This week, lifesitenews.com reported that “in a recent parliamentary session on a bill relating to sexual offenses against children, psychology experts claimed that pedophilia is a ‘sexual orientation’ comparable to homosexuality or heterosexuality. …” According to the report, Dr. Van Gijseghem, “psychologist and retired professor of the University of Montreal” asserted that “true pedophiles have an exclusive preference for children, which is the same as having a sexual orientation. You cannot change this person’s sexual orientation just like another individual may be grappling with heterosexuality or even homosexuality,” emphasized Van Gijseghem.
Homosexual-rights advocates make the argument that the push to legitimize homosexuality is akin to the civil-rights movement’s efforts to free black Americans from racial discrimination. This comparison relies on the notion that homosexuality, like skin color, is an inalterable biological characteristic. That’s one of the reasons they have taken to using the term “sexual orientation” instead of “sexual preference.”
But if homosexuality is like race, then homosexuals have no more control over their sexual proclivities than I have over my skin color. When I woke up this morning I had dark skin (a deep shade of brown, actually, not black. But who’s quibbling?) Though at one point in history folks like me were referred to by some as people “of the colored persuasion,” persuasion assuredly has nothing to do with it. Skin color is simply not a matter of choice. Legally discriminating against people on account of an otherwise harmless condition that is beyond their control is unjust on the face of it. Being brown- or pink-skinned, brown- or blue-eyed, blonde or dark-haired – these are all natural properties. They belong to individual human beings in consequence of the way they are made. Borrowing a phrase from the American Declaration of Independence, we may quite literally say that people are “endowed by their Creator” with these unalienable traits.
Obviously, attacking people because of such traits, whether sanctioned by human laws or not, violates the unalienable right of every individual to live as what the Creator fashioned them to be. By arguing that homosexuality is to be classed among these traits, those pushing to legitimize homosexuality seek to take advantage of the sense of what is naturally fair connected with the successful efforts (e.g., against slavery and racial discrimination) to establish that the Declaration’s understanding of human justice in fact governs the laws and practices of the American people.
But if a black person murders someone, his skin color no more excuses his crime than would the pink skin God made for someone else. To discourage and punish bad behavior is in fact part of the purpose for which good people join together to form civil society and make laws that secure their Creator-endowed unalienable rights. Where human beings are concerned, natural traits do not simply dictate behavior. Behavior is subject to choice and to the capacity for choice (freedom) that is also a characteristic of human nature. But when human beings make their individual choices, they also have the capacity to take account of the effect of what they do, on themselves and on the whole. Whatever their inclinations and predilections, they can resolve to eschew the inclination to do wrong because it gives them pleasure. They can instead follow the inclination to do what respects the good of other individuals, or of the whole community they altogether comprise.
Speaking of pedophiles, a second witness at the parliamentary session recognized this fact: “You can manage the risk that sex offenders present – even pedophiles. … It’s not necessarily that they need to change their sexual orientation; they need to learn to control themselves, with our help.” The need for change is predicated on the judgment that it is wrong to allow sexual relations between adults and children. We take this for granted right now. But we would be wise to remember that, not that long ago, from a historical perspective, this salutary prejudice did not generally prevail among the societies of the earth, including the putatively Christian societies in Europe.
Today we require that there be a certain measure of equality between individuals who engage in sexual relations. Aristotle’s patronizing recognition that there is a difference between women and slaves has been replaced by the principle that all human beings are created equal. As women are equally obliged to respond to the inclinations intended to preserve the species (and by natural condition, bear their consequences more directly), women have the right to equal respect and authority. They must therefore be in a condition to accept equal responsibility for the consequences of their sexually motivated actions. The demand for such equality is inconsistent with the once commonplace practice of marriage between adult males and female children or early adolescents.
But homosexual relations are not, as such, attended by the consequences and responsibilities of procreation. As the slang implies, they are in this respect gay and free of care. As homosexual behavior corresponds to no natural obligation, it involves no assertion of Creator-endowed right. Why, then, should we apply to such behavior a standard of right connected, in principle, with the natural goal of sexual relations (properly so-called) which is procreation? Why should it be governed by the expectation of maturity connected with this standard of right? But if this expectation is attenuated with regard to homosexual relations, why should it govern any sexual relations where procreation is not involved? Can we free homosexual conduct from the discipline of natural right without leading to the consequence that all sexual relations must be similarly emancipated?