An immense scientific study has pulled the rug out from under the argument that some gene or targeted set of genes causes people to engage in homosexual activity. Science has spoken: there is no “gay gene”.
The study’s authoritative results are a boost for faith in free will, but a devastating blow to advocates of “free love”.
The “Gay Gene” Findings
The study’s findings about a #gaygene have profound implications for our understanding of sexual morality. If the tendency toward homosexual feelings is only slightly influenced by a person’s genetic makeup, individuals engaging in homosexual activity must accept moral, social, and legal responsibility for that choice.
Published just days ago in Science, the research project analyzed genetic and environmental information for over 400,000 individuals, plus more detailed genetic analysis of another 70,000. It is the largest study ever intended to determine the relationships between genetic characteristics and homosexual orientation. The study was funded by the National Institutes for Health and other agencies.
Michael Cook at BioEdge summarized the findings: “While they did find five genetic variants associated with same-sex behaviour (and many others which may also be involved) at best these genetic differences could only account for between 8 and 25% of variation in same-sex sexual behaviour and could not be used to predict it.”
Compassion Teaching on a Tough Issue
The Catholic Church has always taught compassion and responsibility for people who experience a homosexual orientation. The Catechism (2359) states:
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Following Jesus’ example, we are to love all of God’s children, even when they sin. We can do this especially by bringing clarity to their moral reasoning, challenging their sinful behavior, and welcoming them back into holiness and a loving relationship with their Creator.
Those who embrace homosexual activity are no exception.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has provided extensive guidance in its document Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination. For homosexually inclined persons, the path of holiness “will unavoidably involve much struggle and self-mastery, for following Jesus always means following the way of the Cross…. The Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance are essential sources of consolation and aid on this path.” For the rest of us,
… the commission of the Church to preach the Good News to all people in every land points to the fundamental dignity possessed by each person as created by God. God has created every human person out of love and wishes to grant him or her eternal life in the communion of the Trinity. All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected.
This includes recognizing that persons with a homosexual inclination are harassed and devalued by many in our society, and as Christians we must uphold the essential dignity of every person. As declared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”
Resistance and Misinformation Are to Be Expected
Advocates for an imagined necessary and unavoidable homosexual orientation among those attracted to homosexual activity are understandably upset by the results of the recent study. The New York Times, for example, quoted a geneticist and member of an LGBTQ affinity group regarding his strong opposition to publication of the study.
A research associate declared: “If the release of this GWAS paper was the plot of Jurassic Park, in which scientists engineer the return of dinosaurs, I’d be Jeff Goldblum’s character, the sober critic, saying: Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Portrayal of homosexuality as a naturally, genetically occurring trait has long been a source of emotional and political security for the LGBTQ community.
Certain media sources will resist the impact of the recent study on public attitudes. For example, in its own report about the research, CNN anxiously claimed – even before describing the scientific study and its findings – that “same-sex attraction appears to run in families, and identical twins are more likely to be aligned in their sexuality than either fraternal twins or other siblings.”
The New York Times’s Pam Belluck highlighted the following quote from one of the lead researchers after just a one-paragraph summary of the August research report: “I hope that the science can be used to educate people a little bit more about how natural and normal same-sex behavior is.”
We can prudently expect the results of the recent study to be debated and distorted according to the will of groups with varied political, social, and discriminatory objectives.
Consistent and determined faith in the truth of Christ’s teachings and the guidance of the Church, however, will steer Catholics on our path of holiness.
Genetic Reductionism is Rampant and Destructive
Stubborn belief in the myth of a genetic basis for homosexuality is only one example of genetic reductionism – the exaggerated belief in genetic factors as determinants of our human nature.
Research studies and stories in the popular media appear every week to convince the public that one or another characteristic of human DNA has a determining effect on our personalities, behavior, and even thoughts.
Some researchers have tried to tie various genetic traits to individuals’ happiness. Others see a correlation between genetics and political orientations. Tentative indications that a particular gene influences a person’s ability to multitask led to hasty calls for performing a new gene therapy on drone operators. Numerous, conflicting studies try to find the genetic basis for being a good student or staying in school.
Whether or not the genetic structure of a person’s DNA has some influence on his nature and actions, what all these studies have in common is a cynical attitude toward the spiritually-founded free will of God’s children.
Christian Response to the Brave New World
The evils of denying human beings’ free will are many. Will our government elites someday take action against citizens who seem to have a genetic predisposition toward political opposition to certain policies? Will our military use aggressive and highly premature therapies to craft the perfect soldier? Will our society endorse a host of genetically-based excuses for irresponsible, antisocial, and immoral choices?
We have already seen this tendency in the widespread insistence on a genetic basis for homosexual behavior. We have seen it in the shrill attacks on psychologists, priests, and Christians who try to lovingly counsel individuals away from unnatural and damaging homosexual behavior.
As Michael Cook wisely asked, “If homosexuality is not largely genetically-based, why is it wrong to try to modify sexual orientation, if a person requests help in doing so?”
As I noted previously, we are rapidly entering an age in which parents will have the ability to alter the genetic characteristics of their children at the embryonic stage.
In all of these moral challenges, there is only one response by the Christian community that will keep our society on its moral bearings: to vigorously share God’s love and truth with our neighbors.