Could it be … Satan? Boston Pilot columnist blames the devil for homosexuality

The editors of The Boston Pilot, the nation's oldest Roman Catholic newspaper, are retracting a column published in last week's edition (already removed from the Pilot's website) that blames the devil for homosexuality. Daniel Avila, an associate director for policy and research at the U.S. bishops' conference, wrote, according to the Associated Press, that when "natural causes disturb otherwise typical biological development, leading to the personally unchosen beginnings of same-sex attraction, the ultimate responsibility, on a theological level, is and should be imputed to the evil one, not God." In other words Avila is willing to acknowledge the biological basis of homosexuality, as long as we all understand that the devil is manipulating the process.

Avila's apology admits that his position is out of line with church teaching that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God; indeed, Avila's views reflect ancient heresies long condemned by Christian tradition that proposed an evil power equal to God responsible for the corruption of an otherwise good creation.

Truth be told, however, Avila is only going a step further than the church's official teaching that a homosexual orientation is an "objective disorder" to an "intrinsic moral evil." If one grants, as many scientists and psychologists do, that homosexuality is a natural occurrence in the human species, the next logical step is to propose, as Avila does, some corruption in the biological process–a theologically absurd and destructive position utterly out of line with Catholic teaching on creation.

That is, indeed, a serious problem with the current formulation of the church's teaching, and one that must be remedied. While the church may restrict sexual expression to marriage between a man and a woman, it must find a way to affirm the created value of sexuality that does not fit the heterosexual model, even if it cannot find a way to permit its physical expression.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians have long complained of the "spiritual violence" done to them by traditional Christian attitudes toward homosexuality. The ideas expressed by Avila are justly described as spiritual violence because they call into question the fundamental dignity of God's daughters and sons who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. These women and men–many of whom are members of the church through their baptism–are no more in need of redemption than any other human being because of their sexual orientation, and it is time for the U.S. bishops to say so in unequivocal terms, especially now that one of their own employees has harmed lesbian, bisexual, and gay people in such a profound and shocking way.

U.S. bishops' adviser resigns following column linking same-sex attraction with devil


About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.