Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Open Letter to Archbishop Nienstedt – #4

The Progressive Catholic Voice's sharing of your open letters to Archbishop Nienstedt continues with the following letter by Donald R. Conroy. To learn more about this series and how to participate in it, click here.

Dear Archbishop Nienstedt,

I am writing to you as a concerned Catholic. I was ordained a priest in 1955 and am a retired psychologist licensed in the state of Minnesota. I married in the Catholic Church in 1969 and my ordination was not revoked.

I would like to add my voice to the open letter Bishop Chilstrom recently wrote to you. I will restrict my comments only to your classification of homosexuality as an "intrinsic disorder." I realize that this description of same sex preference is not yours alone. The same description is found in Vatican documents and in documents of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. Your use of this language speaks to both your reason for describing this human condition as you do, as well as to your commitment to promote the passage of the marriage amendment. If homosexuality were as you say, an intrinsically disordered human condition, then it would follow that society at large should protect its institutions of marriage and family by proclaiming homosexuality an impediment to legal marriage. But, neither the social nor the natural sciences support your "intrinsic disorder" claim about homosexuality. Homosexuality was included in The Statistical and Diagnostic Manual of Mental Health Disorders in its first edition in 1952 because of the symptoms experienced by homosexual persons resulting from social stress. However, homosexuality has since been removed from that manual and is no longer considered a diagnosis for treatment. A human characteristic that is not the norm is not necessarily abnormal, but rather can simply be what is not expected. Today we have sufficient empirical evidence to more precisely understand this human characteristic of same sex attraction, but we do not yet have a complete scientific explanation, even though science is pointing us in that direction.

As I see it, the basis for your description of this human trait is Revelation, what God has revealed through the Church and the Christian tradition, not science. I suggest we should be wary of making pronouncements that are not substantiated by the sciences of our time. One of our outstanding biologists, E. O. Wilson, writes in The Social Conquest Of Earth:

The conflict between scientific knowledge and the teaching of organized religions is irreconcilable. The chasm will continue to widen and cause no end of trouble as long as religious leaders go on making unsupportable claims about supernatural causes of reality. [p.295]

I am a Catholic who regularly attends worship, and I continue to study in the areas of theology, religion, and the sciences on a regular basis. There are many of us committed and informed Catholics who are concerned with the direction you have taken. Archbishop Nienstedt, I urge you to have open conversations with your people, all of them.


Donald R. Conroy, PhD


  1. If this were simply a matter for the social "sciences" could resolve this letter might be persuasive to a Catholic. The issue is already resolved from a dogmatic standpoint. The social sciences cannot overturn what is the clear position of sacred scripture.

  2. Sorry, Bruno, but it's not a "clear position of sacred scripture." See here for what I mean.



  3. Michael J. Bayly,

    Scripture is clear and nothing in the your link suggests otherwise.

    The article in your link states, "Likewise males, whether animal or human, should mate with females. Moreover, heterosexual intercourse was considered unnatural in any position other than face to face with the male on top. (This may well be what Paul is referring to in Romans 1.26 when he says: “Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural . . . .” Almost certainly Paul is not referring to lesbian relationships.)" This is a completely gratuitous claim. First, it is simply not the case that Paul was referring to the position that women adopt in coitus. Paul, following stoic natural law theory,argues would consider lesbian intercourse unnatural. Moreover, the next verse states "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another." This passage clearly rejects homosexual relations between men but notice it begins "in the same way" So Paul is drawing a parrell between men exchanging relations with women for men and what women are doing, i.e. exchanging relations with men for relations with women. Therefore Roman 1:26 does refer to lesbian relations.

    Your link is engaged in isogesis.