Same-Sex \”Marriage\” and the Catholic Psychologist

Marsh Fightlin - SSM Psychologist


The State of Minnesota recently passed a law abolishing the commonly accepted definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, and replaced it with a definition that requires only two adults, including two adults of the same sex. The law goes into effect August 1. Consequently, from that date forward, the State will recognize three types of marriage: male-female, male-male and female-female. All three will be considered “marriage”, and any effort to distinguish between them based on the commonly accepted definition (male-female) will be branded “discrimination”.

I have been doing marriage counseling for almost forty years, more than twenty five of which were as a licensed psychologist in the State of Minnesota, where I presently practice. What will be the legal implications of this sea change definition for my practice?

In saner times, it would have been considered obvious that same-sex “marriage” is an oxymoron, something akin to the square circle. Treating such unions as marriages would have been seen as a game of let’s pretend. Psychologists, considering themselves to be professionals who do not adjust their practice to the whims of the culture, would maintain the commonly accepted definition, a definition that is older than the profession of psychology itself. They would distinguish between “natural marriage” and the novel legal construct of same-sex “marriage”. They would refuse to act in therapy sessions as though the latter were the same as the former. Such a pretense would be incongruent with their true convictions and hence a distortion of the dynamic of therapy. They would therefore refuse as a matter of professional ethics to do marital therapy with same-sex unions.

Alas, we are not living in saner times. The American Psychological Association has blinked, and now considers same-sex unions as marriages. It is unclear what stance the Minnesota Board of Psychology, which grants licenses and renewals of licenses to practice psychology in Minnesota, will take on this issue. It could go in any of the following ways:

1)     Distinguish psychologically between marriage and same-sex unions. This would be the most sensible stance. Psychologists trained to do marital therapy would not be required to do therapy with same-sex couples because the psychologists’ lack training in that area. This would respect the general ethical principle in the field of psychology that one should not attempt to do therapy in an area in which one is not trained.

2)     Make the distinction in #1 above, but require psychologists to receive training by a certain date to treat same-sex couples. This would force psychologists to receive training in an area in which they have no desire to be trained. In saner times, such an unprecedented move would be seen as outrageously tyrannical. But, as noted above, these are not saner times.

3)     Not make the distinction in #1 above, but consider same-sex unions to be marriages that are psychologically indistinguishable from marriages commonly understood. This would force psychologists who do marital therapy to treat same-sex couples as though they were in a marital union, even though the psychologists don’t think they are.

What is a Catholic psychologist to do? (Actually, Catholic psychologists are not the only ones who face this dilemma. Many other mental health professionals, both non-psychologists and non-Catholics, see this issue in the same way.) It seems clear that it is ethically impermissible to cooperate directly in promoting or approving of this grave error concerning the nature of marriage. This would preclude treating a same-sex couple as if they were truly married. Therefore, from a Catholic perspective, it would be unethical and unprofessional to attempt to do marital therapy with same-sex couples.

How then should I, as a Catholic psychologist, proceed? If the Minnesota Board decides on option #1 above, I simply need to state that I am not trained to treat same-sex unions, and decline to do so. If the Board selects option #2 or #3, I have no ethical choice but to stop doing marital therapy altogether. This would obviously have a significant impact on my professional practice and my income.

No one ever said being a Catholic psychologist would be easy.

© 2013. Marsh Fightlin. All Rights Reserved.

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24 thoughts on “Same-Sex \”Marriage\” and the Catholic Psychologist”

  1. Dr. Fightlin, I am somewhat confused. Your article indicates this is a recent dilemma but surely as a marriage councillor for so many years, you have had to treat many patients who have been divorced and “remarried”, yes? I can’t imagine any such councillor who hasn’t. You state that there was an understanding of natural marriage and that same-sex marriage would be akin to playing a game of “lets pretend”, but the Catholic understanding of natural marriage is NOT one man-one woman. It is one man-one woman….one time. Divorce and “remarriage” is also a game of lets pretend.

  2. I know it took your idiots centuries to accept the separation of church and state. Aim high. Aim for professionalism.

  3. “This would obviously have a significant impact on my professional practice and my income.”

    Not to mention that it would have a negative impact on faithful Catholic married couples who wish to receive marriage counseling from a marriage counselor who shares their Catholic values.

  4. Deacon Ed Peitler

    Restrict your practice to only seeing married Catholics who need help in effecting a truly Christian marriage. No one tells you that you cannot restrict your practice to only this group. I would also market yourself as a faithful Catholic to various pastors in your area. Pastors are hard up finding good Catholics clinicians to whom they can refer and feel comfortable that the therapist will not sabotage the person’s faith. Lastly, take no insurance – cash on the barrel. You then do not have to bow to the payors – government or otherwise. You might not make as much money but you might have an easier time getting to heaven when you die.

  5. catholicscholar

    But a gay married couple CAN require a Catholic psychologist to either violate his conscience or end his career via a SYMBOLIC civil rights lawsuit. This is precisely the way activists work.

    I fail to see the justice in this, outside of a warped modern sense of justice as “sticking it to the man.”

    Sad that this new loophole will be celebrated, sad on so many levels.

    1. catholicscholar

      There are two fronts in the battle. One is the front of the internal attack of sexualized catechesis, which you are completely right to identify. The other is the frontal attack of pagans seeking to guilt us into bowing to civil rights as opposed to human rights.

      Your anger stands in the way of our fighting these fronts separately and effectively.

    2. It is the responsibility of Catholics to bring the true
      faith to the nations. Your method is purely reactionary. If Catholics are not standing on the Total Deposit of Faith they are easily misled. Youth’s minds are being filled with vices to
      satisfy lower passions and you want to delay defending them to do WHAT?

      “Men need to combat men! “Christians are, moreover, made for
      combat….To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth . . . is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind.”

      Haven’t you asked why pro-life groups will not speak out
      against these mandates to ruin youth’s minds in parochial schools? Even the canonists – The Saint Joseph’s
      Foundation, Texas cannot defend the Catholic Faith. The Cardinal Newman Society supposedly was
      formed to report on credible Catholic universities and colleges.
      Not one Catholic school remains in the U S. Studies show that students graduating so-called Catholic colleges or universities have less faith than when they entered. And, BTW, ‘catholic’ females are more promiscuous than their peers.
      Yes, I can give the citations for these facts.

      Also, according to the Guttmacher Institute, sex education secures abortion. The ‘men in black’ know this to be true.

      Does anyone connect the dots to removing natural blush and shame in U S bishop’s schools and the departure from Catholic doctrine yet?
      Where are the valiant men to defend our youth?
      Marsh is too busy defending his reputation, I think.

    3. Marsh Fightlin

      Hi, Gresu,
      I tried to respond but must have pressed the wrong button. My response evaporated. What I said was, I wasn’t familiar with the educational programs you referred to.

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  8. There will be many consequences for many people in many workplaces, who choose to stay true to their faith and the Truth. Best of luck to you, and I will keep your profession in my prayers.

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  10. Marsh
    – Have you spoken out about the sexualized catechetics in U S bishop’s schools
    that teach homosexuality as an acceptable option for personal gratification?

    1. Mom of four eagle scouts

      Man is made in Gods image and likeness and woman completes man. The two shall become one flesh. The result is unity and pro creation. This is Gods will. Homosexual relationships are mans idea and not a very good one.

    2. catholicscholar

      Gresu, you make it clear that the ship is on fire. Would you be so kind as to step aside so that we can put out the flames? I promise you we will return to the issue of sexualized catechesis!

      We need to put out the flames first, if it’s all the same to you.

    3. The only way to ‘put out the fire’ whatever you might mean by that —– is to remind Catholics what the infallible Magisterium has handed on.
      Contradictions must not be followed——-

      Decree of March 21, 1931, Congregation of the Holy office forbidding sex education: Question: May the method called ‘sex education’ or even ‘sex initiation’ be approved?

      Answer: “No. In the education of youth the method to be followed is that hitherto observed by the Church and the Saints as recommended by His Holiness the Pope in the Encyclical dealing with the Christian Education of Youth, (Divini Illius Magistri) promulgated December 31, 1929…”

      Bishops of the U S issued a Statement of November 17, 1950 regarding the role of parents in the instruction of children on matters relating to sex……”We protest in the strongest possible terms against the introduction of sex instruction into the school!!” (their emphasis not mine)

      Pope Pius XII, Address to the French Fathers and Families on September 18, 1951 on the matter of sex initiation and propaganda, “……..procreation and education of children are the serious duties of married couples……Fathers of families.. Unite and to stop and curtail these movements…..”

      Pope Pius XII in his address of April 13, 1953, states that personal sex instruction of children and youth in the home should place special stress “upon self mastery and religious training.”

      see Randy Engel’s book page 58-59 Sex Education The Final Plague
      So how many more souls will you tolerate being sent to eternal damnation with the practices taught in the sexualized catechetics before you get around to defending our most precious possession – our youth? When you put your donation into the basket on Sunday (or Saturday night) think about what you are supporting…

  11. Kudos to Mr. Fightlin for his courage. The American Patriotic Church should do similarly and refuse ALL government largesse to oppose not only the promotion of sodomy, but the systematic infanticide known as abortion.

    We will know Dolan and The Amercan Church are serious about social issues when they tell Herod to keep his blood money, but not, sadly, before then.


  12. I am sure that the last place a gay married couple would seek counseling from is a psychologist who questions the morality of their marriage…I would not worry about having to turn away gay couples….they won’t come to your practice.

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