Here is a common dynamic in conversations about homosexuality: Person A says that gay people should be able to pursue their desires and their vision of happiness, and so sexual activity / gay marriage must be moral for them. Person B denies this, and says that, if someone’s desires and vision of happiness justify such things, then pedophiles should be allowed to have sex / marry children. Person A takes offense at this statement, and says that Person B is “comparing gay people to pedophiles.”
There are a number of things I want to say about this dynamic, from a Catholic perspective:
- Many times people who mention homosexuality and pedophilia in the same breath do it in a patently offensive way. For example, they might imply that gay men are mostly pedophiles or that consensual gay sex is as wrong as child rape. Such statements are both false and dangerous. Most of all, they alienate people. It’s quite obvious that sexually abusing a child carries with it harms that adult gay relationships don’t.
This first way of addressing the two topics is clearly offensive.
- However, one might mention the two in the same breath without saying such ignorant things. One might simply say that a certain argument used to justify homosexual behavior could also be used to justify pedophilic behavior. Since pedophilic behavior should not be justified, this means that the argument used is a bad argument. It doesn’t mean that there are no good arguments for homosexual behavior that don’t also justify pedophilia, but it does mean that this particular argument isn’t a good one.
There should be absolutely nothing offensive about arguing in this second way. It is purely about logic, and it does not cast aspersions on gay people.
- The notion that it is offensive merely to mention gay people in the same breath as pedophiles is – in fact – disrespectful to pedophiles. Hear me out. There are surely people who are attracted to children without acting on these attractions, just as there are non-murderers who are tempted to murder. When a gay person or gay sympathizer takes immediate offense to the mere mention of the two topics in the same breath, this clearly implies that pedophiles (even chaste ones) are so evil that is offensive even to even be loosely associated with them.
Now, this is the sort of thing we might expect from secular society, which does not distinguish temptation from action. But Catholics should never make this mistake. People are evil because of actions, not temptations. In Catholic theology, both gay people and pedophiles are called to chastity – which means, for them, not engaging in sexual activity with the object of their attraction. There is a genuine similarity there. And in Catholic theology, neither the person attracted to the same sex nor the person attracted to children is evil. Quite the contrary, they are both capable of becoming saints, by resisting temptation, avoiding the near occasion of sin, and running into the arms of their Heavenly Father.