Fr Patrick Pullicino (October 27) presented a biased representation of the literature on LGBTIQ parenting, among a plethora of offensive remarks towards the LGBTIQ community at large.

Without going into the merits of Catholic dogma and the Church’s position on same-sex relationships, as a mental health practitioner I cannot sit back and allow people of the clergy to make erroneous statements, in the name of faith and ‘natural law’.

While some – according to Fr Pullicino – are concerned with the “turmoil, confusion and error Pope Francis’s statements on LGBTIQ may have allegedly caused among the Catholic faithful”, we forget it is, in fact, articles such as these that cause pain, psychological turmoil and confusion for persons of LGBTIQ orientation, while misinforming the reader.

So, let’s put a few facts straight.

According to Fr Pullicino, Franklin Graham, a prominent US evangelical leader, criticised the Pope’s comments as an attempt to normalise homosexuality.

Well, guess what, homosexuality is normal. It has been defined as normal based on the criteria of mental health since 1973. The simplistic dichotomy of normal versus abnormal is anyhow becoming obsolete.

The human person has diversified so much and individualisation has offset such an enormous trend towards freedom of expression and livelihood, that normality needs to be redefined as “that which brings joy and health, provided it does no harm to them or to others”.

Fr Pullicino also quotes Cardinal Raymond Burke, saying it is homosexual acts that are wrong. They are contrary to natural law, they cannot produce new life and they do not represent true affective or sexual complementarity.

This statement needs fervent challenging. Living in an over-populated world, enduring famine, abandoned children everywhere – sex cannot and should not always be open to new life.

The ‘homosexual act’ can be as beautiful as any heterosexual act- Cher Engerer

Sex is a natural instinctive pleasure and must not be reduced to a reproductive mechanism. The ‘homosexual act’, as defined in this article, can be as beautiful and as pleasurable as any heterosexual act and such reductionary definitions and sweeping statements do nothing but inhibit, alienate and oppress persons of the LGBTIQ community.

Fr Pullicino said that homosexual acts are not only harmful to the individuals who engage in them but also to society at large.

This is not only erroneous, insensitive and lacking in any form of empirical formulation, it is also downright harmful in itself. I would like to ask Fr Pullicino how any mutually consenting act of sex may be in any way harmful to a person or to a society. We cannot allow people to continue to make statements such as these, which only serve to subjugate the livelihood and natural instinctual rights of any human person.

He claims that same-sex marriages undermine marriage… marriage creates a safe haven for children to grow and mature. That research (Regnerus and others) has shown that children brought up in same-sex relationships are disadvantaged.

I have researched the topic and know intimately, as well as work with, same-sex parented families, Rainbow families. I strongly contradict his statement. Same sex marriages also contribute – equally as heterosexual marriages – to the proliferation and sustenance of society.

They measure up very well in their provision of a safe haven for children.

Fr Pullicino conveniently quotes the research of Regnerus but fails to inform the reader that most gay parenting studies conclude that children raised by gay parents perform as well, if not better, than their counterparts in heterosexual families.

I quote: “There is no evidence to suggest that lesbian women or gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of lesbian women or gay men is compromised relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents.

Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents” (Lesbian and Gay Parenting. American Psychological Association, Patterson, 2005, p. 15).

Interestingly, a large research trend suggests that marriage, at least among heterosexual couples, is good for children, therefore, it should apply that same-sex parents are also encouraged to marry since it might be beneficial to these children. In fact, children with gay and lesbian parents may report certain disadvantages in young adulthood partly because their parents were not allowed to marry or were somehow marginalised.

We have no right to decide on the rights of others. It is the subjugation, intolerance and rejection of minority groups, including the LGBTIQ community, which causes damage and pain in our community, and not their sexual acts.

Same-sex marriages are becoming an integral and acceptable set-up in our society and the number of children raised by gay and lesbian parents is increasing.

The question we should be asking is not whether same-sex households are harmful to children but how can we further support LGBTIQ parents to be the best parents they can possibly be.

Whether or not they should become parents should no longer be up for debate – because they are parents.

It would be unfortunate if the findings from, let’s say, the Regnerus study and articles such as these were used to undermine the social progress made in recent decades to protect the rights of LGBTIQ persons and their children.

Cher Engerer is a psychologist.

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