WASHINGTON, D.C., November 4, 2011 ( – A spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops resigned only days after publishing a column in The Boston Pilot in which he had suggested that the devil plays a role in same-sex attraction.

The original column by the USCCB’s Dan Avila, “Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction,” ran Oct 28 in the Catholic newspaper. It sought to address a common objection to traditional marriage supporters: isn’t opposing same-sex “marriage” cruel if, in fact, homosexuals are “born that way”?

Some people argue that “if God causes same-sex attraction, and yet commands that it not be satisfied, then this is divine cruelty,” wrote Avila, who was a full-time advisor to the USCCB’s Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “Or, if God causes same-sex attraction, then it must be the divine will that those with the attraction should act on it and it is the Church that is being cruel in its teaching or at the very least tragically mistaken about what God wants.”


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Avila criticized the assumption that there is a genetic origin to homosexuality, but said that it is possible that hormonal disruptions during fetal development may play a role. But because questions of morality cannot stop at the material level, said Avila, Catholics should also question the level of involvement from the devil.

“Catholics do not have the luxury of being materialists,” he said. “Disruptive imbalances in nature that thwart encoded processes point to supernatural actors who, unlike God, do not have the good of persons at heart.

“In other words, the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil.”

Avila said understanding the role of the spirit of evil in creating “personally unchosen” homosexual attraction should “should deepen our compassion towards those who experience same-sex attraction.”

The column immediately elicited a firestorm of criticism from gay rights commentators, mainstream media, and liberal Catholics. Rev. James Martin of America magazine said in comments to the Washington Post that it was wrong to suggest that “part of a human being is made by Satan,” and countless others castigated Avila for inciting hatred against homosexuals.

Within days, The Pilot removed the column from its website, and issued an apology alongside Avila’s own retraction and apology. The paper lamented that it had “failed to recognize the theological error in the column before publication,” while Avila apologized for “the hurt and confusion that this column has caused.”

“The teaching of Sacred Scripture and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church make it clear that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God and have inviolable dignity,” said Avila in his retraction. “Likewise, the Church proclaims the sanctity of marriage as the permanent, faithful, fruitful union of one man and one woman. The Church opposes, as I do too, all unjust discrimination and the violence against persons that unjust discrimination inspires.”

On Friday, the Catholic News Service announced that Avila had resigned from his USCCB position.

According to the Washington Post, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, said that Avila had been told not to write about public policy issues in his Pilot columns. “While the general population has debated whether it’s nurture or nature that leads to a homosexual inclination, the church has not posed any theory in that regard,” Walsh said in a statement.