After a major scientific study found there is not a singular genetic marker for homosexuality, a Catholic theologian explained that the findings are fully in accord with Catholic teaching.
The study was published Aug. 30 in Science. It examined data from several large genetic databanks in multiple countries, and surveyed nearly half a million people about their sexual partners and preferences. Previous studies on the matter have only examined sample groups of hundreds of people.
“From a genetic standpoint, there is no single [genetic distinction] from opposite-sex to same-sex sexual behaviors,” said Andrea Ganna, a geneticist at Finland’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, and the study’s lead author.
Speaking to Scientific American, Eric Vilain, a geneticist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., called the study’s result “the end of the ‘gay gene’” theory.
Fr. James Martin SJ, author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” told CNA that “the study shows that a variety of factors, including genetic factors, influence human sexuality.”
“For me, the most helpful quote came from a geneticist who was one of the lead researchers, who talked about how ‘natural’ homosexuality is,” Martin said, quoting Dr. Benjamin Neale of MIT.
Neale told the New York Times that same-sex behavior is “written into our genes and it’s part of our environment… this is part of our species and it’s part of who we are.”
“That seems to sum up the results of the study accurately,” said Martin.
The research showed five distinct genetic data points which appear common among individuals who reported at least one same-sex encounter. Two of these markers appear linked to hormones and smell, factors in sexual attraction.
But the five markers together explained less than 1% of differences in sexual activity among the population, the results found.
Dr. Kevin Miller, assistant professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, told CNA that the results are in accord with the Church’s existing teaching about homosexuality.
“The Catechism treats homosexuality in nos. 2357-2359. Early in this treatment we read that its ‘psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.’ The new study does not change this.”
The study draws a distinction between people who engage in homosexual acts and those who identified as “gay” or “homosexual,” a distinction Miller noted was already central to the Church’s teachings.
The Catechism teaches that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.” This is because, Miller said, only sexual acts oriented by their nature to the possibility of procreation and set within marriage are “compatible with the essential moral virtue of chastity and – as St. John Paul II emphasized in both his pre-papal and papal writings – love.”.
But, Miller noted, the homosexual tendency or inclination itself is not “morally wrong,” since a person does not choose to have an inclination or exercise their free will over having it.
Central to understanding the distinction between sexual inclinations and acts, Miller said, is that all sexual acts are freely chosen; even if a person has an interior disposition toward engaging in homosexual acts, they have the same freedom to pursue them or not as a person inclined towards immoral acts with someone of the opposite sex.
“One can see that in this explanation of the Church’s teaching, there is no reference of any sort to the cause of the homosexual tendency or disposition. This is simply irrelevant to the analysis of the moral goodness or evil of homosexual acts, and of the ordered or disordered character of the homosexual tendency or disposition.”
“Even if it could be shown that a homosexual tendency or orientation is wholly biologically determined, this would not affect at all the logic underlying the Church’s teaching.”
Full story at Catholic News Agency.