Item 1542 - Homosexuality: prejudice or mental illness?

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Reference code

CA ON00389 1-9-1-1542

Title

Homosexuality: prejudice or mental illness?

Date(s)

  • November 29, 1967 (Creation)

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1 p. of textual records

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(1932-1996)

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This item consists of a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: Homosexuality: Prejudice or Mental Illness? published in The National Catholic Reporter, 29 November, 1967, p. 8. The author is examining two ways of viewing the reality of male homosexuality in his time without, he says, wishing to decide ‘who is right and who is wrong’. The first section discusses homosexuality as a problem of prejudice with three areas emphasized: A) Homosexuality and projection. Prejudice arises, Nouwen suggests, out of our fear of our own sexual uncertainty and ‘feelings which we don’t wish to acknowledge’. B) Homosexuality and the self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘This theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy suggests, just like the theory of projection, that the major problem is one of prejudice. It is our false definition of what a homosexual is which causes the exact behavior which we despise.’ C) Homosexuality in the bible and medieval Christianity. Nouwen outlines several biblical passages which are often used to ‘try to prove that homosexuality is especially sinful, deserving of punishment or suffering...’ He concludes this section by suggesting that these passages are usually misinterpreted. The second section of this article discusses homosexuality as a mental disorder. Nouwen asks here, ‘to what degree do we have to consider homosexuality as a mental disorder with deeper roots than the feelings or ideas of the surrounding culture?’ He then goes on to discuss two standpoints: 1) The psychoanalytic approach and 2) The phenomenological approach. In 1) he quotes from a letter of Sigmund Freud to a concerned mother to show Freud’s kindness and sympathy and also discusses a study done by I. Bieber in 1962. In his discussion of 2) the phenomenological approach he uses material extensively from a study by Hans Giese in 1958 about the homosexual man. Two sub-sections here are: 1.How does the homosexual experience his own body? And 2) How does the homosexual experience himself in the world? This material is followed by a section entitled: Homosexuality and Pastoral Care in which he states: ‘We believe that in our pastoral relationship with our fellow man we can try to understand the deep suffering of the homosexual in the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, and make him free for unconditional hope’. The final section of this article is entitled Practical Considerations. These are, Nouwen suggests, his own rather than scientific conclusions. He states here that, ‘Our general attitude toward homosexuality should be free from anxiety and fear, not to speak of disgust and rejection. By a relaxed and understanding relationship to our homosexual fellow man, we might help him more than by an overly-moralistic concern which requires change as a condition for friendship’.

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Preservation photocopy available in Articles by Nouwen Access Copy Box 1.

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Publication note

Published in The National Catholic Reporter, 29 November 1967, p. 8.
This article has been published in: Nouwen, Henri, J.M. Intimacy: Pastoral Psychological Essays. Notre Dame, Indiana:Fides Publishers 1970, Chapter 3. This article was not included in earlier editions of this book.

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Note

Also available as an offprint with notation "File: Nouwen: Homosexuality" (located with item in file).
This article has been hole punched.

Alternative identifier(s)

Accession Number

2000 02

Location

Box 294

Previous Item Number

22-93A

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