Last week, we pointed out how Ireland’s Bishop Kevin Doran made an uneducated remark about how gay people can already get married–just not to each other. This week, Bishop Doran, of the Elphin Diocese, made an equally uninformed statement when he compared homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida.
“The radio host asked the bishop people being born gay was ‘as God intended.’
“ ‘That would be to suggest that some people are born with Down’s syndrome or spina bifida, that that was what God intended,’ Doran opined. ‘The thing about it is, I can’t see it in the mind of God.’
“ ‘The things you mentioned are disabilities,’ the host pointed out. ‘Your sexual orientation is not a disability.’
“ ‘Well, I’m not entering into that,’ Doran replied. ‘I’m just saying it would be wrong to suggest that everything that happens, happens because God intended it. If that were the case, we’d be talking about a very different kind of God.’ “
[You can listen to the interview by clicking here.]
It is somewhat embarrassing for Catholics to have to have a radio interviewer point out to a bishop that his analogy is incorrect. Moreover, Doran’s remark seems predicated on the premise that people with Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida are somehow “less than” other people. I don’t know people with spina bifida, or their friends and family members, react to this. As someone who has a Down’s Syndrome relative, I know that he was sent to us by God.
Furthermore, the bishop fails to see that the magisterium’s approach to homosexuality codes it as a moral category, not simply a biological one. That is not something it does with other biological manifestations. If homosexuality and Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida were truly comparable, then why doesn’t the magisterium remove the moral shadow it places over people’s attractions to those of their gender.
Most egregious in Doran’s comments, though, is the implication that he is somehow able to understand what God intends for a person. I think that understanding God’s intentions for the life of a person is something that borders on mystery. Or, at the very least, it is something which can be understood only by the person, through prayer and discernment, not by an outsider.
That is where dialogue comes into play. Open, honest, candid conversations between bishops and LGBT people would help bishops better appreciate what many LGBT people understand so intimately: that they have been wonderfully made by God; that they experience their sexuality as a way of drawing into more intimate relationship with another human being and with the Source of Life and Love; that their gender identity allows them to see the world, other people, and God in new and life-giving ways.
Bishops will not learn about such realities from a book. They will only learn about it from faith-filled discussions with real people.
Bishop Doran should start such conversations before he says another word about marriage equality or LGBT people.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry