Catholic Church and Homosexuality
The Appendix to IN THE MURKY WATERS OF VATICAN II, Which is Volume 1 of the Collection Eli, Eli, Lamma Sabacthani?
By Atila Sinke Guimarães
If any one lie with a man as with a woman, both have committed an abomination,
let them be put to death: their blood be upon them. Leviticus
Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind [sodomites] . . . shall possess the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
A woman shall not be clothed with mans apparel, neither shall a man use womans apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God. Deuteronomy 22:5
St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church assisted the 11th-century Popes with moral reform, which included work toward eradicating the vice of homosexuality.
SACRED SCRIPTURE SAYS . . .
Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind, because it is an abomination. . . . Defile not yourselves with any of these things with which all the nations have been defiled, which I will cast out before you, and with which the land is defiled: the abominations of which I will visit, that it may vomit out its inhabitants. . . . Beware then, lest in like manner, it vomit you also out, if you do the like things, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. Every soul that shall commit any of these abominations, shall perish from the midst of his people. . . . I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 18:22-30
And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he destroyed these cities, and all the country about, all the inhabitants of the cities, and all things that spring from the earth. Genesis 19:24-25
For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their
women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And,
in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned
in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy,
and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error. . .
. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do
such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also
that consent to them that do them.Romans 1:26-27, 32
For if God . . . reducing the cities of the Sodomites, and of the Gomorrhites, into ashes, condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example to those that should after act wickedly. . . . The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly from temptation, but to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be tormented. 2 Peter 2:4-9
Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Galatians 6:7
1. The Position of Catholic Tradition regarding Homosexuality . . . . . . . . . . 1
2. The Post-Conciliar Teaching on Homosexuality . . . . . 16
3. The Homosexual Issue and the Catholic Church in the United States . . . . . . 26
4. The Vice of Pedophilia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
5. Ecclesiastical Homosexuality in Other Countries . . . . 48
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
We remind the Reader that this study was made with regard to the crisis in the clergy and in the religious orders (Chap. X.6), which has to be seen as one of the consequences of conciliar aggiornamento. Here we make a detailed analysis of just one of the characteristics of this crisis. We believe that, if necessary, other topics addressed in Item 6 of Chapter X of In the Murky Waters of Vatican II could be developed in similar fashion.
In view of the scandals that have taken place in the Church recently, it seems opportune to present an overall view of homosexuality in the post-conciliar crisis in the Church. The criteria adopted were the following: preferably to leave aside particular cases and to deal with those that reflect general situations; to give priority to news not published in our local press; and to make a summary of the locally published news so that the main points will be remembered.
1. THE POSITION OF CATHOLIC TRADITION REGARDING HOMOSEXUALITY
Excerpts from Sacred Scripture
In the Old Testament Scripture refers to the vice of homosexuality with special severity:
And the Lord said: The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied,
and their sin is become exceedingly grievous (Gen. 18:20).
The angels arrived at Lots house, under the appearance of two handsome men. But before they went to bed, the men of the city beset the house both young and old, all the people together. And they called Lot, and said to him: Where are the men that came in to thee at night? Bring them out hither that we may know them. . . . And they pressed very violently upon Lot; and they were even at the point of breaking open the doors. And behold the men [angels] put out their hand, and drew in Lot unto them, and shut the door. And them that were without, they struck with blindness from the least to the greatest, so that they could not find the door (Gen. 19:4-11).
And they [the angels] said to Lot: . . . all that are thine bring them out of this city, for we will destroy this place, because their cry [of their crimes] is grown loud before the Lord, who hath sent us to destroy them (Gen. 19:12-13).
And they brought him forth, and set him without the city: and there they spoke to him, saying: Save thy life; look not back, neither stay thou in all the country about, but save thyself in the mountain, lest thou be also consumed (Gen. 19:17).
And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he destroyed these cities, and all the country about, all the inhabitants of the cities, and all things that spring from the earth. And his wife looking behind her, was turned into a statue of salt. And Abraham got up early in the morning, and . . . looked towards Sodom and Gomorrha, and the whole land of that country, and he saw the ashes rise up from the earth as the smoke of a furnace (Gen. 19:24-28).
Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind, because it is an abomination (Lev. 18:22).
Defile not yourselves with any of these things [illicit unions, child sacrifice, sodomy, and bestiality] with which all the nations have been defiled, which I will cast out before you, and with which the land is defiled; the abominations of which I will visit, that it may vomit out its inhabitants. . . . Beware then, lest in like manner, it vomit you also out, if you do the like things (Lev. 18:24-28).
If any one lie with a man as with a woman, both have committed an abomination, let them be put to death: their blood be upon them (Lev. 20:13).
A woman shall not be clothed with mans apparel, neither shall a man use womans apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God (Deut. 22:5).
On the punishment that God prepared for the Jews: And I will give children to be their princes, and the effeminate shall rule over them . . . the shew of their countenance hath answered them: and they have proclaimed abroad their sin as Sodom, and they have not hid it: woe to their souls, for evils are rendered to them. . . . The Lord standeth to judge the people (Is. 3:4-13).
Vague references to sodomites, without special interest for our exposition, are found in 1 Tim. 1:8-10. Other references to Sodom and Gomorrha, without express mention of the vice of homosexuality: Deut. 29:23; 32:32; Jer. 23:13-14; 49:18; 50:40; Ezech. 16:55-56; Matt. 10:15; Rom. 9:29; Apoc. 11:8.
How can one not relate the fulfillment of these threats to the AIDS epidemic now ravaging sodomites?
In the New Testament, Saint Paul indignantly castigates this vice against nature:
Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind [sodomites] . . . shall possess the
kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
In the Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle of the Gentiles threatens perverts with punishments even on this earth: Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error (Rom. 1:24-27).
Saint Peter stresses the infamy of the sin of sodomy and the chastisement God reserves for it: For if God . . . reducing the cities of the Sodomites, and of the Gomorrhites, into ashes, condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example to those that should after act wickedly, and delivered just Lot, oppressed by the injustice and lewd conversation of the wicked . . . [then] the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly from temptation, but to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be tormented (2 Peter 2:4-9).
Saint Jude is no less severe: As Sodom and Gomorrha, and the neighboring cities, in like manner, having given themselves to fornication, and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire, in like manner these men also defile the flesh, and despise dominion [of Christ], and blaspheme majesty (Jude 7-8).
The Tradition of the Ecclesiastical Magisterium
The first statement of a Church council on homosexual practices was issued by the Council of Elvira (305-306). The decree excludes from communion, even in articulo mortis (at the moment of death), the stupratores puerorum (corrupters of boys). The decree of the Council of Ancyra, held in Asia Minor in 314, strongly influenced the Church of the West, and it was often cited as authoritative in later enactments against homosexual practices. Canon 17 speaks about those who . . . commit [acts of] defilement with animals or males. The Council of Ancyra established for these crimes a series of punishments according to the age and state of life the infractor:
Those who have committed such crimes before age twenty, after fifteen years of penance, will be readmitted to the communion of prayer. Then, after remaining five years in that communion, let them receive the sacraments of oblation. However, let their lives be analyzed to establish how long a period of penance they should sustain in order to obtain mercy. For if they unrestrainedly gave themselves over to these crimes, let them devote more time to doing penance. However, those aged twenty and over and married who fall into these crimes, let them do penance for twenty-five years and [then] be received in the communion of prayer; and, remaining in it for five years, let them finally receive the sacraments of oblation. Moreover, if those who are married and over fifty years of age commit these crimes, let them obtain the grace of communion only at the end of their lives.
Pope Saint Siricius (384-399) issued norms for admission into the priestly state. They apply indirectly to homosexuality: We deem it advisable to establish that, just as not everyone should be allowed to do a penance reserved for clerics, so also a layman should never be allowed to ascend to clerical honor after penance and reconciliation. Because although they have been purified of the contagion of all sins, those who formerly indulged in a multitude of vices should not receive the instruments to administer the Sacraments.
In the opening speech of the XVI Council of Toledo in 693, Egica, the Gothic King of Spain, exhorts the clergy to fight against homosexual practices: See that you determine to extirpate that obscene crime committed by those who lie with males, whose fearful conduct defiles the charm of honest living and provokes from heaven the wrath of the Supreme Judge.
The most complete set of norms against homosexual practices in the medieval era is contained in the canons approved at the Council of Naplouse, assembled on January 23, 1120 under the direction of Garmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Baldwin, King of the same city. On that occasion, a sermon was preached about the evils that had befallen the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Earthquakes, plagues, and attacks by the Saracens were judged as a punishment from Heaven for the sins of the people. As a consequence, the Council issued twenty-five canons against the sins of the flesh, four of which related to homosexual practices. Death at the stake was decreed for those convicted of those specific crimes.
The Third Lateran Council (1179) establishes: Anyone caught in the practice of the sin against nature, on account of which the wrath of God was unleashed upon the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6), if he is a cleric, let him be demoted from his state and kept in reclusion in a monastery to do penance; if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated and kept rigorously distant from the communion of the faithful.
Such was the horror that surrounded the sin against nature that, by the late twelfth century, sodomy was a reserved sin for which absolution was reserved to the Pope and, in some cases, to the Bishop.
Nevertheless, with the Renaissance this vice surfaced again. Homosexuality was a matter of grave concern to Saint Pius V. As well-known historian von Pastor narrates, In the first year of his pontificate, the Pope had two preponderant concerns: zeal for the Inquisition and the struggle against this horrendous sin whereby the justice of God caused the cities contaminated by it to be consumed in flames. On April 1, 1566, he ordered that sodomites be turned over to the secular arm. . . . The various imprisonments of sodomites . . . impressed Rome and frightened especially well-established people, for it was known that the Pope wanted his laws enforced even against the powerful. Indeed, to punish for vices against nature, the torment of the stake was applied throughout the pontificate of Saint Pius V. . . . An earlier papal Brief mandated that clerics who were guilty of that crime be stripped of all their posts, dignities, and income, and, after degradation, be handed over to the secular arm. The Holy Inquisitor promulgated two Constitutions in which he castigates and punishes the sin against nature.
In the Constitution Cum Primum of April 1, 1566, Saint Pius V solemnly established: Having set our minds to remove everything that may in some way offend the Divine Majesty, We resolve to punish, above all and without indulgence, those things which, by the authority of the Sacred Scriptures or by most grievous examples, are most repugnant to God and elicit His wrath; that is, negligence in divine worship, ruinous simony, the crime of blasphemy, and the execrable libidinous vice against nature. For which faults peoples and nations are scourged by God, according to His just condemnation, with catastrophes, wars, famine and plagues. . . . Let the judges know that, if even after this, Our Constitution, they are negligent in punishing these crimes, they will be guilty of them at Divine Judgment and will also incur Our indignation. . . . If someone commits that nefarious crime against nature that caused divine wrath to be unleashed against the children of iniquity, he will be given over to the secular arm for punishment; and if he is a cleric, he will be subject to analogous punishment after having been stripped of all his degrees [of ecclesiastical dignity].
Saint Pius V is no less rigorous in the Constitution Horrendum Illud Scelus of August 30, 1568. He teaches: That horrible crime, on account of which corrupt and obscene cities were burned by virtue of divine condemnation, causes Us most bitter sorrow and shocks Our mind, impelling it to repress such a crime with the highest possible zeal.
Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council [1512-1517] decrees: Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature . . . be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery (chap. 4, X, V, 31). So that the contagion of such a grave offense may not advance with greater audacity, taking advantage of impunity, which is the greatest incitement to sin, and so as to more severely punish the clerics who are guilty of this nefarious crime and who are not frightened by the death of their souls, We determine that they should be handed over to the secular authority, which enforces civil law. Therefore, wishing to pursue with the greatest rigor that which We have decreed since the beginning of Our Pontificate, We establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be executed as mandated by law, according to the appropriate punishment for laymen plunged in this abyss.
The Code of Canon Law undertaken at the initiative and encouragement of Saint Pius X, and published in 1917 by his successor Pope Benedict XV, says this: So far as laymen are concerned, the sin of sodomy is punished ipso facto with the pain of infamy and other sanctions to be applied according to the prudent judgment of the Bishop depending on the gravity of each case (Can. 2357). As for ecclesiastics and religious, if they are clerici minoris [that is, of a degree lower than deacon], let them be punished with various measures, proportional to the gravity of the fault, that can even include dismissal from the clerical state (Can. 2358); if they are clerici maiores [that is, deacons, priests or bishops], let them be declared infamous and suspended from every post, benefit, dignity, deprived of their eventual stipend and, in the gravest cases, let them be deposed (Can. 2359, par. 2).
Tertullian, the great apologist of the Church in the second century, writes: All other frenzies of lusts which exceed the laws of nature and are impious toward both bodies and the sexes we banish . . . from all shelter of the Church, for they are not sins so much as monstrosities.
Saint Basil of Caesarea, the fourth century Church Father who wrote the principal rule of the monks of the East, establishes this: The cleric or monk who molests youths or boys or is caught kissing or committing some turpitude, let him be whipped in public, deprived of his crown [tonsure] and, after having his head shaved, let his face be covered with spittle; and [let him be] bound in iron chains, condemned to six months in prison, reduced to eating rye bread once a day in the evening three times per week. After these six months living in a separate cell under the custody of a wise elder with great spiritual experience, let him be subjected to prayers, vigils and manual work, always under the guard of two spiritual brothers, without being allowed to have any relationship . . . with young people.
Saint Augustine is categorical in the combat against sodomy and similar vices. The great Bishop of Hippo writes: Sins against nature, therefore, like the sin of Sodom, are abominable and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they are committed. If all nations committed them, all alike would be held guilty of the same charge in Gods law, for our Maker did not prescribe that we should use each other in this way. In fact, the relationship that we ought to have with God is itself violated when our nature, of which He is Author, is desecrated by perverted lust.
Further on he reiterates: Your punishments are for the sins which men commit against themselves, because, although they sin against You, they do wrong in their own souls and their malice is selfbetrayed. They corrupt and pervert their own nature, which You made and for which You shaped the rules, either by making wrong use of the things which You allow, or by becoming inflamed with passion to make unnatural use of things which You do not allow (Rom. 1:26).
Saint John Chrysostom denounces homosexual acts as being contrary to nature.
Commenting on the Epistle to the Romans (1:26-27), he says that the pleasures
of sodomy are an unpardonable offense to nature and are doubly destructive,
since they threaten the species by deviating the sexual organs away from their
primary procreative end and they sow disharmony between men and women, who no
longer are inclined by physical desire to live together in peace.
The brilliant Patriarch of Constantinople employs most severe words for the vice we are analyzing. Saint John Chrysostom makes this strong argument: All passions are dishonorable, for the soul is even more prejudiced and degraded by sin than is the body by disease; but the worst of all passions is lust between men. . . . The sins against nature are more difficult and less rewarding, so much so that one cannot even say that they procure pleasure, since true pleasure is only the one according to nature. But when God abandons a man, everything is turned upside down! Therefore, not only are their passions [of the homosexuals] satanic, but their lives are diabolic. . . . So I say to you that these are even worse than murderers, and that it would be better to die than to live in such dishonor. A murderer only separates the soul from the body, whereas these destroy the soul inside the body. . . . There is nothing, absolutely nothing more mad or damaging than this perversity.
Saint Gregory the Great delves deeper into the symbolism of the fire and brimstone that God used to punish the sodomites: Brimstone calls to mind the foul odors of the flesh, as Sacred Scripture itself confirms when it speaks of the rain of fire and brimstone poured by the Lord upon Sodom. He had decided to punish in it the crimes of the flesh, and the very type of punishment emphasized the shame of that crime, since brimstone exhales stench and fire burns. It was, therefore, just that the sodomites, burning with perverse desires that originated from the foul odor of flesh, should perish at the same time by fire and brimstone so that through this just chastisement they might realize the evil perpetrated under the impulse of a perverse desire.
Saint Peter Damians Liber Gomorrhianus [Book of Gomorrha], addressed
to Pope Leo IX in the year 1051, is considered the principal work against homosexuality.
It reads: Just as Saint Basil establishes that those who incur sins [against
nature] . . . should be subjected not only to a hard penance but a public one,
and Pope Siricius prohibits penitents from entering clerical orders, one can
clearly deduce that he who corrupts himself with a man through the ignominious
squalor of a filthy union does not deserve to exercise ecclesiastical functions,
since those who were formerly given to vices . . .
become unfit to administer the Sacraments.
Saint Albert the Great gives four reasons why he considers homosexual acts as the most detestable ones: They are born from an ardent frenzy; they are disgustingly foul; those who become addicted to them are seldom freed from that vice; they are as contagious as disease, passing quickly from one person to another.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, writing about sins against nature, explains: However, they are called passions of ignominy because they are not worthy of being named, according to that passage in Ephesians (5:12): For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. For if the sins of the flesh are commonly censurable because they lead man to that which is bestial in him, much more so is the sin against nature, by which man debases himself lower than even his animal nature.
Saint Bonaventure, speaking in a sermon at the church of Saint Mary of Portiuncula about the miracles that took place simultaneously with the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, narrates this: Seventh prodigy: All sodomitesmen and womendied all over the earth, as Saint Jerome said in his commentary on the psalm The light was born for the just. This made it clear that He was born to reform nature and promote chastity.
Saint Catherine of Siena, a religious mystic of the 14th century, relays words of Our Lord Jesus Christ about the vice against nature, which contaminated part of the clergy in her time. Referring to sacred ministers, He says: They not only fail from resisting this frailty [of fallen human nature] . . . but do even worse as they commit the cursed sin against nature. Like the blind and stupid, having dimmed the light of their understanding, they do not recognize the disease and misery in which they find themselves. For this not only causes Me nausea, but displeases even the demons themselves, whom these miserable creatures have chosen as their lords. For Me, this sin against nature is so abominable that, for it alone, five cities were submersed, by virtue of the judgment of My Divine Justice, which could no longer bear them. . . . It is disagreeable to the demons, not because evil displeases them and they find pleasure in good, but because their nature is angelic and thus is repulsed upon seeing such an enormous sin being committed. It is true that it is the demon who hits the sinner with the poisoned arrow of lust, but when a man carries out such a sinful act, the demon leaves.
Saint Bernardine of Siena, a preacher of the fifteenth century, makes an accurate psychological analysis of the consequences of the homosexual vice. The illustrious Franciscan writes: No sin has greater power over the soul than the one of cursed sodomy, which was always detested by all those who lived according to God. . . . Such passion for undue forms borders on madness. This vice disturbs the intellect, breaks an elevated and generous state of soul, drags great thoughts to petty ones, makes [men] pusillanimous and irascible, obstinate and hardened, servilely soft and incapable of anything. Furthermore, the will, being agitated by the insatiable drive for pleasure, no longer follows reason, but furor. . . . Someone who lived practicing the vice of sodomy will suffer more pains in Hell than anyone else, because this is the worst sin that there is.
Saint Peter Canisius says this about the sin of sodomy: Those who are not ashamed of violating divine and natural law are slaves of this turpitude that can never be sufficiently execrated.
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, in an SBT interview about homosexuality in Brazil (not broadcast) on October 29, 1992, stated: The sexual act exists in the natural order of things for the fecundity of the family and, through the fecundity of the family, for the expansion of mankind. The precept of Our Lord Jesus Christ to men . . . is Multiply and fill the earth. It is necessary, therefore, to do this and by all means to favor the fecundity of sexual intercourse, which is legitimately exercised only in Matrimony. Now then, as for homosexuality, there is no Matrimony, and, above all, there can be no fecundity. . . .
For many centuries, Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira continued, homosexuality was the object of real aversion on the part of successive generations. And this was not because of a whim . . . but by virtue of the doctrinal principles I have just enunciated, which are principles of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic doctrine. . . . This rejection [of homosexuality] is a preservation of society against that which of itself threatens it. Everything that is alive rejects what destroys it. Thus, by a similar movement of the instinct of self-preservation, human societies modeled upon Catholic doctrine . . . have been profoundly anti-homosexual.
Question: Why, in your view, are homosexuals discriminated against in Brazilian society?
Answer: Brazil is a son of Portugal, and Portugal and Spain were always very strong bulwarks of the Catholic Church. We received from our Portuguese ancestors rigidity and consistency in the Catholic Faith, which was the model for the customs of colonial Brazil, the United Kingdom [of Brazil and Portugal], the Brazilian Empire and the Brazilian Republic until some time ago. Hence Catholic aversion for homosexuality impregnated our customs and constituted a tradition.
The Tradition of Civil Legislation
In civil as well as religious law, there is a tradition of intolerance for the sin of homosexuality.
Law of December 16, 342 of Emperors Constantius and Constans that was included
in the later Theodosian Code:
When a man marries and is ready to offer himself to men in a feminine way [quum vir nubit in feminam viris porrecturam] . . . We order that norms be established, that the law be armed with an avenging sword, and that these infamous persons . . . receive the supreme punishment.
Law of August 6, 390 promulgated by the Emperors Valentian II, Theodosius,
All persons having the shameful custom of condemning a mans body to play the role of a woman . . . (for they seem not to be different from women) shall expiate this type of crime in avenging flames before the public.
Law of December 30, 533 of Emperor Justinian:
In cases of penal suits, public prosecution will be guided by various statutes, including the Law Julia de Adulteris . . . that punishes with death [gladio] not only those who violate the marriages of others, but also those who commit acts of vile concupiscence with other men.
Law of the year 538 of Emperor Justinian:
Whereas certain men, overcome by diabolical incitement to practice among themselves the most unworthy lewdness and acts contrary to nature, we exhort them to be fearful of God and the coming judgment, and to abstain from such illicit and diabolical practices so that the just wrath of God may not fall upon them on account of these heathen acts, with the result that cities perish with all their inhabitants. For Sacred Scriptures teach us that similar impious acts caused the demise of cities with all their inhabitants. . . .
#1. And since such sins are the cause of famine, earthquakes, and plagues, we warn men to abstain from these acts so as not to lose their souls. But if, after this warning of ours, it should be discovered that any persist in such iniquity, they render themselves unworthy of Gods mercy and further will be subjected to the punishment established by law.
#2. Thus we order the most illustrious Prefect of the Capital to arrest those who persist in the aforesaid illicit and impious acts after they have been warned by us, and to inflict upon them the most severe punishments, so that the city and the State do not end by suffering on account of such iniquitous acts.
The influence of the Justinian Code continued for centuries. It can still be noted in Blackstones Comment on the Laws of England in the nineteenth century. Blackstone states: The crime against nature . . . [is one which] . . . the voice of nature and of reason, and the express law of God, determined to be capital. Of which we have a special instance, long before the Jewish dispensation, in the destruction of two cities by fire from heaven; so that this is a universal, not merely a provincial, precept. In the Old Testament the law condemns sodomists (and possibly other homosexual offenders) to death as perpetrators of an abomination against the Lord, while in the New Testament, they are denounced as transgressors of the natural order and are disinherited from the kingdom of God as followers of the vile practices of the heathens.
Jurist Pietro Agostino dAvack drafted an historic roster of laws that protected the State against the vice of homosexuality. In substantial paragraphs, dAvack affirms: No less severe and scathingly repressive laws against such sexual aberrations are found in the centuries following [the Roman Empire] and emanated from all civil authorities from the earliest medieval times up to the modern age. Thus, the Lex Visigothica condemned to castration and jail those [men] who carnally united with men. . . . and prescribed, if they were married, that their goods should be immediately inherited by their children and heirs. After the castratio virum, the law also prescribed capital punishment.
In turn, in the well-known collection of the Frankish Capitularies of Ansegisius and Benedict Levite . . . those who had engaged in sexual acts with animals, who were guilty of incest and who practiced copulation with men were punished with capital punishment; if pardoned by some indult, they were obliged to subject themselves to the canonical penances imposed by the Church. In the later Capitularies of Ludovicus Pius, while such a crime, invoking Roman legislation, was punishable with execution at the stake, this severe action was justified in the name of the salvation of the rem publicam (nation) so that on account of such sins, we may not also fall with the kingdom and the glory of the whole kingdom may not perish.. . . During successive centuries, this lay civil legislation was substantially unaltered and was nearly identical everywhere, whether in Italy or in the other European States, as attested to by the Statutes of Bologna in 1561, those of Ferrara in 1566, those of Milan, Rome and [the Italian province of] Marche in the seventeenth century, the Florentian Tires of 1542, 1558 and 1699, the Sicilian Pragmatics of 1504, the Carolingean Criminal Constitution of Charles V, the Theresian [Constitution] of Marie Thérèse, the Royal Portuguese Ordination, the New Spanish Recompilation, etc. . . . For their part, the Florentian Statutes, execrating the indecency of the great crime that is the sodomite vice and wishing to extirpate it, approved the institution of eight officiales honestatis (officers of decency) who were designated for six months specifically to repress such crime.
2. THE POST-CONCILIAR TEACHING ON HOMOSEXUALITY
The principles of adaptation of the Church to the modern world approved by the Council, as well as the general acceptance of tolerance and mercy as remedies for evil, had a special application in the case of homosexuality.
Modern psychology is divided into various currents with respect to this vice. One current believes that homosexuality results from the influence of various environmental factorsfamily troubles, emotional imbalance of the mother, bad example, etc. Others opine that it is due to innate factorsthe simultaneous presence of masculine and feminine genes in the constitution of homosexuals, or a certain number of brain cells that determine homosexuality. For a considerable segment of modern psychologists, homosexuality does not result from a persons concession to an unnatural tendency nor is it a moral vice; on the contrary, it is something according to nature, or at worst simply an illness, which should be accepted as normal.
Conciliar Principles of Adaptation and Tolerance
With its general rule of adaptation to the modern world, the Council had to adapt to its theories. Insofar as modern psychology is concerned, it declares in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes:
Advances in . . . psychology and the social sciences not only
lead man to greater self-awareness, but provide him with the technical means
of molding the lives of whole peoples as well. (GS 5b)
Recent psychological advances furnish deeper insights into human behavior. (GS 54a)
Let the faithful incorporate the findings of new sciences and teachings and the understanding of the most recent discoveries with Christian morality and thought, so that their practice of religion and their moral behavior may keep abreast of their acquaintance with science and of the relentless progress of technology. (GS 62f)
In pastoral care, sufficient use should be made, not only of theological principles, but also of the findings of secular sciences, especially psychology and sociology. (GS 62b)
With respect to tolerance for the errors and moral evils afflicting the world, in the Opening Speech of the first session of Vatican II, Pope John XXIII declared: The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations . . . That being so, the Catholic Church, raising the torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren who are separated from her.
Such principles led to the acceptance of modern psychologys theories about homosexuality, and also to the tolerance the Church has manifested since then toward this vice. Documents of the Holy See on Homosexuality As far as we can see, there are three basic documents of the Holy See on the question of homosexuality. They are all from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In order to understand these documents well, it seems appropriate for us to make some preliminary observations.
Up until Vatican Council II, the language of ecclesiastical documents was habitually clear and accessible, continuing the line of coherence of the Magisterium through the centuries. The body of doctrine thus being built constituted a supremely true, good and beautiful ensemble, a worthy reflection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom.
(With regard to the tendency of pastoral activity to become a doctrinal reality, the Reader can consult the interesting opinion of Prof. Fernand Dumont in Chap. VI § 115 above. According to this author, pastoral theology would gradually but definitively replace dogmatic theology.)
After Vatican II, however, ecclesiastical language often forsook such characteristics. Now more, now less, we find in it the presence of two opposing currents of thought: the traditional doctrine of the Church and progressivism. For this reason, often a text can lend itself to different and even contradictory interpretationsa lamentable but obvious fact to someone who has any experience reading post-conciliar documents.
This fact necessitates establishing a method of analysis that permits us to confidently discern the depth of progressivist thought present in the text and the gates it thus opens for error and evil. The method we use is to determine that which is most unusual in each document and analyze it in order to build an overall picture. We know that more often than not there is a possible conservative interpretation for other excerpts of the documents. We leave this aside, for it seems to us more consonant with the spirit of Catholic vigilance to pay more attention to evil, which invades with its characteristic impact, rather than to good, which is often content to survive, impassive and silent, this invasion.
Based upon these premises, therefore, we go on to analyze the three documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Dated December 29, 1975, the first document is entitled Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, signed by Cardinal Franjo Seper and approved by Pope Paul VI. In our view, so far as homosexuality is concerned, the documents words tore down the barrier of horror that held back the waters of this vice against nature.
In the document, Cardinal Seper says: At the present time there are those who, basing themselves on observations in the psychological order, have begun to judge indulgently, and even to excuse completely, homosexual relations between certain people. This they do in opposition to the constant teaching of the Magisterium and to the moral sense of the Christian people. A distinction is drawn, and it seems with some reason, between homosexuals whose tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable; and homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.
In regard to this second category of subjects, some people conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, in so far as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.
In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society. Their culpability will be judged with prudence. But no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. (Rom. 1:24-27; cf. also 1 Cor. 6:10, 1 Tim. 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved.
One sees, therefore, that Cardinal Seper distinguishes between an objective moral orderthat should theoretically be respectedand a subjective moral order that should orient the pastoral action of the Church, which in some cases should accept homosexuality as a fait accompli. Note that on implicitly assuming the erroneous premises of modern psychology to justify Church pastoral action, Cardinal Seper provides a powerful theoretical argument opposed to objective Catholic morals, which he sought to defend. Further on, the Cardinal, enunciating general principles that should govern questions related to homosexuality, pre-matrimonial relations, and masturbation, states: It is true that in sins of sexual order, in view of their kind and their causes, it more easily happens that free consent is not fully given; this is a fact which calls for caution in all judgment as to the subjects responsibility.
These were the principles that, in a certain way, legitimized and gave free rein to homosexuality in the Church. While this vice had already surfaced to the light of day on the basis of conciliar aggiornamento, only after the publication of this document did it feel at ease. Ten years went by before the Holy See felt the need for a new pronouncement in face of the veritable homosexual avalanche that had fallen upon the contemporary world. However, in dealing with the topic, the point of reference was the document of 1975. We add here a short observation to aid in the reading of the documents below.
In them, Cardinal Ratzinger does not seem to be very precise in distinguishing between two fundamental concepts: homosexual tendency (or inclination or orientation) and homosexual behavior. According to Catholic doctrine, any disordered tendency, above all toward a vice contrary to nature, cannot have the right to exist in a persons thoughts. If someone in his mind makes a concession to this tendency, he sins. This is why in the Confiteor one asks forgiveness for sins of thought, word and deed. Thus, a homosexual tendency is not a sin only when it has not been at all willed or accepted by the person. A person also sins when he outwardly expresses a homosexual tendency. Indeed, we have seen excerpts from Sacred Scripture (Deut. 22:5; Is. 3:4-13) and from Saint Basil prescribing severe punishment for those who behave in a homosexual fashion (kissing or committing some turpitude) even though they do not practice the act.
Finally, there is the act of sodomy, which constitutes a sin that cries out to Heaven and clamors to God for vengeance. Yet such clear and precise concepts of tendency, behavior and act with regard to sodomy are somewhat shuffled around in the documents we are examining. At times in these documents, the tendency remains in the individuals thoughts; at other times, it manifests itself and is confused with behavior. The concept of behavior is uncertain as well. At times, it is a public manifestation of homosexuality without practicing the act; at other times it includes the act. Perhaps this confusion can be explained as follows: Since the homosexual act is indisputably sinful but the tendency is not categorically so, emphasizing the notion of tendency would be the shrewd thing to do by someone who wants to morally justify homosexual behavior. The word tendency is also taken as synonymous with inclination, and the word behavior is replaced by homosexual practice or activity. Having clarified these imprecisions as much as possible, we will proceed to the analysis of the document.
On October 1, 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published its second document on the subject. It was called Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and approved by Pope John Paul II. The document was prepared with the intention of repressing abuses taking place in debates about homosexuality, even in Catholic ambiences, as well as correcting an overly benign interpretation to the homosexual condition itself which some had given to the prior document of the Holy See on homosexuality (n. 3).
To this end, Cardinal Ratzinger distinguishes between homosexual tendency and behavior: Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder (n. 3). Cardinal Ratzinger says that the act is intrinsically evil and that the inclination is objectively disordered without being a sin properly speaking. This is in accordance with Catholic doctrine. The Cardinal also states: Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent (n. 7). Thus, on affirming certain current principles of moral teaching, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith begins to praise homosexuals: They are often generous and giving of themselves. This makes it appear as if he were seeking legitimacy for them.
This hypothesis is more strongly confirmed in the text below, in which he writes: It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Churchs pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law (n. 10).
Note that Cardinal Ratzinger thus advocates legislation defending homosexuals from lack of respect, that is, violent malice in speech or in action. Overall, one may say of this Instruction of the Holy See that although on the one hand it condemns the homosexual act as entirely evil from the moral standpoint, on the other hand it defends homosexuals who openly declare themselves as such but do not practice the homosexual act.
On July 24, 1992, LOsservatore Romano published the third document of the same Congregation on the subject, entitled Some Considerations concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons. (June, 1992). It is addressed to the Bishops of the United States but is undated. Its foreword says that the published version is a second draft written after consultation with the Bishops. More atypically, it says that the considerations in the document are not intended as an official instruction, but only as a resource for the conscientious Catholic legislator, voter, or Church authority who is confronted with such issues.
Its objective, therefore, is to orient the Bishops on what position to take regarding civil laws protecting homosexuals. That is to say, the boldest request made in the prior document becomes the premise of this one. The document, published on the authority of Cardinal Ratzinger, says: Homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons, including that of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity. Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct (n. 12).
It had earlier declared: There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the consignment of children to adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or coaches, and in military recruitment (n. 11). Further on, he makes a prudential warning: Including homosexual orientation among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights . . . The passage from the recognition of homosexuality as a factor on which basis it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead, if not automatically, to the legislative protection of homosexuality (n. 13). Thus, it would not be advisable to take homosexuality as the basis for a legal right.
In its whole, the document advocates that homosexuals be recognized as having rights on the basis of being human persons, but not on the basis of homosexuality. A certain contradiction remains in its concept of tendency or orientation. At times, orientation is taken to mean an inclination that is not manifested publicly, and at times as something that is perceived and may or may not be subject to a law. Finally, in the document there are two notions of discrimination against homosexuals. One it calls unjust, allegedly coming from a lack of respect for human rights. Another is just, but it is ambiguous because it derives from the concept of homosexual orientation. This just discrimination only becomes clear in the case of the examples giventhe adoption of children, choosing teachers or physical educators, and in the military service. A characteristic application of this ambiguity in the concept of homosexual tendency can be found in the short Allocution delivered by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the approval of marriage of homosexuals by the European Parliament. Indeed, he says: Our thought turns toward the recent and well-known resolution approved by the European Parliament. In it, they do not simply limit themselves to the defense of persons with homosexual tendencies, refusing to allow unjust discriminations toward them. On this point, the Church is also in agreement, approves it, and makes it her own, since every human person is worthy of respect. What is morally inadmissible is the juridical approval of homosexual practice. Summarizing the concessions made, we have the following:
In the first document Cardinal Seper admits that there seems to be some
foundation to the theories of modern psychology which claim that in some cases
homosexuality is part of the persons psychic makeup and hence judged to
In the name of pastoral care, he recommends that the Churchs attitude toward homosexuals be one of understanding and encouragement toward overcoming their problems.
He says that those who suffer from this anomaly are not necessarily personally responsible for it.
He says that sexual faults are more easily committed without full consent, and hence one must be prudent in passing judgment on the subjective culpability of the one who commits such faults.
In the second document Cardinal Ratzinger calls for condemnation of violent malice in speech or in action against homosexuals; also, based on human dignity, he calls for respect for homosexuals in word, action and law.
In the third document Cardinal Ratzinger instructs Bishops to have legislators approve laws in favor of homosexuals based on human rights but not on homosexuality as such. To close this part of the exposition on conciliar and post-conciliar doctrine on homosexuality, we may say that, in addition to the numerous manifestations of tolerance toward this vice, in none of the documents quoted did the Holy See state that homosexuality is a vice contrary to nature, let alone call to mind that it is one of the sins that cry out to Heaven and clamor to God for vengeance. On analogous doctrine, published on the authority of the U. S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the following documents can be consulted: Principles to Guide Confessors in Questions of Homosexuality (1973); To Live in Jesus Christ (1976); Called to Compassion and Responsibility (1989); Always Our Children (1997).
3. THE HOMOSEXUAL ISSUE AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES
The reason we chose the United States to analyze the situation so far as this issue is concerned is that statistical data are more accessible there, probably due to the great welcome that American public opinion usually gives the publication of statistics. Perhaps people there talk more about homosexuality and there are more groups of this type of person than in other countries due to the general liberalism that characterized the formation of the United States, as well as to the characteristic of Americans to form associations more readily than other peoples.
Therefore, the overview below is not intended to classify the United States
as any more or any less decadent than other countries. We simply take what is
happening in the United States as an example of what is happening in the whole
world. Extent of the Phenomenon and Principal Movements Anewsletter of the Democratic
Party on the 1979 political campaign in the United States (December 13, 1979),
according to the book by Fr. Enrique Rueda, The Homosexual Network, said, The
gay vote is now so important in national [American] politics . . . that no serious
politician can ignore or ridicule it. The document gives the figure of
15 million homosexual Americans of voting age, an estimate confirmed by contributors
to the political column of the Washington Star. Aword should be said about this
figure of 15 million. In the beginning of the 1950s, an American biologist,
Alfred Kinsey, published the result of a survey of 11,000 people on sex-related
subjects. He began with the premise that, in sexual matters, people usually
do not tell the truth when interviewed. So he looked for those who voluntarily
wished to talk about the subject, which thus included persons primarily in marginal
groups. The data collected in this study was in general use until recently.
The applications of that study projected an estimated 10 percent of homosexuals
in the population, which...
Taken from The Catholic Church and Homosexuality by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.
Other pages discussing Catholic
doctrine and history:
Return to Catholic Doctrine Homepage