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Troubling Remarks From Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu Require Clarification

July 28, 2013

072813Recent remarks by the retired Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu are not surprising for an Anglican prelate these days, but remain disturbing. Briefly put, the Archbishop says he would rather go to hell than go to a “homophobic heaven.”  Here’s some more complete report page of his remarks, in yesterdays Washington Times.

South Africa’s iconic retired archbishop, Desmond Tutu, said on Friday that if he had his pick, he’d go to hell before heading to a heaven that condemned homosexuality as sin. “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said, by way of denouncing religions that discriminate against gays, in Agence France-Presse….He added, AFP reported: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.” [1][2]

In fairness to the good Archbishop, the full context of these remarks is not included in the report but includes (but is not limited to) concerns about violence directed against homosexuals. Further, his many works on behalf of racial justice remain intact and were part of a noble struggle.

That said, there are several disturbing aspects to the archbishops comments:

1. He describes his opponents over-generally in this matter by using the term “homophobic.” And while it may be true that somewhere on this planet there are individuals who are truly “fearful” (=phobia)  of homosexual persons, or who hate them merely because they are homosexual, the use of the word “homophobic” is it best unhelpful, and at worse an uncharitable and inaccurate description. Most of us who oppose the approval or celebration of homosexual acts do so not in fear, but on principle, based on biblical and natural law reasons.

It is possible that the good archbishop is speaking only of the tiny minority who fear or hate homosexuals simply for their existence. And there are legitimate concerns, as expressed by the Archbishop, about countries where homosexual acts are criminalized (along with fornication and adultery). Perhaps this is not the best way to deal with these matters. Where there are acts of violence against homosexual persons, they are rightly condemned, as a are any acts of violence.

But I was not born yesterday, and it seems clear enough that Archbishop Tutu also means people like me when he uses the term “homophobic.” And he most likely includes the Catholic Church when he denounces religious bodies that  “discriminate” against homosexual persons (a charge I certainly deny) because we do not condone homosexual activity. Yes, it would seem he surely includes us in his category of “homophobic.” For he has chosen to use a word that is widely bandied about to refer to all persons, even those of sincere conscience, who oppose the militant homosexual  agenda. And if the archbishop does not mean me or the Catholic Church, at the very least I should hope for a clarification on his part.

It is a tired old tactic of many  who support the approval and celebration of homosexual acts to use terms to describe their opponents that are both ridiculing, and paint us in the darkest possible terms (e.g. hateful, bigoted, discriminatory etc).  Surely the Archbishop must know, even if he does not agree with many of us who oppose approval of homosexual activity and same-sex unions, that we think and speak out of an ancient biblical tradition which we believe to be the very word of God.

And while some today employ many dubious, or at least debatable interpretive theories of Scripture to avoid what the biblical texts clearly do say, it remains very evident to many of us that at every stage of biblical revelation, from the first pages of the Bible all the way to its concluding pages, that homosexual activity is condemned as sinful.  I have written more on that here: Letter on Homosexuality

Disagree with me if you sadly must, but I am no more homophobic than I am forniphobic for opposing fornication.

A simple request, of the archbishop would be a clarification and to avoid name-calling and simplifying the positions of his opponents. Likewise, for all who use similar tactics. It isn’t becoming to serious conversation, and surely is unbecoming of a Christian archbishop.

2. Any version of the words “I’d rather go to hell” should not pass the lips of anyone, let alone a Christian, even more so a Christian leader. Statements like these tend to invite unwanted demonic activity, and open the door to the wrong sorts of forces and drives.

While one can certainly hold the good archbishop was engaged in rhetorical flourish and hyperbole, it remains true that words to wit:  “I’d rather go to hell” should not be uttered for the reasons stated.

And even if it be so that it is merely hyperbole, why should such anger be engaged and deployed so widely? Does he really mean to speak this way, about a behavior that is reasonably rejected among Christians who read God’s word?

If the good archbishop considers me his enemy in this matter, did not the Lord say something about loving our enemies? If the archbishop considers me and others like me his persecutors, did not the Lord say that we should pray for our persecutors? Why would an archbishop theoretically familiar with God’s Word, say to me or others like me in effect,  “I’d rather go to hell than live with you in heaven.” Whence this anger, and the great lack of charity? It is wrong even to speak this way about those who who do act violently or hatefully toward homosexuals. Enemies are to be loved, persecutors prayed for.

3. Archbishop Tutu in an excerpt not quoted above but available by clicking on the links above equates the struggle against “homophobia” with the struggle against apartheid. As the pastor of a largely African American Parish, I know many Blacks who are troubled by the equating of the demands of homosexual activists with those of the civil rights activists some years ago. The concerns about homosexual acts regard behavior, whereas the concern of the civil rights movement was about race and discrimination based solely on that, not on behavior.

In particular, the Catholic Church distinguishes between homosexual orientation (disordered, but not per se sinful) and homosexual acts (sinful, as are acts of fornication and adultery in accord with the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture).

It is unjust to excoriate others for their opposition of  behavior with the logic that pertains to a non-behavioral trait such as race.

Some will argue that “God made them this way.” I am not so sure about that but will accept that most do not simply choose sexual orientation. That said, alcoholics, diabetics, and people who struggle with anger, do not choose these inclinations or struggles either. Nevertheless they must strive to act uprightly in spite of them. Heterosexuals are also summoned to act uprightly in spite of the often unruly sexual passions we possess. The God made me this way argument is does not set aside the question of behavior.

The opposition of the Church is about behavior, not how one is tempted or inclined. Chastity remains the rule for all. Those who have not received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the Scriptures set it forth must refrain form genital sexual contact. Those who have received Holy Matrimony must stay faithful to one to their husband or wife.

4. Some note should be given to the phrase “homophobic heaven” spoken by the Archbishop.

First of all the concept of a “homophobic heaven” is a null set. For if there is true homophobia, it is rooted in fear and possibly in hate and these do not pertain to heaven. But as for the opposition to homosexual acts (along with heterosexual acts such as fornication and adultery), that is not homophobia, it is the stated opposition of God to such acts as clearly recorded in scripture. God is not homophobic, but he does oppose homosexual acts. Calling God homophobic, or his Church or St. Paul or any other person does not make them homophobic. Opposition to the radical Gay agenda does not thereby make God or heaven “homophobic.” If it does not please Archbishop Tutu that homosexual acts are not approved or celebrated in heaven I suppose he does not have to go there. But he cannot simply expect heaven to be on his terms. Heaven is what it is, the fullness of the Kingdom of God and all it values, one of which is Chastity, and opposition to all acts contrary to it.

There is a lamentable tendency today for many Christians to define heaven on their own terms: “Heaven will be a place of pleasure, as I define pleasure. I will be among the company of those I choose, and everything will be on my terms.”

But of course, this is not what heaven is. Heaven is the fullness of the kingdom of God, the fullness of the values of the kingdom of God. Heaven is to be with God himself who is justice and truth, as he has set these forth. Heaven is about things like love of God, the liturgical worship of the Lord, love for the poor, love for my enemy, mercy, forgiveness, and yes, chastity!

Rather than to define what Heaven is for us, it is our work, to learn who God is and what heaven is as God has revealed it, and to begin by his grace to acclimate ourselves for the heaven that really is. Yes, we must be prepared to meet the real God, the biblical God, not some fake god. And we should be prepared to go to the real heaven, not some fake “designer heaven.”

Pillar of truth – We have no better indication of who God really is, what heaven is, and what God really expects of us than the  revealed Word of God, in the Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Church.

Sadly, the larger portion of the Anglican denomination departed from these pillars sometime ago. Scripture is radically reinterpreted so that it often does not mean what the text clearly says. Further,  The ancient biblical wisdom, both in the Old Covenant and the New, along with the apostolic and sacred Tradition have been set aside in favor of modern teachings barely 20 to 30 years old. This sadly is the course that the Anglican denomination, along with many other mainline Protestant denominations have taken.

On the other hand, the sure and certain testimony of the Word of God, about who God really is,  this is where I, and others like me must stand.  I can do no other, for God has revealed no other certain and surer source to know who He is what I must do. If this makes me the Archbishop’s enemy such that he would rather live in Hell than with with me, so be it.

But here I stand, I can do no other, for the Word of the Lord has spoken through his Church and the Sacred Scripture entrusted once and for all to his Church.

Comments (31)

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  1. Matthew Roth says:

    Yes, let’s reject the beatific vision, the presence of God Himself in favor of Hell, where no relationships exist.
    Also, if this was my blog, I’d have said “archbishop.” Therein lies his problem.

    • Robertlifelongcatholic says:

      Are you suggesting “arch” as in nemesis?

    • Repent and Believe the Gospel ! says:

      Archbishop Tutu is now conforming himself to the world, but not to Christ. This is what happen when you leave the Bride of Christ – the Catholic Church. Folks, with over 40,000 Protestant Denominations are you surprise?
      The Holy Sprit is NOT the God of confusion but the devil is!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this post, Monsignor. I was disturbed that Archbishop Tutu would say such nutty things. Your blog always helps me put things straight in my own mind.
    I’ve often wondered if so many people align themselves with “gay liberation” because they secretly admire and even envy the sexual opportunities that homosexuals have.

  3. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    I guess that makes Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and those of similar mind Biblifobics. This reminds me of the song “He’s A Pilgrim” by Kris Kristofferson. To paraphrase respectfully and to be more relevant,

    He’s a poet, he’s a picker, he’s prophet,he’s pusher,
    He’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem left alone
    He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
    Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

  4. Annette Strachan says:

    Final words of yesterday; “how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? “

  5. r in indiana says:

    The battle is not over, but it is not looking good. As I read this, I wonder if the agenda succeeds, how long before Bibles must exclude text that refers to the act negatively or be banned. Perhaps that is overly dramatic, but the rabidity of activists concerns me.

    • Donna L. says:

      Not overly dramatic… Bibles have been (and still are) illegal in different parts of the world. We just can’t imagine it here!

  6. Donna L. says:

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s remarks show that he fears man more than he fears God. I suspect that the archbishop is feeling the rapidly growing animosity from the public towards Christianity and is seeking to appease his critics. “I’m not all like that!!”

    Violence towards homosexuals is deplorable and the Church speaks out against this. However, it is no longer acceptable to say that one is against homosexual unions simply “because the Bible says it’s wrong.” Most people see this ancient text as not only irrelevant, but as a book that promotes things like slavery, genocide, etc. There needs to be a thoughtful discussion.

    I like how Monsignor explains that we all have inclinations to (and struggles with) passions – whether it’s anger, depression or sexual passion. We cannot justify our behavior by saying we were born this way. God means to give us the grace we need to live with self-control and purity.

  7. Paul says:

    Thank you Msgr. I would be greatful if you could send this post direct to his e-mail. Email: [email protected].

    I think its high time we reign in the Archbishop. His problem is that he is attention seeking monger. he will do anything as long as there is publicity.

    Remember he once condemn the election of pope Benedict, not that there was a need to do so but it was the news of the time, he took any opportunity to steal the thunder. there are many examoples iI can give, but what I can say is that its time to reign him in.

    Thank you Msgr

  8. David F says:

    I for one actually was glad to read the the “archbishops” words, not because I agree but because they are so clearly at odds with the Church and in line with the world. Nice to to know which side Mr. Tutu is on.

  9. Peter Gallaher says:

    Thank you, Monsignor. I got the impression that I was reading something which might have been written by a Thomist. What a terrible thought these days.

  10. Greg V. says:


    Thank you for this piece – it’s right on.

    It would be helpful if everyone would understand the difference between having attraction to members of the same sex – homosexuality – and actually engaging in sexual relations with members of the same sex. There should be no prejudice against the former, only the latter.

  11. dominic1955 says:

    Its a foolish thing to say, even for hyperbole. That said, Tutu and a good deal of the Anglican Communion have been off their nut for a good long while now when it comes to matters of bare bones Christian/biblical orthodoxy. Many of their “bishops” cannot even assent to the fact of the Resurrection let alone basic Christian morals on sexual practices. However, in the Anglican communion, here we see a very obvious example of what happens when you whore your intitution for popular (liberal) acclaim. What happened to the intitution that could provide at least the foundation of Christianity to foster men like Bl. John Henry Newman and Cardinal Manning?

  12. edraCruz says:

    An archibishop at that and he does not know he is heaping curses upon himself and those he shepherd. To deliberately choose hell simply because you wanted to stress your point is abomination in the eyes of GOD (troubling is too mild a word). Even the point he is stressing is contrary to the scriptures of which he is avowed to proclaim. Well, what can one get from the bitter root of this denomination except bitter fruit? I like dominic1955 of how he described Angican communion, ‘off their nut for a good long while now’ (lol). Off their rockers, eh? Sorry for that, forgive me, could not pass that up. This remark of the archbishop is one good example of the dictatorship of relativism. One of these days, these lgbts will sue the Catholic Church for not allowing them to be married sacramentally in the Church. The slippery slope. What would stop a disordered person to be married to both a man and a woman? to two or more spouses? to his child? to himself? to his pet? to a tree? to his house? to his car? … all because of pursuit of happiness and no harm rule. Maranatha!

  13. Sam says:

    If we are to adhere to biblical biblical orthodoxy, and the truth of God’ Word and Law as revealed in the Old Testament, then how are we to properly understand…….Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:16-20 (particularly verse 5:17) and must therefore recognize and condemn sins that are specifically enumerated, while doing so with proper compassion/charity. Jesus came with a call to repentance………Jesus is the leader, we must follow Him, not our own often misguided and mistaken/convoluted reasoning that is influenced by our concupiscence which can easily lead us astray.

    Matthew 5:16-20
    [16] So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. [17] Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. [18] For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. [19] He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

  14. Ann says:

    Tutu’s comments just reinforces the belief that God condemns no soul to hell. A soul chooses hell on its own.

  15. Patt says:

    Like Father Groschel (who wisely was retired after a big blunder), Tutu needs to step down before he is accused of senility or having Alzheimer’s. I think he is too fond of attention…

  16. RichardGTC says:

    Excellent and even-handed piece. Thanks.

    “Disagree with me if you sadly must, but I am no more homophobic than I am forniphobic for opposing fornication.”–Well said and good point.

    “Any version of the words “I’d rather go to hell” should not pass the lips of anyone, let alone a Christian, even more so a Christian leader.”–Ditto.

    I wonder if Blessed John Henry Newman sensed all of this coming down the line when he left the Anglican Church for the Catholic Church, although I believe the positive reasons for joining the Catholic Church were the larger motive for his move. Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

  17. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    It amazes me how trying to turn people away from the sin of homosexual behavior (or any other harmful unchaste act) has come to be termed an act of hate instead of an act of love. But it has been successful propaganda that those who uphold the Christian moral code must deal with.

  18. Cindy O'Mahoney says:

    It would be far more worrisome it it originated from a valid Archbishop.

  19. Vijaya says:

    Thank you for this excellent rebuttal. Perhaps this is why so many Anglicans are leaving their church. Truth is Truth. It doesn’t change with the times, with what’s popular, or the public opinion.

  20. one anonymous says:

    There is the One and only True God (and all that He is). The One True God in all His Wisdom and Knowledge has given us choice and we can choose to reject Him, if we so desire, and in so doing choose to go to hell. Sadly many will.

  21. Michael G Marriam says:

    I’m afraid Tutu is going to get his wish. The author said people make heaven what they want it to be. One step further, they make God to be what they want him to be: just like them. “Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God”. Repent Tutu before its too late.

  22. Donna L. says:

    It doesn’t help matters when all the major news outlets report that Pope Francis does not judge “gays” for being “gay”! My daughter pointed this out to me yesterday and I had to show her that while Pope Francis does not judge the person, he most certainly condemns the activity.

  23. Dave in NC says:

    To paraphrase C S Lewis; “In the end, either we say to GOD ‘Thy will be done” or GOD says to us ‘Thy will be done.”

    May his wish be granted.

    • Peter Wolczuk says:

      ” “I’d rather go to hell” should not pass the lips of anyone, let alone a Christian, even more so a Christian leader. Statements like these tend to invite unwanted demonic activity, and open the door to the wrong sorts of forces and drives.”
      It also validates, and encourages, others to make such a statement -or broader variations on this statement – due to the influence which he’s developed. How does this fit in with a shepherd’s duty to lead (sometimes by example) the flock in a safe direction?

  24. Pl Boire says:

    It is truly astounding how a misguided media campagne and very bad advocacy science has blinded people so completely that the most elementary aspects of human sexual identity could become victims. Human life itself. And too, another generation of kids will be railroaded by cultural dogmatism like his into all the perils of that disordered life. As the Denmark registry study shows and as NARTH argues so well, homosexual behavior is highly correlated with divorce, death of a parent and abuse. The kids desperately need mature adults as parents and our support and help, not a marriage license. Utter insanity that helps no one.

  25. brian says:

    so you people actually live in the real world or have you deluded yourselves beyond belief. I am a christian who happens to be gay. You say he does not follow christ? Well you ALL seem to be very haste about casting the first stone. I have made my peace with God and Jesus so I suggest you do to instead of this constant hate you spread. If you actually realised what it means to be discriminated by maybe you might understand.

    • Brian, you don’t seem to be very gay (i.e. happy). What’s that all about? Delusion refers to being out of touch with reality. Now any cursory view of the body indicated that homosexual acts are as scripture calls them, para physin (contrary to nature). This is reality. The body parts are being misused. It is not “hate” to speak to this stubborn fact. That you have made peace with God is not the goal, for it is peace on your terms, not God’s terms. Read scripture, and take heed to the revelation also of the body. Both testify against homosexual practices.

  26. Allan says:

    Tutu is not a born again christian and will compromise the word of GOD to please the world.Just imagine the world consisting of only gays and lesbians.1Tim4;1-3Now the SPIRIT speaks expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and docterines of devils:2Speaking lies in hypocricy having their conscience seared with a hot iron3Forbidding to marry.