Why Words Matter When It Comes to Homosexuality?

Why Words Matter When It Comes to Homosexuality?

shutterstock image


We can all agree that gaining understanding is at a premium when it comes to the topic of homosexuality. So what are we to make of (the words) “homosexual” and “gay”? Are these two words alike? Are they synonymous in meaning? Perhaps they are. Then again, there are such differences in people’s minds when they hear, and speak, and write these words that we do well to examine what we mean when we use each.

The difference between “homosexuality” and “gay” begins not in meaning, but in the kind of word that each is. (This is not a reference to the difference between a noun and an adjective, for we could equally have chosen the adjectival form of “homosexuality.”) The difference between “homosexuality” and “gay” has to do with what is formal (i.e., professional) and what is informal (i.e., common). “Homosexuality” is a professional word—that is, a word suited to a profession. Such words are distinguished by what they convey: (meaning marked by) precision, technicality, official standing. Professional words are usually words that are written. “Gay” is not a professional word. It is an informal word, enjoying altogether popular use. Informal words are common and comfortable, as befits conversation. They have discourse value, as it were. But they are unreliable words when it comes to conveying meaning that is clear, catholic, and abiding.

“Homosexuality” is found in the Catholic Catechism, while “gay” is not. This fact is not surprising since the Catechism contains the official (read: professional) teachings of the Church. Other professions—notably, psychiatry—make use of “homosexuality” in their official documents, and forebear using the colloquial term “gay.” In sum, the most basic reason for the asymmetry between “homosexuality” and “gay” is the difference in the kind of word that each is. One is formal, the other informal.

On to more complex considerations, the likes of which begin in the question of the actual meaning of each word. The Catholic Church’s understanding—which is the understanding that really concerns us—of what is meant by “homosexuality” is as follows:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. (Catechism, #2357)

While being something of an intellectual abstraction, the word “homosexuality” denotes one thing substantially, one phenomenon of human experience: same-gender eroticism. Granted, the Church distinguishes the aspects of this one thing: “relations” means activity, as Church usage has always indicated; by “sexual” in “sexual attraction” means erotic; “sex” in “same sex” means gender (i.e., male or female). To be sure, these distinctions are helpful in revealing the complexity of the one thing; they are not helpful if disconnected from each other. That is, the distinctions lead to confusion if taken to mean that homosexuality is several things. It is not. In sum, (for the Church) what is meant by “homosexuality” is erotic activity—sourced in an erotic attraction—between two same-gender individuals. Thus do we see in the Church’s sense of “homosexuality” that this word points to one thing (ad rem), even as this “one thing” can be distinguished as action at its end point and as attraction at its source.

The Church is in the business of discerning meaning and gauging value regarding human life and experience. What, then, is the meaning and value of homosexuality? In a word, the Church’s philosophical sense of homosexuality is that it is “disordered”—no matter whether we are speaking of its source or of its endpoint—disordered, because it is opposed to the ordering of the human being in the image of God. Morally speaking, the Church ascribes uniformly negative value to homosexuality, which is wrongdoing as regards activity, and temptation as regards attraction. In sum, for the Church there is nothing of goodness regarding homosexuality, i.e., nothing of goodness in any distinguishable aspect of it, and nothing of goodness in its integral form.

Before we leave these reflections about “homosexuality” as the Church understands the word, it is necessary to affirm three points:

  • The Church never demeans a person under the influence of homosexuality. That is, the Church is always able to see the goodness of “the person” even as this person may be caught up in homosexual thoughts, words, and actions. To the Church, this person is always other and more than the homosexuality that may be a pronounced feature of his existence.
  • Whenever the Church uses (the word) “dignity” in the context of homosexuality, she is positing something that inheres in a person qua person, even as this person is under the influence of homosexuality. The Church never affirms or implies that there is anything of dignity in homosexuality itself. Hence, for the Church to oppose homosexuality is not, thereby, to oppose human dignity.
  • The Church’s understanding of what is meant by “homosexuality” is tightly woven, centering on same-gender eroticism. For the Church, there is no expanded meaning of the word, no meaning apart from this central sense. The importance of the Church’s circumscribed meaning cannot be overstated. Inestimable confusion descends whenever homosexuality is thought to imply something positive in the order of dignity, or aesthetics, or friendship or being itself. Such implications are erroneous.

If what has been written about the Church’s sense of “homosexuality” here strikes the reader as stiff or narrowly conceived, it is perhaps because of the influence of the word “gay” on the reader. “Gay” is a colloquial word. It is the word that public discourse prefers over the word “homosexuality.” But “gay” is a “loose cannon” as words go; it blasts apart the tightly woven (formal) meaning that “homosexuality” conveys. That is, whereas “homosexuality” refers to something which does not belong to the core of the person, “gay” is used to posit something that does implicate core human identity. In common discourse, “gay” refers to a person (in his totality) and/or to a lifestyle (as a feature of civil society).

Catholicism understands “core human identity” to mean the human person as unique and unrepeatable and at the same time made in the image of God. Given this understanding, Catholics—rightfully—reason that ‘gay’ is an objectionable word when, by its usage, this word states or implies that the God who has a hand in fashioning the core identity of every person has placed gay at this core. God has not done so. What is meant by “gay” is never at the core of a human life, no matter what is alleged to the contrary. But because what is meant by “gay” is widely perceived to inhere in human lifeab initio, there is hesitation on the part of Catholics to use the word “gay.” This hesitation is prudent, but it can work against a Catholic who wishes to encounter the culture, i.e., to enter into intelligent dialogue with someone about homosexuality. Such dialogue is invariably marked by the word “gay.” How is a Catholic to engage in such dialogue?

Some Catholics—notably those in the organization Courage—refrain from using the word “gay.” They refrain from such usage because they do not wish to imply, as popular usage implies, that homosexuality is a matter of core human identity. Courage speaks of [an individual having a] “same-sex attraction.” In doing so Courage avoids the objective error of linking homosexuality to core identity.

Use of “gay” is not about to pass out of existence, though some are determined not to speak this word. Is it possible for Catholics to engage in conversation with others about homosexuality? To do so without either speaking erroneously or formally (read stiffly)? To use the word ‘gay’? What would this Catholic engagement entail—what kind of language?

The (spoken) language that is called for, the language regarding homosexuality that reflects reality, and respects the Faith, is language that differentiates between who a person is at his core, and what a person has within himself, albeit not at his core. Language that does so is fit use for a Catholic in conversation about homosexuality. What is this language? Answer: “got gay,” as in the statement, “Paul has got gay.”

Plainly, with respect to God and man, “gay” cannot refer to who the person is. The English language verb “is” always, at minimum, implies something about core identity. Yet what is meant by “gay” is not at the core of human identity. So Catholics need to avoid using “is gay,” as in the statement, “Paul is gay.” Instead, Catholics ought to say—if we wish to stay in the conversation and, at that, to refresh this conversation—“got gay.” (We could digress here in the direction of reflections on the relatively inflexible nature of the verb “to be” in the English language as compared with this verb in other languages. But to do so would be to prolong an already lengthy essay.)

A Catholic says “got gay.” Indeed, anyone wishing to speak accurately (i.e., objectively, realistically, truthfully) and respectfully of the dignity of a person under the influence of homosexuality will use the language “got gay.” Homosexuality—which is what this person has—is a condition, and not a permanent part of his being. What is to be avoided at every moment is the inaccurate and (objectively, if not intentionally) dignity-demeaning statement that this person “is gay.” No matter how deeply homosexuality is embedded within the person, he is not a homosexual. No matter what he may say of himself, he is not a homosexual. (Of course those who make this statement are somewhat excused for making it, in view of the limiting nature of the English language verb “to be.”)

At this point, we are able to bridge the divide in meaning between what the professional word “homosexuality” conveys and what the colloquial word “gay” conveys. We bridge this divide when we are careful in our use of these words, careful to ensure the one thing that is being referenced, namely same-gender eroticism. Both words have to do with this one thing, not a multiplicity of things. Here, it is “gay” moreso than “homosexuality” that can confuse, because the ordinary use of “gay” can contain multiple (unfounded) references to matters that are relational, aesthetic, even ontic. But if we are careful in our use of “gay,” then we will not fail to convey that it is essentially same-gender eroticism about which we are speaking. Indeed, when we are careful in what we write (“homosexuality”) and in what we speak (“gay”), we reveal the connection between both words. They are, in fact, synonyms. Each refers to an erotic passion toward someone of the same gender, and each can be distinguished as to beginning point (i.e., attraction) and to end point (i.e., activity). Each refers to a conditional reality, not to a permanent reality; that is, each refers to what a person has (which is potentially eradicable), not who a person genuinely is (which is ineradicable). Moreover, no matter the meaning that someone wishes to give to “gay,” this (alleged) meaning cannot be allowed to obscure the basic sense that the word holds, namely same-gender eroticism.

In light of the considerations and distinctions in this writing, it might be time well spent in critiquing the psychological profession’s understanding of homosexuality, or in scrutinizing Pope Francis’s gone-viral use of “gay” from the summer of 2013, or in examining the phrase “same-sex attraction” (which some in the Church use when engaging with individuals struggling with homosexuality), or in critiquing the (erroneous) claim that some in the Church make of a positive significance for a feature of gay experience. These are separate topics for future exploration. For now, it is simply time to write “has homosexuality” and to say “got gay.” Anything else comes from the one who sows confusion.

(Photo credit: Courtesy of Shutterstock.)

Read more from the source & comments: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/why-words-matter-when-it-comes-to-homosexuality

John Collins


John Collins is superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Santa Rosa (California). He has been in this position for the past 16 years and has worked in Catholic school education for an aggregate of 36 years. When he is not doing his superintendent job, he is tending to his marriage of 30 years and his five children. Also, he is active as the coordinator for the Courage chapter in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. He hold a doctorate in Catholic school leadership from the University of San Francisco (1995).

Related Articles/ Videos:

Breaking: Supreme Court Redefines Marriage Throughout USA

5 Implications of the US Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision

US Supreme Court Decision on Marriage “A Tragic Error” Says Archbishop Kurtz, President of USCCB

US Supreme Court Justice Kennedy replaces the “Laws of Nature” with his own on Gay Marriage

Courts Becoming Very Hostile to Christianity

Efforts to Silence Clergy Continue Apace

Losing Tax Exemption Will Destroy The Church

Archbishop Gomez: Creation and the Future of Marriage

Bishop Strickland’s Statement on US Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

Cardinal John Njue to Kenyan Americans: On Morality be Kenyans not Americans

What does the legalization of gay marriage mean for the Catholic Church?

Catholic Activist: Justice Kennedy betrayed Christ in Gay Marriage Decision

Redefining Marriage, Part 1-10: Who’s to blame? The root of the problem.

Catholic Respond to Brave New Roe: One Nation, Divided Over Marriage

11 Most Devastating Quotes from John Robert’s Gay Marriage Dissent

12 Quotes: “Marriage Equality” spells the death of marriage

Supreme Court Decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges on Homosexual Marriage as National Policy

12 Quotes against Sodomy that every Catholic should know

Taking back marriage

The #1 Reason the Catholic Church won’t support same-sex marriage

Surrender to Sodomy: Supreme Court’s Decision on Gay Marriage

The Gospel and “Gay Marriage”

Obergefell destroyed marriage as legal contract. It did not destroy marriage

Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Negates Both Reason and Reality

Fr. Barron on Gay Marriage and the Breakdown of Moral Argument

Why “Gay Marriage” is wrong?

The US Supreme Court: A Despotic Agent of Change

In Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage US Supreme Court Rejects Natural Law and Provokes God’s Wrath

Slowly but surely making gay okay

Unnatural is the New Normal

Satan Hates Marriage

Franciscan University presents: Why marriage matters?

Pope Francis: List of tips to make a marriage work

Why the Episcopalians Voted for Gay Marriage?

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

Abandoning the full meaning of marriage

After Obergefell on same-sex marriage: The Effects on Law, Culture & Marriage

Is Catholic Response to Obergefell (Homosexual Marriage) to Obey the State or Disobey it?

How to discuss “gay marriage” (Part 1-3)?

Saint Nero, Patron of Gay Marriage

Sermon: “Transgenderism according to the Bible”

Jason Evert Interview: What is transgenderism?

Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: Transgender is ‘mental disorder’; sex change ‘biologically impossible’

The Vortex: Gay Priests

Nazism and Gay Rights: Key Parallels

Same-sex “marriage” and the crisis of leadership

15 Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger) Letter to the Bishops on Homosexuality

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons

The Vortex: It’s unnatural! Amid the push for transgenderism and same-sex “marriage”

FBI (Faith Based Investigation): Homosexuality

FBI: Homosexuality with Question & Answer

Homosexuality, the Grave Evil Presented as Good

Homosexual and Freemasons Inside the Church

“The Rite of Sodomy” Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church

Mic’d Up: “Pink Money and the Homosexual Mafia”

Sexual Dysfunction: The Latest Progressive Imposition

Where we are and things to come – Message from Jonathan Cahn (August 2015)

The Covenant Theology of the Rainbow & Why the Homosexual Community Uses It

The Coming Plague of Gender Confusion

When a man calls himself a chicken

10 Reasons why you should oppose same-sex “marriage”

An Impossible Right: Why ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ is Wrong Headed

Same Sex Marriage: What the Church Teaches and Why with Bishop Ronald Gainer

Nigerian Bishops: No Shaking on Sodomy

Same Sex Marriage: Why Not? – Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Marriage Equality and Marriage Reality at the Supreme Court – Dr. Ryan Anderson

Gay agenda ‘has never been about gay rights…

A Pastoral Response to the Acceptance of Homosexual Lifestyle and the Legalization of Homosexual Unions

Pope Francis: A bold bishop warns about attacks on marriage

Why words matter when it comes to homosexuality?

Here-under are some articles about marriage for you to read or watch: 

  1. Getting to know you, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=284
  2. Be Positive, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=288
  3. Love and Marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=292
  4. Endless Love – Marriage after all, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=294
  5. Say it with love, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=298
  6. Quality family moments, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=300
  7. Secret of successful marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=302
  8. The vocation of marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1968
  9. Marriage as Covenant, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1974
  10. Humility: Foundation for Marital Happiness, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1986
  11. Gratitude: Foundation for marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1980
  12. True Meaning of marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1972
  13. Marriage and incompatibility, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2112
  14. Love is a garden, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2116
  15. Three kinds of love, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2095

Saint Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in Video Presentation

Sophia Sketchpad – Marriage

Sacraments 101: Matrimony (Why make it Catholic?)

A love that is life long: The marriage God wants for you

What’s destroying some Catholic marriages?

Divorce’s many victims

What Catholics need to know about marriage and sex, Part 2

Can a Catholic sign a pre-nuptial agreement?

We want Church truth on marriage, young Catholics say

An Open Letter to the Adulterers Outed by the Ashley Madison Hackers

Pro-life, Married & Contracepting: Is there a problem?

“God himself is the author of marriage” (GS 48:1). The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes (CCC:1603)

FBI Homosexuality click below:

FBI (Faith Based Investigation): Homosexuality

Many believe the Freemasons are simply a centuries-old charitable fraternity. However, the Catholic Church has consistently condemned Freemasonry more than any other error in its history because it promotes indifferentism, naturalism, communism, and other dangerous philosophies.

Homosexuality, the Grave Evil Presented as Good with Q & A, Part 1 & 2

Homosexuality, the Grave Evil Presented as Good

FBI: Homosexuality with Question & Answer

Homosexuals and Freemasons inside the Church

Homosexual and Freemasons Inside the Church

“The Rite of Sodomy” Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church

“The Rite of Sodomy” Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church

Mic’d Up “Pink Money and the Homosexual Mafia” 

Please click this link to watch the video on Mic’d Up “Pink Money and the Homosexual Mafia”

Michael Voris gives a series of short talks, answering questions coming in response to his talk on homosexuality in Nigeria.

In this talk from Nigeria, Michael Voris speaks about the grave evil presented as good – homosexuality. Catechism of Catholic Church teaches that, “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10), tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (CDF, Persona humana 8). They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC: 2357).

The Cost of Abortion & Contraception Deception click below:

The Cost of Abortion and Contraception Deception

Eclipse of Reason – Live Abortion Documentary/Pro-Life Anti-Abortion Video

12-year-old speaks out on the issue of abortion

Who is behind the murderers in abortion?

Abortion and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Is there a link between abortion, contraception and breast cancer?

Abortion and Eucharist by Michelle Yax

Please click this link to watch on Abortion with Movie: From Old Testament, New Testament & Fathers of the Church Teaching to Present Day

Bible’s Teachings Against Abortion

US Representative Nancy Pelosi vs. The Catholic Church on Abortion Issue

Is there Ethics of Abortion?

Abortion Warns of Something Worse?

Help to abolish abortion: Turn the tide 2012 Pro-life video

Discovering Natural Family Planning

Pro-life Song and Video: Stand Up For Life

Planned Parenthood Videos Put a Spotlight on Another Issues: Procurement Companies

Michael Voris talks an in-depth discussion of the true, financial cost of abortion and its effects to the United States. Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death” (CDF, Donum vitae III; CCC: 2273).

Contraception & the New Dark Age, Part 1-4: Where we are & How we got here by Dr. Martin Brenner click below:

Contraception & the New Dark Age, Part 1-4: Where we are & How we got here?

CIA: The Rockefeller Foundation – Actively Undermining the Catholic Church click below:

CIA: Rockefeller Foundation – Actively Undermining the Catholic Church

We are used to thinking of the Rockefellers as simply a byword for wealth, power and financial success. Perhaps we might think of them as determined businessmen or see them as great philanthropists. But the truth is far different; the Rockefeller Foundation is actively undermining the Catholic Church, and in the process, attempting to erase man’s natural orientation to the eternal.

Global Warming Unmasked click below:

Global Warming Unmasked

Are the environmental movements and groups simply devoted to laudable, correct stewardship of God’s creation, or do they have a more sinister, hidden agenda? Is “global warming” being used as an excuse for something far darker? Is the final goal of the liberal elites behind the push of junk science population control, eugenics and Gaia worship?

Mic’d Up “Is Contraception Killing the Church?” click below:

Mic’d Up: Is Contraception Killing the Church?

This week on Mic’d Up we’ll be tackling the terrible scourge of Contraception on the Church. Michael Hichborn and Rey Flores from American Life League will join us to expose Catholic Relief Services complicity with Organizations who support contraception and to Discuss The Pill Kills Day of Action 2014. Also joining us will be Lynn Mills who will be discussing the continued prayer rally at Providence Park Hospital in the Archdiocese of Detroit because of their complicity in abortion, contraception and sterilization. Following that same thread we’ll break down the announcement from Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron concerning the crisis of parish closings facing Detroit. Also dropping by will be author James Kalb, to discuss the plague of pluralism on the Church’s Hierarchy.