evaluation: homosexual orientation is a more or less strong inclination to serious moral evil–it’s ok to be gay, but never to express one’s orientation in an actual sexual relationship. Newt could also have said that, but didn’t.
I kind of wish he had, actually. Few really get the Catholic two-step that orientation is blameless, but act is always evil. That’s where I think the best discussion can come–is it really the case that all gay couples are acting out a grave evil? The gay couples I know seem to be people striving their best to live lives of faithful love–just like most straight couples I know. Doesn’t sound like evil to me.
But as to Newt: the gentlest interpretation I can come up with is that Newt’s stance on matters of sexual orientation has some internal tensions that he might work on.