Wrong presuppositions skew reality: A response to Eve Tushnet

Our orientation is not ‘gay’ or ‘straight.’ Our orientation is determined by the design written in our beings. Our bodies are the key to our orientation. To claim that orientation is fixed by mere sexual appetites forfeits the design.

(Image: Nadine Shaabana/Unsplash.com)

Eve Tushnet recently wrote an article in America Magazine titled “Conversion Therapy is Still Happening in Catholic Spaces – and its effects on L.G.B.T. people can be devastating” (May 13, 2021). Throughout, her supposition seems to be that some people are fundamentally (that is, naturally) homosexual. In other words, homosexuality is an immutable aspect of the human nature in certain persons, especially her interviewees. Any effort to grow beyond their homosexual condition is impossible and therefore hurtful to them.

Tushnet’s anthropology (‘LGBT people’) skews her effort. She misuses the language of ‘orientation,’ claiming that some (mostly) Catholic organizations seek to ‘change people’s ‘sexual orientation,’ and ‘create a heterosexual identity for someone who experiences same-sex attraction.’ Tushnet is herself a ‘gay-identified’ Catholic. She extends that mantle over each ‘victim’ of reparative therapy who she mines for anecdotal evidence.

She gets what she assumes. Examining brokenness that undergirds same-sex desires and seeking restoration for core contributors (family-of-origin fractures, sexual trauma, early peer rejection and isolation, etc.) is futile. Why? These persons have a fixed, immutable same-sex orientation. She concludes what she presumes: attempting to move beyond a homosexual ‘orientation’ damages ‘gay’ people and anyone who encourages such repair is abusive.

In challenging Eve’s faulty starting point, we must look at the essence of human nature. Pope Benedict XVI prophetically spells out the pivotal call to revere man’s nature. He said:

Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.1

We as human beings do not determine our orientation. Humanity’s orientation is determined by the One who created us. Our orientation is not ‘gay’ or ‘straight.’ Our orientation is determined by the design written in our beings. Our bodies are the key to our orientation. To claim that orientation is fixed by mere sexual appetites forfeits the design.

When we look at the nature of the human person, we can then determine our destiny, direction, orientation. J. Budziszewski writes:

A natural inclination is not whatever I desire…the point of the adjective “natural” is precisely to call attention to design. It is natural for me to be attracted to the opposite sex, even if I am attracted to my own…it is natural for me to eat a varied diet, even if I prefer nothing but donuts. It is natural for me to use my lungs to take in oxygen, even if I am addicted to sniffing glue. The mere fact that I want something means little by itself…what matters is not how we incline…what matters is how we naturally incline – by the design, according to the Designer.2

We cannot say that one who experiences disordered desire (e.g., same-sex desires) is somehow disqualified from these foundational starting points. To presume so mars human nature. We mar our nature when we deem a ‘gay’ identity natural. The ‘gay’ identity manipulates orientation as to accommodate a sexual desire not written in the logic of the design. Wrong presuppositions skew reality. To do so binds our freedom, poisons our Catholic ethos, and offends the Designer.

It also throws healers under the bus, as Eve does in her article. We at DSM take issue with her indictment of caregivers whom she sullies by ascribing questionable ‘anecdotes’ to them.

Eve subtitles a section of her article as ‘Leaving Space for the Cross.’ We find this incredibly ironic. How far does the Cross go? Does the Cross lay claim to every aspect our lives, even our sexual identities?

The Cross must go to the essence of our being, laying claim to our sexuality. In order for the Cross to reach such depths, disciples must surrender completely to Jesus.

Can the Cross break the back of disorder in our lives? Theologian Mary Healy writes:

Since today there are people with same-sex attraction for whom it seems innate and unalterable, the assumption is often made that to take the biblical teaching at face value is to condemn such persons to a life of loneliness, frustration and unfulfillment. But this assumption is incompatible with the witness of the New Testament. Same-sex attraction is simply one form of the disorder that is in every human heart due to the fall, although it can bring with it particularly difficult crosses. The gospel proclaims not only the forgiveness of sin but the healing of all these forms of disorder and the power to live a transformed life in communion with God and others.3

Eve, leave room for the Cross! Allow it to break the back of every moral disorder. The Savior is not allergic to disorder. The Cross awaits, Eve, for you to let go of your commitment to ‘gay’ identification.

Surrendering to Jesus and His Cross is a process that requires walking partners. We need an empowered Church community. We need skilled helpers. That’s why we take issue with Eve demonizing a host of orthodox caregivers – orthodox in that they, unlike Eve, hold to a sound anthropology and thus a therapeutic trajectory for one’s right to become reconciled to the purpose of her sexuality.

Many of these healers are our friends: Rich Wyler, Richard Fitzgibbons, Fr. John Harvey and Courage International, Joseph Nicolosi, the Archdiocese of Denver, Christopher West and the Theology of the Body Institute, Dr. Bob Schuchts and the John Paul II Healing Center, and our very own Desert Stream Ministries. These colleagues are seasoned caregivers who give of themselves freely to those seeking help.

To portray them as dangerous, Eve uses anecdotal evidence based on questionable recall of counseling experiences. Time and time again, persons who reverse the healing path and embrace the LGBTQ+ lifestyle re-write their therapeutic histories as coercive to the point of caricature. We at DSM have witnessed this in churches and courts and government councils around the country. We’ve felt the impact of it in bad rulings that outlaw a person’s right to choose their therapeutic path. We conclude: the moral reversal into LGBTQ+ identification necessitates skewed self-justification. Orthodox caregivers become the enemy.

Eve’s choice of anecdotes sounds thin and unreal. ‘The therapist offered a tantalizing prospect: “He believed in complete healing of wounds and traumas.”’ ‘She said she wasn’t seeking conversion therapy. However, the Catholic psychologist from whom she sought help would not listen.’ ‘She said her therapist scolded her for “dressing like a boy”; he praised her for being “a highly compliant patient.”’ ‘That I would be healed by learning about [homosexuality] enough and praying enough.’ ‘Her therapist and her spiritual director both seemed to think that marriage was her only “shot at happiness,”’ recalled another interviewee.

Ridiculous. No caregiver in her right mind would say that.

Desert Stream/Living Waters is mentioned, though Eve never asked our opinion. She casts a shadow on us based upon the suicide of a woman we never met, nor had we ever engaged with the caregivers who surrounded her troubled life. Because we did a conference within a 100-mile radius of the woman’s home, Eve implies that we contributed to her trouble. What we did just discover is that this woman spent her last two years in ‘gay’-affirming therapy and with a female lover.

Eve concludes with confusing and unchaste possibilities for her case studies. ‘She has explored relationships with woman, even though she still is figuring out “the moral piece” and how her sexuality and faith might find harmony.’ ‘I’m living with a man and want to pursue gay marriage.’ The last interviewee is living with his partner yet committed to a ‘Catholic sexual ethic.’ ‘We almost broke up because I said, “I’m never gonna be able to give you what you want.” And he said, “I don’t care about that. I want to be with you.”’

Eve’s alternate to ‘conversion therapy’ is a slippery slope. It appears to accommodate not only disorder but sin. ‘Gay’ celibacy and ‘gay’ friendships are still unchaste. The Church must be clear. Jesus came to break the back of any and all moral disorder in our lives. Leave space for the Cross, and don’t crucify Jesus’ members who champion its power.

(Editor’s note: This essay originally appeared as a two-part piece, in slightly different form, on the Desert Stream Ministries website.)


1 Pope Benedict XVI, “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI”; Reichstag Building, Berlin (22 September 2011).

2 J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know (Ignatius Press, 2011).

3 Mary Healy, Living the Truth in Love, Part II (unpublished work). 2020.

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About Marco Casanova 1 Article
Marco Casanova (M.Div.) completed Philosophical and Theological studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. After having left priestly formation, he joined the Desert Stream Ministries team. Now as Assistant Director of the ministry, he works closely with Andrew Comiskey in the healing of the sexually and relationally broken, both nationally and internationally. Marco serves at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Westport, Missouri.
About Andrew Comiskey 0 Articles
Andrew Comiskey (M.Div.) has worked extensively with the healing of the sexually and relationally broken. He is the Founding Director of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, a multifaceted outreach to the broken. Andrew’s ministry grows both out of his own commitment to overcome homosexuality and his experience as a husband to Annette, father of four children and grandfather to five grandkids. He is author of Pursuing Sexual Wholeness (Creation House), Strength in Weakness (InterVarsity Press), Naked Surrender: Coming Home to Our True Sexuality (InterVarsity Press) and the Living Waters healing program. Andrew is active in St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, Missouri.


  1. I don’t think this article should have been published (editor needs to be more careful of who gets published here). Firstly, the article begins: “Throughout, her supposition seems to be that some people are fundamentally (that is, naturally) homosexual.” Note “seems to be”. But then the article proceeds as if she actually holds it to be. If someone “seems to” believe something or other, I need to verify whether what appears to me is actually so before I assume it is actually so.

    And then the authors write: “In other words, homosexuality is an immutable aspect of the human nature in certain persons, especially her interviewees.”

    But hold on! If one holds that same sex attraction is unchanging, that does not imply that such a person holds that it is an immutable aspect of human nature or that people are naturally homosexual.

    There is just too much that is wrong with this article. Tushnet is on our team. She believes in chastity. She believes that sex has a fundamentally nuptial meaning. She’s a star player. Why are we dissing her? For an article that deals with this kind of topic, you need authors who possess a more rigorous science background. M-Div is not enough.

    • A more rigorous science background? Can you cite ANY credible scientific studies that support the views of Even Tushnet? This is not a question of contradicting science, but a question of manipulating the use of language, the distortion of logic, the twisting of Catholic thought.

    • …”hold on! If one holds that same sex attraction is unchanging, that does not imply that such a person holds that it is an immutable aspect of human nature or that people are naturally homosexual.”

      How are you not differentiating between unchanging and immutable if they are critically different terms?

    • You need to reread the article. You are faulting the authors for not making distinctions for what they went to great lengths to make. They were clearly at odds with Tushnet’s supposition that homosexuality was natural. It was her supposition, not their’s. They clearly refuted that position.
      Secondly, how do you conclude Tushnet is “on our team.” Going half way with Catholic values is not surrendering to the cross of Christ. Again, read the article before criticizing it.

    • No, she is working against the team. She has now more clearly set herself against Church teaching by claiming God makes people to have same sex attraction and identifying people as being “gay” and “lesbian,” with the political and ideological connotations that carries. To say that what ultimately matters is that one refrains from external conduct is foolish. If one still states that disordered attractions are acceptable and should be fostered/expressed via “friendships,” one has seriously erred and still promotes what is at the heart of such behavior. Everything starts and ends from within, not from external conduct. We must call this for what it is: an attempt by someone to rationalize and provide cover for deviancy, rather than face their reality and deal with it accordingly.

  2. In addition to sound insights from philosophers and theologians, what ever happened to “FOLLOW THE SCIENCE?” Four points: (1) genome findings, (2) fetal chemical victims, (3) a gender-transition retraction, and (4) culturally-altered brain chemistry.

    FIRST, research into the GENOME does point to some genetic markers—but not to a gay gene—and these markers do not account for same-sex behavior. “We scanned the entire human genome and found a handful—five to be precise—of locations that are clearly associated with whether a person reports in engaging in same-sex sexual behavior,” said Andrea Ganna, a biologist at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland.

    Ganna said these have “a very small effect” and, combined, explain “considerably less than 1% of the variance in the self-reported same-sex sexual behavior [….] non-genetic factors – such as environment, upbringing, personality, nurture—are far more significant in influencing a person’s choice of sexual partner…” Peer groups, moral neutrality, non-deterministic predispositions, absentee fathers—this sort of thing. (Reported by Reuters (August 29, 2019). Here’s the link: https://news.yahoo.com/no-gay-gene-study-finds-180220669.html

    SECOND, do we have early victims of CHEMISTRY as well as later victims of sexual abuse? While we do not create ourselves, are there some cases where inadvertent (environmental) chemical interference in the fetus, for example, then later disrupts what God has created? The new and tragic scientific question is whether fetal absorption of endocrine disruptive chemicals (EDCs) can block normal fetal hormonal development toward physically/emotionally integrated male and female children at birth? (Chemicals associated with endocrine-disrupting ability in humans include organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, bisphenol A, phthalates, dioxins, and furans.) Preventive action could be difficult, but does not include redefinition of the family, marriage and the human person.

    THIRD, the authors of a 2019 study which claimed so-called gender-transition surgery may improve the long-term mental health of recipients issued a CORRECTION nearly a year after publication: “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.” Here’s the link: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2020/08/04/researchers-reverse-gender-surgery-offers-no-advantage-to-mental-health/

    FOURTH, a study completed at University College London and using MRI technology (magnetic resonance imagery) strongly implies that a HABIT of lying tends to suppress the part of the brain (the amygdala) that responds emotionally to a “slippery slope” pattern of small and then larger lies (Nature Neuroscience Journal, October 24, 2016; reported in New York Times, October 25, 2016). Besides lying, do other behavioral addictions also have this effect? Such is shown to be the case with addiction to computer games, and pornography is scientifically reported to be more addictive than heroine or cocaine.

    So, what about our culture of sexual “readiness” and experimentation— including America Magazine’s peddling of Fr. James Martin’s LGBTQ propaganda?

    • So called “genetic markers” are seldom more that statistical correlations with no substantial causal factors identified. One self-evident fact is that homosexuals have fewer children than heterosexuals, which would progressively eliminate a genetic factor from the gene pool over time if it ever existed.
      What is also self-evident is the disturbed moral mindsets of homosexuals, as a population group, possessing an ideological bias that leads to their having a 98 percent approval rate of abortion.

  3. If you’re sexually attracted to a person of the same sex, that means you were created “gay?” What about people who are attracted to multiple individuals of the opposite sex? Should we approve? Attractions and appetites need to be brought under the control of the individual. Following God’s plan leads to happiness. Take all Ten Commandments and put them into a positive sentence structure, i.e., “Thou shalt not kill” becomes “Thou shall be life-giving.” All the commandments are given to lead us to happiness. Thou shalt not commit adultery — have sexual relations with anyone you’re not married to — certainly covers same-sex attractions. No matter what SCOTUS said, there is no such thing as “gay marriage,” because God made people two different sexes and told them to be fruitful and multiply. Even with infertile couples, the possibility of conception exists. It doesn’t exist with same-sex “couples.”

  4. Thank you! Thank you, for publishing this great article that refutes Eve Tushnet’s views on a catholic gay identity etc. It verifies what I thought after reading what she presented. —- This is right on—“We as human beings do not determine our orientation. Humanity’s orientation is determined by the One who created us. Our orientation is not ‘gay’ or ‘straight.’ Our orientation is determined by the design written in our beings. Our bodies are the key to our orientation. To claim that orientation is fixed by mere sexual appetites forfeits the design.”

  5. It’s not surprising that we still need Catholic rebuttals to writers like Eve Tushnet when even the National Catholic Register gives her a lengthy interview to expound upon her disordered and un-Catholic thoughts. What other disordered passion is described as a “gift” to be reverenced as something willed by God? And yet, that is just how Tushnet and friends talk about their imagined “orientation.” The rest of us are supposed to work on our disordered desires and sins, confining discussion of them to the confessional and to prayer. But the “gay Catholic” crowd somehow finds it normal to broadcast and boast about their struggle to be chaste while not even acknowledging their lusts as disordered.

    • Somehow, the “love that dare not speak its name” won’t shut the heck up…

      Good to see another crisis refugee here…

  6. Good piece. After conversations with friends, however, I believe there has been a large amount of malpractice within ministries to SSA people seeking help. So no conversion therapy stories would shock me. Well-intentioned Christians jockeying for miracles often tend to extremes, as do people desperate for help in difficult situations. What could be more difficult than wanting to be straight but being stuck with persistent gay desires?

    But the abuse of something good does not make that thing bad. If people want help diminishing or changing their disordered desires, they should not be denied a chance simply because overzealous agents have given bad counsel. Hope can exist alongside realism.

    Tushnet has written some really good stuff. But she is also part of the Revoice movement, which is controversial to say the least. The Presbyterian Church in America is in the throes of dealing with fallout from Revoice, Catholics would do well to watch that scenario unfold.

    • What is Revoice?

      Tushnet’s title, Gay & Catholic, tells her tale. As a major class A sinner can attest, we easily empathize with others like us. Yet, Jesus took up his cross to encourage us to give our sins and temptations to HIM. Why Eve chooses to hold onto a disordered inclination as her identity, why she believes her sins and their revisiting are worthy of our attention puzzles me extremely.

      I shall now bore you with my bedevilments. Each night around 8 or 9 or 10 pm, visions of ice cream, donuts, cake and swirling parfait treats abound in my head. Do you hear the sizzle of the butter sauteeing?, do you smell the sweet swath of sugar, does the cinammon spritz you?, does chocolate appeal?, or do you prefer some sprinkles?

      I think I should call my therapist. It’s late; I can pay. Perhaps he can visit me and we can talk about my temptation. What if the therapy in which he’s trained is not something to which my life philosophy can relate? Perhaps I can write about it. Perhaps I should talk to my partner, my friend, no roommate, my pal, my mirror-image self.

      Perhaps I should PRAY OR GO TO THE ADORATION CHAPEL and keep my lip zipped. Weekend would say: Save my tears for another day. I wish I were sometimes very alone in the world.

  7. For me, Tushnet’s article reiterates for the millionth time that homosexual people are fixated upon one aspect of themselves: their sexuality. There is so much more to who we are as Children of God and I, personally, find sexuality the least interesting aspect of someone. What toppings of pizza you prefer sparks my interest in you a thousand times more than who you sleep with. I wish these sexuality-obsessed people would focus on mastering the violin or sailing around the world, or frankly, putting something amazingly delicious on a pizza that had never occurred to me.

  8. No disordered desire is an “immutable “ aspect of human nature.
    Although it is not a sin to have a disordered desire, it is a sin to not desire to overcome that disordered desire, by desiring to develop healthy and Holy relationships that are grounded in authentic Life-affirming and Life-sustaining authentic Love.

    Regardless of the actors, or the actor’s desires, the desire to engage in a demeaning act, including a demeaning sexual act of any nature, does not change the nature of the demeaning act.

    Identifying oneself or someone else according to sexual desire/inclination/orientation, which sexually objectifies the human person and denies our inherent Dignity as beloved sons and daughters , does not justify the engaging in of demeaning sexual acts.

    Love, which is always rightly ordered to the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the persons existing in a relationship of Love, is devoid of lust.

    Lust is not a gift from God; lust is a violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery.

  9. >Eve’s alternate to ‘conversion therapy’ is a slippery slope. It appears to accommodate not only disorder but sin. ‘Gay’ celibacy and ‘gay’ friendships are still unchaste.

    No having un-natural sex with someone is unchaste. That statement is just plain silly.
    Eve’s belief that you cannot change yer orientation vs the belief one can is irrelevant to Catholic orthodoxy.

    You either believe yer bound to the moral law and can observe it by grace or you don’t. Wither one can change their so called orientation or simply learn to control themselves is for the individual to explore but submission to the divine and natural law is all that is required by the true Church. Anything else is binding up burdens on other people’s backs.

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