On Fetal Pain and the Humanizing of the Abortion Debate

There was a good article in the Washington Post today By Marc Thiessen entitled   Bringing Humanity Back to the Abortion Debate. The article is an op-ed piece reflecting on the recent action of Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska in signing  into law the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Obviously the Nebraska law will be challenged by pro-choice forces in this country and likely  go all the way to the Supreme Court. But in the end as Mr. Thiessen also observes in his article, the increasing evidence that unborn children do feel pain early on in the pregnancy may be a significant factor in changing hearts across this land.

In the Church we have always held to the fact the unborn child is fully human from the moment of conception. Yet, outside pro-life circles it has always been necessary for them to dehumanize the “fetus” (in other words the baby) in order to make this heinous act more palatable. No amount of evidence for the humanity of the unborn child will ever convince hardened pro-choice advocates. But it remains true that not every one who is pro-choice is adamantly so. The evidence that unborn children feel pain may well move the hearts of the ambivalent toward deeper respect for life. If baby seals should not be clubbed to death because it is cruel, perhaps some will be convinced that abortion is cruel to the child as well if fetal pain can be clearly demonstrated.

It is clear that we face challenges even here. Some years ago the movie “Silent Scream” showed ultrasound images of an actual abortion. It was unmistakable to me that the unborn child was struggling to survive and frantically drawing away from the cutting instrument. But to many others it was not so clear. I thought at the time, “If this cannot convince people what will?” So even here I am aware that some hearts are very hardened. But  it is that the middle ground where the ambivalent pro-choice Americans reside that there may be response to the increasing evidence of fetal pain. We can only hope and pray.

I would like to provide excerpts from Mr. Thiessen’s article and add some comments of my own in RED.

Can an unborn child feel pain? That question will dominate the abortion debate in America for the next several years thanks to Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska. Last week, Heineman signed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act into law, banning abortions in Nebraska at and after 20 weeks based on growing scientific evidence that an unborn child at that age can feel pain.

The legislation was enacted as a defensive measure. After the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller, a physician named LeRoy Carhart declared his intention to carry on Tiller’s work at his Bellevue, Neb., clinic. State legislators did not want Nebraska to become the country’s late-term abortion capital — so they voted 44-5 to stop himGood for them and look at the size of the vote!. God bless the people of Nebraska.

The new law will probably spark a Supreme Court showdown, because it directly challenges one of the key tenets of Roe v. Wade — that “viability” (the point at which an unborn child can survive outside the womb, generally held to be at 22 to 24 weeks) is the threshold at which states can ban abortion. In defending the law, Nebraska will ask the high court to take into account scientific research since Roe and push the legal threshold back further. That’s the idea, moving the ball down field. We may not be able to score a touchdown just now but moving the ball, moving the threshold back wherein a State can legally ban abortion is important. If we cannot completely end abortion right now we can possibly erode its legality.

In 1973, when Roe was decided, it was believed that the nervous systems of even newborn babies were too immature to feel pain— so doctors generally did not provide anesthesia to infants before surgery. But 25 years ago, a young doctor at Oxford University named Kanwaljeet Anand noticed that babies coming to his neonatal intensive care unit from surgery suffered a massive stress response — indicating they had been through extreme pain. His research into this phenomenon shifted medical opinion, and today even the most premature newborns are given anesthesia to alleviate pain during surgery. It is incredible we would ever think that newborns couldn’t feel pain. Obviously they do. I remember being able to see that in my newborn baby brother. Once his hand got pinched in the stroller. He howled. Another time a little the corner of the car door nicked his head. Again he screamed and cried for quite some time, so much so we were getting ready to take him to the hospital. Of course newborns feel pain. They also experience anxiety. This is obvious. What were we thinking to presume they did not? Luckily common sense and research have prevailed and we now use anesthesia.  

Anand — now a professor at the University of Arkansas and a pediatrician at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital — continued his research into infant pain, which has led him to conclude that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, and possibly as early as 17 weeks when a portion of the brain called the “subplate zone” is formed. Indeed, according to a New York Times Magazine story on Anand’s research, a fetus’s “immature physiology may well make it more sensitive to pain, not less: The body’s mechanisms for inhibiting pain and making it more bearable do not become active until after birth.”  Anand clearly has credibility here and a track record of turning medical opinion. This is very good news,  not that infants feel pain but,  that we are finally paying attention to the evidence and demonstrating what we should have presumed all along. That there was even the possibility that unborn children feel pain and expereince anxiety should have been enough for us. But at least now we have a solid researcher and doctor on the job who is widely respected and  and affirming a  pro-life premise.

Mr. Theissen goes on to give some more good news on the pro-life front and reasons for hope. You are encouraged to read the remainder of his article here:  Bringing Humanity Back to the Abortion Debate.

We must continue to pray mightly for conversion of hearts in the matter of abortion. We must also not neglect to to pray for women who often face difficult circumstances in preganancy.

Pray too for those who have procured abortion (whether men or women) and who now suffer the emotional and psychological trauma that often comes from such a choice. As a Church we must be prophetic and speak clearly against abortion but we must also be a place where healing and mercy are found. As evidence for fetal pain grows there may be increasing need for the Church to help post abortive women and men find healing and reconcilation as what they have done becomes more clear to them. The less abstract abortion becomes all the better for rolling back the numbers of those who claim to be pro-choice but all the more the need for the Church to continue to be that place where grace and mercy can be found.

There is a Freedom in Holiness

One of the misunderstandings of the Christian moral life is that it is basically a long list of dos and don’ts, or that it is a set of rules imposed on us. As such it is largely seen in negative terms wherein out behavior is said to be limited and our freedom circumscribed by authoritative norms. All in all, not a very positive understanding of the moral life.

A more helpful and true understanding of the Christian moral life and of Christian moral norms is that they are descriptions of what a transformed human being is like. What begins to happen to a person who is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ? What do they look like, act like? What are their priorities and attitudes? In other words what begins to happen to a person in whom Jesus Christ really beings to live and whom he is transforming? In the great moral treatise of the Lord known as the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is not merely giving negative prescriptions (not to be angry, not to look lustfully, not to divorce or swear oaths, etc). Rather he is describing the transformed human person. Such a person has authority over their anger (Mt 5:22); has the courage to be reconciled to others around him (5:24); has authority over his thought life (5:28) and sexuality (5:28); loves his or her spouse (5:31); Is a man of his word (5:34); is not revengeful, feels no need to retaliate (5:39ff); and loves everyone, even his enemies (5:43ff). This is but a partial description of a human being not only being transformed but also set free from deep drives of sin like anger, greed, lust, pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, resentments, hatred, fears, bitterness, self-centeredness, egotism, bad priorities, worldliness and the like.

As the saving power of the blood of Christ begins to have its effects, the human person is transformed and the negative drives are replaced by positive ones such as joy, peace, patience, serenity, kindness, chastity, confidence, courage, trust and love. This is what happens to the human person in whom Jesus Christ lives through grace and the Holy Spirit. They are not only transformed, they are set free. Being holy is ultimately about being free and the Christian moral life is the description of that freedom and transformation.

Is this how you see it? Or is the Christian moral life just a list of dos and don’ts? What if we saw it more as a description than merely a prescription, as freedom more than limits?

How free are you? Take a good look at this video. It is the  Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val. As you look at it your flesh may well object to some of the statements. But consider them carefully and behold the freedom each statement offers. Holiness is about freedom in the end, being free from so many of the deep egotistical drives that keep us in bondage to fear, jealousy, envy, retaliation and the like. It is only a two minute video. As you watch it, consider the freedom it describes and ask, “Am I this free?”

The Seven Deadly Sins: Memorize and Understand Them

Early in my priesthood I began to feel a bit embarrassed that there were certain things I did not know more thoroughly and had not committed to memory. Among these things were the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Seven Gift of the Holy Spirit. Priests are like doctors. Imagine going to a doctor who was poor at diagnostic medicine or a doctor who knew nothing of medicines and cures available. Not much of a doctor and I didn’t what to be “not much of priest.” It should be the case that when people come to me, either in confession, counseling or Spiritual Direction that I have some command of the particulars both of spiritual disease and spiritual healing. So, I committed myself to memorizing and understanding the basic areas of spiritual and moral trouble such as the seven deadly sins, lists of the deeper drives and sinful attitudes, works of the flesh from Galatians 5 and other negative thinking or drives. I committed to learning the names and “moves” of these maladies. I also committed to memorizing and understanding  the gifts and methods of healing to to be sought: sacraments, scripture, prayer, holy fellowship, virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Fruits of the Holy Spirit and so forth.

I cannot write on all these things here but since it is Lent how about one. Do you know what the Seven Deadly Sins are? It is a great value to know and begin to understand these deep drives of sin in us. They are more than just sins per se, they are drives or patters of sin and from them issue many other sins. The more we can know and distinguish them the more we can grow in self knowledge. We can begin to understand better how we “tick.” Further, being able to know and name these seven deep drives of sin helps us to know their moves and gain mastery over them. As they stir deep within us we can see evidence of their stirrings and begin to take greater authority over them.

Too many Christians know little about twisted nature of sin. They just know they’re a little messed up (or alot!) and can’t seem to figure out why. Have you ever gone to the doctor, not knowing what was wrong and left feeling better just because you finally knew what ailed you had a name and a cure? Being able to name our demons is an essential part of growth and healing.

Fr. Robert Barron recently published a 100 minute DVD on the subject of the Seven Deadly Sins called Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues. I would like to recommend you get it and learn all you can about these root sins and the virtues that help us to overcome them by God’s grace.  You can order it as well by clicking on the title above. At the bottom of this post is a brief video in which Fr. Barron describes the intent and structure of the DVD.

Briefly stated though here are the Seven Deadly sins listed for you:

  • Pride – The sinful drive that distorts proper self love so that we esteem ourself more than is proper and at the same time denigrate the goodness of others. There is such a thing as well ordered self love and self esteem but Pride is love of self  which is perverted causes us unjustly to think of others as beneath us or less worthy. Pride also stirs us to reject lawful authority of others over us including God and refuses appropriate submission. Pride is at the root of every sin for through it we pridefully think we have a way better than what God has set forth or that we alone can be the judge of right and wrong. Adam and Eve wanted to “be like Gods” and wanted themselves to determine what was right and wrong. Hence they demanded to eat of the tree of the “Knowledge of good and evil.” This is Pride.  
  • Greed – The sinful drive that stirs excessive desire for wealth and possessions. It is the insatiable desire for more. It is not wrong to desire what we need but through greed we hoard things and acquire far beyond our needs or what is reasonable, and we fail to be generous and bless the needy and poor. Through greed we can also come to see the things of this world as more precious than the things of heaven.
  • Lust – The sinful drive that leads to an excessive or inappropriate desires or thoughts of a sexual nature. It is not wrong to experience sexual desire per se but lust perverts this either to become excessive (all that matters), or for the object of it to be inappropriate (e.g. sexually fantasizing about someone other than a spouse). More broadly, lust is thought of as an excessive love for others that makes the love of God secondary.
  • Anger – The sinful drive that leads to inordinate and unrestrained feelings of hatred and wrath. It is not always wrong to experience anger, especially in the presence of injustice. But anger here is understood as a deep drive which we indulge and wherein we excessively cling to angry and hateful feelings for others. This kind of anger most often seeks revenge.
  • Gluttony – The sinful drive to over-indulge in,  or over consume anything to the point of waste. We usually think of food and drink but gluttony can extend to other matters as well. This sin usually leads to a kind of laziness and self-gratification that has little room for God and the spiritual life. Over indulging in the world leaves little room for God and the things of the spirit. Gluttony may also cause us to be less able to help the poor.
  • Envy – The sinful drive that leads to sorrow or sadness at the goodness or excellence of another person because I take it to make me look bad or less excellent. If I envy someone I want to diminish or undermine their excellence. Envy is not the same as jealousy. If I am jealous of you, I want what you have. If I am Envious, I want to diminish or destroy what is good or excellent in you. St. Augustine called Envy THE diabolical sin because of the way it seeks to eliminate excellence and goodness in others.
  • Sloth – The sinful drive that leads to sorrow or sadness at the good things God wants to do for me. Instead of being joyful at the offer of holiness, chastity, self control, etc. I am sad or averse to it. I avoid the call to embrace a new life.  Most people think of sloth as laziness. But what sloth really is, is an avoidance of God and what He offers. I fear or dislike what He can do for me so I avoid him. Some avoid God by laziness, but others avoid him by becoming workaholics, claiming they are too busy to pray, get to Church or think about spiritual things.

Please consider getting the Fr. Barron Video. Learning of these deep drives of sin is essential for spiritual growth.

Here’s Fr. Barron’s brief into to the DVD:

The Sad End of Solomon – A Moral Tale

The reading for Saturday morning’s Mass brought us to a high point in the life of King Solomon. Solomon, when presented the opportunity to ask anything whatsoever from God chose not gold or glory but Wisdom. It is a portrait of a man deeply rooted in God. But later in life Solomon turned from his first love and his infidelity ultimately led to divided kingdom. It is a moral tale that contains a warning for us all. Let’s review the basics of Solomon’s life and ponder the lessons.

Solomon was Israel’s third King. He was also known as Jedidiah (beloved of the Lord). His forty year reign is regarded as Israel’s golden age. It was an age of prosperity and national unity, But in the end his reign ended disastrously he began to oppress the people, multiplied wives and introduced pagan worship.

Solomon was the second son of David and Bathsheba. However, David had other wives and sons by them. Solomon was actually the 17th of 19 sons of David. This hardly made him the most likely son to succeed his father as king. However, through the court intrigues of his mother and the support of Nathan the prophet who both took advantage of David in his old age, Solomon was named king in 961 BC against Adonijah the presumed successor. Solomon swiftly and ruthlessly established his power against Adonijah having him executed on a pretext. This act, along with the execution or banishment of Adonijah’s supporters in the military had repercussions throughout Solomon’s reign. It created military rivals on the northern edge of Israel that were something of a nuisance and may explain why Solomon raised a large army as we will see later.

Despite all this, Solomon experienced a vision form God early in his reign. He was at the altar of Gibeon offering extensive sacrifices to God. And this is where we pick up the reading from Mass this past Saturday Morning:

In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “You have shown great favor to your servant, my father David, because he behaved faithfully toward you, with justice and an upright heart; and you have continued this great favor toward him, even today, seating a son of his on his throne. O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, King to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”  The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this–not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right– I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and  understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you. (1 Kings 3:5-12)

And the Lord did indeed grant Solomon great wisdom.  1 Kings 4:30-32 notes that his wisdom surpassed all the people of the east and also Egypt and credits Solomon with 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. Many of these have come down to us in the biblical books authored by Solomon: Proverbs, the Song of Songs, Wisdom, and his possible editing of Ecclesiastes. Leaders from throughout the world sought out Solomon for his wisdom and counsel, most notably the Queen of Sheba.

Solomon was also noted as a superb statesman who had a great capacity to forge trading relationships with foreign leaders. Trade expanded widely during his reign. But these foreign entanglements may well have been the first sign of trouble for they led him to take many wives. This was a common practice of the day for Kings. And yet, the Book of Deuteronomy warns kings and commands them not to do three things:

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deut 17:16-17)

Solomon ended up breaking all three of these commands.

  1. He multiplied wives. In multiplying wives Solomon took many of them from the pagan territories around him. His wives included Hittites, Maobites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Ammorites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. (1 Kings 11:2). The Scripture notes that in the end he had 700 wives and 300 concubines! (1 Kings 11:3). This not only demonstrates his lust but also his foreign entanglements. These pagan women brought with them their pagan deities and in the end they negatively influence Solomon’s own faith. At the dedication of the Temple God warned Solomon: But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them,  then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. (1 Kings 9:6-7). Solomon failed to heed this warning and through lust, greed for trade, and fascination with things foreign and pagan he turned away from the Lord and began to allow pagan worship and pagan altars to be built in Israel and even built them himself. (1 Kings 11). Of all his sins this was clearly the most egregious and the author of 1 Kings indicates it is the main reason God turned his favor from Israel: So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen (1 Kings 11:11-13)
  2. He multiplied gold and silver – Solomon solidified a large central government that cut across tribal boundaries. He also engaged in a massive building campaign to include the building of the a large royal complex, palace, fortifications and the  Temple. He built  large and opulent buildings. But the combination of a large central government, an extravagant palace life and extensive building projects weakened the natioanleconomy with high taxes and conscripted labor. The queen of Sheba who was fabulously wealthy herself remarked on visiting Solomon: Your wisdom and prosperity surpasses any report I which I have heard (1 Kings 10:7). Not only did the high taxes cause resentment but the centralized and growing central government offended against the Jewish tribal system which was used to a more local governance. Increasingly Solomon offended against subsidiarity by interfering in local affairs through his officials.
  3. He Multiplied Horses– This is a Jewish expression for amassing a large army. In taking the kingship away from Adonijah, Solomon had aquired inveterate enemies from the military commanders who had supported Adonijah. They camped in the north and often harassed Israel. Perhaps for this reason, but more likely for pride, Solomon amassed a huge army including 12,000 horsemen and 1,400 charioteers. This despite never going to war during his reign. The problem with an extremely large army is not only that it is expensive, but it also required a draft to conscript men into service. This caused resentment among some and the absence of large numbers of men from their families and work at home.

Epilogue – As God told him, the legacy of his turning was a divided kingdom. In the reign of Rehoboam his son the Kingdom of Israel divided from Judah as a result of Solomon’s increasingly oppressive policies. When Rehoboam followed his father’s misguided policies the ten tribes in the north had enough and they divided from Judah. The great unified kingdom had ended and within less than 200 years Israel (721 BC) and later Judah (587 BC) were invaded and destroyed.

The story of Solomon is a sad object lesson, a moral tale. Failing to heed God brings destruction. And Solomon systematically failed to heed God.

What turned Solomon from the right path? Was it greed? Yes. Was it the foreign entanglements ignited by that greed and desire for power? Yes. Was it corruption by the world that greed, foreign entanglements and admiration of foreign ways caused? Surely. Was it lust? Clearly. Was it the inappropriate relationships and marriages that the lust caused? Yes. Did Solomon come to love the world more than God? Surely. Did lust and greed cause him to make steady compromises with the world? Without a doubt. And ever so slowly and perhaps imperceptibly at first, he began to turn from God.

But Solomon’s story could be the story of any of us if we are not careful to persevere in the ways of God. Lust, greed, fascination with the world, these are human problems. I have seen people who are close to the Lord drift away due to worldly preoccupations, bad and ill conceived relationships, career dominance that eclipses vocation, and just through accumulation of bad influences from the TV and Internet. Prayer and Mass attendance slip away. Bad moral behavior gets excused, and ever so subtly we turn less to God more to the gods of this world. It is the road that Solomon trod. The great and wise Solomon, once close to God’s heart and preferring nothing of the world to God’s wisdom. But a man who died smothered in wealth, sex and power. A man whose heart turned from God.

  • Call no man happy before his death, for by how he ends, a man is known. (Sirach 11:28)
  • Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Rev 2:4-5)
  • But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matt 24:13)

Faith Has to Become Flesh

At Christmas we celebrate the fact of the Word Becoming Flesh. God’s love for us is not just some theory or idea. It is a flesh and blood reality that can actually be seen, heard and touched. But the challenge of the Christmas season is for us to allow the same thing to happen to our faith. The Word of God and our faith cannot simply remain on the pages of  a book or the recesses of our intellect. They have to become flesh in our life. Our faith has to leap off the pages of the Bible and Catechism and become flesh in the very way we live our lives, the decisions we make, the very way we use our body, mind, intellect and will.

Consider a passage from the liturgy of the Christmas Octave from the First Letter of John. I would like to produce an excerpt and then make a few comments.

The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.  (1 John 2:3ff)

  1. Faith is incarnational – Note first of all what a practical man John is. Faith is not an abstraction, it is not about theories and words on a page. It is not about slogans. It is about a transformed life, it is about the actual love of God and his Commandments. It is about the actual love of of my neighbor. True faith is incarnational, it takes on flesh in my very “body-person.” Remember, we human beings are not pure spirit, we are not intellect and will only, we are also flesh and blood. And what we are cannot remain merely immaterial. What we most are must be reflected in our bodies, what we actually, physically do as well. Too many people often repeat the phrase, “I’ll be with you in spirit.” Perhaps an occasional absence is understandable but after a while the phrase rings hollow. Actually showing up and actually doing what we say is an essential demonstration of our sincerity. We are body persons and our faith must have a physical, flesh and blood dimension. Our faith is to be reflected in our actual behavior and the physical conduct of our life.
  2. A sure sign – John says that The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Now be careful of the logic here. The keeping of the commandments is not the cause of faith, it is the fruit of it. It is not the cause of love, it is the fruit of it. Note this too, in the Scriptures, to “know” is always more than a mere intellectual knowing. To “know” in the Scriptures means, “deep intimate personal experience of the thing or person known.” It is one thing to know about God, it is another thing to “know the Lord.” So, what John is saying here is that to be sure we authentically have deep intimate personal experience of God is to observe the fact that this changes the way we live. An authentic faith, an authentic knowing of the Lord will change our actual behavior in such a way that we keep the commandments as a fruit of that authentic faith and relationship with the Lord. It means that our faith becomes flesh in us. It changes the way we live and move and have our being. For a human being who is a body-person faith cannot be an abstraction, it has to become flesh and blood if it is authentic. John also uses the image of walking: This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.  Now walking is a very physical thing. It is also a very symbolic thing. The very place we take our body is both physical and indicative of what we value, what we think.
  3. Liar? – John goes on to say Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar. John uses strong language here. Either we believe and keep the commandments or we fail to keep the commandments and thus lie about knowing the Lord. But all of us struggle to keep the commandments fully!  John seems so “all or nothing.” But his math is clear. To know the Lord fully, is never to sin (cf 1 John 3:9). To know him imperfectly is still to experience sin. Hence, the more we know him (remember the definition of know from above!) the less we sin. If we still sin it is a sign that we do not know him enough. It is not really John who speaks too absolutely. It is really we who do so. We say, “I have faith, I am a believer, I love the Lord, I know the the Lord!”  We speak so absolutely. Perhaps we could better say, I am growing in faith, I am striving to be a better believer, I’m learning to love and know the Lord better and better. Otherwise we risk lying. Faith is something we grow in. Many Protestants have a bad habit of reducing faith to an event such as answering an altar call, or accepting the Lord  as “personal Lord and savior.” But we Catholics do it too. Many think all they have to do is be baptized but they never attend Mass faithfully later. Others claim to be “loyal” even “devout” Catholics  but they dissent from important Church teachings. Faith is about more than membership. It is about the way we walk, the decisions we actually make. Without this harmony between faith and our actual walk we live a lie. We lie to ourselves and to others. Bottom line: Come to know the Lord more an more perfectly and, if this knowing is real knowing,  we will grow in holiness, keep the commandments be of the mind of Christ. We will walk just as Jesus walked.
  4. Uh Oh! Is this salvation by works? Of course not. The keeping of the commandments is not the cause of saving and real faith it is the result of it. The keeping of the commandments is the necessary evidence of saving faith but it does not cause us to be saved, it only indicates that the Lord is saving us from sin and its effects. But here too certain Protestants have a nasty habit of dividing faith and works. The cry went up in the 16th Century by the Protestants that we are saved by faith “alone.”  Careful. Faith is never alone. It always brings effects with it. Our big brains can get in the way here and we think that just because we can distinguish or divide something in our mind we can divide it in reality. This is arrogant and silly. Consider for a moment a candle flame. Now the flame has two qualities: heat and light. In our mind we can separate the two but not in reality. I could never take a knife and divide the heat of the flame and the light. They are so together as to be one reality. Yes, heat and light in a candle flame are separate theoretically but they are always together in reality. This is how it is with faith and works. We are not saved by works but as John here teaches to know the Lord is always accompanied by the evidence of keeping the commandments and walking as Jesus did.

Faith is real. It is incarnational. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, really and physically. So too our own faith must become flesh in us, really, physically in our actual behavior in our very body-person.

I put this video together with a lesser known carol (possibly by Praetorius). The translation is as follows:

  • Verbum Caro Factum Est (The Word was made flesh)
  • Habitavit in Nobis (And dwelt among us)
  • Alleluia
  • Notum fecti Dominus (The Lord has made known)
  • Salutare suum (His Salvation)
  • Alleluia
  • Prope invocavit me: (Near is he who calls me: )
  • Frater meus est tu!”” (“You are my brother!”)
  • Alleluia

Rediscovering the Conscience – We Know What We Are Doing

It is common to hear today, even among some clergy, that people really don’t know any better when it comes to moral teaching. Since they have not been properly taught they cannot be expected to understand important moral concepts nor should be held very accountable for the poor moral decisions they might make. I don’t agree and think that this sort of thinking amount to a denial of the existence of the conscience. It is my experience that deep down inside, most people know exactly what they are doing. It is true that the voice of one’s conscience can either be intentionally suppressed or that competing voices can vie for our attention. But, still, under all the layers of denial, suppression, and contrary voices that may occur, we know well the basics of right and wrong. Some examples from pastoral experience:

  1. I have sat in the parlor during marriage preparation with couples that are either co-habiting or fornicating. And despite all the stinking thinking of the world that such behavior is fine, despite whatever attempts they may have made to tell themselves it really OK, despite trying not to think about it, despite all attempts to call it something else….Despite it all,  when I speak frankly with them about it, they know what they are doing and they know it’s wrong. They know.
  2. I have walked the streets of Southeast and talked with the “boys in the hood.”  And when in conversation I  tell them they ought to stop selling and using and stealing and worse and get themselves into God’s house, they too know what they are doing, they know it is wrong and that they ought to get to God’s house. They know!
  3. I have become quite convinced that a lot of the intense anger directed against the Church whenever we speak against abortion, euthanasia, premarital sex, homosexual activity and homosexual marriage, etc, I am convinced that a lot of that anger is that,  deep down inside,  they know that these things are wrong and that what we are saying is true. Attempts to suppress our conscience are not usually all that successful and when someone endangers the zone of insulation we attempt to erect, we can easily get mad. But deep down inside we know the Church and the Scriptures are right. We know.
  4. Some people attempt to surround themselves with teachers and experts who will “tickle their ears” with false teaching and unsound doctrine. But deep down inside, they know better. They know.

We who teach and try hand on the faith need to rediscover the fact of the conscience and never loose heart when we teach and appeal. We are ultimately appealing to things people already know. This is so at least in terms of basic and fundamental morality. There may be certain advanced topics that require informed discourse, but as to the basics, they are written in their hearts. All the protesting and anger are not necessarily signs that we have failed at all. It may be just the opposite. We may have struck more than a nerve, we may have touched the conscience. Don’t lose heart.

And to those who read this blog who may be at odds with one or many Church teachings, please understand that we are appealing to your conscience. It is the dignity of every human person to know the truth. I may at times elicit your anger or surely your disagreements but I will not give up. I presume the presence of your conscience and I appeal to it. It will not write you off as hopeless. I am glad you come here and read even if it is to spar with me. I do not claim that I never suppress or ignore my conscience either. We are all in this mess together. But that is precisely why I so treasure Church teaching and the Scriptures and seek to share them here. It keeps me honest and appeals to what I already know, deep down inside, the truth which God wrote in my heart.

A  few basic teachings on conscience may help since, as I have stated, I think a lot of us have neglected to meditate much on the existence of the conscience and what it really is. Here are a few teachings from Scripture and the Catechism

  1. What is the Conscience and where does it come from? Does everyone have it? – For Man has in his heart a law inscribed by God, This is his conscience, there he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths… (Catechism of the Catholic Church(CCC) # 1776) Notice therefore that “conscience” is the innate sense of the law of God in each one of us. The conscience exists because God has written his law in everyone’s heart. His voice echoes in our soul.  It is there and we cannot ultimately deny it or silence it,  though many do try.
  2. Scripture too affirms the fundamental presence of conscience and the Law of God within every individual. For example:
    1. When the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, or at times even defending them (Romans 2:14-15).
    2. By the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every one’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor 4:2)
  3. We must  listen carefully to our conscience for its voice can lose its proper influence if we do not take time to listen – It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self examination or introspection. (CCC # 1779) Ignoring the voice of our conscience does not mean it goes completely away. There can be many things that tweak our conscience and stir us to hear its voice. Some react well to these reminders, others with anger. But the point of the catechism is that our conscience should not have to be tweaked or awakened, we should be in touch with it at all times by living a reflective life.
  4. Conscience must be formed and reinforced– It is true that we have a basic and innate sense of right and wrong and that God has written his law in our hearts. But the Catechism also reminds us that, due to sin,  we must also be open to having our conscience formed and its judgments refined: Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God…and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty…The human mind…is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful. That is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God’s revelation about…religious and moral truths…so that they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error (CCC #s 37-38). Notice that the catechism does not speak of the conscience as being removed but rather that the intellect, influenced by sin and disordered appetites,  tries to persuade us of other ways of thinking. Hence we attempt either to suppress the truth, or at least consider it doubtful and open to alternative interpretation. This is why we stand in need of the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church to help us overcome our tendency to suppress and confuse the truth.
  5. What then should the pastor, catechist, teacher, parent and evangelizer do? Speak the truth in love. Speak it with confidence, knowing that every person has to dignity of having a conscience and that even when that conscience has been suppressed or ignored, it can be reached. St. Paul gave good advice to Timothy in this regard: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

In this video, Lady Macbeth can no longer suppress her conscience, incessantly she sleepwalks and washes her hands: “Out! Out! Damned spot!” But the bloodstains remain visible to her, her conscience can no longer be suppressed.

Fraternal Correction: the Forgotten Virtue

In these times one of the most forgotten virtues and obligations we have is the duty to correct the sinner. It is listed among the Spiritual Works of Mercy. St. Thomas Aquinas lists it in the Summa as a work of Charity:  [F]raternal correction properly so called, is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well. (II, IIae, 33.1)

The World and the Devil have largely succeeded in shaming Christians from this essential work. We are said to be “judging” someone when we call attention to their sin or wrongdoing. In a culture where tolerance is one of the only virtues left, to “judge” is a capital offense. “How dare we do such a thing!”  The world protests, “Who are you to judge someone else!”

Now to be sure, there are some judgements that are forbidden us. For example we cannot assess that we are better or worse than someone else before God. Neither can we always understand and ultimate culpability or inner intentions of another person as though we were God. Scripture says regarding judgments such as these: Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Further we are instructed that we cannot make the judgment of condemnation. That is to say, we do not have the power or knowledge to condemn someone to Hell. God alone is judge in this sense. The same scriptures also caution us against being uncessesarily harsh or punitive. And so we read, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven…. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:36-38).  So in this text “to judge” means to condemn or to be unmerciful, to be unreasonably harsh.

Another text that is often used by the world to forbid making “judgments” is Matt 7:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt 7:1-5)

But pay careful attention to what this text is actually saying. First as we have already seen the Luke version the word “judge” here is understood to mean an unnecessarily harsh and punitive condemnation. The second verse makes this clear. To paraphrase verse two would be to say, If you lower the boom on others, you will have the boom lowered on you. If you throw the book at others, it will also be thrown at you.” Further, the parable that follows does NOT say not to correct sinners. If says, get right with God yourself and then you will see clearly enough to properly correct your brother.

The fact is that over and over again Scripture tells us to correct the sinner. Far from forbidding fraternal correction, the Scriptures command and commend it.  I would like to share some of those texts here and add a little commentary of my own in Red.

  1. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt 18:15-18) Jesus instructs us to speak to a sinning brother or sister and summon them to repentance. If private rebuke does not work and, assuming the matter is serious, others who are trustworthy should be summoned to the task. Finally the Church should be informed. If they will not listen even to the Church then they should be excommunicated (treated as a tax collector or Gentile). Hence in serious matters excommunication should be considered as a kind of medicine that will inform the sinner of how serious the matter is. Sadly this “medicine” is seldom used today even though Jesus clearly prescribes it (at least in more serious matters).
  2. It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened….I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; 10not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you. So the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul commands that we “judge”  the evil doer. Now again in this case the matter is very serious (incest). Notice how the text says he should be excommunicated (handed over to Satan). Here too the purpose is medicinal. It is to be hoped that Satan will beat him up enough that he will come to his senses and repent before the day of judgment. It is also medicinal in the sense that the community is protected from bad example, scandal and the presence of evil. The text also requires us to be able to size people up. There ARE immoral and unrepentant people with whom it is harmful for us to associate. We are instructed to discern this and not keep friendly company with people who can mislead us or tempt us to sin. This requires a judgment on our part. Some judgements ARE required of us.
  3. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any sin, you who are spiritual should recall him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Gal 6:1-2) Notice we are called to note when a person has been overtaken in sin and to correct him. Note too that the text cautions us to do so in a spirit of gentleness. Otherwise we may sin in the very process of correcting the sinner. Perhaps we are prideful or unnecessarily harsh in our words of correction. This is no way to correct. Gentle and humble but clear, seems to be the instruction here. It also seems that patience is called for since we must bear the burden’s of one another’s sin. We bear this in two ways. First we accept the fact that others have imperfections and faults that trouble us. Secondly we bear the obligation of helping others know their sin and of helping them to repent.
  4. My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19) The text is ambiguous as to whose soul is actually saved but that is good since it seems both the corrected and the corrector are beneficiaries of fraternal correction well executed.
  5. You shall not hate your brother in your heart: You shall in any case rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. (Lev 19:17) The text instructs us that to refuse to correct a sinning neighbor is a form of hatred. Instead we are instructed to love our neighbors by not wanting sin to overtake them.
  6. If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother  2 Thess 3:14  Notice again the medicine of rebuke even to the point of refusing fellowship in more serious matters is commanded. But note too that even a sinner does not lose his dignity, he is still to be regarded as a brother, not an enemy. A similar text from 2 Thess 3:6 says  We instruct you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who walks in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us.
  7.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom Col 3:16 To admonish means to warn. Hence, if the word of Christ is rich within us we will warn when that becomes necessary. A similar text from 2 Tim 3:16 says:  All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. Reproof and correction is thus part of what is necessary to equip us for every good work.
  8. And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all 1 Thess 5:14. Here fraternal correction is described as admonishing, encouraging and helping. We are also exhorted to patience is these works.

Well there are more but by now you get the point. Fraternal correction, correcting the sinner it prescribed and commanded by scripture. We must resist the shame that the world tries to inflict on us by saying, simplistically, that we are “judging” people. Not all judgment is forbidden, some judgment is commanded. Correction of the sinner is both charitable and virtuous. True enough it is possible to correct poorly or even sinfully.

But if we are to have any shame about fraternal correction it should be that we have so severely failed to correct. Because of our failure in this regard the world is a much more sinful, coarse and undisciplined place. Too many people today are out of control, undisciplined, and incorrigible. Too many are locked in sin and have never been properly corrected. The world is less pleasant and charitable, less teachable. It is also more sinful and in greater bondage. To fail to correct is to fail in charity and mercy, it is to fail to be virtuous and to fail in calling others to virtue. We are all impoverished by our failure to correct the sinner. Proverbs 10:10, 17 says He who winks at a fault causes trouble; but he who frankly reproves promotes peace….A path to life is his who heeds admonition; but he who disregards reproof goes go astray.

The following video explores the reasonability and necessity of correction and the problems that emerge when correction is forgone.

Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity

Recently, homosexuality has been very much in the news: The DC City Council has introduced a Same-sex “Marriage” Bill. This weekend in Washington there will also be a large Gay Pride event which will, among other things, celebrate this fact.  It seems on many fronts the gay lifestyle is gaining wider acceptance. And thus the question is increasingly asked, even by Catholics, “Why does the Catholic Church continue to oppose Gay marriage and homosexual activity?” The answer can be made on the basis of three pillars: Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law. In this post I would like to explore the Scriptural roots of the Catholic teaching against homosexual activity. As you can see, it rather long. But I have wanted to be thorough. I also supply this reflection in PDF  here: Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity and at the bottom in case you’d like to print it an read it later.

An Important Distinction Between Activity and Orientation: The Bible is very clear: it unambiguously, and in an uncompromising  way, condemns homosexual activity as a serious sin.  I want to share a few of these Biblical texts with you.  But before I do, let me make a very important clarification.  In the first place, note it is homosexual activity that is condemned, not all persons of homosexual orientation.  It is a fact that some individuals are attracted to members of the same sex.  Why this is or how it comes to be is not fully understood, but it is, nonetheless, simply a fact for some individuals.  Since sexual orientation is not usually a matter of direct choice or immediate control, it is not itself an object of moral condemnation.  Merely to be tempted to commit a certain sin does not make one evil or bad, or even guilty for that temptation.  Rather, it is when one gives way to the temptation and commits the sin that one becomes a sinner.  Many homosexual persons live chaste lives, and, although tempted to commit homosexual acts, they do not in fact do so.  This is courageous, holy and praiseworthy.  Sadly, though, some with a homosexual orientation not only commit the sin of homosexual activity, but they openly flaunt this fact, and dismiss or attempt to reinterpret Biblical texts that clearly forbid such activity.  For these people, we can only hope and pray for conversion.  I hope you can see, however, why we must distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity.

Homosexuality is not being singled out – A second clarification that we must make is that we should be careful not to single out homosexual activity as though it were the only sexual sin God condemns.  Clearly, all who are heterosexual are also called to sexual purity.  The same Bible which condemns homosexual activity also clearly condemns acts of fornication (a Bible word for premarital sex) and acts of adultery.  The Bible describes these as serious sins, which can and do exclude people from the Kingdom of God and from the hope of Heaven (cf  Eph 5:5-7;  Gal 5:16-21; Rev 21:5-8; Rev. 22:14-16; Mt. 15:19-20; 1 Cor 6:9-20; Col 3:5-6; 1 Thess 4:1-8; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Heb 13:4). To be excluded from the Kingdom of God means that one is in mortal sin and will not go to heaven if they die unrepentant.  Sadly, many people today live in open violation of Biblical teaching.  Many engage in premarital sex (fornicate) and say it is alright because “everyone’s doing it.” Many live together without benefit of marriage. This, like homosexual activity, is sinful.  It is wrong, and should be repented of immediately.  Hence, homosexual activity is not singled out by the Bible or by Christians.  Every human being, without exception, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is called to sexual purity, to chastity,   and to self-control.  Any violation of this is a sin.  Put more positively, God’s command of chastity means that sexual purity is possible for everyone with God’s grace.  God empowers us to do what he commands!

The Biblical Data on Homosexual Activity: As stated above, the Bible clearly and unambiguously condemns homosexual activity.  For example, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18: 22) and “If a man lies with a male as with a female, both of them have committed an abomination” (Lev 20:13).  Likewise, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah depicts, among other things, the sinfulness of homosexual activity.  It is too lengthy to reproduce here in its entirety, but you can read about it in Genesis 19.  The New Testament as well contains a number of texts on homosexuality.  Here is one, 1 Corinthians 6-9: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  There are other texts, as well: for example 1 Timothy 1 8-11.  Note that, in many of these texts, homosexual activity is listed among other sexual offenses a person can commit.  Again, it is not merely  singled out.  Here then, is what the Bible teaches: homosexual activity is wrong as are other sexual sins such as fornication and adultery.  It is true that there are not a huge number of texts regarding homosexual activity.  But, whenever it is mentioned, it is clearly and uncompromisingly condemned.   The final text I would like to explore is one about which we should be careful and respectful. It is written in strong language to be sure but we must be careful to understand it in a way that is inclusive of all, not just the Gay community. Here is the text and some commentary to follow:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them…in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools…For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural,  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.” (Romans 1:18ff)

Please note that the sinners condemned in this passage are those who “suppress the truth.” The context in which Paul speaks here is the Gentile world which, although it did not have scripture, nonetheless had the Natural Law. They can know that God exists and the fundamental things he expects because he has “shown it to them in the things he has made.” Nevertheless, though they can know the truth they suppress it and their minds thus become darkened, that is, incapable of accepting or understanding what God demands. Because they reject what is natural (Natural Law) they descend into what is unnatural (the Greek word that Paul uses is paraphysin   meaning “contrary to or beside nature”). So the Scripture here is clear enough, homosexual activity is “paraphysin” contrary to nature. Here too Paul does not single out Homosexual activity as the only issue that comes from “suppressing the truth.” He goes on to list in the same chapter many other sins that proceed from those who suppress the truth:

God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)

The truth be told, our whole society is recognizable in these verses. This is what happens to a society that kicks God to the curb and suppresses the truth. So here again, homosexuality  is not singled out but it is listed among the sins  that proceed from the suppression of the truth. Further, the approval of it like the other sins listed (to include heterosexual sins) are also the symptoms of a darkened intellect poisoned by the suppression of the truth. Strong words to be sure but inclusive of us all to one degree or another.

So there is the Scriptural data. Sadly, today, many have set aside Biblical teachings on homosexual activity.  They not only declare that it is not sinful, but they even celebrate it as though it were good.   It is bad enough when non-believers do this, but it is even more tragic when people who call themselves Christians do such things.  A number of the no-Catholic but Christian denominations  have begun celebrating and blessing homosexual unions and promoting clergy who are actively and publicly engaging in homosexual activity. In effect they sanction such behavior and  are setting aside the Word of God, or reinterpreting it’s clear meaning. They mislead many by this: “Take heed that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name, saying  I am he!’ and they will lead many astray” (Mark 13:5).  St. Paul also knew that some would distort the Christian faith.  And so he said: ” and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20: 29).

Conclusion – As seen above, we live an era where there is often deep confusion about moral issues.  In the area of sexual morality, the confusion is especially deep today.  This confusion has touched  many, heterosexual and homosexual  who are living and promoting unbiblical lifestyles.  In such a climate, we must speak the truth that comes from God and live it.  Suppressing the truth leads to great distortions, confusion, and suffering.  The sexual promiscuity of our own day has led to great suffering: Sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, abortion, teenage pregnancy, broken marriages, divorce, single parenthood.  The confusion about homosexual activity is just one more symptom of the general sexual confusion of our day.  In suppressing the truth from God, many among us call good that which God has taught  as sinful.  As Christians we must proclaim the Word and Wisdom of God, in season and out of season, whether popular or unpopular. We do this with respect and love but also with insistence on the truth which comes from God. Caritatem in veritate!

 The following video starts out as an explanation of why the Church opposes Gay Marriage but the second half is also a good summary of the Church teaching on homosexuality.

 This blog post is also available in PDF format here: Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity