Recently, homosexuality has been very much in the news: The DC City Council has introduced a Same-sex “Marriage” Bill. This weekend in Washington there will also be a large Gay Pride event which will, among other things, celebrate this fact. It seems on many fronts the gay lifestyle is gaining wider acceptance. And thus the question is increasingly asked, even by Catholics, “Why does the Catholic Church continue to oppose Gay marriage and homosexual activity?” The answer can be made on the basis of three pillars: Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law. In this post I would like to explore the Scriptural roots of the Catholic teaching against homosexual activity. As you can see, it rather long. But I have wanted to be thorough. I also supply this reflection in PDF here: Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity and at the bottom in case you’d like to print it an read it later.
An Important Distinction Between Activity and Orientation: The Bible is very clear: it unambiguously, and in an uncompromising way, condemns homosexual activity as a serious sin. I want to share a few of these Biblical texts with you. But before I do, let me make a very important clarification. In the first place, note it is homosexual activity that is condemned, not all persons of homosexual orientation. It is a fact that some individuals are attracted to members of the same sex. Why this is or how it comes to be is not fully understood, but it is, nonetheless, simply a fact for some individuals. Since sexual orientation is not usually a matter of direct choice or immediate control, it is not itself an object of moral condemnation. Merely to be tempted to commit a certain sin does not make one evil or bad, or even guilty for that temptation. Rather, it is when one gives way to the temptation and commits the sin that one becomes a sinner. Many homosexual persons live chaste lives, and, although tempted to commit homosexual acts, they do not in fact do so. This is courageous, holy and praiseworthy. Sadly, though, some with a homosexual orientation not only commit the sin of homosexual activity, but they openly flaunt this fact, and dismiss or attempt to reinterpret Biblical texts that clearly forbid such activity. For these people, we can only hope and pray for conversion. I hope you can see, however, why we must distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity.
Homosexuality is not being singled out – A second clarification that we must make is that we should be careful not to single out homosexual activity as though it were the only sexual sin God condemns. Clearly, all who are heterosexual are also called to sexual purity. The same Bible which condemns homosexual activity also clearly condemns acts of fornication (a Bible word for premarital sex) and acts of adultery. The Bible describes these as serious sins, which can and do exclude people from the Kingdom of God and from the hope of Heaven (cf Eph 5:5-7; Gal 5:16-21; Rev 21:5-8; Rev. 22:14-16; Mt. 15:19-20; 1 Cor 6:9-20; Col 3:5-6; 1 Thess 4:1-8; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Heb 13:4). To be excluded from the Kingdom of God means that one is in mortal sin and will not go to heaven if they die unrepentant. Sadly, many people today live in open violation of Biblical teaching. Many engage in premarital sex (fornicate) and say it is alright because “everyone’s doing it.” Many live together without benefit of marriage. This, like homosexual activity, is sinful. It is wrong, and should be repented of immediately. Hence, homosexual activity is not singled out by the Bible or by Christians. Every human being, without exception, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is called to sexual purity, to chastity, and to self-control. Any violation of this is a sin. Put more positively, God’s command of chastity means that sexual purity is possible for everyone with God’s grace. God empowers us to do what he commands!
The Biblical Data on Homosexual Activity: As stated above, the Bible clearly and unambiguously condemns homosexual activity. For example, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18: 22) and “If a man lies with a male as with a female, both of them have committed an abomination” (Lev 20:13). Likewise, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah depicts, among other things, the sinfulness of homosexual activity. It is too lengthy to reproduce here in its entirety, but you can read about it in Genesis 19. The New Testament as well contains a number of texts on homosexuality. Here is one, 1 Corinthians 6-9: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” There are other texts, as well: for example 1 Timothy 1 8-11. Note that, in many of these texts, homosexual activity is listed among other sexual offenses a person can commit. Again, it is not merely singled out. Here then, is what the Bible teaches: homosexual activity is wrong as are other sexual sins such as fornication and adultery. It is true that there are not a huge number of texts regarding homosexual activity. But, whenever it is mentioned, it is clearly and uncompromisingly condemned. The final text I would like to explore is one about which we should be careful and respectful. It is written in strong language to be sure but we must be careful to understand it in a way that is inclusive of all, not just the Gay community. Here is the text and some commentary to follow:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them…in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.” (Romans 1:18ff)
Please note that the sinners condemned in this passage are those who “suppress the truth.” The context in which Paul speaks here is the Gentile world which, although it did not have scripture, nonetheless had the Natural Law. They can know that God exists and the fundamental things he expects because he has “shown it to them in the things he has made.” Nevertheless, though they can know the truth they suppress it and their minds thus become darkened, that is, incapable of accepting or understanding what God demands. Because they reject what is natural (Natural Law) they descend into what is unnatural (the Greek word that Paul uses is paraphysin meaning “contrary to or beside nature”). So the Scripture here is clear enough, homosexual activity is “paraphysin” contrary to nature. Here too Paul does not single out Homosexual activity as the only issue that comes from “suppressing the truth.” He goes on to list in the same chapter many other sins that proceed from those who suppress the truth:
God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)
The truth be told, our whole society is recognizable in these verses. This is what happens to a society that kicks God to the curb and suppresses the truth. So here again, homosexuality is not singled out but it is listed among the sins that proceed from the suppression of the truth. Further, the approval of it like the other sins listed (to include heterosexual sins) are also the symptoms of a darkened intellect poisoned by the suppression of the truth. Strong words to be sure but inclusive of us all to one degree or another.
So there is the Scriptural data. Sadly, today, many have set aside Biblical teachings on homosexual activity. They not only declare that it is not sinful, but they even celebrate it as though it were good. It is bad enough when non-believers do this, but it is even more tragic when people who call themselves Christians do such things. A number of the no-Catholic but Christian denominations have begun celebrating and blessing homosexual unions and promoting clergy who are actively and publicly engaging in homosexual activity. In effect they sanction such behavior and are setting aside the Word of God, or reinterpreting it’s clear meaning. They mislead many by this: “Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying I am he!’ and they will lead many astray” (Mark 13:5). St. Paul also knew that some would distort the Christian faith. And so he said: ” and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20: 29).
Conclusion – As seen above, we live an era where there is often deep confusion about moral issues. In the area of sexual morality, the confusion is especially deep today. This confusion has touched many, heterosexual and homosexual who are living and promoting unbiblical lifestyles. In such a climate, we must speak the truth that comes from God and live it. Suppressing the truth leads to great distortions, confusion, and suffering. The sexual promiscuity of our own day has led to great suffering: Sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, abortion, teenage pregnancy, broken marriages, divorce, single parenthood. The confusion about homosexual activity is just one more symptom of the general sexual confusion of our day. In suppressing the truth from God, many among us call good that which God has taught as sinful. As Christians we must proclaim the Word and Wisdom of God, in season and out of season, whether popular or unpopular. We do this with respect and love but also with insistence on the truth which comes from God. Caritatem in veritate!
The following video starts out as an explanation of why the Church opposes Gay Marriage but the second half is also a good summary of the Church teaching on homosexuality.
This blog post is also available in PDF format here: Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity
29 Replies to “Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity”
Dear Msgr. Pope,
Thank you for your excellent article on homosexuality.
In 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger(now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote a superb letter on “The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”. Below is an excerpt:
12. What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian’s suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ.
It is, in effect, none other than the teaching of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians when he says that the Spirit produces in the lives of the faithful “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5:22) and further (v. 24), “You cannot belong to Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.”
It is easily misunderstood, however, if it is merely seen as a pointless effort at self-denial. The Cross is a denial of self, but in service to the will of God himself who makes life come from death and empowers those who trust in him to practise virtue in place of vice.
To celebrate the Paschal Mystery, it is necessary to let that Mystery become imprinted in the fabric of daily life. To refuse to sacrifice one’s own will in obedience to the will of the Lord is effectively to prevent salvation. Just as the Cross was central to the expression of God’s redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.
Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God’s personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord’s grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way.
Yes, in the end it is about embracing the cross isn’t it. For all of us. It seems that what the world most objects to is not the particular moral issue but the fact that we dare to hold up the cross. Saying no to euthanasia, to abortion, to premarital sex to homosexual activity and so forth requires sacrifice, requires us to embrace the cross. Too many Christians are embarrassed by the cross and so cave into what ever demands the world makes. The secular world demand that we hold up a big fluffy pillow, but we hold up the cross and the the word cries foul. Alas the cross is a “stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles.But to those who beleive it is the power and wisdom of God” (1 cor 1:23-24)
I find it difficult to accept these arguments based on “the Bible clearly teaches” such and such, as if the fact that you can read it in the BIble means that it’s truth from God. The Bible is made up of many books and different expressions that reflect many different points of view and periods of time. Jesus himself quotes Scripture in the gospel, only to put forth a new and different way of looking at it (“You have heard it said, but I say to you…”). You could quote many parts of the Bible that would contradict other parts of the Bible (Jesus defies many of the purity codes from the Old Testament). This is not to say that the Bible is not a valid source of truth or inspired by God, but that it can’t be read with a fundamentalist lens, without any context to what’s being quoted. We can remember that slavery was supported with Bible quotes. This is to say, exegesis can be manipulated easily and as Catholics, we need a stronger foundation for why we believe what we believe.
My question is whether there is a basis in one’s conscience, or one’s experience, or one’s common sense, that at all might have an authority in forming one’s own position on homosexuality? Furthermore, as a Catholic, how can I make sense of what I hear from you – that the Bible is clearly and unambiguously against homosexuality (sorry, homosexual activity) – with what I see in many other Churches, mainly, an acceptance of homosexuals even in leadership roles? Are they just a huge group that is suppressing God’s truth clearly set out in the Bible? How do they justify to themselves that homosexual activity is not wrong, since after all they seem to be people of faith and grounded in the Scriptures?
I am not a fundamentalist, I am a Catholic priest. Your example of scripture contradicting scripture (even if it were so) does not work here since there are no passages that declare homosexual acts good to contrast what I have quoted. The fact it that the Bible is quite consistent in its condemnation of both homsexual acts and premaritial or extramarital homosexual activity. The slavery of the ancient world was a very different reality than the slavery of the new world. In the ancient world slavery resulted from three basic sources: one could not pay their bills (indebtedness), one had committed crimes and was enslaved as punishement, or, most commonly, one had been a solider on the loosing side of a conflict with the Romans. Hence slavery served as an alternative to imprisonment or death. But the slavery of the new world enslaved and exploited people who had committed no cirmes, broken no law, owed no debt, and had not engaged in any war. This slavery had to be condemned in those later times and was. But scripture never approved of such a slavery as that of the new world. Hence scripture was not set aside, neither was it incorrect in it judgments.
You talk about Catholics needing a stronger foundation than Scripture for what we believe. I wonder what you have in mind. For me the argument is threefold, Scripture, Tradition, and Natural. I referred to all three of them in the article but indicated that this post would look only at the scripture. Elsewhere I have indicated Natural Law arguments as well. The point is Michael, all three of them agree that homosexual activity is excluded.
In your second paragraph your argument throughly unravels. It now comes down merely to what one thinks. Suddenly this becomes the norm for truth, just what your own conscience or mine thinks. THis is a privatizing of God and Faith. We, as a people of faith have to base our conscience on Scripture and Tradition. We do not have our own authority to invent or reinvent truth or religion. If no one is Pope everyone is pope. Jesus rstablished a Church and gave the leaders of that Church, the Pope and Bishops the authority to teach and preach in his name. THis is the basis of our faith and even the Scriptures for it is the Catholic Church that brought forth and authorized the Canon of Scripture. Otherwise you and I are all on our own and we have to make it up as we go along. As for the other denominations that permit this, they are in error. The scriptures are clear, Chrisitian Tradition is clear, Natural Law is clear. They have become unclear for reasons of their own but they do not have the Charism to teach in Christ’s name since they were not founded by Chirst. The oldest of the Protestant Churches are only 500 years old, most of them are less the 200 yers old. They were founded by men, not by Jesus himself. So you asked how to make sense of it? I would make sense of it this way, listen to the scriptures’ unaltering message, observe the unvarying witness of the Christian Tradtion, study the Natural Law, and listen to the Church Christ founded and her unvarying, authoritative message that homosexual activity is sinful, That heterosexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. Listening to the Catholic Church is how you make sense of it all.
I don’t know if you understood me, Msgr. I wasn’t arguing that what one thinks individually should be the basis for a position on homosexuality or anything else. I asked, clearly, what authority an individual’s conscience, experience, and common sense has in making sense of this issue? From your response, I sense very little. Am I wrong? I ask this because many Catholics have already heard what you are saying, but their conscience and experience tell them differently.
While you cite Jesus as getting the ball rolling on an external authority known as the Church that we should all listen to, I cite Jesus as someone who challenged his external religious authorities and traditions with his own inner authority. You hear in the gospels often, “by what authority does this man say this stuff?” He seems to have little need for justifying himself with outer institutions and authorities. This is not to say that I don’t believe in external authority, or that external authority is invalid, or that anyone’s inner experience should be considered an authority. It is to ask, again, don’t we as sons and daughters of God, and most importantly as followers of Christ, don’t we have some authority that comes from within and not merely from the Roman Catholic Church?
I also gather that other Christians who don’t support the Catholic Church’s teachings on condemning homosexual activity (or on homosexuality being a psychological disorder) are not legitimate because they weren’t founded by Jesus, because they’re not that old, because they’re of men rather than of Christ. Can’t really argue with that line of reasoning, and I’m glad you’ve at least laid it out as clear as you did. But it might be helpful for Catholics to know what these illegitimate Churches have to say on the matter and how they justify their positions based on Scripture. Do they just turn a blind eye to it?
Finally, I wasn’t calling you a fundamentalist. I know that the Church warns against fundamentalism. I was merely saying that expecting us to believe something because “the Bible says” is dancing with fundamentalism. Even if slavery was different in the New World, it was still justified by a lot of people using Bible quotes. Bibles quotes have been used to justify all sorts of things. Again, not trying to bash the Bible or use this to undermine your argument. I am trying to balance out a reliance on external rationale and authority with some sort of inner understanding and power. As Catholics, we can’t keep explaining our positions by quoting priests who are quoting the Catechism who are quoting the Pope who is quoting the Scriptures who are quoting God. We can’t keep outsourcing our minds and our faiths to others. We can’t keep being sheep. We need to be encouraged to use the minds that God gave us and the tools we are born with and the experiences we have as guides at some point.
So, I am genuinely interested, what role do WE play in all of this?
No one knows what you or the church is talking about with your distinction between orientation and acts. I would stick w/Jimmy Carter’s confession because he lusted in his heart he was guilty of adultery. Coveting your neighbor’s goods or wife is on par w/adultery. If you call your neighbor a fool, you are guilty of murder.
I want to commit murder in my heart, is that okay because I cannot control how I feel? No, I constantly tell myself that it is not okay to want to murder my brother. It is WRONG to want to murder my brother. I am supposed to love my brother. I am supposed to love my brother as myself because of Jesus Christ. (Love is an act of will, remember?)
Now suppose because I want to kill my brother, I tell myself I am a murderer. It is fine to be a murderer as long as I don’t kill my brother. I can indulge all my murderous fantasies and look at pictures of people committing murder and murdered bodies (other people are doing it, not me) and pretend how it would be to actually murder my brother (it’s just pretend) — I’m okay; I didn’t act. Is this true? Where does this lead?
It is fine to be a fornicator as long as I don’t fornicate. It is fine to be greedy as long as I don’t steal. It is fine to be a drunkard as long as I don’t drink. It is fine to be a hater as long as I don’t hate. It is fine to be a glutton as long as I don’t eat. You get the picture? What does this mean?
The so-called homosexual “orientation” is the sin. People who indulge this sin have gone on to turn the church and our society inside out. God will destroy both just as he did Sodom and Gomorrah.
Jimmy Carter is not an authoritative source to interpret either Catholic teaching or Scripture. However, your insight and question is surely worth reflecting upon. It is true that sins of thought can be sinful. But the question is, when does a thought that simply occurs to us become sinful. Further, what distinctions should be made between temptation and sins like lust and coveting, anger and hatred. Now clearly there is a distinction since scripture affirms that Jesus was tempted in every way we are yet without sin. So there is such a thing as being tempted in our mind to do something wrong and sin per se. Take lust. Most people have thoughts that occurr to them about sexual activity that is wrong or impure. They dismiss such a thought but may be troubled by it for a period of time or off and on. But when does a temptation of this sort become lustful thinking? Probably at the point that the person begins to accpet it in a way that they actively fanticize about it. Same with coveting. I may notice that a neighbors wife is attractive of that his home or something he has would be nice to have. Hence a temptation presents itself. WHen do I go from temptation (which can be non-sinful) to sinful coveting. I suppose the moment I begin to fanaticize about his wife or of having his home or car etc. As with anger, it commonly rises in the heart and mind of person. But not all anger is sin for the scripture says, “Be angry but sin not.” But when does anger become sin, the kind of anger Jesus condemns? I suppose the moment I begin to plan revenge or begin to draw others into hatred of the person or begin to wish ill to other person.
Finally, sin involves something that we have control over. Impulsive thoughts that spontaneously arise involve little or no control What we choose to do about those thoughts or temptations is where morality enters in. Sexual orientation does not seem to be a matter of immediate or direct control That I find women beautiful is not something I can just turn off. Neither could I just decide to start finding men attractive. It just wouldn’t work. Hence, orientation seems not to be a matter over which there is a lot of control. Hence we are probably dealing more with a matter of predispostion prior to moral blame in this matter. A homosexual person would be pre-disposed to temptations reagarding the same sex. Their temptations should be managed in the same a way a heterosexual person should manage their temptations to sin with the opposite sex. Temptation becomes sin when it is freely accepted and indulged. Temptation is prior to sin and orientation seems to be deeper even than temptation in that it predisposed what a person will be tempted by. Hence if even temptation is not sin per se, then orientation which is prior to and even deeper is not sinful per se either.
Response to Michael – Good, let me tak some of your points in the order you gave them. As to your first point which I quote: “I asked, clearly, what authority an individual’s conscience, experience, and common sense has in making sense of this issue? From your response, I sense very little.” I think this is an accurate conclusion when it comes to settled doctrine and Dogma our obligation is to conform our conscience to Church teaching. Our Conscience is in case a student not a teacher, which role belongs to the Church. I will say, as one who has great respect for the gift of the conscience, I suspect it is not the conscience of most individuals which tells them that homosexuality is OK. I think deep down most people know it is wrong. What I think does “tell people differently” is not a flawed conscience but, as Paul argues, a disordered (i.e. confused) mind. What happens to most all of us from time to time is that we “suppress the truth” that our conscience bears witness to and we do this by rationalizations, also by collecting teachers and experts who tickle our ears. We do this about many moral issues, not just sexuality. In effect we convince ourselves to suppress what our conscience tells us. Regarding the most basic moral issues I think most people know what is right and wrong, but they (we) suppress the conscience. So, in the end, I guess I’m agreeing with your statement but I would prefer to use the word “mind” rather than conscience.
Another point you make: “I cite Jesus as someone who challenged his external religious authorities and traditions with his own inner authority.” Of course it is significant that Jesus is God. But even that aside, the fact that jesus confronted the authorities of his day does not mean he is confronting authority per se. There is need for authority and Jesus makes this point elsewhere and establishes authority. You go on to write that you do not have a problem with authority either and then ask: “It is to ask, again, don’t we as sons and daughters of God, and most importantly as followers of Christ, don’t we have some authority that comes from within and not merely from the Roman Catholic Church?” I would answer, in this matter no. In matters of defined dogma and clear moral teachings from the Church we do not have some legitimate authority within us that can over-ride what the Church teaches. Now of course all of us have a lot of “practical authority” called freedom. The Church cannot force you or me to believe anything or to act in any sort of way. The Church’s authority extends to the capacity to define what the faith is and what it is not and we are not free nor do we have the authority to say that we can discard such teachings and still calim to be professing the Catholic faith. Sadly, many have claimed that right but in the end have simply gone off to found their own religions or denominations.
You ask the question regarding certain Protestant denominations which teach very differently on the matter and pose this question: “Do they just turn a blind eye to it?” Yes, generally I would say that isn’t a bad approach. There may be some value in trying to assess where they go wrong but that can be a lengthy and twisting road. It seems to me that the bottom line of where many of these denominations have gone wrong is the whole priniciple of “private interpretation.” There are 10,000 X 10,000 interpretations swirling through the Protestant world about any number of texts and issues with everyone claiming that the Holy Spirit has told them this or that. There really isn’t a Protestant postion on anything. And even if there is it doesn’t follow that any particular congreagtion or individual has to accept any of it. In a climate like this it is not surprising that some pretty strange thinking crops up and sets up in certain sectors of the Protestant communion. Most of the Protestant clergy I work with are very much opposed to sanctioning homosexual activity. Only a few in the old “liberal” mainline denominations are embracing of this. And look at the way Churches are torn asunder by all this. So in the end I am not sure there is a value in exploring why some of the denominations teach this or that. It’s a very murky landscape of different opinions, shades of differences, congregational differences etc. et al.
Next you say “I wasn’t calling you a fundamentalist. I know that the Church warns against fundamentalism. I was merely saying that expecting us to believe something because “the Bible says” is dancing with fundamentalism” Now I think I was clear, both in the article and in my last reply to you comment that I am not just relying on scripture. But the focus of this article was on Biblical foundations for our teaching. I have argued elsewhere on Natural Law grounds and presented those arguments: http://blog.adw.org/2009/10/dc-council-bill-on-same-sex-marriage/ ; http://blog.adw.org/2009/05/same-sex-marriage-how-have-we-gotten-here/ ; And so forth. Simply to use Scripture is not to flirt with fundamentalism. If that was all I ever used you might have a point but I have not.
You conlcude by saying, “As Catholics, we can’t keep explaining our positions by quoting priests who are quoting the Catechism who are quoting the Pope who is quoting the Scriptures who are quoting God. We can’t keep outsourcing our minds and our faiths to others. We can’t keep being sheep. We need to be encouraged to use the minds that God gave us and the tools we are born with and the experiences we have as guides at some point.” How is being taught from the catechsim, scripture, tradition and religious authoirty “outsourcing” your mind? What is wrong with being sheep and being shepherded? Who is telling you not to use your mind or apply you faith to your experience? These are all your characterizations. Way I figure, I am glad to be taught the faith by God through a Church he founded to speak in his name. I am glad a shepherd (the Bishop and Pope) to guide me. I too have a shepherding role, but authentically only when i hand on what I was taught. All the Christian faithful too have a shperding role when they become parents, teachers, elders and the like. But they only exercise this role authentically when they remain under the chief shepherd, i.e. Jesus who shepherd them through the Pope and local bishop. So use you mind as you say and think but the old Latin motto comes to mind: Sentire cum ecclesia, sentire cum Christo. (Think with the Church, Think with Christ).
Vatican II brought about a term called passive infallibility. If I understand correctly, it mean that the a community of believers (within the Church) in divine revelation is in possession of infallible truth. I’m not sure I understand what it means to be “in divine revelation” or how exactly one would know if that is the state they are in, but it does seem as though some think that they could be in divine revelation, even if they part from Church teachings.
I think, we still need to respect them even they are belong to the so called “Homosexual” because they are still people created by God and it’s not their fault of being homosexual because they didn’t choose to be what they are..they just feel it. Hope we understand their situation.
Msgr., first of all, thanks for taking the time to thoughtfully reply to my comments. I appreciate that.
Paragraph 1 – I guess I don’t think that people I know who accept homosexuality as okay have a confused conscience. I don’t think it’s a matter of listening to teachers and experts who tell us what we want to hear. I think it’s a matter of experience and conscience. Meeting homosexuals. Talking to homosexuals. Asking questions. Listening to their answers. Reflecting. Praying. I see more suppression in the Church’s less than understandable position (we accept homosexuality, but not homosexual activity….being homosexual is not wrong, it’s a fact, but sometimes a choice, we don’t know why it happens, but it’s a psychological disorder). I sincerely don’t get it, so I guess my mind needs to do some more conforming.
Paragraph 2 – Gotcha. I do get this. However, Jesus questioning and challenging the religious authority of his day can’t be minimized or ignored. I know this can’t be emphasized by the Church too much, and shouldn’t. But it goes to show that Jesus did see the reality that religious authority is not the same as divine authority, and sometimes they can be at odds with one another.
Paragraph 3 – Get this too. But let’s not discount a different perspective because it causes controversy or because it exists in a murky landscape. The roots of Christianity are controversial and murky and filled with private interpretation. Let’s discount it because we know what it is, and we know for ourselves that it isn’t true. I imagine that’s what you’ve done already.
Paragraph 4 – True. You’re right. I argued poorly. I guess I need to check out the natural law and teaching. But if I’m not mistaken, aren’t these based on the same selections from Scripture?
Paragraph 5 – My characterizations are generalizations. Being taught from catechisms and scriptures and tradition and religion isn’t outsourcing one’s mind. It’s when you rely on these without doing any spiritual homework yourself that it’s outsourcing. It’s when you use these as a substitute for thinking for yourself and walking the spiritual path that they become problematic. Does that make more sense?
Paragraph 1 – Well I do think they are confused. Though as I stated it is more in the mind than the conscience. If they are not confused then they are simply obstinately refusing to accept what is taught in Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law. So I think we’ll just have agree to disagree on this point.
Paragraph 2- Alright, not sure what this has to do with Divine Law though. If we were talking about some Church discipline I could go with you. But this is Divine Law confirmed in the Scriptures, Tradition and Natural Law.
Paragraph 3 – Alright. My point is not to disregard it entirely but not to waste a lot of time is extended dialogue with some many different points of view and which exists in a world or premises so fundamentally falwed and different that real dialogue is not actually all that possible. For example, to say that the physical design of our bodies has nothing to say us is so fundamental a difference and almost a dismissal of Natural Law. Where do we go from here? No very far.
Paragraph 4 – No, Natural law bases it arguments, ipso facto, on premises found in nature. It would be a “violation” of boundaries to base a Natural Law argument on scripture.
Paragraph 5 – Yeah, at some point we cannot simply quote others we have to know the truth ourselves.
Some may claim that they have a right to engage in homosexual activity based on the ultimate authority of conscience because no one can act against his conscience, right? Well, I have struggled with that, as I’m sure most have, not in this particular area- but definitely others. However, the Church says that the law of God is written in each heart, and we must obey. St. Thomas Aquinas talked about conscience as putting knowledge into action, and (with knowledge) we get that knowledge comes from Christ. If I feel that something is not in accordance with my own beliefs yet I have been informed by the Church otherwise, then I do not act with knowledge but with my feelings and opinions. Think about that- seriously, who am I to disagree with Christ expressed in the Church for 2000 years based on my feelings, thoughts, and 42 year old life experiences? Conscience can err and must be informed. Rejection of Church teaching and authority are sources for error.
I heard someone on EWTN talk about conscience, and he kept my attention. Basically, he said that when I come before the God’s judgment to face my sins, if I respond that nobody told me, it likely won’t be a good defense! I have been told that Jesus has informed us through his Catholic Church. The fact that I might choose to ignore it in favor of my own beliefs and feelings does not constitute lack of knowledge, but a rejection after hearing the truth. He said that rejection of the truth is a rejection of conscience, and that put in me in my place.
As I see it, in following my own conscience against the Church teachings, I step into a trap of my own making.
Just a few decades ago, the Catholic Church recognized the difference between being homosexual and engaging in homosexual acts, and there seems to have been growing discourse since. The Church has been very clear about NOT discriminating against other human beings on the basis of sexuality, and yet the Church is still accused with being “against” homosexuals. It’s frustrating to hear people talk like this simply b/c they aren’t getting what they want- open acceptance of wrong behavior.
All Catholic moral positions on the ethics of sexuality rest on the principle that procreation is an essential element of human sexuality. Every genital act must be open to the possibility of conception. The Church’s position regarding homosexual acts is completely consistent with its teaching regarding heterosexual acts, and from its reasoning forbids homogenital activity as well as masturbation, contraception and pre/extra-marital sex. Its teaching pertains to the very nature of human sexuality, and that cannot change in response to one’s orientation.
Very well said. Thank you!
Monsignor, Thank you for doing this. Finally, in an official way, the topic of homosexuality has appeared on a diocesan or parish website. I truly believe that there needs to be much more of it for the very reason that Mindy said just above. However, I would like to add something, if I may.
It seems to me very important to acknowledge that this is a difficult topic and very often a painful one. It is painful for a homosexual person to hear that they cannot engage in sexual activity, that what they feel is somehow wrong. We must be honest, it hurts and it is difficult.
It is easy to say: “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” But when you’re faced with the challenge of keeping in the back of your mind that something that you feel, something over which you have no (or little) control, something you didn’t ask for is wrong… For many homosexual Christians, accepting their orientation is difficult enough. Understanding why acting on your feelings (feelings you didn’t ask for) is wrong is very challenging, almost impossible. It can even incite anger… and anger against God.
100%, I agree, support and communicate the Church’s teaching. Yet, our (Clergy and Religious as well as lay Catholics) job should also include compassion. Communicating Church teaching can be done through books, pamphlets, etc. Compassion however cannot. In our personal interactions, we also need to let those homosexuals know that we understand the difficulty that they have. It is a real suffering. It seems to me that doing that is the only way that we will be able to help them to accept themselves AND what the Church teaches. More importantly, it is how we can help them to love Jesus, to bring them to God, to keep them with God. It is also how we can learn to accept people and see Christ in everyone.
Michael, your experience of homosexual persons leads you to question the Church’s teaching. I suppose they seem so go good and loving. Maybe any goodness is in spite of their homosexuality as opposed to because of it. If a person has exemplary behavior 29 days of the month, but on day 30, he embezzles and commits grand larceny, is he still a good person? Other sins: alcoholism, drug addiction, bearing false witness. Everyday people commit some of these sins in the grandest way, yet should we finesse these sins also so long as somehow other people still benefit from the people who commit these sins? Why can’t the thief, the liar, the active homosexual instead repent of his sin and acknowledge God in all things not just those he wishes to.
I would by the way disagree as a practical matter about sexual sin. Blatant sexual sin of whatever type leads to broken homes, deadly disease, and workplace problems. It is harder for some than others, but we must control ourselves. If we don;t we as a society have even more problems and it becomes harder to take care of them all.
I guess the only way I can respond to Mindy and Piers, as well as Msgr., is to say that I am very familiar with the Church’s teaching and with your arguments. Brother Raymond, thank you for refreshing the conversation with the call to compassion, which we can all agree is necessary.
No offense, but I just wonder how many homosexuals you all are in relationship with. I’m talking people who you know well, maybe even love, maybe they are family, relatives, friends. It’s easy to quote Scripture, teaching, and natural law as being your authority, but for the many homosexuals alive today, their authority is the natural law inside of themselves that is called to love people of the same gender. They don’t view their sexual orientation as a sad disorder, as a mistake from God. (That would be truly sad.) It is something written in their hearts. That is their Scripture. Trust me, I understand the Church’s teaching much more than I do homosexuality. And as a heterosexual, the Church’s teaching make sense because that’s how I was made. But these men and women are made differently. Not by themselves, it seems, but by God.
My whole point is that we can’t keep ignoring these people or treating them, through our words, like they are a problem. Like they are confused, disordered, criminals. Repeating Church teaching isn’t going to make them feel very loved or very welcomed in the Roman Catholic Church. Repeating Church teaching isn’t going to help address the movement of homosexuals who are starting to demand to be seen as equal in the eyes of society, the Church, and God. Rather than clinging to these teachings and treating these people as lepers, how about we treat them as Jesus would? With love, compassion, and even preference.
“They don’t view their sexual orientation as a sad disorder, as a mistake from God.”
I don’t view their sexual orientation that way either; nothing in disorder is from God. That would be like believing God gave someone a genetic abnormality. I’ve come to believe that both are a consequence of Original Sin and the disorder it created, and we all suffer those consequences in many personal ways.
There are things you have written with which I couldn’t agree more- things about equality and compassion. I simply don’t believe justice to any group of people means forgoing what I am taught, and believe, is a correct moral position. Love and compassion actually require that I hold to my morality, though I do understand why that is hard for some to understand, especially with this topic.
I do, in fact, have relationships with people who are homosexual. One relationship, in particular, required that I love, as you suggested, “more.” Empathy in large quantity was required in order for me to maintain that relationship. So, with respect, I understand better than I think you may believe I do.
Yes, as you say Mindy, compassion does not mean compromising a moral position. However, walking into a conversation (even hypothetically) saying (or even having the attitude) “You’re wrong and this is why” is only going to put the other party on the defensive even if they know it’s true. Compassion means taking them where they’re at and helping them to make a journey. For example: how many thousands of years was divorce practiced? Jesus came and said, “No. That’s enough with the divorce stuff. It was never intended, but tolerated until you all would be able to handle the truth and be responsible enough to assume your actions.”
Homosexuals have come a long way from having to hide in the peverbial closet. Does that mean that they should have marriages and requiring the term to be redefined? Um, well, no. But we need to help them to understand that. And, going about it by citing commandments, laws, etc. isn’t going to do it. Why? because doing it that way is basically saying that they’re sick, deformed. If you walk up to someone and say “Hi, you’re deformed. Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll help fix that,” you’re only going to push them further away and sow seeds of resentment and/or hatred. (Yes, that example is an exaggeration, sorry.) If a guy is attracted to another guy, if he loves another guy, that is not a reason to bully him, to beat him, or to ostracize him. As has been said many times in these comments already, it’s not a choice.
Most people cannot even imagine the fright and pain a homosexual goes through. Of course it’s not the same for everyone. Regardless of how acceptable it is today to be homosexual, in many cases, it’s still a shock to the person once they discover it. Eric Millegan (former character Zach on the TV series Bones) has an interview on the internet somewhere about his own personal discovery. It’s rather insightful. But I’m going on a tangent.
Compassion doesn’t mean compromising morals… but it does mean meeting someone where they’re at on their journey. Once there is a real meeting with love, and a real love, then anything is possible.
I’d like to challenge you to really think about the idea that homosexuals are “made” differently than people who are not attracted to members of the same sex. The human body, whether it is the body of someone with a homosexual or heterosexual inclination, is made for procreation. Both homosexual and heterosexual men and women have the same sexual organs that perform the same functions. So how can we come to the conclusion that God made some people to be in sexual relationships with members of the same sex? Why would God give these people body parts designed for procreation if He created them to be in sexual relationships where procreation was not possible?
As someone who struggles with same-sex attractions, I can tell you that the homosexual inclination is caused by biology or genetics alone. However, in my journey out of the homosexual lifestyle I have seen that many people with homosexual attractions have a very sensitive temperament. This makes us more likely to internalize the psychological damage caused by bad relationships with other men, particularly our fathers. This results in an intense longing for affection and bonding with other men that often gets sexualized. However, the need is actually for platonic rather than sexual affection. This platonic affection is what helps the heart of someone with a homosexual inclination to heal. It takes chastity for someone with a homosexual inclination to be able to come to this realization and see that he has wounds that need to be healed through a relationship with God and with platonic relationships with members of the same sex. This is why the notion that encouraging people with homosexual attractions to act on their urges simply because these urges are strong is a misguided way of showing compassion. A better way to show compassion is to show people with homosexual attractions the beauty of chastity and a relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.
I meant to say that the homosexual inclination is NOT caused by biology or genetics alone.
Most definitely true. This is the question of nature vs. nurture. Regardless of the outcome, it remains though, the homosexual person in almost all cases does not choose his/her orientation. This is why compassion is needed, not just repeating “laws” or doctrine. Regardless of their orientation, regardless of who you’re sleeping with, the homosexual person is just that: a person. And a homosexual person who’s inquiring, curious, etc. needs compassion to be able to understand that they are not hated. Jesus did not scold the adulterous woman. He understood and knew that she understood and simply told her to sin no more.
It is a little more difficult for the homosexual person because often they struggle with trying to understand why it is they are homosexual. Seeing as they didn’t choose it, why should it be wrong to act on it? This is where helping comes in… but through compassion.
I would also like to add that there seems to be a commonly accepted notion that a gay lifestyle means you’re sleeping around. I must admit, I do not understand why. If you’re heterosexual, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re sleeping around. Why is this so with homosexuals? There are perfectly “normal” gay people.
Anony, I understand (at least I think I do) where you’re coming from. However, in your first paragraph, you’re equating an orientation with the act… basically that one necessitates the other. If you’re homosexual, it doesn’t mean that you’re meant to be in a sexual relationship. If you’re heterosexual, it doesn’t mean that you’re destined to be in a sexual relationship. God does not make us to be in a sexual relationship, not all people. Look at Jesus’ teaching on eunuchs, cf Mt 19:12.
I too am so glad to see this topic discussed in earnest here, especially in light of the DC council’s impending legalization of same-sex marriage. I would add just one point: too often our society privileges romantic love above all else, for both hetero- and homosexuals. We seem to exaggerate the demands of romantic love to the point of saying that it would be profoundly damaging to the core of the self, or even an injustice, to ever deny it. Eros is only one form of love—and it can be sublime but also destructive. The point being, I guess, that a homosexual person may lead a life that is chaste but full of profound experiences of love, both divine and human.
I must be misinterpreting your comment, “Love and compassion actually require that I hold to my morality….”. I’ve always lived believing that love and compassion were meant to apply to ALL people, regardless of moral views – a love the sinner not the sin concept. I can be compassionate and love a person and still not accept their moral values for it is through my actions and words that I truly show my understanding of Christ’s love for mankind. Are you perhaps speaking to the legal ramifications when laws are changed based on morals and interpretations that you don’t agree with? I can understand not voting for a law that goes against your moral beliefs but I don’t understand how love and compassion have anything to do with morals, either your own or the other party’s. Can you help me out here?
I was very glad to see Archbishop Wuerl’s letter explaining the reasons why the archdiocese is opposed to the gay marriage legislation in the District. I was a little disheartened though by the conclusion, when the Archbishop addressed Catholics who are attracted to members of the same sex. I think he missed a good opportunity to repeat the Church’s teaching that those with same-sex attractions are called to live chaste lives, and that by doing so these individuals can give witness to God’s love.
Also, I really think it’s time the archdiocese starts to take some more forceful steps to oppose efforts to redefine marriage here in the District. The first thing that needs to be done is to start a Courage chapter. I read somewhere that there are 75,000 self-identified homosexuals in D.C., and I’m sure a good number of them are Catholic. Why can’t we do something to help these people see the beauty of living a chaste life? Also, people need to hear about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage from the pulpit. We cannot afford to have our priests silent on this issue.
You believe and know everything you know and belive because somebody else has told you so. You come to actually prove some things (i.e. fire: burns) and some you will never be able to do so (i.e. distance from sun to earth), in this case you just trust what experts and authorities tell you about the subject.
It is extremely difficult almost impossible (in some cases it just cannot be) to go with some teachings when the actual matter is hapening in your flesh (yourself, family, close friends, etc). Just to mention another example (not to open another debate), when your daughter, sister, wife, etc has been raped, is it ok to abort the child? I have seen these cases and like I said it is just not feasible for the affected to believe that there is not an “exception to the rule”.
Does Church (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) accepts killers, rapers, thieves, you, me? Yes! God loves us, not our sin(s). The actual “name” we give (killer, thief, etc) is for us as humans to identify a group, just like heterosexuals; now the way people react to the actual word, well that is different.
Why some people have the tendency to like same gender people? you and me (and maybe some more) would probably never completely understand if what we are looking is a straight yes/no answer. Even worse when we are looking for a complicated-long-wise-brain-psycological answer that satisfies our beliefs, emotions, feelings.
Gos is God, Truth; and He doesn’t need us to BE. Truth is truth regardless of any human being, thought, belief or anything else.
Just some quotes
“I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.”
Against the letter of Mani, 5,6, 397 A.D.
“Tell us straight out that you do not believe in the Gospel of Christ; for you believe what you want in the Gospel and disbelieve what you want. You believe in yourself rather than in the Gospel.”
Against Faustus, 17, 3, 400 A.D.
“By the same word, by the same Sacrament you were born, but you will not come to the same inheritance of eternal life, unless you return to the Catholic Church.”
Sermons, 3, 391 A.D.
“The Catholic Church is the work of Divine Providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and the death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints. When, then, we see so much help on God’s part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the Apostolic Chair down through successions of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority.”
The Advantage of Believing, 391 A.D
I leave a comment when I like a article on a website or if I have something to
contribute to the discussion. It’s triggered by the fire
communicated in the article I read. And after this article Biblical
Teaching on Homosexual Activity
I agree with the Bible because it is the word of God.
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