contra Austin Ruse: Like Us or Not?

Over at Crisis Magazine, Austin Ruse has written a disturbing article about homosexuality which does not even pretend to be Catholic in its views: They Are Not Everywhere. They Are Not Like Us. I have some serious criticisms of this piece, not the least of which is that it appears in a Catholic publication, yet it is not based at all on Catholic moral teaching, nor on natural law.

The politicization Catholicism is a serious problem in the Church today. Many conservative Catholics identify as political conservatives more strongly than as faithful Catholics. If a Council or Pope teaches anything at all that they view as liberal, they automatically fight against it. The most prominent political issues of the day seem to them to be the most important religious issues. They have intertwined politics and religion, to the detriment of religion.

Ruse’s article is a particularly clear example of this problem. It is not written from a heavenly point of view, and it does not emphasize morality or faithfulness to God. The only substantial mention of religion is a brief digression, which contradicts the main point if the article itself: “Are they like the rest of us? Certainly. They are children of God, made in his image and likeness, and deserving of their human dignity. But….” The rest of the article seems entirely unaffected by this true assertion that homosexuals are like the rest of us, are children of God, and are deserving of their human dignity. It is a thoroughly secular article, which has no place in a Catholic publication.

To support his “not everywhere” assertion, Ruse claims: “According to the Centers for Disease Control, a measly 1.8 percent of adult men and 1.4 percent of adult women identify as homosexual. This translates into a tiny 2.1 million men and 1.7 million women.”

Ruse’s description of the study results is not accurate (PDF file of study). The study (Table 1) states 1.8% of men and 1.5% (not 1.4%) of women identify as gay. Ruse omits the 0.4% of men and 0.9% of women who identify as bisexual. Adding the percents who are gay to the percent who are bisexual, for both men and women as stated by the study, gives us 2.3% of the population who are gay or bisexual. And the total number (not percent) of adults who identify as such is 5.243 million persons. Ruse makes his statement of the numbers seem smaller by omitting bisexuals and not stating the total for men and women together.

He also fails to mention the age factor. In the age group 19 to 44, the percentages are 1.9% gay and 1.1% bi, for a total of 3% of that population group. Other studies, like this 2012 Gallup poll, have put the percentages for young adults even higher. In the 18 to 29 age group, 6.4% identified themselves as gay or bi or transgender.

Austin Ruse is presenting the reader with data culled to support his argument. Based on this faulty presentation of the data, Ruse concludes the following: “So, no, the proposition that they are everywhere is simply not true. And most Americans have hardly any meaningful interaction with homosexuals.”

If we use the lower figure above, 2.3% of the population as gay or bi (CDC), one out of every 43 adults you meet are gay or bi. In the 19 to 44 age group, the number is fully 3%, which is 1 out of every 33 adults. But using the higher figure (Gallup), 6.4% would be 1 out of every 15 or 16 persons (15.6) in the 18 to 29 age group.

I don’t know how many adults you have “meaningful interactions” with in your life, but I would guess it is much higher than 43. And according to another Gallup poll, a clear majority of Americans have a friend, relative, or co-worker who has personally told them that they are gay.

Austin Ruse’s conclusion that homosexuals are not everywhere is absurd and false. He confuses “not a majority” with “not everywhere”. Using the lower 2.3% figure, even a tiny village with only 100 adults would have some persons who are gay or bisexual. And every school with students in that 18 to 29 age group (and presumably every high school) with more than 15 students would also have some persons who are gay or bi. The same metric applies to the workplace, or the neighborhood, or your set of friends and acquaintances.

His next point is much worse. He argues that homosexuals are “not like us”. This stark division of “us versus them” is a hallmark of conservative fundamentalism, which tends to isolate the “true believer” from the rest of humanity, and tends to villainize everyone who does not belong to the fundamentalist group.

Certainly, we can say that someone with a homosexual orientation or behavior is not like a heterosexual, specifically on the point of sexuality. But that is by definition. Methodists are not like Lutherans on the specific points where they differ in religious belief. But Ruse is saying something else. He starts with the obvious differences based on sexuality between straight and gay. Then he leaps to a vast generalization, as if “they” were nothing like “us”. But as I said already, the only truly religious component of his article clearly contradicts this conclusion: “They are children of God, made in his image and likeness, and deserving of their human dignity.” If only that assertion were the real conclusion of the piece, and not mere lip service to the Catholic position on the topic.

I was struck by another false claim in the article: “The other way they are not like us is their contempt for fidelity…. Gallup, on the other hand, shows that American approval for sex outside of marriage is a measly 6 percent and that is down a point in the past decade.” So he claims that homosexuals differ from “us” in their approval for “sex outside of marriage”. But Ruse does not link to any Gallup poll on this point. So let’s take a look at what Gallop actually says.

In a 2015 poll, Gallup asked men and women about the “moral acceptability” of different types of sexual behavior. An alarmingly high 70% of men and 66% of women found sex between an unmarried man and woman morally acceptable. Then 59% of men and 66% of women found homosexual sex to be morally acceptable. The “measly 6 percent” figure Ruse proffers seems to be a low figure for the question of the moral acceptability of adultery. But the aforementioned Gallup poll puts those numbers at 12% for men and 5% for women (which seems to average at 8.5%).

Austin Ruse complains about the “moral acceptance” of homosexual behavior (unnatural sexual acts) and calls these acts “contemptible” and “vile” and “gross”. But his argument is not based on the Bible or Catholic teaching, nor on ethics or moral theology at all. It is mainly a rhetorical argument.

Certainly, Catholic teaching condemns all unnatural sexual acts as well as any natural sexual acts outside of marriage. But the Catholic Christian basis for sexual ethics is the love of God above all else and the love of neighbor as self. Ruse’s article is devoid of the love of God and neighbor, and has nothing to do with faith or morals. True, the Catholic Church rejects gay marriage, as not a true type of marital union, and condemns every sexual sin. But Ruse’s rhetoric of “us” versus “them” is an unchristian hatred of neighbor. And it is not based, as he might claim, on a just condemnation of act that are gravely immoral. Instead, he implies a condemnation of all sexually-active homosexuals, for he repeatedly ostracizes them from the “rest of us” with his hateful empty rhetoric.

Ruse essentially rejects all homosexuals as “not like us” based on their sexual behavior. I will not use or quote Ruse’s base secular rhetorical terms. Instead, I’ll use a term from Roman Catholic moral theology: unnatural sexual acts. The problem with the “not like us” argument is that heterosexuals also commit grave sexual sins. The “us versus them” distinction falls apart because we are all fallen sinners, and unfortunately many sinners commit grave sexual sins. Sex before marriage, adultery, masturbation, pornography, and unnatural sexual acts between a man and woman are all gravely immoral; these are mortal sins, just as homosexual sex is a mortal sin. And if we place everyone who has committed some type of grave sexual sin in the “them” category, the “us” group would unfortunately be very small.

Most Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics have committed some grave sexual sins in their lives. And, very unfortunately, many are unrepentant. They are Mass-going and Communion-receiving Catholics, but not sincerely-repentant Confession-going Catholics.

Austin Ruse condemns homosexuals for committing unnatural sexual acts, but he fails to mention the dirty little secret in modern-day Catholic moral theology: blatant attempts by priests, theologians, and many laypersons to justify unnatural sexual acts within a Catholic marriage. My writings in moral theology are clear and unequivocal on this topic: all unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, whether between two homosexuals, or an unmarried man and woman, or married Catholic spouses. Unnatural sexual acts are not justified as so-called foreplay, nor for any other reason. The only moral sexual act is natural marital relations open to life.

But very many Catholic spouses and many unmarried heterosexual couples engage in unnatural sexual acts. Morally, these are the same type of acts committed by homosexuals. The fact that a man and woman, married or not, commit these acts does not make the acts moral. When two persons of the same gender commit these acts, there is a greater degree of moral disorder. But otherwise, these acts have the same type of moral depravity; they are neither procreative, nor truly unitive. The teachings of Saints Augustine, Aquinas, Liguori, and the teachings of the Magisterium are very clear in their condemnation of unnatural sexual acts, even within a Catholic marriage. But these gravely immoral acts are nevertheless common among Catholic spouses, and are increasingly being proposed as “moral” acts of “foreplay” for Catholic married couples.

So in the foolish “us versus them” division, the “them” category would contain everyone who commits grave sexual sin of any kind, including many married Catholic spouses. And the “us” category would contain only those persons who avoid all grave sexual sins, and would be the minority — perhaps has small as the single-digit percentages in the above discussed studies. Ruse’s argument is essentially based on the idea that the majority behavior is the moral norm, and that metric fails miserably in this sinful world.

[Matthew 7]
{7:1} “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
{7:2} For with whatever judgment you judge, so shall you be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, so shall it be measured back to you.
{7:3} And how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, and not see the board in your own eye?
{7:4} Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter from your eye,’ while, behold, a board is in your own eye?
{7:5} Hypocrite, first remove the board from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Austin Ruse’s article is devoid of Catholic morality, contains no mention of Jesus, the Church, Christianity, Catholicism, or the Bible, and does not make use of Catholic moral teachings when condemning gravely immoral sexual acts. The article is hateful rhetoric, which condemns persons, not merely their grave sins, and which ignores similar grave sins committed by Catholics, without repentance. An article of this kind ought not to appear in any Catholic publication.

[Hebrews 13]
{13:1} May fraternal charity remain in you.
{13:2} And do not be willing to forget hospitality. For by it, certain persons, without realizing it, have received Angels as guests.
{13:3} Remember those who are prisoners, just as if you were imprisoned with them, and those who endure hardships, just as if you were in their place.
{13:4} May marriage be honorable in every way, and may the marriage bed be immaculate. For God will judge fornicators and adulterers.

See my books on ethics for more on this topic: Catholic Planet.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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