Skip to content

Father John Harvey: Source of Same-Sex Attractions in Children: Parenting and Social Influences

Father John Harvey Distinguishes the Difference

NEW YORK, JAN. 24, 2004 (Zenit) - Most children who experiment with same-sex attractions as young adults are already predisposed to homosexual behavior because of their home environment, says a pastoral specialist.

Father John Harvey, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, is founder of Courage, a Catholic apostolate for adults with same-sex attractions, and is co-editor of "Same-Sex Attraction: A Parent's Guide" (Ignatius).

He shared how parents can educate themselves about same-sex attractions and how they can teach their children about healthy human sexuality. His last interview appeared Nov. 16.

Q: You've mentioned that familial or parental situations may contribute to same-sex attractions. Is there a difference between children in these situations and youth who choose to experiment with homosexuality because of social influences?

Father Harvey: There's a significant difference between a child with same-sex attractions due to family environments rather than due to experimentation.

The difference is the youth choosing to experiment is comparatively rare, even though it seems to become "cool" at a high school and college level. Generally speaking, there's a high probability that those who are experimenting already had same-sex attractions and are expressing them in the college period.

It is not common for someone who thinks he or she is heterosexual and who is from a healthy family to move into experimentation. A trauma, such as a teen-age girl or boy being raped, may lead him or her to have same-sex attractions rather than opposite-sex attractions.

Sometimes there's a teen-age period when those who don't feel attracted to the opposite sex try a relationship with the opposite sex, and it doesn't work out. They also find out having sex with someone of the opposite sex is not a cure for same-sex attractions.

Some social influences that lead to youth engaging in homosexual behavior can be traced back to high school. Many felt alone because they had same-sex attractions and weren't fitting in well in the group. In college, they fell into a group of people with same-sex attractions, looking to each other for companionship. At this point, experimentation may happen among people who are already predisposed.

The more we study, the more we see the influence at home is early, in grade school, and even earlier.

But it's important to remember that teen-agers who think they have same-sex attractions aren't set for life. They say they're "gay," but they may not be.

When teens say they feel uncomfortable around peers of the same sex and are attracted to them, often they've also had difficulty relating to and identifying emotionally and psychologically with their same-sex parent -- it's just that the realization of this strained relationship doesn't happen until much later.

It must be noted that same-sex attractions can also be generated by the child's relationship with the parent of the opposite sex.

In my years of counseling women with same-sex attractions, I have met a number of women who believe that their same-sex attractions were mainly due to their relationship with their father. Both parents have a great influence on the child's sense of self-worth and gender identity. There can also be other traumatic experiences outside the family that contribute toward the development of same-sex attractions.

Although most cases of same-sex attractions begin in childhood, the teen-age period becomes critical -- either the teen is drawn toward acting out homosexually, or the teen gets help and learns to live a chaste lifestyle.

The teen may also be able to gradually work toward overcoming or at least minimizing homosexual attractions with the help of a good therapist and spiritual director.

Q: What can be done for children who have stable home lives but who are experimenting with homosexuality due to social influences?

Father Harvey: If the parents know that their child has experimented with homosexual acts, the child must be commanded to seek therapy from reliable Catholic doctors.

If it is a stable home life in the full sense, where the child has a good relationship with both parents, then the parents simply need to continue to develop a healthy home environment while being mindful of external influence on the family, especially on the child.

These "external influences" may surface in adolescence and early college years when young people are found in a scholastic environment where it is considered "cool" to be homosexual or bisexual. If the individual already has some degree of same-sex attractions, he may slip into homosexual acts and thus be seduced into a homosexual way of living.

A healthy home environment presupposes that the children are learning to relate well to both parents. If you don't see that, there are some problems.

Social influences and difficulties can occur if a teen goes out with companions that don't agree with the teen's parents and don't have Christian values. Parents need to talk to their children, give their child thorough instruction on the purpose and meaning of human sexuality, and the beauty of marriage as union of a man and a woman. It's seldom done. The writings of Christopher West on Pope John Paul II's "theology of the body" are most helpful.

Parents are afraid to tell their youngsters what to do, and at 18 teens have their freedom to do whatever they please. The most pernicious teachers of young people are the media.

Q: What aid can be given to parents who may not be willing or able to examine whether their children are showing signs of same-sex attraction?

Father Harvey: Often parents are afraid that their child has same-sex attractions but do not want to seek professional help in order to ascertain their child's inner tendencies.

The problem is that parents are not given real knowledge of signs of homosexual inclinations. Also, when someone from the outside -- a doctor, psychiatrist, priest, friend -- tells parents that their child may have same-sex attractions, the parents have a very hard time with it. They do not want to believe it.

Many parents won't listen, but someone on the adult level needs to make those parents aware that their child is crying out -- they need to get help for their children and get educated themselves about same-sex attractions. There are books that are helpful -- for example, Don Schmierer's book, "An Ounce of Prevention."

Parents are sometimes unreachable -- there's a lot of denial. The parents do not want to believe that their child has same-sex attractions or that their child will lead a homosexual lifestyle if he or she is not helped.

Parents who have gotten beyond the propaganda that a homosexual lifestyle is normal and acceptable think about how difficult it will be for themselves and their child. They think that they can't look forward to their child's marriage and grandchildren, and they are very concerned about that.

How to deal with parents who don't understand or aren't willing to see the signs of same-sex attraction is a most difficult question to answer, because it's very hard to know what to do. Over a few months of talking to those parents, you'll figure out a way to help the parents and the child.

The signs of same-sex attractions are sometimes very well covered. A big youth who is a football player can have same-sex attractions. A little one who is not athletic may be heterosexual. There are many problems interpreting the signs, but most often, it can be determined by the relationship with parents, siblings and same-sex peers.

It is very hard, because often the child won't tell you the truth, yet some will talk to a counselor. Sometimes teens who are traumatized keep it inside themselves. When they finally talk about it, no matter their age, they still can be helped with any same-sex attractions.

Q: What is the necessary healthy psychological environment that parents need to build into their marriage and family in order to prevent or to help heal same-sex attractions in children?

Father Harvey: Parents working together with their children produce a healthy psychological environment. In a home where parents and children like to spend time together, both children who are heterosexual or who have same-sex attractions will benefit from it.

At the same time, the parents need to make it clear that they need time together in order to sustain their marriage. Youngsters need to see their father and mother embrace regularly. Often, children with same-sex attractions come from a home where they don't see their parents embrace.

If a child comes from a home with no sign of affection between parents or siblings, it's difficult for a child with same-sex attractions to rightly order his affection and attractions.

You can't talk to your kids about homosexuality alone -- it needs a background. First, you have to talk to them about theology and God's plan for the human person, then heterosexuality, then homosexuality.

The best approach for single parents is to find someone in the family to give the child some companionship and instruction, and act as a role model. A single mother needs to find an uncle or someone in the family to relate to her son, and vice versa with a single father and his daughter. It's the parent's prerogative and privilege to do that for his or her child.

It's a long process to heal sexual identity. It doesn't take place all at once. It can start at 3 or 4 years old -- when kids start showing signs of same-sex attraction -- and can go through the teen-age and adult years. It has to be put in a larger perspective.

I find two factors helpful for teen-agers: professional therapy with a good therapist who is faithful to the Church's teachings; and spiritual direction and prayer.

Q: The Catechism of the Catholic Church [No. 2358] says that people with same-sex attractions do not choose their homosexual condition. From your point of view, does that mean that it is not a learned behavior?

Father Harvey: One of the ways that homosexual activity is "learned" is when a person is introduced to that form of activity by another person. There are other ways that one may learn homosexual activity, such as through the things that they watch or read. However, the homosexual condition itself generally develops involuntarily.

I don't believe that anyone chooses to have same-sex attractions. The homosexual condition has emotional roots and is influenced by attitudes in the mind that come about because of various external events.

However, it is not a real choice because that person usually didn't have control over the circumstances and traumas that influenced the development of same-sex attractions. Real choice involves full knowledge and advertence in the mind and freedom in the will.

The evidence leans heavily on the fact that same-sex attractions are due largely to environmental causes. There's no evidence of inborn homosexuality -- it doesn't exist. There is a hundred years of evidence that same-sex attractions are related to environmental factors and psychological influences. All the evidence before 1973 pointed to environmental factors. Then came the idea that it is related to genetics. So far, there is no evidence that it is genetic.

People who have same-sex attractions sometimes conclude that that is their identity. But the identity is always developing; it takes a long while for people to mature in their identity.

Our true identity is that we are creatures of God, men and women with intelligence and free will. And when we are baptized, we become brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Same-Sex Marriage, Humanae Vitae, Homosexual, Sex

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.