I'm responding to a letter from Michael Voris' staff, posted on the First Things web-site in the com-box. ChurchMilitant.tv writes:
We thank you for taking the time to write a lengthy rebuttal to our work; however, we feel that your comments are totally off base.
The entire point of the program is to help people see the homosexual sexual movement for what it is – a rejection of the divine and natural law. It wasn’t aimed at ardent homosexuals, but those who love and want to be apart of the church.
In actuality, we spoke the truth and if that’s hard for people to hear so be it. We’re told to preach the gospel in season and out of season. The point of the Christian life is to become a saint and not to hide, rethink, rework, or downplay the gospel. It needs no reworking or rethinking. What it needs is strong Catholics to go out and preach no matter the personal cost. Each person deserves to hear the truth in the clearest terms possible.
Now, in the comment section of your article you said, "My first five attempts to reveiw [sic] his work were just long catalogues of factual and logical errors that he makes. There's about one every two minutes, and eventually I realized …that a) it would take me thousands of words to detangle them all, and b) it would be more helpful to try to figure out what was driving these errors." Will you please provide us with just ONE of these so-called "factual and logical errors”? If there is an error we would like to correct it.
In conclusion, we want to extend an invitation for you to come on our Blog Talk Radio show. We produce this show live every Wednesday night @ 8:00 P.M. EST. We would love to discuss your article at more length.
ChurchMilitant.TV Research Staff
- In the definitions section, “homosexual” is referenced as an incorrect term. It is the term used by the Vatican.
- In the definitions section, “gay” and “lesbian” refer to people who practice homosexual sex. In common contemporary usage, they refer primarily to orientation and only secondarily to practice.
- Always Our Children is presented as a misleading/confusing document produced by lay people. The Vatican asked for revisions of AOC, the revisions were made, and the Vatican approved the document with those revisions. It is simply erroneous to promulgate the meme that this is a 'pro-gay' document, and to imply that it contradicts authentic Catholic teaching. This article by Richard Sparks, C.S.P, which is included as one of the supporting documents for the production, gives a more detailed explanation of the history and importance of the document. (EDIT Sat. April 6, 2013, 15:16: Some people have had a problem with Sparks as an authority. I only learned of Sparks through Voris' production, where he offers Sparks' article, linked above, as a supporting source. I have read the article and found it to be accurate, fair and compassionate -- it also has the imprimatur of the diocese where it was published. Please judge this work on the merits of the text itself, not on the reputation of its author. See additional remarks in the com-box.)
- “One can conclude that it's their [gays'] behaviour that's causing the problem,” the problem being elevated rates of mental illness in homosexuals. This is a very delicate topic, and the research into it is highly contentious and problematic. The production favours studies which do show elevated rates of mental illness, and then considers two reasons why this might occur: a) it could be caused by homophobia, b) it could be caused by behaviour. Since one of the studies was done in the Netherlands, where homosexuality today is acceptable, homophobia is dismissed, therefore it has to be behaviour. Amongst the many problems with this argument: a) it commits the post hoc propter hoc fallacy, b) it contains a false hidden premise (that there are only two possible explanations – I can think of at least five others, and c) the studies don't tell us whether rates of mental illness are the same or different in chaste vs. sexually active homosexual populations, which would seem to be an important question if we are going to conclude that behaviour is causing the problem.
- It is strongly implied that Ancient Greece is the only historical society in which homosexual relations were socially accepted in order to develop the inference that this is highly abnormal. Actually, they were widely accepted during certain historical periods in Japan, China, certain parts of India, the Arab world (there was a particularly fertile period of homoerotic Muslim poetry and spiritually during the late Middle Ages), pre-colonial America (this was one of the reasons why early Spanish missionaries to the Americas saw the existing cultures as barbarous and depraved), etc. etc.
- The entire “history” section suffers from massive Western chauvanism. The result is a misleading and lop-sided portrayal.
- Voris says that those who say that homosexuality has any genetic predisposition are “wrong.” This is neither Church teaching nor established scientific fact nor does he give adequate argumentation to support the claim.
- Scriptural quotations are consistently clipped in order to make them as harsh and condemning as possible, sometimes in a way that does damage to the actual text and its context (Romans 1, in particular)
- Misuse of the John Jay Report (This has already been dealt with in detail in the comments box by David Nickol at First Things)
- Blatantly scandalous hearsay from Gawker Magazine (a left-leaning scandal-mongering rag that published an anti-Catholic smear piece about the rate of homosexuality amongst Priests) is presented as though it represents reliable data about the state of the Catholic clergy.
- It is strongly implied that the entire mainstream media over the past twenty years has been guided by After the Ball. It's much more reasonable to believe that the gay rights movement naturally gained popular acceptance as a result of the wider implications of the sexual revolution and the rejection of the traditional family amongst heterosexuals.
- Paranoia abounds. This is strictly speaking not a factual error, but it is an extremely problematic form of thinking.
- There are constant uncharitable assumptions about the motivations of people involved in politics, the USCCB, and the APA. In order for Voris' theories to be true it would be necessary to assume an astounding lack of personal or professional integrity across the board. This violates the principle of Christian charity which demands that we assume that people are acting in good will until there is a sufficient body of evidence to suggest that they are not. Little attempt is made to give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Incidents in which individual people behave unusually badly are presented as though they represent the typical behaviour of gay activists. Kevin Jennings for example.
- Father Paul Check of Courage has specifically told me that it is a goal of Courage to be pastoral, not political. Check is cited saying that the Church offers homosexuals so much more than just “no.” It would be really helpful for both Catholic and homosexual viewers to see a more practical and detailed examination of what the Church is offering.
- NARTH's therapeutic explanations for the cause of homosexuality are presented as if they are both true and authoratative. The fact that the Catechism specifically tells us that the psychological genesis of homosexuality is largely unknown is not addressed. Nor is adequate attention paid to the fact that only a very small minority of psychologists – including Catholic psychologists – believe these theories.
- The following argument is offered: gay people have higher rates of mental illness than heterosexuals, therefore gay behaviour causes mental illness, therefore gay relationships cause psychological harm. It is assumed that the rates of mental illness and substance abuse found in a sample which includes a large number of promiscuous homosexuals will accurately reflect the experience of those in long-term relationships. In fact, the majority of statistical studies have found that being in a long term relationship is a major predictor of improved mental health outcomes for both straights and gays.
- A study finding that LGBTQ people consult mental health professionals at a higher rate than heterosexuals is given as evidence of poor mental health in gays and lesbians. Other possibilities are not considered (e.g. that mental health services are often visibly marketted to LGBTQ consumers, that consulting mental health service providers is generally linked to high levels of disposable income and free time, that the victimization tropes of the '90s have made it more acceptable for LGBTQ people to access such services, etc.)
- Benedict XVI said that “policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” This is presented as “The supreme pontiff has also used stronger words, stating that so-called same sex marriage "undermines the future of humanity itself." This is misleading: the Pope's statement is deliberately decontextualized in order to make it sound like a harsh and concerted attack on gay marriage when in fact the Pope is talking about the entire ensemble of policies that break down the family, not about gay marriage in particular.
- We are told, on the say so of one of NARTH's members that research clearly shows that children need a male parent and female parent to develop properly. Voris' production team did not actually familiarize themselves with the research itself, which is still largely inconclusive. There is no consideration of what implications this would have for the morality of allowing orphans to be raised by single-sex religious orders, which has been typical Catholic practice for centuries. (This one I do have to own up on. I gave the same argument myself in Sexual Authenticity. I hadn't thought it through.)
- The intervention of Western nations into African politics vis a vis discriminatory anti-gay policies is presented as evidence of cultural imperialism and a “Worldwide Push” in the gay agenda. Consideration is not given to the fact that in Africa there really are laws and policies (such as Uganda's proposed law to impose the death penalty on homosexuals, or “corrective rape” in South Africa) which Catholics are legitimately morally obliged to oppose because they violate the Catechism's teaching on the dignity of the homosexual person.
- The section on Harry Hay is just weird. Voris admits that no-one in the Mattachine society would even sign Hay's manifesto. Why does he not draw the obvious conclusion that Hay's position is on the outlying fringes of gay activism and that most gay activists are a lot more reasonable and moderate?
- Voris conflates “sexual orienatation” with “chosen sexual behaviour” in order to try to deny any legitimate affinity between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement. This is very poor argumentation: it's a classic example of redefining the terms in mid-argument so that they will be better suited to making your point.
- This isn't a factual error, but it's a serious omission: The APA section portrays homosexual activists at the '72 conference as devious, disruptive and irrational. No mention is made of the fact that the homosexual activists were protesting a long history of medically motivated violence against homosexual persons, including “aversion therapy” (that would be a euphamism for torture), electroshock therapy, and castration.
- We're told that the removal of homosexuality from the DSM was political. It doesn't deal with the obvious question of whether its inclusion in the DSM in the first place was also political. Again, not a factual error per se, but evidence of bias and a lack of balanced reporting.
- The presentation lists the complete set of factors that may contribute to the formation of queer identity, and then “focuses in” on the father-wound explanation in a way that will likely give the impression that most homosexuality is caused by the explanations given by Fitzgibbons et al.
- NARTH's research is taken presumed reliable, and is not subjected to the same kind of scrutiny that is employed against Hooker and Kinsey. This is a double-standard in the evaluation of evidence.
- Cardinal Dolan, talking about contraception, is quoted as if he was talking about homosexuality. I think it's apropos here to point towards Dolan's recent statement that “We gotta do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven’t been too good about that. We try our darndest to make sure we’re not anti-anybody...We’re still trying. We’re trying our best to do it. We got to listen to people. Jesus died on the cross for them as much as he did for me.”
- Ezekiel 16:50 is mentioned but not quoted. It is implied that if it were quoted it would substantiate Voris' argument. It actually undermines it. The quote is “the crime of your sister Sodom was pride, gluttony, arrogance, complacency; such were the sins of Sodom and her daughters. They never helped the poor and needy; they were proud and engaged in filthy practices in front of me.” (Ezekial 16:50-51) This is a case where the Bible self-interprets, and the interpretation that it gives is contrary to the widespread belief that Sodom was destroyed for homosexuality. We're told here, very specifically, what it was destroyed for, and “sodomy” is not on the list.
- No discussion of the obvious fact that the sexuality portrayed in Sodom was ritualized gang-rape of supernatural beings (angels), not consensual sex between human male individuals.
- Jude 7, an ambiguous text, is presumed to refer to homosexuality. It might, but the text certainly doesn't make this explicit.
- The fact that homosexual acts may be non-culpable is mentioned very briefly and then skipped over. Throughout the presentation, and in Voris' other works, he routinely argues as though anyone who has gay sex is going to go to hell for it. This is one of those focus things, there isn't a factual error but the interpretation that the audience will draw is not in fact in accord with Catholic teaching. The fact that a very large proportion of all homosexual acts being committed in the contemporary West probably don't meet the criterion of full knowledge and full consent of the will required for a sin to be mortal is an important consideration. It's not something to “save for another discussion.”
- The Church does not teach that it is sinful to vote for a politician who supports SSM. Catholics are supposed to vote in accord with their consciences by evaluating the options available to them with regards to the whole teaching of the gospel. That includes social justice and peace issues as well as sexual morality and abortion.
- The Church does not teach that it is sinful to keep quiet if the topic of homosexuality comes up in discussion with friends and family. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that one ought not to give fraternal correction in cases where it is likely to make the person being corrected worse. Holding one's tongue in cases where speaking up will do more harm than good is not a form of “support” for homosexuality, it's the virtue of prudence.
- As an overarching concern Voris promises that he's going to show what homosexual people struggle with, what we suffer, what we're really going through. Most of the real sufferings and struggles of faithful SSA Catholics are not even given a glancing mention in this production.
- Viewers are told to help SSA Catholics shoulder the cross of homosexuality. There is no advice given as to what this practically involves. This is a glaring oversight.
- There are also some general problems throughout that occur with too much frequency to document each instance. One of the big ones is decontextualization: quotations are excised from their context in a way that gives them a meaning which is at odds with the actual intent of the source material. This is a valid film-making technique if you are producing a work of post-modern deconstructionist art, but it's irresponsible as journalism.
- The sources are highly inbred and selective. We're told “There were over 500 research hours devoted to this program, and many documents were used and referenced.” The bibliography shows that a disproportionate number of sources are actually from NARTH. See my other work, and Warren Throckmorton's blog, for a detailed discussion of why this is problematic.
- Michael Voris in his defense of his work says “We talked to all kinds of people.” It's clear that few of his 500+ research hours were spent talking to people who have actual experience of same-sex attraction. In his Micd Up defense of his production he admits that he once talked to a homosexual colleague for four hours straight about homosexuality and that he listened for only two minutes.
- This isn't in the video, but it's a frank admission that my fundamental criticism of Voris work is bang on: Voris says “The idea that what it says, or how it says looks like 'raving homophobic lunacy' to someone who disagrees with it is totally beside the point. I don't care how someone who disagrees with it thinks.” It is impossible to enter into dialogue with people if you don't care how they think. This is contrary to the teaching on the Church on the importance of communion, solidarity and understanding in evangelization. Voris has given, in this sentence, a clear and concise explanation of the deepest level problem with his film. No matter how many times he says that we should be compassionate and charitable, or tells his viewers that he is being compassionate and charitable, what the production overwhelmingly conveys is that he doesn't actually care about people who do not think as he does.