We Need To Recover a Natural Understanding of Human Sexuality

I want to recommend a book by Daniel Mattson that can help us greatly in addressing the sexual confusion of our time, but first let’s do a quick review of where we are and what seems to be the central problem.

The rise of “transgenderism” and the widespread approval of homosexual acts represent a resurgence of the oldest heresy the Church has had to face: Gnosticism. Gnostic dualism divorces the body from the soul and the “knowing self” from the natural world. Our bodies of course are our first and deepest encounter with the physical or natural world.

Gnostic dualism says, in effect, “I am not my body. I am only my feelings, my thoughts. My body is at best irrelevant and at worst a limiting cage against which I must rebel.” In this way, some people today claim the ability to be whatever they imagine themselves to be.

Just a few years ago, if one heard that a certain man had declared that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body, the reaction would likely have been to conclude that the man had some form of mental illness (“gender dysphoria”) as he was obviously out of touch with reality. Most people would not have taken such a claim seriously, as it was nearly universally agreed that the physical body provided the definitive indication of one’s sex.

About five years ago a tipping point was crossed in our “culture,” and the belief in gnostic dualism reached critical mass. Whether this was of demonic origin or just the accumulation of darkened intellects resulting from the sexual revolution (see Rom 1:18ff) is not clear, but the idea that the body is irrelevant in determining one’s sex is widespread. Even suggesting (let alone asserting) that the body reveals and determines one’s sex is greeted with blank stares at best and accusations of hatred or bigotry at worst.

Today, a male who says he is a female trapped in a male body is taken seriously by many people. If an “unenlightened troglodyte” does not play along, and instead says, “No, your body indicates you are actually a male,” the retort will be this: “My body? What does my body have to do with anything? It is what I think and feel that matters.”

This is Gnostic dualism in all its deceptive fullness. From a Christian perspective, it is seen as an almost complete disconnect from the body as revelatory of who and what we are. Gnosticism amounts to a reduction of the human person to merely our soul, or our thoughts and feelings. And while it is true that we are not just our body, we are also not merely our thoughts or feelings.

The glory of the human person is in the uniting of two orders of creation: the physical and the spiritual. We are not merely persons with bodies; we are bodily persons. Though we can distinguish soul and body in our mind, we cannot do so in reality. Consider the analogy of a candle flame. In our mind, we can distinguish the heat of the flame from its light, but we cannot physically separate the light and the heat. They are so together as to be one. It is the same with us. Our body and soul are so together as to be one. The separation of body and soul is the very definition of death and it is why our bodies must rise for our salvation to be complete.

The proponents of transgenderism will have none of this. The body is irrelevant to a person’s “self-definition.”

This disconnect and dualism is but a doubling down on the gnostic premises involved in approving homosexual acts. Here, too, pointing out that the very design of the human body indicates that the man is for the woman and the woman for the man leads to blank stares or the outright dismissal of the body’s relevance in something as obviously “embodied” as sexual union. The same basic claim is made, “What does my body have to do with anything? It is my feelings and attractions that matter. I am my feelings. My body does not matter and has nothing to say to me in this regard.” So insistent are many that they craft an entire “identity” based on an attraction, a feeling. The primary way they wish to be known is as “gay.” This amounts to a remarkable reduction of the human person to one aspect (and a disordered one at that) of who they are.

Gnostic dualism is alive and “well” in our times. We must continue to insist that the body matters, that the body is revelatory, that the body has things to teach us about who we are. It is no mere container or cage. I am my body along with my soul and its faculties.

Daniel Mattson has some helpful insights in his book, Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace. On this subject, he writes both credibly and articulately. He speaks not only from experience, but from a good command of the philosophical, theological, and anthropological matters at stake.

Defining reality based on my feelings seemed a rather unconvincing premise on which to build my life. My father taught me this at a very early age. In the planetarium where he worked, I would often sit next to him as he gave presentations to visiting schoolchildren. My favorite part of every program was the moment when he made the star projector spin speedily, round and round, making it feel as if all of us in the auditorium were spinning. … And though we knew we were seated firmly in our chairs, it felt as if we were dizzily careening through space. … “Feelings are important,” he would say, “But they don’t always tell us the truth.”

I want to live my life according to reality, not based on what I feel reality to be. … I feel our society is in need of a return to sexual sanity, rooted in embracing and accepting the truth that the sole sexual identities that are objectively true are male and female, designed for union with each other.

… Man’s greatest freedom comes from living in accordance with the truth of sexuality revealed to us in the nature of our bodily design. One of the many reasons I joined the Catholic Church is her unambiguous embrace of the objective reality of man’s sexual nature as revealed to us in our bodies. … My body, and the sexual organs that are part of my body, are designed for union with a woman and designed for the propagation of the species through procreation. That’s my sexual nature, and every other man’s nature.

Nature matters … [Today] we care immensely about the environment … [but] with man’s sexuality, however, society seems to want to ignore nature in favor of supposedly new and improved constructions and design. … When we oppose or question or seek to change our created nature, we necessarily live in dissonance with reality (pp. 89-94).

Mattson also quotes Pope Benedict XVI:

… [A] point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past [is that] there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate it will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 2011, quoted in Mattson, p. 94).

I highly recommend Mr. Mattson’s book. He makes good sense, both practically and philosophically. It is light amid the darkness, from a credible source who has personal knowledge of a subject that has affected many, whether they have same-sex attraction themselves or family and friends who do. His teaching is also helpful in addressing the wider sexual confusion of our times.

How to Discuss Same-Sex “Marriage” With Dissenting Family Members

SocratesI was out on the preaching circuit this past week and spoke at five parishes (including my own) on the biblical vision of Holy Matrimony (marriage) as set forth by God and the Church. The talks were sponsored by the pro-life group Defend Life.

While I cannot succinctly reproduce the talk in today’s blog, I spoke from notes that are available here and here. A video of one of the talks will be posted soon.

I heard a consistent concern voiced by those in attendance that pulpits have been too silent on this critical matter of marriage, and by extension, sexuality and the family. Since I don’t get around to many other parishes on Sundays, and I don’t have statistics or polls to consult, I can only assume that this complaint is widespread. That said, nothing prevents a Catholic layperson from breaking out the Catechism and teaching his or her children and grandchildren. There seems to be a lot of waiting around for the Church to “do something” regarding ignorance of the faith. Pulpits must get better, but so must adult religious education. Parents, too, must actively seek out sources for instruction so that they can learn and hand on the faith. I recommend two places, among many, to start: The Institute of Catholic Culture and Catholic Answers.

Another common question that came from distressed parents at the talks was how they could counteract the bewitching effect of modern culture on their children (30 and under) when it comes to the redefinition of marriage. Many of their young-adult children see “no problem” with same-sex unions (a.k.a. gay “marriage”) and parents wondered how to counter this position.

My recommendation would be to use the “Socratic method.” This method, rooted in the teaching style of Socrates, uses questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw a person to find answers by examining his own premises. Rather than simply refuting the position of their young-adult child, it is often more helpful for parents to ask questions that permit him or her to see for himself/herself the faultiness and/or emptiness of the logic underlying this modern thinking. Today it seems that logic, critical thinking, and proper premises are often lacking.

The additional value of the Socratic method is that it requires the “accuser” (the one who wishes to set aside biblical and Catholic teaching) to account for his view rather than the faithful Catholic to mount a complete defense. The method also involves listening respectfully as the accuser speaks.

Consider a scenario in which an adult son or daughter makes some remark that indicates opposition to the Church teaching on traditional marriage. You might ask,

Do you oppose the fact that the Church upholds only traditional Marriage and rejects same-sex “marriage”?

Assuming the response is yes (or some form thereof), follow up with this question:

How do you define marriage?

Now just wait as long as necessary. Give no assistance, just wait patiently. Let the question hang there. It is quite likely that he or she will struggle to answer the question because those who have redefined marriage have not really redefined it at all; they have simply made it increasingly devoid of content. Saying what marriage isn’t is not the same as saying what it is.

The response might be something like this: “It’s when two people love each other and want to be together.” You might then pose some of the following questions:

Could you be more specific? For example, why do you say two people? Could it be more than two? Why or why not?

Or,

When you say, “two people” do you mean any two people? For example, what if the two people are related, such as being brother and sister, or two brothers, or a father and his? Must the two people who love each other have to be unrelated? If so, why?

Or,

You say that they love each other. Must this be the case? Are there other reasons they could marry other than love?

These are not intended to be merely “gotcha” questions. The purpose is to force the dissenter to stake out a cogent position by carefully thinking through his premises and where they lead. If the dissenter responds to the above questions with some limits, it forces him to consider why those limits make sense while others (such as one man and one woman) do not.

The Church knows what marriage is and so does God, who taught us clearly (in Genesis 2 and other places) that marriage is one man for one woman in a life-long, committed, and faithful relationship, open to the procreation and rearing of children.

This traditional definition is clear, sets limits, and has been the way marriage has been understood for thousands of years. Those who wish to remove these limits must account for what restrictions are left and why they think those should be kept rather than also set aside.

Just ask these questions. Wait for answers. Wait as long as necessary and don’t help. Let them think through it and become more responsible for what they think and the implications that emerge from it.

In this video from Catholic Answers, Trent Horn makes significant use of the Socratic method. In this case the topic happens to be atheism, but it gives a good idea illustration of how the method might work. Atheism is a complex topic. Defining marriage is far less complex since the field of the discussion is more focused.

Some with Same-Sex Attraction Choose Celibacy – A Reflection on an Article in the Washington Post

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article asking and answering this question: What Does the Catholic Church Offer for those with Same-Sex Attraction? And the answer is, “the truth.” It is the same gift we offer anyone who will give us the gift of attention and presence. The truth, as revealed by God, is what we offer and celebrate along with the Sacraments, the communal life, and prayer.

Of course the truth we offer in terms of human sexuality is out of favor among many today. But the truth, in accord with Scripture and natural law, is that human sexuality is ordered to the good of procreation, and by extension, to the good of the husband and wife so that they may be strengthened for their role as parents through the bonds of sexual intimacy and the stable love and loyalty cultivated there. This benefits not only them, but even more so their children, who need a loving and stable family in which to be best raised. It is to this that human sexuality is properly ordered and why its legitimate expression is only within the bonds of marriage. All other types of sexual expression are, in one degree or another, disordered (i.e., not properly ordered to the proper ends of sexuality). Thus sex as recreation, fornication (pre-marital sex), adultery, pornography, masturbation, and homosexual acts are disordered.

This is the truth that the Church offers to all who give us the gift of their attention. We affirm, as did St. Paul, that We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2). We do not discriminate or exempt anyone from this teaching. It is a teaching that applies equally to all and is the clear and consistent stance of Scripture and Church teaching extending all the way back into ancient Jewish times. Even if not all have lived it perfectly, it is what is taught and what is true from the Revelation of God and backed up by Natural Law.

There was an article in the Washington Post on Sunday that, thankfully, sets forth another side of the debate over those with “same-sex attraction.”

This other side is important to hear because it is commonly held by many today that the ONLY way to affirm, love, or accept those with this orientation is approve of and even celebrate homosexual acts. Anything less is called “intolerance,” “bigotry,” “homophobia,” and even “hatred.” But of course those of us who read the Scriptures and their plain teaching on the matter of homosexual acts cannot do what is “required” by many in our culture today.

And we must insist that this does NOT mean that we fail to love or accept those with same-sex attraction. An attraction to do things the Scriptures forbid is common to all of us. We are forbidden to lie, steal, fornicate, wrathfully vent our anger, drink too much, etc. But many experience an attraction to do sinful things like this.

We usually call such attractions to forbidden or excessive things “temptation.” But temptation does not make a person sinful—only yielding to it does. Some are strongly tempted to anger, some to drink in excess, others to illicit sexual union. The Church does not say, “stay away” to those who have these temptations. On the contrary, it is all the more reason to come, to be strengthened in the truth that these are sinful things, but also to experience mercy and help through the Sacraments, preaching, fellowship, and prayer to avoid giving in to these sinful drives. It is no less the case for those with same-sex attraction. They are tempted to do what is sinful. This alone does not make them bad nor does it make them unique. Only acting on sinful desires is sinful.

A person with same-sex attraction is called to live celibately, like any unmarried heterosexual person. And though celibacy has its challenges (as does marriage) it can also be a very fulfilling way to live. Of this I am a witness. I am heterosexual, but I live celibately, not just because I am a priest, but because I am unmarried. And my life is very rich and fulfilling. I am not lonely, frustrated, or miserable. I suppose sex can be a source a happiness. But I have done enough counseling to know that sex can also be a source of stress, struggle, and yes, unhappiness. It is wrong to simplistically link sexual intercourse with happiness or to declare it a sine qua non for fulfillment.

With this background in mind, I was pleased to see an article in the Washington Post that discusses the lives of those with same-sex attraction who choose to live celibately and in conformity with the teachings of the Church in this matter. Over the years, I have known many Catholics who do this, and do it successfully. It is a form of heroic virtue in an age that powerfully tempts them to think otherwise and to depart from biblical teaching on this matter.  I would like to present excerpts from the article in bold italics along with some remarks of my own in plain red text. The full article can be read here: Gay Christians choosing celibacy emerge from the shadows.

When Eve Tushnet converted to Catholicism in 1998, she thought she might be the world’s first celibate Catholic lesbian.

But, thankfully, she is not. There are many others in the Church who have same-sex attraction and yet live lives faithful to Church teaching.

Having grown up in a liberal, upper Northwest Washington home before moving on to Yale University, the then-19-year-old knew no other gay Catholics who embraced the church’s ban on sex outside heterosexual marriage. Her decision to abstain made her an outlier. “Everyone I knew totally rejected it,” she said of the church’s teaching on gay sexuality.

Today, Tushnet is a leader in a small but growing movement of celibate gay Christians who find it easier than before to be out of the closet in their traditional churches because they’re celibate. She is busy speaking at conservative Christian conferences with other celibate Catholics and Protestants and is the most well-known of 20 bloggers who post on spiritualfriendship.org, a site for celibate gay and lesbian Christians that draws thousands of visitors each month.

Thanks be to God for her witness. In the Catholic sphere, we also have http://couragerc.org, an outreach and support group for Catholics with same-sex attraction, and those who love them. 

Celibacy “allows you to give yourself more freely to God,” said Tushnet (rhymes with RUSH-net), a 36-year-old writer and resident of Petworth in the District. The focus of celibacy, she says, should be not on the absence of sex but on deepening friendships and other relationships, a lesson valuable even for people in heterosexual marriages. Amen.

However, they are also met with criticism from many quarters, including from other gays and lesbians who say celibacy is both untenable and a denial of equality. “We’ve been told for so long that there’s something wrong with us,” said Arthur Fitzmaurice, resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.

But, respectfully, there is something wrong with you, just as there are things wrong with each of us. Not all of our desires are good or properly ordered. Some desires we have are disordered. Being attracted to have sexual relations with someone of the same sex is disordered. It is not ordered to the proper ends of sexuality, namely procreation and the good of the father and mother so as to be good parents. Physically, homosexual acts cannot attain the proper goals of sexual intimacy. The body parts do not fit together and are not designed for such purposes. Since these attractions are not ordered to the proper purpose of sexual intimacy, they are “dis-ordered.” Intentionally contraceptive sex is also disordered, as are pornography and masturbation. As such, they are all wrong.

Mr. Fitzmaurice also says that celibacy is “untenable.” It is not. I live it every day. So do the people interviewed in the article. What he probably means is that it is unpopular and/or difficult. So are many virtues. Many people find sin popular. Many also find exhibiting self-control to be less popular or less pleasant. But that does not make it impossible or wrong. 

As for his notion of “equality,” it is a modern problem that many use the word “equal” to mean “the same.” A man and a woman are equal in dignity before God, but they are not the same. A married person and a single person are equal in dignity before God, but they are not the same and do not have the same roles or obligations; neither do they have the same rights or prerogatives. Married people can do things that the unmarried should not. A courtroom judge and I have the same equality of dignity before God, but we have different roles, and there are things he or she can do that I cannot. Equality is not sameness.

Acceptance in exchange for celibacy “is not sufficient,” he said. “There’s a perception that [LGBT] people who choose celibacy are not living authentic lives.”

And here is the central problem with the whole LGBT(QIIA) movement. They insist on having their whole public identity revolve around a behavior that history, culture (until recently),  and the Scriptures have consistently thought wrong and sinful. And, claiming this as their almost sole identity, they then insist that anything short of a complete declaration of the goodness of their behavior is insufficient and amounts to a lack of personal acceptance. Those in the LGBT movement do not alone get to decide what constitutes “sufficient” acceptance. They can decide what they think, but “sufficiency” speaks to a matter of justice. And one side alone in a dispute does not get to simply declare what is just by diktat. There are legitimate and just objections at work from the standpoint of many in this dispute.

It is clear that many in the LGBT community take rejection of their behavior very personally even if many of us do not mean it that way. Perhaps they take it personally because many with same-sex attraction have decided to weave their entire identity and dignity around whom they are sexually attracted to. But as for me, I choose to see more of people than that. So I can truthfully say, “I accept you; you are a fellow human being. But I do not accept or approve of every behavior you exhibit or every behavior you insist that I approve of. I cannot and I will not do that. It is not personal; it is only experienced by you as being personal because you have chosen to make it so.”

The reaction among church leaders themselves has been mixed, with some praising the celibacy movement as a valid way to be both gay and Christian. But others have returned to the central question of how far Christianity can go in embracing homosexuality—even if people abstain from sex … [some leaders in Evangelical denominations are]  not comfortable with the way in which some celibate gay Christians proudly label themselves as gay or queer. “Even if someone is struggling with same-sex attraction, I’d be concerned about reducing them to the word ‘gay,’ ” Mohler said.

Fair enough, as stated above. Reducing our whole identity to a matter of sexual attraction is an awful reductionism. Neither is being “gay” a gift from God, (though like any cross he permits, he can draw graces from it). However, we ought not shun all discussion and identification. For example, it is sometimes important for alcoholics to speak openly of their struggle and to identify with a group and a cultural category that can help both the afflicted and the wider community to find healthy ways of overcoming difficulties. “Over-identification” ought not be replaced by total silence either. Silence and shame are often related. But silence and shame are not usually healthy either.

Josh Gonnerman, 29, a theology PhD student at Catholic University, writes…“There is this shift from the more negative to the more positive,” he said. “In the past, the Catholic approach was: ‘Oh, sucks for you’ [that you’re gay]. The emphasis was on the difficulty. Celibacy is being reimagined.” Yes, in other words, celibacy is a good thing; the celibate life is a rich life.

The rest of the article by Michelle Boorstein is here:  Gay Christians choosing celibacy emerge from the shadows.

So, it is good to finally see some publicity for those with same-sex attraction who live celibately. They are not few in number or percentage, as any Catholic pastor will tell you. There are many who do so. They are not usually among the loudest protestors; they usually live quietly as members of our congregation. Like any Catholics, they struggle with sin (sexual and otherwise), but they are in agreement with Church and biblical teaching and know how to find a confessional when sin of any kind overtakes them. It’s good to see another side to this story published in the Post.

Please be careful and gentle with your comments. The article is not perfect, people are not perfect. But it is worth affirming that some are striving to live the Church teaching. So, say what you mean and mean what you say—but don’t say it mean.

Baptize but Be Discreet: On the Catholic Baptism of children presented by homosexual and other irregular parents

062914There has been some interesting coverage in the news recently regarding the Church’s stance on baptizing children conceived or reared in irregular situations.

In recent decades there has been an explosion in the number of children conceived and born outside of Holy Matrimony. The general approach of the Church has been to baptize these children as long as there is no evidence of an ongoing rejection of the Church teaching that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage. While people may have fallen in weakness, the presumption was that they at least accepted the norm and were going to try to live by it.

If the “couple” in question were living together outside of marriage, the baptism was handled discreetly and the couple was counseled to cease fornication.

It is not certain that every pastor admonished couples as he should but this was (and is) the general policy.

Enter the new and ever more frequent problem of same sex “couples” presenting a child for baptism, and now the stakes get higher. Why? Because of the visibility of the sin involved. At the baptism ceremony, one can at least presume that a single mother has repented of fornication. But it is hard to presume that a homosexual “couple” living together openly, in a culture that has suddenly decided to “celebrate” their “lifestyle,” is making a similar admission of the wrongness of their past behavior. It is also difficult to presume that many who attend the baptism have clarity on the aberrance of homosexual acts.

Thus the Church finds herself in a deeper quandary regarding how to baptize children being brought up in irregular situations that are far more public, situations that bespeak acceptance and even celebration of something the Church must oppose.

Discretion is the operative word. We still have every reason try to baptize children in these irregular situations; after all, it is not the fault of the child. However we must balance the common good of avoiding scandal with the individual good of each child by seeking to handle these baptisms discreetly, giving no opportunity for public confusion regarding what we must reasonably and biblically oppose (same-sex unions).

Here are some excerpts from an article that was in the Washington Post this past Saturday along with my comments in plain red text. (The full text of the article is here: New Battleground?.)

… Catholic leaders have carefully, if quietly, avoided doing anything to block gay couples from having their children baptized … And this is for the good of the child, who is not guilty of the sins of parents, guardians, or caretakers. It is not to be seen as an affirmation of the sins of the adults involved, whether this be due to homosexual acts, fornication, or adultery.

The default position for most bishops … is that if the parents pledge to raise the child Catholic, then no girl or boy should be refused baptism.

They generally let parish priests make the final call and let them administer the sacrament, though it is usually done in a private ceremony with the biological parent—not the adoptive mother or father—listed on the baptismal certificate.

The honest truth is that most priests have been so inundated by single mothers that we no longer handle the baptism of such children discreetly (as was done decades ago), but have held such baptisms publicly, and often alongside the baptisms of properly married parents. This must likely be reexamined. We have fallen prey to the normalization of fornication in our culture. And while not every priest has done so, it must be admitted that we have not properly distinguished between what ought to be discreet (because of the behavior of the parents) and what can be publicly celebrated. However, one was still able to presume the possibility that the parents had repented of fornication and were now living properly. This is often not the case with so called homosexual “couples” who often (but not always) wish to live in very public opposition to Church teaching.

[But a] new debate was prompted by the emergence of a memo—first reported by the Wisconsin State Journal—that was sent in early May to priests of the Madison Diocese by the top aide to Bishop Robert Morlino. In the memo, the vicar general of the diocese, Monsignor James Bartylla, says there are “a plethora of difficulties, challenges, and considerations associated with these unnatural unions (including scandal) linked with the baptism of a child, and such considerations touch upon theology, canon law, pastoral approach, liturgical adaptation, and sacramental recording.

Yes, they are unnatural unions and present a host of difficulties to us. Even in the “single mother” scenarios that have recently troubled us, comes the listing of a “father” who is often absent or sometimes even unknown. I have often had to struggle with a woman who either did not want to disclose the father or did not even know who the father was.  There is always the option of writing Pater ignotus (father unknown) in the baptismal register, but it is generally desirable to indicate the biological father if he can be known. But at least the mother was known. Members of so called “gay” couples do not fit on either line. Which do we list? Who is the father? Who is the mother? It’s a mess. Further, the rites call for a blessing for mother and father. What do we do? What do we say? Its a mess, a big mess. 

Bartylla says that pastors must now coordinate any decision on baptizing the children of gay couples with his office and that “each case must be evaluated individually.” And this makes sense. When you’ve got a mess, and this is a real mess, it makes sense to adopt a uniform policy. If there are 100+ parishes in a diocese, there should not be 100+ policies in a matter as serious as this. The Bishop, who is chief legislator and liturgist, ought to set the norms.

A spokesman for the Madison Diocese, Brent King, said … “We want everyone to receive this most important sacrament, and we are dealing with this sensitive matter prudently, for the child’s sake and the integrity of this most sacred sacrament,” wrote King. Yes, we want to baptize every child we can. This mess is not their fault. But we have to do so in ways that protect  the common good by avoid scandal and confusion.

Officials at the USCCB said these decisions are left to local church leaders, and indicated there are no plans to formulate a national directive beyond the guidance offered in a 2006 statement on ministering to gay people. That document says that baptizing the children of gay parents is “a serious pastoral concern” but that the church should not refuse them access to the sacrament. OK, good, but I suspect that some national norms are going to be needed as well.

Since the bishops passed that document, however, an ongoing wave of victories for same-sex marriage advocates has continued to push the issue into the public arena. As more gay Catholics can marry, and can be open about their relationship, more gay couples may be presenting their children for baptism.

Exactly. What was once an abstract, even theoretical problem is now becoming more widespread. Further, the homosexual extremists are looking to embarrass us, to set us up. We need to consider carefully a way forward that respects our traditions, but does not give any credence to their unnatural unions.

“The question with gay couples is whether their opposition to the church’s teaching on marriage means that they do not in fact intend to raise the child in the faith,” said Rita Ferrone, the author of several books about liturgy and a consultant to U.S. dioceses on liturgical matters. “Gay parents may or may not be ideologically opposed to church teaching, but chances are they do not merely disobey but also reject the various norms they have transgressed,” Ferrone said.

Sadly, these days the presumption is that many people, even beyond the “gay” community itself, not only approve of but even brazenly celebrate what God calls sin and abomination. Thus our presumption of good will is difficult to maintain.  Our operative presumption must become that we are being set up and pressured to approve what God does not approve. 

DeBernardo said the problem with a policy that focuses specifically on gay parents is that it “stigmatizes lesbian and gay couples as being more suspect than any other parents.” Sadly, though, many if not most gay parents want to live their sin publicly. It is not fair to ask us to be silent; we cannot do so.

“It is very likely that no parents that present a child for baptism are perfectly following all church rules,” he said. “Why single out only lesbian and gay parents for further scrutiny?” OK, but again the operative point is the public nature of the sin and the scandal given by its public nature. Some sins are just more obvious and public than others.

Countering any trend to curb baptisms, however, is the long-standing presumption, in church teaching and among even conservative church leaders, that no child should be denied baptism.

And herein lies the delicate balance: the good of the child vs. the common good to avoid scandal. The key going forward is discretion. More baptisms than in the past are going to need to be celebrated privately, in the presence only of the immediate family (i.e., parents or guardians and godparents). This will need to include fornicators and other irregular parents. We have become too lax and must now apply a norm consistently that has been poorly applied in the past.

And thus the bottom line seems clear: baptize these children, but do so discreetly. Further, we ought to regain more discretion as to how we baptize children in other irregular situations. The common good and the individual good of the children can and should be balanced, but they are not mutually exclusive.

Literally Messing with their Brain. What Recent Scientific Studies Can Teach Us About Ourselves and Raising our Children

120913In modern times there has been a tendency to downplay the differences between men and women, preferring to see whatever differences have historically existed as simply social constructs. This thinking was insisted upon by many as a kind of political correctness that must be held otherwise punishment and excoriation was sure to follow.

Nevertheless, most people with common sense have always known that men and women are very different, and that these differences are not simply the result of social constructs or the way people were raised.

Now scientists have made discoveries not only affirming that men and women are different, but helping to show one of the reasons why.

At the heart of the recent studies, and discoveries, is the fact that men’s brains and women’s brains are usually wired very differently. While the pathways that set up in the brain can be influenced by the setting in which one is raised, especially at the time of puberty and before, the study shows that there is a very strong tendency for men’s brains to be wired front to back, and for women’s brains to be wired right to left.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Researchers found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

This difference in the way the nerve connections in the brain are “hardwired” occurs during adolescence…

A special brain-scanning technique called diffusion tensor imaging, which can measure the flow of water along a nerve pathway, established the level of connectivity between nearly 100 regions of the brain, creating a neural map of the brain…

Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks…

Men tend to outperform women involving spatial tasks and motor skills – such as map reading – while women tend to better in memory tests, such as remembering words and faces, and social cognition tests, which try to measure empathy and “emotional intelligence”.

“It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” said Rubin Gur of Pennsylvania University, a co-author of the study.

You can read more of the study here: Study Shows Brain differences

Now of course I’m not writing a science blog here, but I would like to make a couple of comments, one of them theological/philosophical, and the other moral.

First, regarding the theological/philosophical point. While it is refreshing to see science affirming what we all basically know by ordinary sense and experience, namely, that men and women think very differently, it seems nevertheless that a certain caution is in order. For in our materialistic and reductionist times there is a tendency to reduce the human person to merely the biological and especially, to the brain.

But of course, even at the physical level, we are more than a brain on a stick. Our whole central nervous system, interacts with our brain, as does the whole of our body, forming a very mysterious mind-body, connection that contributes very strongly, and collectively to our sense of “I” as a person.

Beyond the complexities and magnificence of our physical nature, is also the mysterious and powerful presence of our soul. Surely our soul interacts with our brain, and our whole body, both influencing it and being influenced by it.

And good though this study is, and interesting besides, we cannot simply explain the differences between men and women by studying brains. Why is this?

Theology and philosophy speak of the soul is being the “form” of the body. What does it mean to speak of the “form of the body?” Well consider if you’re going to design a glove. How would you design it? Well, you would look at the form and function of the hand. The hand then, is the form of a glove. Now a  hand has a certain size and four fingers with a fifth opposeable thumb. But the fingers of the hand also move along three hinges or joints.

Thus, in designing a glove, four fingers, with an opposeable thumb are required. And also required is the capacity of the glove to permit the movement of the fingers. All of these factors give rise to the design and features of the glove. Thus the the hand is the form of a glove.

And so, when we speak of the soul as being the form of the body, we are saying much the same thing. The soul has certain capacities, and the body, that God designs, reflects these capacities. And thus, our soul as a powerful intellectual capacity, and the capacity to reason, therefore we have large brains. The soul also has the capacity to express its thoughts, and so the human person has the physical capacity, using our larynx,  tongue, lips etc  to communicate. Our souls also have an emotional capacity and the ability to exhibit subtle cues, and thus our faces and hands and other bodily movements are very expressive of our emotional state and inner thoughts. Our soul also has the capacity to do both grand works, and very delicate and close work, and thus, our hands especially, are able to lift heavy objects, and yet also do very delicate and close work.

Well,  you get the point, the design of our body is reflective of the capacities of our soul, the soul is a form of the body. Now dogs, for example, do not talk, not simply because they lack a larynx, but chiefly because they have little or nothing to say. Human beings on the other hand have a lot to say, and our body has many faculties to accomplish that fact.

Therefore, in an article such as this, science is doing what science does best, namely looking at the physical aspects of the human person. I do not ask more of science than this, and appreciate the insight of an article like this.

But as a theologian and a philosopher I want to insist that men and women are different, not simply because their brains tend to be wired differently, but also because their souls have different capacities and gifts. I am not male simply because my body is male, my soul is also male.

We live in an age the things that thinks a “sex change” operation can change our sexual identification. It cannot. Our bodies manifest our soul, for the soul is the form of the body. Mutilating the body, does not change the soul. In a fallen world, there are occasional situations which set up where, due to genetic damage etc. some are born with ambiguous bodily features. But this is an anomaly, and anomalies do not deny the nature of things, but on account of their rarity, affirm the nature of things.

In no way do I write this reflection on the soul, as a denial of what science shows. I only write to remind those of us who believe to remember that we are more than brains and bodies. And this is especially important to remember in reductionist times such as these. In this case, science affirms the clear differences men and women generally show. I wish only to add that these differences are explained by more than brain chemistry; they reach also the soul.

The second principle I wish to speak to, is more in the moral realm. For, as the study shows,  it would seem clearer than ever, that not only are men and  women different, but that they complement each other.

The study says that men are more spatial and analytical, less and less empathic whereas women are better at tasks requiring memory, intuition, and the navigating of complex relationships.

It is strongly evident, that all these qualities are important, even essential to properly navigate life and therefore, men and  women need one another both socially, but also in marriage, and especially in the important and critical task of rearing and forming children.

It is  commonly held today that it does not matter if a child has only one mother, or one father or two fathers or two mothers. But of course common sense tells us that it does matter.

Those of us were blessed to be raise by a father and mother know that our mother witnessed to and taught us many things that our father could not. Likewise our father witnessed to and taught us many things that our mother could not.

Masculinity and femininity have important things to contribute to the raising of every child. To intentionally deprive children of this complementary relationship of a father and a mother is to impoverish that child.

The study shows that the wiring of the brain tends to take place especially at the critical moment of puberty. And thus, it seems that for a child to be lacking masculine and feminine examples close at hand, we may find that the wiring and pathways of their brain are quite literally affected,  surely also their soul.

Of course this insight is affirmed by our experience of the last 40 years where increasing numbers of children are not raised by their father and mother,  but are raised in all sorts of other abnormal situations. It is quite obvious that many social ills come from this abnormal situation ranging from lower test scores and graduation rates, all the way through more serious social problems such as teenage pregnancy immaturity, poverty, sexual confusion and even suicide. The study even hints at the rise in autism as being tied to how the brain is formed in the critical puberty and pre-puberty years.

If it is true that there is more to our thinking patterns than social convention etc. and that our thinking patterns are quite literally hardwired into our body in our critical formative years, then we can see the moral imperative of ensuring that children are in the proper environment with a father and a mother, a male and female influence, and  help ensure proper brain development. And I would add at the soul be properly formed.

A young boy, without his father, without a male influence may find many conflicts set up as his brain which is meant to be wired from front to back does not receive the proper example for this to more properly take place. Likewise for young women.

I can hear some of the rebuttals now: “Where’s your data, where are all the studies?” And to this I would simply say “Where are yours?” Studies ought to be made. But in the meantime, we have no business experimenting on children if there is reason to doubt the children are effectively raised in single-parent settings or single-sex settings. And common sense tells us there is reason to doubt it.  I should think that the burden of proof would be on those who want to engage in social experimentation with children.

If anything, this study tends to reaffirm that the formation especially at the time of puberty, is important to get right. Nature, and nature’s God supply a father and a mother. We are foolish to set aside this model, as we largely have culturally speaking. We may literally be messing with our children’s brains and futures.

District of Columbia Cancels Appearance of Gospel Artist due to Views on Homosexuality. Who Will be Next?

Homosexual activists and advocates often state that they merely want recognition and certain legal rights, and that churches and other objectors to their life style remain free to have their opinions and state them in a free culture. And any expressed fears regarding compulsory recognition or punitive measures directed against objectors are dismissed as fear mongering.

Never mind that these fears are based in real experiences in Canada and Europe where clergy have been arrested and fined for presenting the biblical case against homosexuality in the pulpits of their own churches or the pages of their bulletins.

In the end we who raise alarms about the increasingly strident declaration of our objections as “hate speech” and as “human rights violations” remain concerned about legal punishment etc., despite “reassurances” from pro-homosexual advocates and government officials.

Today there is more confirmation about the price that is paid by those who object to the cultural juggernaut that activism is becoming. Gospel Artist Donnie McClurkin has had his appearance canceled by the Mayor’s Office here in DC due to his views on homosexuality. Here is the clip from a local Station, Fox 5 News:

Gospel star Donnie McClurkin made headlines several years ago, when he claimed god “delivered” him from homosexuality.

Now, he’s sounding off about a decision by D.C. leaders, to cancel his appearance at a concert over the weekend.

McClurkin was set to perform at a concert on Saturday, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

In a video, McClurkin says he was on his way to the airport, when Mayor Vincent Gray’s office called him to tell him his appearance was cancelled.

“These are bully tactics simply because of stances that I took, never ever demeaning, never ever derogatory, any lifestyle – this is a civil rights infringement situation,” McClurkin said. [1]

Donnie McClurkin is renowned in Gospel music. He has a powerful, joyful and celebratory musical gift. I especially like his “Caribbean Medley” but there are so many great songs. In no way is he strident about his views and they do not figure prominently in his performances. But he has shared publicly on occasion his past struggles, and how God delivered him from homosexual tendencies, among other things.

Well of course there are now those in the ascendency among the cultural elites who will not permit even one scintilla of objection to homosexual behavior. And those who do so must be marginalized and excluded. No dissent from the new dogma of the elites is to be permitted. Dissent must be punished severely and swiftly.

I use words like “dogma” and “dissent” intentionally, since those who like to denounce religious rules and dogma and raise all sorts of objections to past “excesses” of excommunication and inquisition (limited those these were), have now adopted their own fervor for their new anti-religion. And many are far more dogmatic, punitive and excluding than any religious group of recent memory. If you object to the new cultural agenda, you have to go. You must be excluded as dangerous and evil.

Some one may say, “The city can choose who it wants to be at a city concert.” Legally that is true, though one wonders if other performers, say a pro-abortion artist we be so summarily excluded.

But the point to be raised and discussed here is not a legal point but a cultural and moral one. Actions like these put to the lie any notion that homosexual activists merely seek to inculcate respect. They intend much more. Namely to destroy any dissent, marginalize and increasingly coerce consent for their agenda, and apply state sanctioned exclusion for any one who dares question their behavior.

The exclusion of Mr. McClurkin is only another step. Invited clergy are probably already being screened and excluded from any place on any dais if they do not have the politically correct view on this. Exclusions and restrictions are sure to increase and become more severe.

It is a common feature that radicals who march under the banner of tolerance and “libertas!” soon enough usher in their own reign of terror. Because when they say “tolerance” they don’t really mean it and certainly don’t mean they have to tolerate you. For them “tolerance” means your obligation to accept them, and freedom is your right and liberty to agree with whatever they say.

There seems to be absolutely no leeway that will in any way be granted. They will not, it seems, even brook the notion that for many who oppose the celebration of homosexual acts, the opposition is a matter of sincere conscience, not “hate.” If quoting the Bible or the Catechism equals hate, then night has surely come to the West. But we can do no other than adhere to God’s clear and consistent teaching all through the Scriptures at every stage which consigns homosexual acts to the realm of sin. Here I must stay, I can do no other. I will not overrule God to please men, gain access, or be considered acceptable to government officials and powerful lobby groups.

Now that these cultural radicals are politically ensconced the banners of tolerance and freedom are discarded. They never really meant it, and sure never meant the likes of Mr. McClurkin or other bible-believing Christians who object.

These exclusionary tactics are bound to increase and to become more punitive unless enough Americans begin to wake up and realize that all the talk about “tolerance” is not really what this agenda of the radicals has ever been about.

Rainbows may seem pretty, but they usually occur in the midst of a storm. This storm looks to get a lot worse.

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Troubling Remarks From Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu Require Clarification

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.

The Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about “Hospitality”

Late last week on the blog the I made mention of the sins that “cry to heaven for vengeance.” The traditional list, is summarized in the Catechism which states The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner (# 1867).

It probably does not surprise you that I got push-back from certain homosexuals who wrote in to “remind” me that the sin of Sodom “has nothing to do with homosexual acts, or homosexual rape. Rather,” they said, “It is only about violations of hospitality rules of the ancient near east.”

I did not post these comments since I did not have time then to deal with this oft heard but very mistaken notion about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. But the meaning of the story is not unclear, and attempts to radically reinterpret the fundamental issue at the core of the story, tell us more about the struggle of the “interpreter” than of the story which has a rather plain, unambiguous meaning. The sin, the abomination, of Sodom, while not excluding any number of injustices, is clearly set forth as widespread homosexual practice.

When interpreting the meaning of a passage we do well to look not only to the plain meaning of the text, but also to other Biblical texts that may refer back to it and help clarify any ambiguities. In this text we can do both.

So first let’s look at the text itself as set forth:

Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” The men turned away and went toward Sodom….The two arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” “Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here,because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 18:20-22; 19:1-13)

Now those who want to argue that this text is vague in meaning, begin by stating that the phrase “have sex with them” is more literally rendered from the Hebrew as “that we may know them.” And it is true that the Hebrew word יָדַע (yada) is rendered “know.” But this word is also a Hebrew idiom for carnal knowledge. For example in Genesis 4:1 we read: Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”

That the carnal knowledge meaning is intended here is also made clear in the context of what follows. Lot first calls their proposal a “wicked thing.” But just getting to know someone, or to greet a stranger, is not a wicked thing. Further that unlawful carnal knowledge is meant is also made clear in that Lot (horrifyingly) proposes that they have sex instead with his daughters “who have never slept with a man” (i.e. his virgin daughters).

It is true that Lot is further motivated by the fact that these men (angels in disguise) are under his care. But that does not change the nature of the threat that is involved, namely homosexual seduction or rape.

Being unable to dissuade “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old” from the attempt at homosexual seduction, Lot is pulled to safety by the the two angelic visitors who tell Lot to get ready to go since they have come to destroy the city.

Now to the average reader who does not need to be defensive, the text conveys a clear message of widespread homosexuality in Sodom, a fact rather bluntly confirmed by the angelic visitors. And this is the clear emphasis of the story, not hospitality norms or other secondary concepts.

However, it may help to confirm this fact in other texts of the Bible and to legitimately ask if this is the only sin involved. Two texts are most specifically helpful in this regard. First there is a text from Ezekiel:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did abominable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

Now this is the text used most often by those who deny any homosexual context in the sin of Sodom. And, to be fair, it does add a dimension to the outcry God hears. There are clearly additional sins at work in the outcry: pride, excess or greed, and indifference to the poor and needy. But there are also mentioned here unspecified “abominations.” The Hebrew word is תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה (tō·w·‘ê·ḇāh) which refers to any number of things God considers especially detestable, such as worshiping idols, immolating children, wrongful marriage and also homosexual acts. For example, Leviticus 18:22 uses the word in this context: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.

But of itself, this text from Ezekiel does remind us that widespread homosexuality is not the only sin of Sodom. And while the abomination mentioned here may not be specified exactly, there is another Scriptural text that does specify things more clearly for us. It is from the Letter of Jude:

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. (Jude 7-8)

And thus it is specified that the central sin of Sodom involved “sexual immorality (ἐκπορνεύσασαι) and perversion (ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας – literally having departed to strange or different flesh).” And this would comport with the description of widespread homosexual practice in Sodom wherein the practitioners of this sin are described in Genesis 19 as including, “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old.”

Hence we see that, while we should avoid seeing the sin of Sodom as only widespread homosexual acts (for what city has only one sin?), we cannot avoid that the Scriptures do teach that homosexual acts are central to the sins of Sodom which cry to heaven for vengeance, and for which God saw fit to bring a fiery end.

Genesis 19 speaks plainly of the sin, Ezekiel 16 broadens the description but retains the word “abomination,” and Jude 7 clearly attests to sexual perversion as being the central sin with which Sodom and Gomorrah were connected.

God the Holy Spirit has not failed to teach quite clearly on the fundamental nature of the sins involved in these ancient cities. Widespread homosexual practice is surely the keynote of condemnation received by these cities and attempts to recast the matter as a “hospitality” issue must be seen for the fanciful distortion they are.

I do not post this video because I agree with it, do really know what to think of it. Most Archeologists DO agree that the two cities were located right near what is today the Dead Sea, and this video falls in that general range. But archeologists are not at all certain that the many excavations in the area of the Dead Sea do in fact correspond to the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah.