“Let no one overreach or defraud others in this matter.” A Meditation on the Scriptural Connection between Sexual Immorality, Greed, and Theft.


Over the years, as I have taught on the matter of sexual morality to both young people and couples preparing for marriage, I have noticed a pattern in the Biblical texts: sexual immorality is quite often linked to or closely associated with greed and theft. This link has become clearer and more understandable to me over the years.

Greed is the excessive desire to possess wealth or goods; it is the insatiable desire for more. This is closely linked to lust, which is an inordinate desire for the pleasures of the body.

Thus, the lustful, sexually immoral, unrepentant person says, in effect, “I want sexual pleasure for myself. I do not want to pay any ‘price’ for it by having to see it in relationship to other goods and people. I do not want to see it in relationship to the institution of marriage, or to the love of a spouse, or to family, or to children. I do not want commitments or responsibilities. I want to indulge in sex because I want it. All that matters is that I want it.”

Many go further in accepting few, if any limits on what they want, despising norms that in any way seek to limit their access to sex, or to place it in a wider, more responsible context.

For many today, sex is simply something they want. And the mere fact that they want it makes it right. Never mind that lust and sexual immorality have had devastating effects on marriage and family, that as promiscuity has soared so have divorce rates, abortion, single parent families, children without intact families, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, broken hearts, and the like. Never mind all this. For many, wanting sex makes it right, and precludes anyone from “telling them what to do.”

And this is greed, the insatiable desire for more, or the inordinate desire for things such that they are considered apart from wider norms that limit desires within the boundaries of what is reasonable and in service of the common good. Greed cares little for the common good, for the needs and rights of others. Greed just wants what it wants. Lust is very close to greed in that it is also an inordinate desire, one for bodily pleasures apart from any consideration of the needs of others or of what it just, right, and reasonable.

Let’s take a look at some of the texts wherein the Scriptures seem to connect greed and sexual immorality. Commentary by me on each of them follows in red.

1. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people….For of this you can be sure: No sexually immoral, impure or greedy person….has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph 5:3,5)

The connection here between greed and fornication (porneia), translated here as sexual immorality, is not spelled out. Reading the text by itself might permit the possibility that it is only coincidentally connected to sexual immorality. But as seen below there are a good number of other texts that connect sexual immorality to similar notions of greed and covetousness. Hence, we ought to note the connection. That the connection was not developed or explained may signal to us that the early Christians saw the connection as more implicit and obvious than we moderns do.

2. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5)

Here the list is broadened to include lust and all evil desires. These are connected in the text to greed, and greed in turn is equated with idolatry.

Idolatry values someone or something in a way that hinders or surpasses the love, trust, and obedience we owe to God. It wants the thing, rather than God who made the thing. Through greed, we excessively desire things, such as sex, money, power, and creature comforts, and they take on greater importance to us than God, or what God sets forth for us to obey. Through greed, these things become idols, since they surpass God in importance to us. We prefer them to God; we obey our desires more than God. God can take a number and wait, I want what I want, and that is all that matters.

For many today, and apparently for many back in the time when these texts were written, sex is more important than God, hence the connection to greed.

3. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. (Ex 20:17)

The 6th Commandment had already forbidden the act of adultery. But note here, how this commandment goes deeper, indicating that we are not to covet. In speaking of what it means to covet the Catechism says: The sensitive appetite leads us to desire pleasant things we do not have…These desires are good in themselves; but often they exceed the limits of reason and drive us to covet unjustly what is not ours and belongs to another or is owed to him. The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit…..When the Law says, “You shall not covet,” these words mean that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another’s goods is immense, infinite, never quenched. Thus it is written: “He who loves money never has money enough.” (CCC # 2535-2536).

Hence, to covet the wife of another includes both a sexual desire for her and a greed that wants to have her.

4. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, (Mk 7:21)

Here again, note that in a verse that includes fornication and adultery, is also included the word theft, referring to the unjust possession of something. The fornicator and the adulterer both steal what does not belong to them. Sexual intimacy belongs to the marriage bed alone. Hence, the unmarried person and the adulterer both take what is not theirs. Clearly, antecedent to most, if not all theft, is greed.

5. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man overreach and defraud his brother in this matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thes 4:3-8).

This text not only links sexual immorality to greed, but also to theft, and in a wider sense injustice. For, to fail to live chastely both overreaches and defrauds.

The Greek word here translated as overreach is υπερβαινειν (huperbainein). This word means, “to go over,” to overpass certain limits, to transgress, to go too far, to go beyond what is right or due. Hence again we can see how greed is tied into sexual immorality; for it is desire overreaching, going too far, beyond what is reasonable, due, or right. The lustful person is greedy because he wants what he wants no matter if it is excessive or wrong. All that matters is that he wants it. And this is greed.

The word translated here as “defraud” πλεονεκτει (pleonektei) is related to covetousness and greed since it emphasizes gain as the motive of fraud. Thus, sexually immoral persons defraud others: the sexual partner, families, and society as a whole. They do this by thinking more of what they want than of what is right, or of how it might harm others. They act fraudulently, for they act as though they are married when they are not, and they do this in order to steal the privileges of marriage.

6. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

Again, simply note that sexually immoral persons are numbered among or alongside thieves and swindlers. They are akin to thieves for they take what does not belong to them, and they swindle because they obtain through deceit. The deceit is that they implicitly claim the status of married persons by seizing the privileges and rights of marriage without taking up its duties.

Hence, the mention of thieves and swindlers along with the sexually immoral may not be coincidental, but may imply “birds of a feather.”

7. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Let your manners be without covetousness, contented with such things as you have; for God has said: I will not leave you, neither will I forsake you. (Heb 13:4-5)

In other words, don’t be greedy and steal the privileges of the marriage bed through adultery, premarital sex, or any indulgence of sexual pleasure outside marriage. If you are not married, it is not yours. If you are married, it is yours only with your spouse. Be content with what you have and stop being greedy or covetous.

Hence, we see demonstrated a rather consistent scriptural connection between sexual immorality, greed and theft.

Sexual intimacy is a prerogative and privilege of marriage. It exists to build up marriage, to encourage recourse to marriage, and to help knit husband and wife together in a fruitful love. To snatch sex away from its only proper place is to possess unjustly that which is not yours; it is theft. And scripture connects this stealing with greed and covetousness. Greed is the excessive desire to possess, beyond what is just or reasonable. If this desire is yielded to, we take what is not ours simply because we want it.

Many today claim that they can do as they please in terms of sexuality and many even boast of their sexual freedom and exploits. The entertainment media celebrate sexual freedom. But it would appear that Scripture sees such sexual exploits not as liberation, but rather as theft and greed.

It is true that some act in weakness. Some fall, but are repentant. Surely, God is rich in mercy for such souls as these.

But as for those who celebrate sexual immorality, they ought to consider that what they call good, God calls sin, God calls greed, God calls theft.

For those willing to see, God is waiting and God is willing.

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.

A Brief Explanation of the Nuptial Meaning of the Body.

120513Some of you know that I write the Question and Answer Column for Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly. I like doing that as it imposes a kind of disciplined writing on me, where I must answer questions very briefly, in about 400 words or less.

A question recently came in about a topic that I have not written much about here on the Blog. I’d like to reproduce the question and answer here in order to include the concept in my blog compendium and also to encourage you, if you do not read my column in the Sunday Visitor to know about it and read it.

Thus here is the question and answer which will appear in the paper in an even more abbreviated form:

Q: I have heard that women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only twelve men to be apostles. I understand this. The priest recently said that another reason is because of the “nuptial meaning” of the body. What does this mean?

A: To speak of the nuptial meaning of the body, means that the very design of our body orients us toward a marital (nuptial) relationship. The man is obviously meant for the woman, and the woman for the man. And in this complementary relationship that we call marriage, there is the fruitfulness of children.

In effect, our body says to us, “You were made for another who will complement and complete you, and make your love fruitful.”

Now this image of marriage, is also an image for the spiritual life wherein God speaks of his relationship to his people in marital, that is “nuptial” imagery. In the Old Testament Israel was frequently described as God’s bride, and his relationship to her is marital. In the New Testament, Jesus is the Groom and his Church, is his bride. The Church, with all her members, is called to relate to the Lord, to be completed by Him and complemented by him; such that relationship of love bears fruit.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, therefore, is also a sacrament and sign of God’s relationship to His people; He the Groom, we the bride.

Even celibate men and women, priests and religious, manifest by their lives the nuptial meaning of the human person in relation to God. As a priest, I am not a bachelor, I am not single. I have a bride, and she is the Church. Religious Sisters also manifest a marital relationship, where Jesus is the groom and they manifest a relationship to him as spouse, as bride.

To speak, therefore, of the “nuptial meaning” of the body, is to insist that our sexual distinctions of male and female are not merely arbitrary physical aspects. Rather, they bespeak deeper, spiritual realities, that we must learn to appreciate, and respect. Men and women are different, and manifest different aspects of God’s relationship to these people. Women, manifest the glory of the Church Bride. Men manifest the glory of Christ as Groom.

In terms of the priesthood, this is important because Christ, in his humanity, is not simply male, he is Groom. And the Sacred Liturgy of the Church is not just a celebration, it is a wedding feast: Christ the Groom, intimately with his Bride the Church.

Thus, your pastor is invoking a rich theological teaching, which helps to explain one reason why Christ chose only men for the priesthood.

We do well to recover this understanding of the nuptial meaning of the body, especially in times like these where the meaning of the body, of sexuality, and marriage are so deeply confused.

Here is the great Wedding Song of Advent:

Here is footage of my parents Nuptial Mass in 1959. They were 46 years married. My mother died in 2005, and my Father died in 2007. My they rest in peace!

Understanding Oppostion to the HHS Mandate (Part 1): Why the Church Won’t Pay for Contraceptives.

In discussing the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate that will attempt to force the Catholic Church to pay for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization, I have discovered that many Catholics, while generally understanding why we object to paying for sterilization and abortifacients, are less than enthusiastic about our refusal to pay for contraceptives. This “lack of enthusiasm” for the Church’s position on Contraception, along with political irritation, makes many Catholics ambivalent or even hostile to the Bishop’s call that we oppose the HHS mandate.

Why we won’t pay for contraceptives – While the fundamental issue is this matter is Religious Freedom and the First Amendment, (which we have discussed here before and will again in the future), it may be worthwhile to focus for a moment on why we religiously oppose the use and funding of contraceptives. This discussion on contraception cannot be complete in a brief blog post, but setting forth the principled reasons of the Church teaching may be helpful.

In looking at the issue, we might begin by looking at the “big picture.” For while many people fail to see why contraception is harmful in a particular marriage, it is easier for them to begin to see the harm that contraceptives have caused in our wider culture. Looking at some of the harm may be of help in addressing the overall negative attitude that many, including most Catholics, bring to the Church teaching on Contraception.

For indeed, a generation has passed since the publication of the boldly pastoral and prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which upheld the ancient ban on the use of artificial contraception. Perhaps no teaching of the Church causes the worldly to scoff more than our teaching against artificial contraception. The eyes of so many, Catholics among them, roll and the scoffing begins: Unrealistic! Out of touch! Uncompassionate! Silly! You’ve got to be kidding!

The Lord Jesus had an answer to those who ridiculed him in a similar way: Time will prove where wisdom lies. (Matt 11:16-18)

And to a large degree time has proven where wisdom lies. For some forty or more years after widespread acceptance of contraception many grave cultural consequences have set in, related to sexuality and mistaken notions of sex. Among the consequences are: widespread and open promiscuity, which has led to higher and higher levels of STDs, abortion, teenage pregnancy, single parent homes, divorce, and to a decline in marriage rates. Recall that advocates of contraceptives, beginning in the 1950s and into the 1960s made many promises of the “benefits” of contraceptives.

The Promises of the Contraception Advocates:

  1. Happier Marriages and a lower divorce rates since couples could have all the sex they wanted without “fear” of pregnancy.
  2. Lower abortion rates since there would be far fewer “unwanted” children.
  3. Greater dignity for women who will no longer be “bound” by their reproductive system.
  4. More recently contraceptive advocates have touted the medical benefits of preventing STDs and AIDS especially by the use of condoms.

Paul VI in refuting these benefits made a few predictions of his own.

What were some of the concerns and predictions made by Pope Paul VI? (All of these are quotes from Humanae Vitae)

  1. Consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity (Humanae Vitae (HV) # 17)
  2. A general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. (HV # 17)
  3. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. (HV # 17)
  4. Who will prevent public authorities from…impos[ing] their use on everyone. (HV # 17)

So, forty years later, who had the wisdom to see the true effects of Contraception, the world or the Church? Well lets consider some of the data:

  1. The divorce rate did not decline. It skyrocketed. Divorce rates soared through the 1970s to to the 1990s to almost 50% of marriages failing. In recent years the divorce rate has dropped slightly but this may also be due to the fact that far fewer people get married in the first place, preferring to cohabitate and engage in a kind of serial polygamy drifting from relationship to relationship. The overall divorce rate despite its slight drop remains high, hovering in the low 40% range. Contraceptive advocates claim that divorce is a complicated matter. True enough. But they cannot have it both ways, claiming that contraception would be a “simple” fix to make marriages happier and then, when they are so horrifyingly wrong, claiming that divorce is “complicated.” Paul VI on the other hand predicted rough sailing for marriage in advent of contraception. Looks like the Pope was right.
  2. Abortion rates did not decrease. They too skyrocketed. Within five years the pressure to have more abortion available led to its “legalization” in 1973. It has been well argued that, far from decreasing the abortion rate, contraception actually fueled it. Since contraception routinely fails, abortion became the “contraception of last recourse.” Further, just as the Pope predicted sexual immorality became widespread and this too led to higher rates of abortion. It is hard to compare promiscuity rates between periods since people “lie” a lot when asked about such things. But one would have to be very myopic not to notice the huge increase in open promiscuity, cohabitation, pornography and the like. All of this bad behavior, made more possible by contraceptives, also fuels abortion rates. Chalk up another one for the Pope and the Church.
  3. The question of women’s dignity is hard to measure and different people have different measures. Women do have greater career choices. But is career or vocation the true source of one’s dignity? One’s dignity is surely more than their economic and utilitarian capacity. Sadly, motherhood has taken a real back seat in popular culture. And, as the Pope predicted women have been hypersexualized as well. (Yesterday’s Superbowl Ads featured large amounts of female nudity to sell even products like Doritos). The dignity of women as wives and mothers has been set aside in favor of the sexual pleasure they offer. As the Pope predicted many modern men, no longer bound by marriage for sexual satisfaction, use women and discard them on a regular basis. Men “get what they want” and it seems many women are willing to supply it rather freely. In this scenario men win. Women are often left with STDs, they are often left with children, and as they get older and “less attractive” they are often left alone. I am not sure this is dignity. But you decide who is right and if women really have won in the “new morality” that contraception helped usher in. I think the Pope wins this point as well.
  4. As for preventing STDs and AIDS, again, big failure. STDs did not decrease and were not prevented. Infection rates skyrocketed through the 1970s and 1980s. AIDS which appeared on the scene later continues to show horribly high rates. Where is the promised deliverance? Contraceptives it seems, do not prevent anything. Rather they encourage the spread of these diseases by encouraging the bad behavior that causes them. Here too it looks like the Church was right and the world was wrong.
  5. Add to this list the huge teenage pregnancy rates, the devastation of single parent families, broken hearts and even poverty. The link to poverty may seem obscure, but the bottom line is that single motherhood is the chief cause of poverty in this country. Contraception encourages promiscuity. Promiscuity leads to teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy leads to single motherhood (absent fatherhood). Single motherhood leads to welfare and poverty. Currently in the inner city over 80% of homes are headed by single mothers. It is the single highest factor related to poverty.
  6. Declining birth rates are also having terrible effects on contracepting cultures. Europe as we have known it is simply going out of existence. And while many debate endlessly over demographic data and how to interpret it,  Europe’s future seems increasingly Muslim and the social network wherein the young care for the old has been largely gutted.  I have written more on this HERE: Contraception is Cultural Suicide! Likewise here in the USA white and African American communities are below replacement level. Thankfully our immigrants are largely Christian and share our American vision. But for the Church the declining birthrates are now resulting in closing schools, parishes, declining vocations and the like. We cannot sustain what we have on a population that is no longer replacing itself. Immigration has insulated us from this to some extent, but low Mass attendance has eclipsed that growth and we are starting to shut down a lot of our operations.
  7. Sexual Confusion – Contraception “decouples” sex from having children. It emphasizes sex as pleasure. for its own sake,  and simply for the bonding of the adults involved. And while the Church does teach that marital sex does have a unitive dimension, it is not to be separated from its link to the procreative dimension. Having largely separated out the procreative dimension from sex, leads to a loss in the sacredness of sex. For if sex is just for pleasure, and not intrinsically related to having children, why should it be thought of as so sacred or serious. And why wait until marriage and maturity to start having it? And if sex is just about adults having pleasure and sharing intimate love, then many stop understanding why homosexual acts (which cannot be open to procreation) are flawed and intrinsically disordered.
  8. Thus we have sown in the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.
  9. And of course it is the children who ultimately pay. For, even though we have tried through a contraceptive mentality to say that sex has little to do with having children, the fact is it does. And our children are born into a cultural whirlwind that is largely caused by sexual confusion and irresponsibility. And contraceptives and the contraceptive mentality have been a huge factor in the unraveling of our sexual sensibilities, and the breakdown of our families. Bad behavior has been encouraged, and all the bad consequences that flow from it are flourishing.

Most people seem largely disinterested in this data. Hearts have become numb and minds have gone to sleep. I hope you are not among them, and that you might consider this information well and share it with others. Time HAS proved where wisdom lay. It’s time to admit the obvious

What I have tried to do here is to show some of the reasons the Church opposes the use and promotion of contraceptive practices. There are actually insights that bring forth this opposition. It is not just a backward bunch of clerics in the Vatican opposing sex. Rather it is an ancient wisdom that makes good sense.

When sex is decoupled from child-bearing many grave distortions are introduced into a culture. As the proper understanding of sex becomes unraveled, so does the family. And it is children who suffer most.

While the crisis of Western Culture has more than contraception for its cause, contraception has still played a huge role in setting off many whirlwinds that have swept away much that was good. It is no accident or mere coincidence that in the very 50 years that contraceptives have become widely available and used, that the family has gone into a kind of nuclear winter. The statistics make it clear that more than half of children (and far more in minority communities) will never know the two parent family that most of us who are over fifty experienced as normal and ubiquitous.

Of course another fundamental reason we oppose Contraception is rooted in the ancient practice, stretching back into biblical times and carried forward all through the Christian era. Until the 1940 Lambeth conference there never was a Christian Church or communion who approved of contraception. In that fateful year the Anglican Church of England gave the first tip of the hat to contraceptive practice, and slowly, the Protestant denominations all followed. But Catholics, Orthodox and Orthodox Jews have never changed. We continue to hold the ancient and wise insight that sex is intrinsically linked to child bearing, and that the link should never be broken and replaced by other intentions in isolation from that. To do so invites disaster, as we can plainly see.

It will be granted that living the Church teaching on Contraception is not easy. Yet some of the difficulty must also be traced to our seeming obsession with small families. We have argued on this blog at some length about economic realities and many have voiced strong opinions that more than 2 children is just not economically feasible. And yet others with larger families say they do fine. It would seem that a lot has to do with what we want and what our priorities are going to be. And while the arguments will surely continue, it is remains true to this author that the absolute necessity for only 1 or 2 children is  not an unassailable fact.

In the end however, Catholics are encouraged to look beyond merely their own family and see what contraception has done to us. Life is bigger than merely what is hard for me, or what I like or don’t like, think or don’t think. Contraception has been a bitter pill that the West has swallowed.

While our fight against the HHS ruling is essentially about religious liberty, Catholics and others must understand that we do not seek to religious freedom merely for some arcane doctrine of no importance, that Catholics or others should say “What’s the big deal?” Rather, opposition to contraception is an essential component in the Catholic teaching on sexuality by which we stand against grave forces that wreak havoc on our culture. We cannot pay for something we see as sinful and destructive.

Downward and Deeper into Sexual Confusion: Parents Choose to Raise "Genderless" Child

It is no secret that our culture as a whole is descending into an ever-deeper sexual confusion. Recently two examples of this were in the news.

In the first article which I summarize here, a Canadian couple have chosen to raise (impose upon?) their child a “genderless” upbringing. For now, they have refused to tell any of their family or friends the sex of their child, whom they call “Storm,” and groom and dress the infant child ambiguously.

I would like to provide excerpts of a much longer article here and comment as we go. As usual, the article is in bold, black italics. My comments are in plain red text. The full article is here: Parents Keep Baby’s Gender Secret

Jayme Poisson

So it’s a boy, right?” a neighbor calls out as Kathy Witterick walks by, her four month old baby, Storm, strapped to her chest in a carrier.

Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising a genderless baby. (Pet peeve: “Gender” was traditionally a word that referred to grammar, as in the subclass of a noun (male, female and neuter) in Latin and in the romance languages.”Sex” was the traditional word that referred to the sub classification of human beings as either male or female. I am willing to admit that language (which does change) is undergoing a change here. But perhaps too, it is no coincidence that, as we increasingly loose a proper sense of our humanity, that we would take up the word “gender” to refer to our sexuality. For gender in language is somewhat of an arbitrary assignment to words which have, not only a male and female sub class, but also, a third “neuter class). While there’s nothing ambiguous about Storm’s genitalia, they aren’t telling anyone whether their third child is a boy or a girl.

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker. (And here is one of the great errors of the modern age, a kind of Gnostic or Manichean dualism, if you will. Sexuality is much more than genitalia. The whole body, and the whole soul, is male or female. The body is not some arbitrary container or machine in which I live. My body and my soul are one. The body expresses the soul, the soul is the form of the body. It is not just my body that is male. I am male. As a human person my body and soul, though distinguishable, are one. Thus my body is a revelation of who I am at the deepest level. The child’s father (am I allowed to use that term?) has an anthropology that no Christian can accept, it is an ancient heresy (dualism) fought by the Church 18 Centuries ago, and also in more recent times. Gnostic dualism tried to separate the soul and the body).

Friends said they were imposing their political and ideological values on a newborn. Most of all, people said they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders. Witterick and Stocker [the parents] believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating. (Their friends are right. This is a terrible thing to do to the child, not only for social reasons, but also for deeply personal reasons. They are messing with this child’s psyche. For nature (and I would add, nature’s God) has supplied this child with a sex, and pretending this is insignificant, is unnatural, and thus unhealthy, for the child. Sex (or “gender” as they say), is not something we choose. It is something that is given. It is, quite simply, who and what we are).

Stocker, 39, and Witterick, 38, believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age. “What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker. (I wonder if they will allow their kid to take up smoking, swallow broken glass, or join a right-wing political movement? The fact is, children need to be raised. They are in no position to make most decisions for themselves at an early age. Children need to be formed and educated according to what is right and proper. (Sadly, these parents seem in no position to do that anyway). Parents need to be parents. They need to show their children what is the way and how to navigate, both reality, and the social order. It is possible for a parent to micromanage a child in some matters,  but these parents are over correcting for the possibility.

Further, though they claim to be giving their kid “freedom,” it is just as arguable that they are imposing their confused agenda on their children. To say that “gender” is up for grabs, is not a neutral position, it is a viewpoint; a (perverse) doctrine they are imposing on their child. So, though they like to claim that they are on some sort of (perverse) high ground, the fact is, they are imposing an agenda upon their children. So perhaps the truer conclusion is that they are being parents, just bad parents).

The moment a child’s sex is announced, so begins the parade of pink and barrage of blue. Tutus and toy trucks aren’t far behind. The couple says it only intensifies with age. (Shame on us! We are all so evil. Imagine, recognizing a child for what he or she is, how could we be so pushy?).

“In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.” Witterick writes in an email. (Again, we don’t decide what sex we are going to be. The body is a revelation from nature (and, I would argue, from nature’s God) of who the person IS.  Sex change operations, and other forms of pretending, do not change what we are. They simply reveal deep-seated confusion and psychological disorder.

Christian anthropology insists that the body is revelation.  We learn about ourselves from our bodies. They will often tell us when we are under stress, when we are being gluttonous, how old we are, etc. It is true, the body is not the only revelation of who we are, but it IS revelation, it does not lie. It cannot simply be ignored or set aside because of some form of stinking thinking, or delusional notion, that all that matters is what I think. The body is a reminder of a little thing called  “reality” to which we must answer and square our thinking by. More on this below).

Stocker teaches at City View Alternative, a tiny school west of Dufferin Grove Park, with four teachers and about 60 Grade 7 and 8 students whose lessons are framed by social-justice issues around class, race and gender…. The family traveled [recently] through the mountains of Mexico, speaking with the Zapatistas, a revolutionary group who shun mainstream politics as corrupt and demand greater indigenous rights. In 1994, about 150 people died in violent clashes with the Mexican military, but the leftist movement has been largely peaceful since. Last year, they spent two weeks in Cuba, living with local families and learning about the revolution. (I wonder what the indigenous people would think of this couple’s absurd notions? I would think that most indigenous people are more in touch with reality, basic nature, and “real-world” living than this Canadian couple, lost in a post-Cartesian fog. My guess is that as they observe this sort of thing from the “corrupted West” a word comes to their mind: “Loco.” Not sure about the Cubans and how much they’ve been “westernized.”

Witterick has worked in violence prevention, giving workshops to teachers. These days, she volunteers, offering breastfeeding support. At the moment, she is a full-time mom. (Glad that mom is a full time mom, but in this case, I wish the kids had other influences).

Witterick practices unschooling, an offshoot of home-schooling centered on the belief that learning should be driven by a child’s curiosity. There are no report cards, no textbooks and no tests. For unschoolers, learning is about exploring and asking questions, “not something that happens by rote from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays in a building with a group of same-age people, planned, implemented and assessed by someone else,” says Witterick. The fringe movement is growing. An unschooling conference in Toronto drew dozens of families last fall. (These poor kids, these poor, poor kids. Not only are they being heavily influenced by sexual confusion, but they are being wholly unprepared for life. Life does occur on our own little schedule, or indulge our moments of curiosity. Life does have tests, and we are accountable for what we do. Tests, and report cards are good training for life. Textbooks, though not perfect, do at least provide a reasonably common curriculum written by some one other than these confused parents. These poor kids, what a mess. I am not against home schooling, but the picture is, that these kids are being really isolated from the real world by parents who refuse to engage reality).

Jazz — [the oldest boy] soft-spoken, with a slight frame and curious brown eyes — keeps his hair long, preferring to wear it in three braids, two in the front and one in the back, even though both his parents have close-cropped hair. His favourite colour is pink, although his parents don’t own a piece of pink clothing between them. He loves to paint his fingernails and wears a sparkly pink stud in one ear, despite the fact his parents wear no nail polish or jewelry. Kio [his brother] keeps his curly blond hair just below his chin. The 2-year-old loves purple, although he’s happiest in any kind of pyjama pants.“As a result, Jazz and now Kio are almost exclusively assumed to be girls,” says Stocker, adding he and Witterick don’t out them. (Sigh…)

On a recent trip to Hamilton, Jazz was out of earshot when family friend Denise Hansen overheard two little girls at the park say they didn’t want to play with a “girl-boy.” (Now, of course, the parents and their supporters will calls these girls unenlightened, harsh, mean spirited etc. But the fact is, these boys are (understandably) confused, and their (created) confusion unsettles people. But as is usually the case in these matters, those who engage in disordered and troubling behavior, demand all the sensitivity, and show none. As per usual they are preferring an “in-your face” approach that demands acceptance and tolerance, while at the same time showing none for us, who are understandably troubled by deeply disordered notions that fly in the face of reality).

Dr. Ken Zucker, considered a world expert on gender identity and head of the gender identity service for children at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, calls this a “social experiment of nurture.” When asked what psychological harm, if any, could come from keeping the sex of a child secret, Zucker said: “One will find out.” OK, Doctor,  you have used an important word here: “experiment.” Since when did we get the notion that performing experiments on children is just fine? And do you, Doctor, parents, and supporters of the parents, really think its OK to just “find out” if any harm will come to the children? Is it right for parents to perform “social experiments” on their children in regard to the deepest aspects of who they are?

What if a certain group of parents decided that sleep was over-rated and 8 hours of sleep was an undesirable and socially imposed rule that had to go? And what if they decided to impose an “experiment” on their children by depriving them of sleep and indoctrinating them with the notion that what their body was clearly saying (“I want to sleep”) could and should be ignored? How about another experiment where we just let kids eat what they want, or bathe when and if they please? Maybe we could also refuse potty training since toilets are “social constructs.” It wouldn’t take long for the authorities to intervene in cases like this. But when it comes to sexual confusion, a politically correct and protected deviancy, we are all just supposed to step back and admire an “experiment” while three children descend into utter confusion).

The broader question, he says, is how much influence parents have on their kids. If [some]  lean toward nature, Zucker puts more emphasis on nurture. Even when parents don’t make a choice, that’s still a choice, and one that can impact the children. Well Dr. Z you’ve spoken the truth here: the parents non-choice is, in fact, a choice. And their “non-choice choice” will have “impact” on their children, I would estimate the impact at about 65 mph, head on.

Well there it is, in all its tragic gloom. And, as the lights go out in Western culture this sort of thing is going to become more common.

At the heart of the problem in the Western world has been the full flower of the Cartesian error. Rene Descartes, back in the 16th Century, adopted a radical skepticism wherein he did not trust that the reality around him was real or even existed. All he could “trust” was that he doubted and quipped, “I think, therefore I am.” And thus began in the Western World, a slow but steady retreat away from reality, and into the mind. Little by little we have pulled up roots from the real, the actual and natural world around us, and turned in on ourselves. Increasingly all that matters is what I think. When one points to the actual, the real world, to facts of nature, and so forth, the modern world is increasingly unimpressed or runs to find an anomaly and pretend it’s normative. In the end for the modern westerner, All that matters is what I think. And as for what you think, well that’s just your opinion, what you think.  There is no common, no shared reality, just what I think, that is all that matters.

When it comes to many of the moral issues of the day, the actual, physical, aspects of the matter are increasingly ignored and everything becomes an abstraction. Abortion is not the physical dismemberment of a human baby, it is a “choice” or just a political “issue.” When one points out that homosexual activity violates the clear design of the human body (for the man is clearly for the woman and the woman for the man, not the man for the man or the woman for the woman), one is greeted with puzzlement, as if to say, “What does the body have to do with it?” For the modern age, our bodies apparently have nothing to say to us. That promiscuity of any sort brings disease doesn’t seem to register with modern man. Most today do not conclude, on account of STDs and AIDS  that perhaps our bodies are telling us something. Rather the only conclusion is that the government needs to supply more condoms and antibiotics and do more research so that we can go on ignoring our bodies and indulge our passions.

It is clear that we are retreating into our minds and away from the physical realities that are before us. Reality is cast aside. We owe no debt to the “is-ness” of things. All that matters is what we think. Rene Descartes’ retreat into the mind has come full flower and it is an ugly flower.

But for the Church and the Biblical moral tradition, natural law is an essential component of understanding what is right and wrong. The body is a revelation to us from nature, and for the Church, the body is also a revelation from God. Our bodies and the natural world around us have essential and critical things to teach us, and we owe a debt to reality that is actually before us. To simply ignore the body in discussion of sexuality is unthinkable from a Natural Law perspective, and from a Biblical perspective. The body speaks truth to us, and reveals to us what is right. When we retreat from reality by rationalizations and intellectualizing, or simply by ignoring it, we suppress the truth it reveals.

At the heart of the Church teaching and or her Natural Law Tradition is a confidence that we can know reality and trust what it tells us. To ignore reality, to ignore the revelation of the natural world, and the body is, pure and simple, to suppress the truth. The Letter to the Romans speaks with great sobriety about this problem:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their senseless minds  were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools….Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in their bodies the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:21-27)

In suppressing the truth about God and what can be known from nature, our senseless Western minds have become darkened. As the Scripture points out, one of the most obvious symptoms of this is sexual confusion: promiscuity, contraception, and homosexual activity, all involve a turning away from what the body teaches us about sexuality. Sex is pleasurable to be sure, but that pleasure is obviously oriented to pro-creation. The bodily aspect of sexuality is clearly unitive  but it is also procreative. We cannot simply set aside the procreative dimension of sexuality without doing violence to what the body reveals.

And, as we descend deeper into sexual confusion it would now seem that we have come to a place where some cannot even decide what it means to be male or female. How can anyone be so confused? And the yet Scriptures say plainly how. Just suppress the truth, by ignoring God and what he reveals in creation, and the downward slide begins.  Before long, there is utter debasement, confusion and, at least collectively speaking, our senseless minds are darkened.

As the lights go out, the Church cannot simply curse the darkness. We must light a candles of Revelation and Natural Law. We must hold them high. And as we do so, the world will curse us, for light is obnoxious to those accustomed to darkness. But gradually, the light can be adjusted to again.

The following video is another example of the sexual confusion being pushed on others. In this case it is indoctrination in the public schools of California which insists that one can “choose” to be a boy, a girl or “both.” The “instructor,” as he points to his heart and head says, “Gender identity is about what’s in here, and up here.” It is pure Gnostic dualism,  and a Cartesian retreat into the mind, and away from reality. All that matters is what I think. What is outside, “doesn’t matter.”

We have a lot of work to do.

Turning Back the Tide: One Pastor’s Attempt to Assert the Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality In an Age of Confusion

In yesterday’s Blog post, we discussed that there are significant numbers of Catholics who do not hold the Catholic faith regarding the question of homosexual activity, and so-called gay “marriage.” Some of this may be due to willful rejection of the teaching, but much is likely due to confusion brought on by a loud culture and a quiet pulpit. I want to share with you a letter I wrote to my congregation a couple of years ago to try and make clear the Catholic and Biblical teaching on homosexuality. I wrote it and preached it to strive and give clear teaching in a confused age. I offer it to you for your own consideration.

Dear Parishioners,

In recent years, homosexuality has been frequently in the news. An increasingly nationwide effort to give recognition to so-called gay “marriage,” is only the latest matter to receive a lot of attention. Prior to this, the Episcopalian denomination ordained as a bishop a man who openly practices homosexual behavior. This action has divided the Episcopalian denomination in two. Prior to this, the last fifteen years have also seen the Episcopalian and other Protestant denominations liturgically celebrate gay “marriages” and unions. This too has caused great divisions in those denominations. Even among the Catholic faithful, mistaken notions about homosexuality and marriage have taken hold.

Hence, it is necessary once again to teach on this matter, and reassert what Scripture plainly teaches. Now the fact is, the Scriptures are very clear by unambiguously, and in an uncompromising way, depicting homosexual activity as a serious sin and a moral disorder. Attempts by some to reinterpret scripture to mean something else are fanciful, at best, and usually use theories that require twisted logic, and questionable historical views that set aside the very plain meaning of the texts.

I want to share a few of these Biblical texts with you. But before I do, let me state the context of this reflection and make two very important clarifications.

First, as to the context, I want to be clear here that my reflections are directed to fellow Christians, namely you. Hence I use Scripture as the main point of departure since we share a belief in the normative and authoritative status of God’s Word. In other settings, speaking for example to the secular world, Natural Law arguments are more suitable. But, here, the Scriptures are our main focus. And,  as your pastor,  I want you to have a clear, biblical understanding of what is taught in this matter. I  have a duty to teach you on matters of the faith and morals and  I do not want you to share in the confusion manifest in the world,  and even among Christians.

As a second point of clarification it is important to note that it is homosexual activity that is condemned, not all persons of homosexual orientation. It is a fact that some individuals are attracted to members of the same sex. Why this is or how it comes to be is not fully understood, but it is, nonetheless, simply a fact for some individuals. Since sexual orientation is not usually a matter of direct choice or even immediate control, it is not itself an object of moral condemnation. Merely to be tempted to commit a certain sin does not make one evil or bad, or even guilty for that temptation. Rather, it is to give way to the temptation and commit the sin that makes one a sinner. Many homosexual persons live chaste lives, and, although tempted to commit homosexual acts, they do not in fact do so. This is courageous, holy and praiseworthy. Sadly, though, some with a homosexual orientation not only commit the sin of homosexual activity, but they openly flaunt this fact, and dismiss Biblical texts that clearly forbid such activity. For these, we can only hope and pray for conversion. I hope you can see, however, why we must distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity.

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

With these two clarifications in mind, we can turn our attention now to the Biblical teaching on homosexuality.

As stated above, the Bible clearly and unambiguously condemns homosexual activity. For example:

  1. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination (Leviticus 18: 22)
  2. If a man lies with a male as with a female, both of them have committed an abomination (Lev 20:13).
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6-9)
  6. The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, for those who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. 1 Timothy 1: 8-11

Note that, in many of these texts, homosexual activity is listed among other sexual offenses a person can commit. Again, it is not merely singled out. Here then, is what the Bible teaches: homosexual activity is wrong as are other sexual sins such as fornication and adultery. It is true that there are not a huge number of texts regarding homosexual activity. But, whenever it is mentioned, it is clearly and uncompromisingly condemned. Further, this condemnation occurs at every stage of biblical revelation, revelation right through to the end.

Sadly, today, many have set aside the Biblical and Church teachings on homosexual activity. They not only declare that it is not sinful, but they even celebrate it as though it were good. It is bad enough when non-believers do this, but it is even more tragic when people who call themselves Christians do such things. As we have seen, a number of the Protestant denominations (e.g., the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalian denominations and some of the Presbyterian and other mainline Protestant denominations) have begun celebrating and blessing homosexual unions and promoting clergy who are actively and publicly engaging in homosexual activity.

In effect they sanction such behavior and are setting aside the Word of God, or reinterpreting it to suit their own agenda. Psalm 2:1 laments: And why do the people imagine a vain thing? In the Gospels, Jesus knew that some would use him to promote their own wrongful agendas. And so He, too, lamented: Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray (Mark 13:5). St. Paul also knew that some would distort the Christian faith. And so he said: I know that, after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20: 29).

We live an era where there is often deep confusion about moral issues. In the area of sexual morality, the confusion is especially deep today. This confusion has touched even many Christians, who are living and promoting unbiblical lifestyles.

In such a climate, we must speak the truth that comes from God and live it. Suppressing the truth leads to great distortions, confusion, and suffering. The sexual promiscuity of our own day has led to great suffering: venereal disease, AIDS, abortion, teenage pregnancy, broken marriages, divorce, single parenthood.

The confusion about homosexual activity is just one more symptom of the general sexual confusion of our day. In suppressing the truth from God, many have become debased and confused, and many among us call good that which God calls sin. Indeed, the text from Romans 1, quoted above says that the approval of homosexual behavior, is a sign of deep confusion and a darkened mind. Indeed the approval of any sexual sinfulness is of the darkness.

Some who oppose the teaching of Scripture and the Church have taken to calling opposition to their view “hatred” and “bigotry.” But we who are of faith must insist that the Church’s opposition to homosexual behavior is rooted in a principled obedience to the Word of God which we believe to be revealed by God and to which we owe docility and obedience. We can say and teach no other than what God has reveled consistently in his Word.

Perhaps it is best to conclude with a statement from the Catechism which expresses clarity of doctrine but also respect for the homosexual person:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (CCC 2357-2359)

I write to you with concern in these times of confusion in the hopes that you will in no way share the error and confusion of these times. We are not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (cf Rom 12:1). I pray that this letter has helped in some way to clarify and confirm you in the Ancient and Apostolic faith entrusted to the Church. Please share this letter if you have found it helpful.

Msgr. Pope

A PDF of this letter is here: Letter on Homosexuality

More Data on the Lost Generations and the Urgent Task for the Church

It has been clear for some time now in the Church that Catholics, as a group, are growing more distant from the Church teaching on sexual matters. It seems well demonstrated that most Catholics form their view on these matters more from the culture than the scriptures or the teachings of the Church. The culture shouts promiscuity and normalizes both the heterosexual and homosexual expressions of it. Meanwhile, I’m sad to say, many clergy and catechists remain quite silent and vague about it. This is not true of all, but I know that a common complaint on the part of the faithful is, that what they hear from the pulpit, is filled with vagaries and generalities. Only rarely do they hear straightforward teaching on sexual matters and other important topics as well, such as the need to attend Mass, go to confession, the reality of hell etc.

With the combination of a loud culture and quiet pulpit and classroom, it is no surprise that that recent statistics show that a growing number of Catholics do not hold the Catholic faith when it comes to moral issues, especially the sexual ones. Here are some excerpts from a recent article over at the CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) blog written by Mark Gray:

In 2010, 20% of adult Catholics “strongly agreed” that “homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another.” An additional 28% “agreed.” Thus, overall 48% of Catholic respondents indicated some level of agreement with this statement. The margin of error for the 2010 Catholic data is ±5.8 percentage points. Thus, the point estimate for agreement could range as high as 54% or as low as 42%. ….Levels of agreement with the statement have grown [over the years] as disagreement has diminished.

There is another [General Social Survey] GSS question that has a longer history that is related to the results of the marriage question shown above. The GSS asks respondents if “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” is wrong. In the 2010 GSS, for the first time, the percentage of adult Catholics indicating this is “not wrong at all” outnumbered those who said it was “always wrong” (44% compared to 42%)…(margin of error was ±5.9 percentage points).

As one can see from the trend in the figure [above right], the real point of change occurs somewhere in the early 1990s and has continued to evolve to this day. Responses to this question differ by age with younger Catholics being more likely than older Catholics to say this is “not wrong at all.” However, the sharp change in the population overall in the early 1990s cannot be explained by generational replacement alone.

It is the case that frequency of Mass attendance correlates with responses to these questions….The only complication to this…. is that Mass attendance varies by age and generation ….So is it Mass attendance that makes one more likely to oppose civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples or is it something generational? It is likely both but which matters more? And again the figure above indicates some sort of “period effect” in the early 1990s that is also likely important. Margin of error for sub-groups is the biggest obstacle to understanding and disentangling these effects.

The full article is here: Catholic Attitudes. Please note, Mr. Gray’s purpose in the article is to report the numbers not to advocate for or against what they say.

My own thoughts are that the generational factor is very significant. I understand that Mr Gray above thinks there are other factors too. I accept that but would still highlight the generational factor. There are increasing numbers of young people who have never known a time when the wider culture did not approve of homosexual behavior. Those of us about 45 and older DO remember such a time, but the younger ones have largely had a steady diet of  “there’s nothing wrong with homosexual behavior and if anyone thinks so, they’re a bigot.” And as they have heard this, the Church has only vaguely set forth a principled case for the wrongness of promiscuity in general, and homosexual activity in particular.

To paraphrase a well known quote from the last election, The Church’s chickens are coming home to roost. To put it Biblically: For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Cor 14:8).

In the Church I think we have to accept that a generational shift has occurred, both in the Church and in the culture. And it has happened on our watch.

Rear-guard action? With the increasing move to give legal recognition to (so-called) gay marriage, the Church is scrambling to teach the faithful again on the basics of marriage. But, truth be told, it’s something of a rear-guard action. Marriage has been in trouble for a long time in this country, family sizes have decreased, divorce has skyrocketed and cohabitation and single parent families are becoming as common as marriage. Gay “marriage” is just the latest confusion, polygamy is surely next.

Yes, we have returned to the battle late. When the first no-fault divorce laws went into effect in 1969 and the ten years following, I am unaware that there was much of a collective effort by the Church to oppose and turn back that horrible idea.

Inward focused! Of course in 1969 we were rather inwardly focused. We were moving around the furniture in our sanctuaries, tuning up guitars and having endless debates about women’s (lack of) ordination, Church authority and the like. And while we looked inward and debated among ourselves, we lost the culture. We stopped evangelizing and articulating a clear moral vision for our culture in a way that was effective.

I am told the situation is worse in Europe. Both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have said we have to start all over again there and completely re-evangelize Europe.

But start we must. And while we do so, we will called all sorts of names by a culture that now finds the Gospel and its moral vision to be obnoxious, even hateful. It will be our task to re-propose the Gospel in creative and thoughtful ways, and to present why it makes sense and is not, in fact hateful.

I think some of the younger clergy, religious and laity have become better prepared to do just this. I am impressed with the dedication, fidelity, creativeness and zeal of many of the younger and emerging leaders in the Church. In a way their presence and numbers is something of a paradox, since, as the numbers above show, there seems to be an overall generational shift away from the Church. It is almost as if these younger and emerging leaders, (clergy, religious and lay), have been snatched by the Lord from a raging torrent and set on solid rock. And now they have zeal to snatch others from the torrent and draw them to the solid rock of the Church and Christ. It is a small but significant army. And the trumpet the Church is sounding is becoming clearer too, more and more are mustering for the great struggle to re-evangelize the culture.

In tomorrow’s blog I’d like to address the Biblical teaching on homosexual activity as well as heterosexual promiscuity. I do this in an attempt to answer those surveyed above who think there is nothing wrong with either. Just my own little way of trying to turn back some of the numbers and not be among those who have been far too silent.

Here is Fr. Barron’s take on how we lost the culture and what we might do to re-evangelize it.

The Politician and the "Private" Sin: Christine O’Donnell Runs Afoul of the "New Morality"

Christine O’Donnell, the Republican nominee for the US Senate from Delaware has surely run afoul of the advocates of the “new morality.” She has most surely transgressed by speaking against, premarital sex, homosexual activity and masturbation. The ABC News video below speaks of her positions as “eye-brow raising.”

Now this is not a political blog and I am not attempting to enter a realm where I am unskilled and uncomfortable. Further, I am not trying to make a hero of Christine O’Donnell. It has been my experience with politicians of every stripe that if you expect them to be real heroes in the moral realm, they will almost always let you down. Sadly Ms. O’Donnell is already showing signs of backtracking by indicating her statements (especially about masturbation) came from a time when her faith was “immature.” In “Kennedyesque” fashion she is quoted in the video below as saying her faith will not be her guide, just the Constitution when she goes to Washington.

Since it has come up in the news, I want to discuss Catholic teaching on masturbation. Clearly Ms. O’Donnell’s remarks on that topic have elicited many negative reactions from derision to scorn. And yet the consideration of masturbation as a sin is standard Catholic teaching.  Hence the scorn and derision, the laugh-out-loud ridicule that anyone would take such a notion seriously reflects also upon Catholic, and I would argue, Biblical teaching. So let’s look at the reasoning behind Catholic teaching on masturbation and why it is considered sinful.

First let’s be honest, masturbation is a hard topic to talk about. Many people experience significant embarrassment in relation to this topic. Many even struggle to say the word out loud. It is, for many, a humiliating matter to discuss in confession, or with others. It is the “private” sin. Some use euphemisms in their mentioning of it: “solitary self abuse” or just “self abuse.” Others refer to it with irreverent words and phrases I cannot repeat here. But the fact is, many are hesitant to discuss masturbation. Parents struggle as how and what to teach their children. Children struggle to speak to parents. Priests and educators in Catholic schools often dread to raise the topic in mixed company. And so the pattern goes. Hence this teaching is poorly understood or even known by many.

What is wrong with masturbation?– At the heart of masturbation is sexual fantasizing. To the degree that this fantasizing is willful, one commits sin. Consider this passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:27-30)

In understanding this passage we need to begin with what it means to look at someone with lust. While there is some debate as to its exact meaning we ought to exclude a few things from it. First it is not wrong or lustful to experience some one as being attractive. It is a normal thing for a man to see beauty in a woman, or a woman to find a man handsome. This is not lust, it is a God-given appreciation for beauty and part of the essential attraction God himself has given to draw men and women to each other in marriage and ultimately to procreation. Secondly, it can be a rather common occurrence that sexual thoughts occur in the mind about someone we find attractive. This is usually a spontaneous thought and may not be willed at all. It just occurs and we usually dismiss it as inappropriate. This too is usually excluded from the notion of lustful  thinking because it is not willed and hence is not a sin,  if it is not entertained.

But where lust begins is when we begin to fanaticize sexually about someone in a way that is willful. We have these thoughts and not only accept them but also entertain and dwell on them. This is where looking lustfully begins. Now this look may be of a person right before us or it may be the inward look of the imagination of some one we know or have imagined. This is what makes masturbation sinful for it clearly involves fantasizing about sexual activity about some one not our spouse. It is a a form of lustful looking or lustful thinking. To the degree that it is connected to pornography, its sinfulness is increased. So the essential wrongness of masturbation is the lustful thoughts that accompany it.

Now it may be popular today to ridicule anyone who sees masturbation as wrong and to make light of masturbation as of no account. Yet, the Lord did not have this attitude. He actually speaks quite strongly in the passage above using vivid hyperbole, (exaggeration), to underscore that this is something to take seriously. In indicating that the eye should be gouged out or the hand be cut off, he is not speaking literally. But the Jewish expression amounts to saying that it is a more serious thing to sin in this way that to lose your eye or hand. He goes on to warn that lustful thinking (a widespread problem today) can lead to hell. So, we ought to consider again if we choose to make light of lustful thinking and masturbation. The Lord did not take this attitude and neither should we.

The Struggle is Recognized – It is a true fact that many people, especially the unmarried, struggle to be entirely free of this sin and there may be things that limit a person’s freedom. But making light of the sin is no way to win a battle. Balance is necessary so that a person who struggles with this sin is not devastated by a morbid, unproductive guilt, but neither are they unmotivated by a false presumption that nothing is wrong here.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks well and pastorally on the sin of masturbation:

By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.” 

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. (CCC #2352)

Hence, one will notice that, while the Catechism is clear to state the sinful nature of masturbation there is also pastoral recognition that there are factors that make this sin difficult for some to overcome. While it is an objectively serious sin, there can be subjective matters that lessen culpability (blameworthiness).

Time will prove where wisdom lies – So the Church is not a prudish mother with no sensitivity. But sex has a purpose and a place: it is oriented to the marital relationship, to procreation and it’s place is thus marriage. Masturbation strays from this and is also rooted in the lustful thinking condemned by Jesus. The world may laugh, but the Church is being faithful to the Lord’s teaching here. These days the Gospel is out of season, but the the Lord, through St. Paul, told us to preach it even when it is out of season (2 Tim 4:2). Let the world laugh, but time will prove where wisdom lies.

A final thought. Masturbation as indulging fantasy is also problematic. It is generally not a good idea to indulge in a lot of fantasy. When this is done the real world can seem less appealing, even disappointing. Sexual fantasizing involves imaging the perfect and ideal sexual encounter. The other person is perfect, wholly willing and when pleasure has been achieved they vanish. This is not real. In the real setting people are not perfect, do not share in identical preferences and pleasures. Real people have moods, imperfections and inadequacies as well as good qualities. Further, a spouse does not vanish after sexual intercourse. They remain there with needs, struggles, ups and downs. Real sex is with a person and happens in relationship. (Clearly this relationship should be marriage). Masturbation side-steps all this and imagines something quite unreal. To indulge this is unhealthy and can lead to unrealistic expectations.

The use of pornography can escalate this unreality dramatically. Air-brushed photos of relationless sex often depicting exotic and extreme versions of sexual behavior can destroy appreciation for normal, natural sex with a real person in the relationship of marriage. Pornography and sexual fantasy are very unhealthy in terms of preparing one for the real relationship of marriage. It is no wonder that in these lustful times so permeated with pornography that marriage and family are so devastated.