In yesterday’s Blog post, we discussed that there are significant numbers of Catholics who do not hold the Catholic faith regarding the question of homosexual activity, and so-called gay “marriage.” Some of this may be due to willful rejection of the teaching, but much is likely due to confusion brought on by a loud culture and a quiet pulpit. I want to share with you a letter I wrote to my congregation a couple of years ago to try and make clear the Catholic and Biblical teaching on homosexuality. I wrote it and preached it to strive and give clear teaching in a confused age. I offer it to you for your own consideration.
In recent years, homosexuality has been frequently in the news. An increasingly nationwide effort to give recognition to so-called gay “marriage,” is only the latest matter to receive a lot of attention. Prior to this, the Episcopalian denomination ordained as a bishop a man who openly practices homosexual behavior. This action has divided the Episcopalian denomination in two. Prior to this, the last fifteen years have also seen the Episcopalian and other Protestant denominations liturgically celebrate gay “marriages” and unions. This too has caused great divisions in those denominations. Even among the Catholic faithful, mistaken notions about homosexuality and marriage have taken hold.
Hence, it is necessary once again to teach on this matter, and reassert what Scripture plainly teaches. Now the fact is, the Scriptures are very clear by unambiguously, and in an uncompromising way, depicting homosexual activity as a serious sin and a moral disorder. Attempts by some to reinterpret scripture to mean something else are fanciful, at best, and usually use theories that require twisted logic, and questionable historical views that set aside the very plain meaning of the texts.
I want to share a few of these Biblical texts with you. But before I do, let me state the context of this reflection and make two very important clarifications.
First, as to the context, I want to be clear here that my reflections are directed to fellow Christians, namely you. Hence I use Scripture as the main point of departure since we share a belief in the normative and authoritative status of God’s Word. In other settings, speaking for example to the secular world, Natural Law arguments are more suitable. But, here, the Scriptures are our main focus. And, as your pastor, I want you to have a clear, biblical understanding of what is taught in this matter. I have a duty to teach you on matters of the faith and morals and I do not want you to share in the confusion manifest in the world, and even among Christians.
As a second point of clarification it is important to note that 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 even 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 to give way to the temptation and commit the sin that makes one 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 Biblical texts that clearly forbid such activity. For these, we can only hope and pray for conversion. I hope you can see, however, why we must distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity.
A third 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 (i.e. illicit sexual union such as 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 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). 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!
With these two clarifications in mind, we can turn our attention now to the Biblical teaching on homosexuality.
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)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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. (1 Corinthians 6-9)
- The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, for those who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. 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. Further, this condemnation occurs at every stage of biblical revelation, revelation right through to the end.
Sadly, today, many have set aside the Biblical and Church 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. As we have seen, a number of the Protestant denominations (e.g., the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalian denominations and some of the Presbyterian and other mainline Protestant 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 to suit their own agenda. Psalm 2:1 laments: And why do the people imagine a vain thing? In the Gospels, Jesus knew that some would use him to promote their own wrongful agendas. And so He, too, lamented: 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: I know that, after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20: 29).
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 even many Christians, 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: venereal disease, 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 have become debased and confused, and many among us call good that which God calls sin. Indeed, the text from Romans 1, quoted above says that the approval of homosexual behavior, is a sign of deep confusion and a darkened mind. Indeed the approval of any sexual sinfulness is of the darkness.
Some who oppose the teaching of Scripture and the Church have taken to calling opposition to their view “hatred” and “bigotry.” But we who are of faith must insist that the Church’s opposition to homosexual behavior is rooted in a principled obedience to the Word of God which we believe to be revealed by God and to which we owe docility and obedience. We can say and teach no other than what God has reveled consistently in his Word.
Perhaps it is best to conclude with a statement from the Catechism which expresses clarity of doctrine but also respect for the homosexual person:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (CCC 2357-2359)
I write to you with concern in these times of confusion in the hopes that you will in no way share the error and confusion of these times. We are not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (cf Rom 12:1). I pray that this letter has helped in some way to clarify and confirm you in the Ancient and Apostolic faith entrusted to the Church. Please share this letter if you have found it helpful.
A PDF of this letter is here: Letter on Homosexuality
76 Replies to “Turning Back the Tide: One Pastor’s Attempt to Assert the Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality In an Age of Confusion”
I often wonder what the Catholic Church would be like without the paintings, sculptures, music, architecture, vestments, floral decoration, liturgies, etc. created through the centuries and still today by those with a same sex orientation.
They would still be filled with beautiful paints, sculptures, music, architecture … You seem to generalize that all the art and crafty types are homosexual. You ignore the fact that +-95% of the general population are “straight” and +-5% are “gay.” From my experience, this trend in the general population is also reflected in today’s modern art world.
Are you implying that if something is artistic that it must have been created by homosexuals? How can you prove that? BTW, the liturgy is based on the book of Revelation, not on artistic ability. You sound as if there is no artistic ability outside of homosexuality. Do I misunderstand your comments?
Yes, I would concur with Dennis and Jim on this matter. There are a lot of stereotypes built into your arguments. Further, it is a modern tendency to declare people in the past to have been homosexual when, in most cases the evidence for this is vague at best. This tendency says more about our age than the lives of those who being analyzed.
And even in those cases where the artist did actually suffer from same-sex attraction, the artist obviously saw that the Church represented something that was worth creating beauty for. As the Catechism makes clear, Catholics who struggle with same-sex attraction are as welcome in the Church as anyone else.
A stereotype is a standard thinking function of the human mind. As the short term memory is limited to about seven bits of data at a time, we automatically place common pairs of bits into chunks or stereotypes. Stereotypes are often the immediate and non biased manner of handling information coming it.
Setting aside the gross generalization of your comment I can say that one of the most famous artists from whom the Church gained so much was Michelangelo Buonarotti. He had a same sex orientation which many people like to point out. However, what most also gloss over is that Michelangelo was a devout Catholic who believed that acting on his orientation was a grave sin so he didn’t do so. His faith was more important to him than his physical appetites. It seems he was able to understand that his value as a person lay in more than just his sexuality, a message too often lost in today’s world where everyone seems to define themselves by sexuality. He had no “partner” and did not regularly engage in sexual activity with men because he chose to remain chaste for the better portion of his life and devote himself to his art. Here was a man who understood the teaching of the Church and while imperfect (he may have strayed occasionally) strove to live by it and he gave us the David, the dome of St. Peter’s, the Moses and, of course, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. Speaking for myself I’d be happy to have more Michelangelos in the service of the Church not only because of his artistic genius but also because of the witness of his faith.
Some of this may be due to willful rejection of the teaching, but much is likely due to confusion brought on by a loud culture and a quiet pulpit…. you have it exactly right, Father. I’m 30 years old, was raised Catholic, and I have never heard a homily that mentions the orthodox Catholic position on homosexuality.
Yes, It is sad but true on a wide basis.
Great letter Msgr. One question on terminology though. You said that “[m]any homosexual persons live chaste lives[.]” If a person who struggles with same-sex attraction is leading a chaste life, is it proper to call him or her a “homosexual person?” I would think they would not appreciate being defined by their temptations.
wpr…You can certainly judge for yourself if this is a good analogy, but I have heard many alcoholics that have been sober for years still refer to themselves as alcoholics.
Generally I agree with mike here. However, I have often marveled at the way many in the homosexual community want to make their orientation THE THING which identifies them to others. In this sense I agree with your point as to whether it might not be offensive to identify someone by the temptations they face.
But in general I think the orientation alone, not just the activity can permit the description, at least as it is in wide use in other areas such as what Mike says about alcoholics. I appreciate however your raising the issue.
I have to agree. We have to remind everyone,especially homsexuals in this instance, that first they are a person. A person with human dignity, a child of G-d, first and a person with homosexual tendencies last. It’s easy to label ourselves as what we put most effort towards. This often times is an incorrect label.
Well said! God bless!
Thanks for reading
Very concise and well written. Never have I ever heard a Catholic priest preach something like this at Mass.
I particularly like how you explain that gay sex is not specifically targeted for condemnation, but rather how it is one type among several sexual sins. One can tell that the culture is very pagan, when divorce is so rampant in spite of Christ’s clear teaching against it. So many non-Christians have commented to me rather tongue-in-cheek, but honestly something along the lines of, “well so many heterosexuals keep getting divorced, meanwhile this faithful homosexual couple I know can’t even get married, homosexuals should at least get the opportunity to try marriage, they might do better at it.”
Even before the latest push for “gay marriages”, American society in general was already at odds with the Christian view of sex and marriage. I think the difference is that a lot of non-Christians are also uncomfortable with or disapproving of gay sex and “gay marriage.” However crass as it might sound, I suspect that it has to do with the “ick factor” that many people feel regarding gay sex, that they simply don’t feel with regards to say premarital heterosexual sex.
As it is, the current popular standard for sexual morality is that sex is for love, pleasure or some degree of psychological and physical fulfillment. So long as it is between two consenting adults it’s OK. Of course sex can also be about procreation, but only if the woman wills it to be. Contraceptives, and abortion in the case of contraceptive failure, enable people to make the procreative function of sex strictly “optional only”. The responsibility of pregnancy and raising a child is thus severed from the morality surrounding sex.
Prior to technological advances in contraception and medicine, such a moral separation of sex and procreation simply wasn’t possible, or at least most cultures would not have made such a separation. For very practical reasons concerning health and child rearing, many cultures around the world had for centuries placed several similar moral restrictions on sexual activity. Religious teachings usually reinforced or added to these practical restrictions. However, if cultures accept contraception and abortion, then the utility of these traditional morals becomes minimized, and for many people these traditional restrictions will seem burdensome or at best superfluous.
Since gay sex is by nature incapable of leading to procreation, it only makes sense that societies which view procreation as an option when having sex, will be more inclined to accept gay sex. Since heterosexuals can have sex and intentionally chose not to reproduce, the argument goes what’s so wrong with homosexual sex? And if civil authorities are no longer interested in promoting marriage as the basis for the family unit, why should the government care about who does or doesn’t get married? Long story short, its an example of the “slippery slope” theory, is it not?
One last thing. Many gay-rights activists also throw the “hate” word around way too loosely. As if just by not agreeing with them and their agenda, you viciously hate gay people. It’s very unfair, and by loosely accusing people of “hate” or “homophobia” they not only preclude any meaningful dialogue, but they insult people like me, who genuinely do not hate them. Frankly anybody with Christian moral views is going to find a lot of things wrong with the world, that doesn’t mean that such a person must therefore be filled with hate and violent animosity.
Thanks for this well thought out response. I think you’re right on target.
Thank you Monsignor for publishing this. The clarity that you bring to all sin of sexual nature is very enlightening. The mere concept of sin, sexual or otherwise, is something that our culture has tried to completely remove from our society. I have often had discussions with friends about whether it is “fair” that God would create homosexuals and deny them someone to love. I ask them if it is “fair” that a person is born with servere disabilities and is that any less than a cross to bear? The notion that we are not made for this world and that there is grace in redemptive suffering usually follows.
The Catholic friends that I have these conversations with all have a direct family member that is gay and I think it is too hard for them to come to terms with loving their family member and knowing what the Church teaches, but not the full reason behing it. The Catechism is not read by them or articulated thoroughly to them and is drowned out by the constant drumbeat of “that’s hateful” by our society. They truly love their Catholic faith but struggle to reconcile this with the day to day interaction with their family. Your letter to your congregation shows that it is through resisting sin in all forms that is the way we should love and obey God, not that the Church is anti-gay. My husband always likes to point out that we are only here for a short time, so it’s 70-80 years here vs. where you will spend eternity. If you compare the pleasures of this world to eternity, it makes those tough choices a little easier and those temptations a little easier to resist.
Yes, indeed, Amen
Very good, but it is insufficient to use Scripture only when even Scripture refers to natural and unnatural. Natural law is necessary, and I fear it is ignored because it would involve the necessity of speaking of the connection of marriage and procreation, which would involve a discussion of contraception, which is even more verboten from the pulpit than is homosexuality.
I am not avoiding it, I have advanced natural law arguments on this blog before.
I was speaking of sermons….
But I do commend you on the sermon you gave. Would to God we heard more.
You not only never hear a homily, you never hear Mass readings condemning homosexuality. The Sodom and Gomorrah readings stop at the end of Genesis 18. The “punch line” so to speak, is at Genesis 19. That part is edited out.
Yes, I think you are right, that passage does not occur in the Sunday cycle, though I am not sure I would say it has been “edited out” There are a lot of passages that we don’t read. Perhaps in the future the lectionary will be expanded. to include all of the bible.
Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for making this summary available to us so that we can use it to help genuinely enlighten those close to us about this error that now is touted as “truth” in our culture.
You are most welcome.
Well done Father! We need more priest to preach the truth!
Yes, pray for us!
Thank you for this Father. I am printing it out to use in teaching my confirmation students
Great I hope it will be of some help.
I pray for you to continue preaching bravely and courageously. You have a forum for doing this. For lay people, and I don’t make excuses for myself, it is a very difficult topic to broach. I’ve had very little success in changing the minds of anyone I’ve talked to about homosexuality.
I hope perhaps this might be a helpful tool for you.
No fault divorce and the scandalous number of annulments has led to acceptance of “same sex marriage.” Marriage has two reasons for its existence, Frist, marriage is an institution that is for the protection of children. Second, marriage is a witness of God’s unconditional love. No Fault Divorce redifined marriage and made its primary purpose to be for the happiness and fulfillment of the spouses. The protection of children is no longer a part of marriage. Even in our Church today one must break apart the family legally before he/she can pursue an annulment. If a marriage is deemed to have not occurred, no attempt is made to remarry the spouses and put the family back together. Hence, now that marriage’s primary purpose is thought to be totally about that personal happiness and compatibility of spouses, rather than one’s means of sanctification, it only makes sense that two men or two women could marry. No Fault divorce decided that children do not need an intact family with a mother and father, therefore, why not two fathers or two mothers. We need to preach the truth from the pulpit about marriage. We need to not only condemn marriage being redefined by same-sex marriage. We also need to condemn No Fault Divorce. We need to remind people that marriage is a vocation, a calling. You are called to love radically and heroically without conditions. You may even have to suffer for your spouse. (I do not mean suffering physical abuse. No one should stay in a situation where you or your children are in physical danger.) We need to combat the “redefinition” of marriage by preaching and living what marriage truly is and that means stopping the scandulous amount of annulments and divorces by Christians.
Yes, everything you have said here is true. We have been redefining marriage for a long time now and the confusion is deep. I have blogged on this point before and am glad to see that others also understand this point.
Thank you Msgr. I hope you follow up with the argument for secular purposes which would be very helpful also.
I have a few suggestions for everyone to consider. I think it is increasingly important to examine our terminology and how it may or may not be contributing to a clarification of the issue.
The attempt to redefine marriage was preceded by an attempt to redefine the person. The use of the term “sexual orientation” to describe anything other than male or female is a redefinition of what it means to be human. There are only two genders but somehow the idea has taken hold that there are more than two. Frankly, I’ve lost count of how many there are supposed to be at present. If you have persons with a new gender, it just seems to make sense to have a new relationship for those persons; hence more and more people are falling for the idea that marriage can in fact be redefined for these persons. It just seems fair after all.
An inclination does not change one’s sexual orientation. The CDF addressed this almost in passing some years ago but unfortunately I have not seen it developed too much. We need to somehow change the terms of how we are describing sexual inclinations so that we are not redefining the person.
I also think we need to stop using any adjectives with the word “marriage” and if we need to describe something that is not marriage we should simply use something like “destroying the meaning of marriage” or something similar because the more you use other terms, the more they somehow seep into our consciousness and seem to become a real thing. We can no more redefine marriage than we can redefine gravity.
I recently read an interesting article that touched on some of this that was published in Lay Witness by CUF
I agree totally. Using ssa and marriage in the same sentence is an oxymoron.
Why do priests say the catholic church is against homosexuality when most priests are homosexual.
? Is it to try to cover up the situation?
Well I suppose the simplest answer to your question is that most priests are not homosexual. Hence, since your premise is flawed, the conclusion would seem to be so as well.
However, there is certianly a higher percentage of homosexuals in the clergy than there is in the population at large. This can only weaken the Churches stance. The ‘Lavender Mafia’ is losing power, but it still holds much.
I have heard this claim, but I have not really seen substantial statistics to back it up. My own experience with my brother priests does not confirm what you say. However, my experience is anecdotal not statistical. I am aware that Michael Rose did some work on this a while back but I cannot recall if he cites reliable statistics etc. Hence, while I while not affirm what you say, neither will I deny it.
I should restate that. Most of the new priests. From Vatican II onwards. The site Mostholyfamilymonestary has lots of documentation on that subject. Seminaries now a days are packed with homosexuals according to them. Thanks
Is it not a distortion of the meaning of the Sodom and Gomorrah bible story not to include Genesis 19 along with Genesis 18 in the Sunday’s readings? If you don’t want 19, don’t read 18.
You know the story – In Genesis 18 three men appeared to Abraham, the Lord and two angels.
… “Then the LORD said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out. While the two men walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham.” Abraham pleaded that the cities not be destroyed. At the end of Genesis 18 and without giving assurance to Abraham’s pleas, the Lord left him.
This ends that particular Sunday’s gospel reading.
In Genesis 19 “The two angels reached Sodom in the evening …”. They told Lot and his family, “Get up and leave this place, the LORD is about to destroy the city.”
And then there is this. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah has always been considered to be homosexuality but in the notes to Genesis 18 of the NAB you read the following: “…; but according to Isaiah (Isaiah 1:9-10; 3:9), it was a lack of social justice; Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:46-51) described it as a disregard for the poor, whereas Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:14) saw it as general immorality.
If you read the verses of the three prophets you cannot come to those conclusions. The note writer was obviously attempting to avert attention away from homosexuality to more political correct sins.
Well, we have discussed before the problems with the footnotes of the NAB:
As you note, the story about Sodom in Gen 18-19 very clearly is a story that condemns, among other things, homosexual activity. If you actually look up the citation in the NAB footnote you will see that they hardly make the case it sets forth. The Jeremiah text merely says Jerusalem is LIKE Sodom and DOES mention sexual sin in grievance.
The Isaiah texts are non-specific and use a common prophetic technique of provocatively calling Jerusalem names like, Sodom, Egypt and Gomorrah.
Isaiah 3 is also non-specific as to the sin and seems rather to denounce the shameless boldness of sinners as akin to the sodomites et. al.
The Ezekiel text is a passionate grievance of God against Israel his bride who has prostituted herself by sleeping with other gods, committing adultery and engaging in lewd practices. The whole context of the chapter is filled with sexual imagery. God speaks of detestable practices and depravity. Added to that is social injustice, but then God goes back to also denounce Israel for her “lewdness and detestable acts.”
Thus, the NAB footnote is flawed is multiple regards. Simply looking up the texts and actually reading them shows what a poor argument it is to regard the sin of Sodom to merely be a sin against hospitality or the poor. One must engage in a kind of fantasy combined with blindness to assert that Gen 18-19 has nothing to do with homosexual practice. The meaning of the texts are plain enough and a simple reading of the texts in question should permit an easy setting aside of opinions that the sin is merely about hospitality or injustice to the poor.
Hence I agree with your insight here that the the note write was trying to divert attention away from the truest meaning of the text.
I do not yet have a copy of the Revised Old Testament of the NAB (now called the NABRE) to see if it has removed this footnote. If some one else does please check to see if the footnote has been changed or removed.
The distortion (deceit?) is more evident in the revised NABRE
Note to Genesis 18:20 in the NABRE: (Amazon.com)
“The immorality of the cities was already hinted at in 13:13, when Lot made his choice to live there. The “outcry” comes from the victims of the injustice and violence rampant in the city, which will shortly be illustrated in the treatment of the visitors. The outcry of the Hebrews under the harsh treatment of the Pharaoh (Ex 3:7) came up to God who reacts in anger at mistreatment of the poor (cf. Ex 22:21-23; Is 5:7). Sodom and Gomorrah became types of sinful cities in biblical literature.” (next, the quotes from Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah are the same as the NAB).
(Then the notes continue) – “In the Genesis story, the sin is the violation of the sacred duty of hospitality by the threatened rape of Lot’s guests.”
Here is Genesis 13:13, hardly what is indicated in the NABRE note to 18:20. “Now the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked in the sins they committed against the LORD.”
Now this is the stuff that makes my “angry person” blood boil. Can’t one Bishop say, “Hell NO! You are going to print that bolony with the Sacred Scripture over my dead body. Maybe we need more “angry oriented persons” as Bishops.
I should say that I am VERY thankful for Msgr. Pope’s loving, calm approach to such issues, but I sure would like to have a few more Ezekiels out there with some JTB too. (that’s John the Baptist)
Thank you so much for a wonderful article. In our diocese, however, it has been said (by many of the faithful priests) that there are scores of ‘practicing’ gay priests. In the parish I just left, the parochial administrator has a documented history of lewd conduct yet still leads the largest church in the diocese. He allows gay/lesbian lectors and eucharistic ministers; and censures all assistant priests in preaching true Catholic doctrine. The bishop is aware of all of these things, but nothing is ever done. I wish and pray for the day when priests and bishops will be held accountable for leading their parishioners into grave error. It undermines evangelization and every aspect of faithful Catholic life.
Ladies and Gentlemen I’ve read your comments and, as an art historian, find many not grounded in secular or church history and the rest extraordinarily naive, pretending things that never were and wishing for things that will never be. As for bizarrely thinking my original comment somehow conjured up stereotypes I can only say that we must certainly travel in different circles.
Yours is a common technique of opponents of the Church in this matter: name-calling and ridicule. Rather than engage the matter or answer any of the questions your interlocutors posed above you prefer to refer to us as “extraordinarily naive” and that our thoughts are “bizarre” and that we are “pretending.” Ad hominem argumetum is a poor substitute for addressing the actual issues.
Very good summary of the Church’s teaching, Msgr. Pope. Thank you.
Thanks for reading it.
It should be emphasized more clearly that all – I repeat, all – must practice at least a limited form of purity and chastity. For those who are single the practice of purity and chastity is absolute. And these virtues include an absolute admonition against taking willful pleasure in impure thoughts and desires and/or any physical venereal excitement willfully caused or concented to when caused by acts beyond our control – even if they arise spontaneously without concent. The point is we must actively resist and firmly reject such painful occurrances. This applies to heterosexuals and homosexuals, married and unmarried alike. No one is absolutely free!!! The married have more leaway but for them this freedom is limited to themselves and is not absolute – not everything goes!! There other restrictions too, talk to your confessor.
Some good reminders here.
As usual, a very good and clear summary. I have a pastoral question. In the article you state,
“Sadly, though, some with a homosexual orientation not only commit the sin of homosexual activity, but they openly flaunt this fact, and dismiss Biblical texts that clearly forbid such activity. For these, we can only hope and pray for conversion. ”
I agree, but yet when this person is a family member, how do we practically do this? We don’t have the option of “only” hoping and praying, we’ve got to take stands, and say we won’t go to their sham weddings and keep our impressionable children away from obvious displays of acceptance of gay lifestyles. Perhaps in the future you could do an article on the practical aspects of loving the sinner and hating the sin. In the past I think we have been lax about this in terms of fornication, adultery, and contraception and now those with ssa, quite understandably, expect the same “smile and say nothing” response. I find practical advice on this very hard to find.
Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for your great articles!
OK, I’ll think over the post.
I’m a raging heterosexual, a recovering Catholic, and a reformed homopobe with some thoughts on the subject.
You have presented a clear and concise summary of the church’s position, which is a good starting point.
As I study this subject, I realize that many credible historians and theologians, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, often read the same passages and reach different conclusions.
The Bible was originally recorded in ancient languages on papyrus or vellum, without punctuation, and subsequently re-transcribed and re-translated, first to Greek or Latin and then to more modern languages.
The New Testament was written 2,000 years ago, and the Old Testament was written over 2,000 years ago. The culture was primitive and superstitious, and practices like racism, sexism, and slavery were accepted.
That is not to say that we should question what the Bible says, but we should question what it means:
In some of the Old Testament passages, men are warned against raping angelic messengers, which could mean that rape is wrong and/or that mistreatment of angels is wrong and/or or that inhospitality is wrong and/or that homosexuality is wrong. Further, was the admonition meant to be general or specific?
At the time that the New Testament was written, homosexual prostitutes practiced in pagan temples, and pederasty (sexual relationships between older men and adolescent boys) was common in the Greek world.
When Paul mentions “homosexual offenders,” is he talking about pagan whoremongers or pederasts?
Or is he talking about homosexuals who (like some heterosexuals) lacked chastity or self-control?
Or is he talking about homosexuals who lived in committed, loving relationships?
(We agree that uncommitted, uncaring, sexual relationships among homosexuals or heterosexuals are wrong.)
We cannot know precisely what someone meant 2,000 years ago, so we should be careful when we try to interpret his retranscribed and retranslated words in the modern world, within a different culture and setting.
The church position makes sense to some, just as some contrary positions makes sense to others. Likewise, in the 1600’s, the church position that the sun revolved around the earth had a certain intuitive appeal.
The problem that some Catholics have with Catholic teaching is not that the teaching is nonsensical. Likewise, they do not question the teaching because they are libertines or relativists who think that “anything goes.”
There are some Catholics who pray over these matters and study them and simply disagree with the church, and one of the hallmarks of Catholic theology is the primacy of a properly-formed conscience.
We hear about the church’s infallibility with respect to faith and morals, but we know about heretical popes.
We hear about apostolic succession, but we recognize that there were anti-popes and multiple popes, as well as popes who inherited or purchased their offices and popes who were appointed by emperors or kings.
We hear about the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but we doubt that He encouraged the burning of heretics or the launching of the Crusades or the mistreatment of Galileo.
Monsignor, not all priests are homosexuals (not that there is anything wrong with that), but many priests are. The clergy is intolerant of homosexuality, except among clergymen, which discredits the church position.
For many, the Catholic Church often appears more like one of many exclusive, fueding, and insular clubs, rather than the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. We should be ministering, not pontificating.
When Jesus broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors, why do we abandon homosexuals?
When Jesus shared communion with Judas, why do we exclude remarried Catholics?
When Jesus said, “Those who are not against us are for us,” why do we claim dogmatic exclusivity?
Would Jesus expect the Good Samaritan to help a traveler who is homosexual?
The ten commandments of the Old Testament and the Great Commandment of the New Testament are clear. The 1752 canons of Catholic law and the 800-page Catholic catechism have not enhanced either.
All churches are administered by fallible human beings, even if they are inspired by the infallible God, and the Catholic church is better than some and no worse than the rest, but history has proven that it can change and that it can err, sometimes grievously. Many Catholics wish that the church were as humble as its founder.
Why is the church so sure that it alone possesses an understanding of these 2,000 year old documents, and why does the church spend so much time judging its members and so little time ministering to them?
What did you hope to accomplish by offering your exegesis? Did you deepen any love or improve any lives? Why would you spend your time defending the church position, rather than ministering to your parishioners?
Sorry if I’m ranting, nothing personal, but this is important stuff, too important to be left to the clerics alone.
Thanks for listening, and thanks for starting the dialogue.
Benedict, by “recovering Catholic” i gather you mean you have left the practice of the Faith. I’m sorry about that, I hope you come home. Reading over your list of points I can see many that are simply misunderstandings or misrepresentations of Church teaching which perhaps were taught to you by someone ignorant or rejecting of the true facts; not an uncommon occurrence in the last 40 years or so. If you have never done so, pick up some of the encyclicals of recent popes and start studying them paying close attention to the footnotes which will trace for you the development of Church teaching and how it has stayed faithful to its founder.
Don’t you think God loves us enough to make sure that what Jesus taught 2000 years ago would still be accessible to us in all its purity? Of course He does and that is why He gave us the Holy Spirit to give special protection to the Church to protect her teachings from error. Please give an example of how the Church has erred in her teachings over the years.
Why do you think that the teaching of the Church abandons someone who is tempted by same sex attractions? The Church is the only one today who holds out true hope for that person; the only one who is showing him or her the way to true happiness. Everyone else treats them as if they have no self control; no ability to master their temptations. That is to consider them less than human and without hope that they can truly live a virtuous life. The Church thinks better of them and knows that God’s grace is always enough for us, no matter what our temptations. The Catholic Church is the only organization upholding the dignity of the human person in this situation. To teach the truth is a real form of charity.
Your technique here is to try and smother the issue with an extensive “But what about….” chain. As you know there is no time to answer every one of these charges, and often unfair accusations and observations. The bottom line is that Scripture, at every stage, unambiguously describes homosexual behavior as sinful and wrong. It does the same with fornication and adultery. Trying to endlessly parse words, and use dubious historical theories, or bait and switch arguments, simply seeks to avoid the obvious conclusion that homosexual behavior cannot in any way be affirmed by the Church which is the servant of Scripture not its master or author.
“Scripture…unambiguously describes homosexual behavior as sinful and wrong” is an opinion, not a fact.
My comments contain historical facts and personal opinions. There are no “charges” or “accusations.”
I apologize, if you can show me where I “accused” you or your readers, gay or straight, of any wrongdoing.
If it seems to you that we “parse words and use dubious historical theories or bait and switch arguments,” then maybe you were looking for a theological, theoretical monologue, rather than a historical, factual dialogue.
Anonymous bloggers should be civil. Catholic priests should be civil, too, even if they believe they are right.
Not likely that either of us will change any hearts of make any friends at this point.
Thanks for listening.
Since Benedict seems to be a keen student of antiquity, perhaps he could educate himself by reading the Satyricon of Petronius to find out what St. Paul referred to.
For me, all the scriptural admonitions against same sex marriage are unnecessary. Merely to imagine two men together, that is enough.
Yes, for many people there is quite an aversion to considering what the behavior actually involves. Many people do not go to that level and think of homosexuality, or other moral issues like abortion etc in abstract terms. This is a common tendency of the modern age, to retreat to our minds and to abstract issues rather than to consider them in their reality. War becomes an issue, rather than killing people and breaking things, Abortion is an issue, rather than the dismemberment of a human being, homosexuality is an issue, rather than….well, I’d rather not say to explicitly. But the fact is there is a reality behind the “issue”
“What did you hope to accomplish by offering your exegesis? Did you deepen any love or improve any lives? Why would you spend your time defending the church position, rather than ministering to your parishioners?”
Benedict, I am curious why you would think that these two things are mutually exclusive. To teach with authority is part of ministering to parishioners. Indeed, to admonish sinners and to instruct the ignorant are two of the spiritual works of mercy. Which Msgr. Pope has done. Could you please enlighten me as to how this is separate from “ministering”? Is not the willingness to discuss the nature of sin– also a part of Catholic theology– part of ministering? How is this not an act of love?
“and one of the hallmarks of Catholic theology is the primacy of a properly-formed conscience.”
Precisely. See above.
Thanks for the encouragement here
It is confusing to me that only the acts in themselves are currently considered to be a sin. My 1961 Daily Missal states in the Confiteor; “I confess to Almighty God…that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” The deed is not the only category deemed as a sin.
If someone is given the green light to continually think about same sex acts because the thoughts are viewed as not being a sin and apparently OK to fantasize about, then I think that there is a very good probability that those continual thoughts may lead to being acted upon.
Well, temptation is not, of itself sin, for Jesus was tempted to sin, but did not sin. Not it is true, as the act of contrition states, that there are sins of thought. Hence, when one accepts temptation, in this case lustful thoughts, and fantasizes about them, then there would be sin. Hence, I don’t think there is a “green light” as you say for any of us on thoughts that are inappropriate. But an orientation is not, ipso facto, a sin, neither is a temptation. They become sin when one accepts the proposal of a given temptation, whether in thought or in deed.
An excellent and charitable presentation of the faith on this particular matter.
I think it can also be said that fornication is rarely touched upon as well from the pulpit.
If only most priests would use their homilies as a teaching moment instead of commenting on shallow topics for quick jokes, we would be able to begin the restoration of Christian culture much sooner than later.
In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,
Hey! I have Asperger’s Syndrome! I say that those are the ones that have created this beautiful art. But then again, I am admittedly vain. A lot of people think Leonardo da Vinci was gay, which I think is idiotic, as there is absolutely NO proof.
Amen Tito. I would much rather hear a sermon that makes me squirm in my seat than one that makes me laugh. I come to Mass to praise God, be fed by his Eucharist and by His word. in Scripture. When are we going to be taught what the Church teaches and believes and how it affects us in our daily lives. Someone is not doing their job. To whom much is given, much is expected. I hope some of these priest and bishops realize that they will one day have to go before God.We sin by co-mission and omission. If they did not preach and teach and it led people astray ,then Woe be to them!-
Great summary of Catholic Church teaching!
The Cathecism of the Catholic Church states: “..The number of persons with homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They did not choose their condition and they must be accepted with respect. All unjust discrimination must be avoided.”
A family friend’s son announced he is a homosexual and flaunts it. His parents accept his orientation and support gay marriage. They are non-practicing Catholics. I’ve told my wife that I don’t want nor our children to have any association with them anymore. This has caused a dispute with us as she does not want to lose long time friends and states that we need to accept him with respect per the Catechism mentioned above.
The Catechism teaches that they did not choose their condition also. I think this sentence causes homosexuals to state that they are born this way and can’t help it. I have to disagree with this part of the Catechism and I believe that it is a demonic influence that begins at an early age. There are many ex-homosexuals that have converted to the Catholic faith, married to opposite sex, and have children. I think the Church is lax on the amount of demonic influence and satanic possessions in the world today. Jesus expelled demons from many persons in the Gospels.
I prefer to remain non-committal when it comes to the cause of the homosexual orientation. When the catechism says they did not choose it, this does not necessarily mean they were born with it, only that it was not something they directly controlled. Why some are attracted to the same sex is mysterious. As for ex-homosexuals et al., I suppose homosexuality like many things exists on a continuum, rather than being an all or nothing thing in every person. There are some who are strongly homosexual, others who have same sex attraction but also feel some attraction to the opposite sex, and I suppose there is a lot of variance in the whole thing. This could explain how some come out of the gay scene and even get married to a member of the opposite sex. Whether the Homosexual orientation is demonic or just from the flesh or a little of both, I cannot say. But as a rule, I wouldn’t want to say more or less than the Church on this matter.
Father: I have a scientific paper presented in Salzberg, last May, that is another indication that if you break the natural law it will break you. If you want a copy to support your arguments scientifically please send me your email address and you will have it.
M. J. Ferrari, MD, MPH
I appreciated the context of the general sexual confusion of the times. Am I wrong in thinking that the Vatican is contributing to this confusion by ceasing to teach the traditional catholic doctrine of the servant leadership of the husband and father within the family.The servant leadership of the husband and father within the family is plainly taught in scripture and tradition but is being sidestepped by the Vatican using the same kind of reinterpretting of Holy Scripure that others use to justify homosexual activity.The servant leadersip of the husband and father within the family is taught as foundational by scripture and tradition,but is not taught in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”.
Msgr, Please pray with me for my son who is a practicing homosexual and denies the truths of the Word of God concerning what you said above. I am a very sad mother at the moment for he left this morning together with his homosexual partner (a former Catholic),after his yearly visit to South Africa. Thank you and may God bless you.
Actually, I appreciate a sane, polite, learned and pastoral commentary on the Church’s teaching on the morality of homosexual acts. Thank you, Father. It is also very commendable to hear a Church leader write “Sadly, though, some with a homosexual orientation not only commit the sin of homosexual activity, but they openly flaunt this fact, and dismiss Biblical texts that clearly forbid such activity. For these, we can only hope and pray for conversion.”
This is doing what pastors of the Church should be doing. For many of us (I think most Catholics), what has troubled us is those other Churchmen who DON’T “only hope and pray for conversion” but seek criminal and economic punishments for active homosexuals. Taking away a person’s job because he is gay or demanding there be laws that say he should be put in jail is where I part company with some of the leaders of our Church.
The DC Government was wise to repeal the so-called “Sodomy law” and it was shameful the Archdiocese of Washington testified against its repeal. It is also shameful that some defend the legal right of a boss to fire an worker simply because he is gay.
The pastoral, moral and ethical plane is where this matter should be discussed. Not criminal, civil and economic punishments.
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