The current debate in the church about homosexuality is often presented as an issue of justice. Clearly the church should be on the side of respect for individual civil rights and upholding the innate dignity of all human beings as made in the image of God. Often this discussion is focused solely on the rights of adults to free expression and to have equal access to the goods of society and to the goods of the church including the controversial issue of access to the sacramental rites of Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. In these discussions, the issue of the origins of same sex attraction is often bracketed. It is argued that it matters little whether same sex attraction comes from nature or nurture if homosexual orientation is experienced as a fixed and defining element of an individual’s identity. The justice issue that presents itself is how to treat this identity group with equity.
But there is another justice issue which presents itself and will be easy to miss in a society that routinely overlooks the suffering of its children. For this issue the origins of same sex attraction cannot be bracketed but must be vigorously investigated. This is the issue of doing justice to the suffering of little children.
A number of clinicians who work with homosexual clients believe that painful interactions in very early childhood between the child and the parents of both the same and opposite sex contribute to homosexual development. They also believe that for some children experiences of sexual abuse by older children and adults may also be a factor (For a compelling set of essays on this topic see the website of the National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality). If these observations are at all credible, and vigorous investigation can in principle corroborate these clinical observations, the church should be very wary of saying explicitly or implicitly by its actions that homosexual orientation comes from God or nature when in fact it may come in no small degree from the experience of suffering in childhood.
Children may suffer as a result of intentional abuse or neglect. Children may also suffer as a result of the unintentional and inadvertent actions of their parents. Children are very resilient. They can recover from many of the challenges and difficulties they encounter in life. Keen observers of children know what many therapists know and what many who work for justice know; that the beginning of justice, reconciliation and healing is the willingness to witness to the truth. This can be something which both victims and victimizers resist and all the more so when witnessing to the truth requires us to confront the unintentional harm we do our children.
The church should suspect the agenda of any ideology or theology which pronounces, with little evidence and in such a way as to discourage further investigation, that the cause of homosexual orientation is nature or God (or some other code word for Fate) as being in the interests of a society which routinely overlooks the suffering of its children and desires to spare the feelings of parents at all costs. Such ideas should be suspect as ideological blinders to the truth of the suffering of little children and should be subjected to the most rigorous testing. It is a matter of justice.