On comparisons between homosexuality and pedophilia

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.


Every time I’ve tried my best to do #2, or see someone else do it, was interpreted as #1. Every. Single. Time.

In the end, modern thought is a veritable factory of damnation, and as such the teachings about chastity have astonishingly become hard teachings no matter how they are finessed. That being the case, the model to imitate is Our Lord in John 6–proclaim the truth straight, no chaser, and leave the consequences to the workings of God’s grace. In Our Lord’s time It was a war over what was Good and True and Beautiful. It’s now a war against Goodness, Truth and Beauty itself.

I think you’re being too cynical. I’ve had conversations in secular universities where we seriously considered this comparison without it devolving into offensive or offended speech. But one has to be very careful with one’s speech and – even with such care – the other person is always free to respond badly.

The key thing to remember is how gentle and patient Christ has been with us, personally. We must extend the same gentleness and patience with those we witness to.

If that is the case, why is the Church influenced by it? (e.g; organ donation, Vatican 2).

Modern does not necessarily equate to bad. If we didn’t adjust our way of thinking over the years we would still have slaves planting sugar cane in Barbados. Let us remember that some of the worst living conditions were to be found on slave ships originating from Catholic Spain and Portugal. No doubt it was deemed an acceptable price to pay for Europe’s newly-discovered sweet tooth.

There is one simple word which sets the dividing line between homosexuality and paedophilia: consent.

Best wishes,

I do agree that comparing homosexuality to pedophilia is offensive and many people get offended simply by mentioning the two in the same breath even if homosexuals are not being compared to pedophiles. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with mentioning the two in the same breath if you are not comparing homosexuals and pedophiles. However, I do think it is wrong to compare homosexuals to pedophiles. I don’t necessarily think it’s immoral to do so but that it is offensive to do so. If it is immoral to do so then I would like someone to correct me on this.

That said, perhaps comparing homosexuals to polyamorists (people who choose to engage in more than one relationship at a time as a lifestyle choice which is different from adultery but can often involve adultery) would be less offensive. I have tried this before but still people get offended by it.

I try to do the second argument, and like Scottgun it is usually interpreted like I am arguing #1. I think, even among very intelligent people, there is not very much attention paid to rhetoric and logic. Instead it’s all emotions and personal attacks and cynicism.

(Oddly enough, though, I’ve had several gay people NOT be offended by my line of argument, even though they very strongly disagreed. They understood my point and how I had reached a logical conclusion. The strongest venom has come from straight people. Then again, I used to be very active in “gay rights” even though I’ve never had same sex attraction, so the gay people I was discussing it with knew it was highly unlikely I had magically turned into a horrific bigot overnight, and they knew I still considered myself a genuine friend of theirs.)

Isn’t it interesting how some who argue support for the gay lifestyle, become outraged by the idea of a man practicing polygamy with willing adult women? What’s the difference? :shrug: The arguments are the same. At that point they are drawing arbitrary lines in the sand.

Sounds reasonable. Somewhat tangentially, I note (based on the source below) that pedophilia is currently viewed as a mental illness, and that in due course the diagnosis will only be given if the attraction causes the person some distress/problems, or actually leads to children being approached. (Crystal ball stuff there…)

It’s an interesting perspective - “disorders” (or the medical kind) are not disorders unless they cause your or another a problem. It’s like saying there’s nothing wrong with the eyes of a blind person if they are satisfied with being blind.

Treatments for pedophilia apparently exist but do not cure, they only assist one to “manage” the condition.


Yes, I think this is really important. Online, it’s easy to just assume people are homophobes. But in a safe and trusting relationship, it’s easier to explore logic without causing offense.

I don’t think I would put much stock in the science on this topic. Most of the science is based on the study of sex offenders. That wouldn’t tell us anything at all about people who experience pedophilia but don’t offend.

The difference between homosexuality and pedophilia can be summarized as such :

Pedophiles are predators. Children are vulnerable emotionally, psychologically, and physically. They are not mature enough emotionally to consent to sexual intimacy, they are not psychologically capable of understanding the consequences of their actions, and they are in most cases physically unable to defend themselves from the advances of an adult.

Homosexuals are simply attracted to the same sex.

To even compare homosexuality and pedophilia, marrying “objects”, or beastiality is just a dumb idea with no merit.

Here’s a great article:

Listen Up, Boy Scouts: Gays Aren’t Pedophiles, and Pedophiles Aren’t Idiots

by Wayne Self, Playwright/Composer

With relatives and very, very close friends, fine. I’ll be alone with my nephew. But I won’t be alone with your child. I just won’t.

I grew up in a place and time where homosexuality was strongly associated with sexual predators and with pedophilia, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or suspicious or risk some sort of false accusation. I don’t much care for most children anyway, so it’s simply not worth it to me. It makes me uncomfortable to think that you may be uncomfortable, so I avoid the possibility entirely.

I realize that this is a more enlightened time, and that some of you, gay or straight, might find my refusal puzzling or even offensive. Don’t get me wrong: I believe your child is perfectly safe with your gay friend. He would be perfectly safe with me. I’m very happy that many of you wouldn’t think twice about leaving me alone with your child. But would you think once?

All too often, history has revealed our carefully crafted enlightenment to be skin-deep, especially when old prejudices seem to be confirmed. How long would that enlightenment last in the face of a false accusation or misunderstanding? The price of that false accusation would be too high, even if I were exonerated in court. I’d be ruined just so that you could get free babysitting.

Study after study (and, really, basic common sense) shows that being gay has nothing to do with pedophilia, but even saying that is like saying “monkeys don’t do taxes.” They don’t, of course, but didn’t you just picture a monkey at an adding machine?

Last week the Boy Scouts of America announced that they’re considering a policy change that will allow minors who self-identify as gay (yes, they exist) to be Boy Scouts. However, they will not allow gays to participate as scout masters once they’ve turned 18, even if they’ve spent a lifetime in the organization.

Presumably, the Boy Scouts still believe that they must protect their charges from us scary adult gay men. And it’s not just a concern about potential attraction. If it were, they’d also ban heterosexual women from being den mothers. It’s a concern that we are predators. Despite our recent gains, we still live in a world where a policy that specifically excludes gay men as predators of children can be seen as a reasonable compromise, even though the rationale for that exclusion is irrational, false and outrageous.

Apparently, there are plenty of people out there who still believe that monkeys do taxes. In such a world, why would I risk being anywhere near your kids?

But, more than that, if a pedophile who happens to be gay (and they are the minority among pedophiles) has designs on your Boy Scout, and he knows that you equate gays with pedophilia, do you really think that he’s going to call himself gay? If anything, he’s going to come at you as straight as possible in order to confound your smart little restriction. He’s a pedophile, not an idiot.

It’s more likely that your pedophile is going to be a person who identifies as straight anyway. That’s who you need to watch out for! I’m sure a policy banning the participation of straight men will solve your problem for good.

I’m kidding, of course, but the point is that paranoia, labeling and prejudice are not going to solve the problem of child molestation. The very best they can do is provide a false sense of security and a heavy dose of victim shaming, only making matters worse and driving the problem further into the shadows.

What you need is transparency, space for open and shame-free discussion and policies that allow trusted adults to be present in numbers with the children.

Transparency, shame-free discussion and the ability to verify with another adult that things are on the up and up: It’s a good set of policies for organizations.

And until things are actually better and not just more polite, it’s a good set of policies for me.

How would you describe a person who is “simply attracted” (in your words) to children, but does not prey on them or even look at them lustfully? Do you deny that such a person could exist?

I think everyone here agrees that people who have sex with children are predators. But if we define “pedophile” in terms of attraction, I don’t see why we should believe that all pedophiles are predators. :shrug:

You’re not engaging with the points I made in the OP.

Let me compare: Suppose you objected to eating meat, and I didn’t. I claimed that it was OK to eat meat because eating meat doesn’t harm anyone. You would be perfectly justified in replying that eating dead human bodies doesn’t harm anyone either, but it’s still wrong.

You have NOT thereby compared eating animal meat to cannibalism. You are simply saying that – if my argument applies to the one case, it applies to the other case too.

That’s what many people do when they discuss pedophilia in the context of debates about homosexuality. And the so-called “comparison”, when used as a logical device in this way, is not the slightest bit offensive or homophobic – no more than the mention of cannibalism is offensive.

I think a lot of people want to be offended. They start out with the basic assumption that anyone who is opposed to homosexual acts is a “bigot”, a “hater,” and a “homophobe.” They see logical arguments as justifications for this unreasonable “hatred” for something we think is “icky.” Thus, when their argument is shown to be weak via a perfectly legitimate reductio ad absurdum (which is what the pedophile comparison example is), they automatically begin in with taking offense. Besides, for many people in this illogical and sentimental age, offending someone is almost the only sin left and thus is meant to be a “nuclear option” ending the argument. You’ve offended me, therefore you’re wrong (which is nothing more than an argumentum ad ignominiam, seeking to shame the supporter of traditional sexual morality into silence.

This all makes sense, although we need to remember that we can’t paint all opponents to Christian teaching with the same cloth. Many of them are willing to engage in arguments quite generously. We should make every effort not to offend them, and clarify our intentions when we feel that something we’re saying might be taken as offensive.

They should do the same for us.

Perhaps the offensiveness of such a comparison is easier to understand if you use the analogy that pedophilia is to homosexuality as rape is to marital intercourse.

How is that even analogous? The pedophile examples shows that the logic undergirding some of the arguments for homosexual sex would also justify pedophilia. How is that at all akin to rape & marital intercourse? Which argument for sex being confined to the married would, when extended to its logical conclusion, also justify rape?

It is analogous if, and only if, we assume that sodomy is morally good and that the only reason pedophilia isn’t is because it’s nonconsensual.

Which misses something, I think. Pedophilia is not offensive because it’s nonconsensual. It’s offensive because it’s a horrible abuse against human dignity and a trespass against the natural law. I don’t look on it with mere disapproval or distaste like I would look on a person who is overly touchy, e.g., shaking my hand without my consent. I look on it with horror, because it is an abomination.

Same thing with bestiality. My problem with bestiality isn’t that dogs or sheep or whatever can’t consent to sex, it’s that it’s a gross perversion and inversion of that which is naturally good, and an act of desecration of what is sacred.

In both cases, nonconsensuality is certainly one problem. But it’s only one of many, and it’s far down the list of problems. Trying to excuse sodomy on the grounds that it’s consensual seems, to me, to slice away a pretty huge chunk of basic human moral intuition. It fails to make sense of the world as we experience it.

I legitimately feel sorry for anyone who’s only objection to bestiality or pedophilia is that they aren’t consensual. That person is deeply spiritually and morally pathetic (in the true sense of the word, that is, characterized by pathos).

Homosexuals may very well be Consenting Victims though. Prostitutes for example, are consenting victims. Shall no one help them out of their ordeals or try to get them to leave that lifestyle, just because they consent? Battered women are often consenting victims, who make excuses for their husbands abusivs behavior and many times will oppose intervention and reject help. Dont you agree that these people need to be helped regardless? People who mutilate themselves (consentually) out of depression are consenting victims, should they not be helped even if theyve consented? Anorexics deprive themselves of food consentually, no help for them because they’ve consented? Homosexuals seem to be in the same boats as many of these victims.

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