Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fr. Paul Ward: Homily on the Church's Teaching on Homosexuality

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This is from my own parish priest, from last Sunday's homily. How often will you hear Catholic preaching like this? And why is that? Well, I think Fr. Paul himself tells us why it is.

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The Immorality of Homosexual Acts

Sunday, April 29, 2007, 4th Sunday of Easter, Year C

St. Joseph Parish, Detroit

(Note: This homily has been deliberated for a number of days since the new Sexual Orientation Regulations in England went into effect; see for more information.)


Fr. Paul Ward

4th Sunday of Easter, C; Saturday, April 28, 2007

St. Joseph Parish, Detroit

The Immorality of Homosexual Acts

Today an urgent topic must be breached. I am aware of the dangers that I expose myself to by addressing this urgent topic. Even priests get angry at me at the very thought of me preaching the truth regarding today’s most urgent topic, but I will ignore them out of love for souls.

Today it is necessary to offer a catechesis regarding homosexuality, for the urgency of the Gospel, for the necessity to save souls from hell, for the defense of chastity and marriage and the family, and to enable you to have clear ideas about what the Church teaches about this matter and how we are to conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel message. It is already illegal in Canada and England, as you have seen in the news, to teach the Church’s teachings regarding this, so wicked is Satan and so stupid his servants, so many of whom have great power in this world. But Christ is coming, and will put all the servants of sin definitively under his feet forever.

As church-going congregations, in this day in America, impatiently disdain long sermons, I will attempt in this short homily to breach today’s topic in these parts: first, the principles we must all apply; second, the difference between the tendency, attraction and acts; third, the causes of homosexuality; fourth, the moral evaluation of homosexual acts; next, the obligations of those who suffer from homosexual tendencies; then some clear talk regarding certain rhetoric popular in pro-gay movements; and finally, the conduct that we Catholics are to have towards homosexuals. It is a big menu for such a short homily, but I will do my best.

There are principles in the moral life which apply to all and always. Some of the more important ones for today’s topic are the following. First, that much of one’s personality depends on what sex they are, man or woman – let’s use the expressions “male” and “female” for animals who have no souls. Being a man or woman is both a given and a calling; it is physical, emotional and spiritual. Another principle that applies is that the natural law is for everyone, no matter what temptations or difficulties a person may have.

Yet we are tempted, as a consequence of original sin, to abandon the natural law by the immediate and self-destructive form of gratification called “sin.” Another principle is that we are spiritual creatures, and that our immortal souls reach into every aspect of our lives, and even of our bodies, and so even in those things by which we share similarities to the animals, we are not like the animals, and we live in the world as spiritual beings.

Still more, it is not up to man to arbitrarily determine what is good and what is evil; good is always what it is, evil is a lack of good, and man must use his reason to discern what is true regarding what is good and the nature of goodness. Another principle, is that we come to know the truth both by right reason and by divine revelation. These truths apply to all persons of all times and all places, and they are the truths which set man free.

That said, let us turn now to the question of homosexuality. There are those who suffer from the tendency to homosexuality, which is an impulse towards attractions to members of the same sex; this is an impulse or tendency, but not an orientation. But then there are the actual deeds of relations between members of the same sex, and these we call homosexual acts. Other types of homosexual acts can be completely interiorized by desires or by coveting this form of unchastity. Or they can be attempted yet thwarted against the perpetrators will, in which case he is still guilty. Therefore, it is crucial to distinguish between the tendency and the act itself.

How is it that a person becomes so, that they experience such tendencies? There are causes, clearly. Some are exterior, others are interior, but none are natural. Among the exterior causes of homosexual inclinations, by far the widest is abuse from one’s father; and this is the widest cause by far. Not abuse from one’s mother, just from the father. It can come in various forms: verbal, physical, sexual, emotional, and even by omission. In this case, there can occur a type of emotional habit (today often called, less intelligibly, psychological conditioning), which leads one to suffer from homosexual tendencies.

Another external cause of seduction, or real brain-washing on the part of activists and the media, of unsuspecting victims. A third external cause can be influence from the evil spirits of hell, which are easily passed from sinner to sinner by adultery and fornication; yet it seems to me that this would be among the rarest causes among the others.

There are interior causes, which are self-inflicted acts which may lead one to suffer from this tendency. One is cohabitation, where couples live together in sin before they marry. A second is the practice of contraception. Both cohabitation and contraception negates the essentially procreative nature of relations, and reduces them to one or more of its accidental qualities such as pleasure or emotional gratification. A third is masturbation. A fourth and powerful one to lead one down the road of homosexual attractions is the widespread, frequent and deep use of pornography, alone or with others.

So what is the moral evaluation of the Church regarding all this? First, let us discuss homosexual inclinations. Of themselves, they are disordered, and, unless they are intentionally willed, they are not a sin against God. There are countless cases of persons who wished to free themselves of these inclinations, sought help, and became healthy. God made no person ever to be a homosexual. No one is made that way. It is written in human nature, even in the flesh which our eternal souls enliven, that homosexuality is completely incapable of fulfilling the essential purpose of conjugal relations, which is procreation, nor the secondary purposes such as the union of spouses or the remedy for concupiscence.

Turning then from the inclinations to the acts, we can continue this same line of thought, which is a reflection upon human nature: by studying nature, one can come to the one and only reasonable conclusion that homosexual acts are a contradiction of human nature, and therefore evil and not good.

Yet one of the effects of the sins in general, and sins of the flesh most especially, is to blind one’s intellect. And so if one is unable to discern this with right reason, he can go to the light of divine revelation; for God is good and true, and can neither deceive nor be deceived. So what does the Lord reveal to us about the morality of homosexual acts?

One could look at the scriptures and find all those passages in favor of marriage between man and woman as defense enough. Yet God in the bible, mercifully did not stop there. He gave us more, directly addressing the problem of homosexual acts.

In Genesis 19,[1] the men of Sodom clearly demanded from Lot that he send out the two angels who had visited them, men demanding apparent men with the clearly stated purpose to rape them. The angels saved Lot, then struck blind those who attempted the perverted deed. The blindness reminds us of what Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” But in Sodom we see this is proven by it’s opposite: the impure of heart see nothing with the reason of their minds or even the eyes of their bodies.

Again in Leviticus,[2] the Lord says to the men of Israel, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” And again two chapters later,[3] “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both have committed and abomination.” About these verses, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed, “the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.”[4]

In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth… Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves… [he] 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.”[5]

Again St. Paul says in first Timothy names specifically and explicitly as sinners those who are “sodomites,” John Paul II explaining that this is an explicit, and not indirect, condemnation of “those who engage in homosexual acts.”[6]

And so if anyone says that homosexuality is not condemned in the scriptures, I expose them and lay bare their error, and oblige them to renounce such an error, for the evidence is set forth against them.

The Church has continually reiterated the teachings of the deposit of faith with unflinching constancy throughout the ages. In more recent times, as the problem has blossomed in more recent times – so much so, that the very word “homosexuality” was an invention of the 18th century – the Church has spoken more about the immorality of homosexual acts, in Persona Humana,[7] and again Pope John Paul II published his famous Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,[8] both promulgated by the Popes by means of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Through the years, other smaller statements have come forth regarding particular issues in which the same teaching was unchangingly repeated. This is the teaching of the Church, and it will never change until the end of time.

Let it also be stated that the Church has always insisted that homosexual persons should receive special pastoral charity, so that they be saved from sin and helped, and never unjustly belittled or discriminated against, as they too enjoy the dignity of human personhood as all who are born of Adam and Eve.

The obligations of homosexual persons are these. They must be chaste, and observe the commandments and the natural law, like everyone else. Having the tendency to this sin does not justify its actions. And if there are failures, as all who fall into mortal sin, they need to approach the priests of the Church in sacramental reconciliation to be restored to the state of grace. Such persons may marry, but they may not hide their condition from their future spouse. They absolutely may not enter into religious life, seminaries or the holy priesthood. They are obliged to submit to Church moral teaching in this matter.

They are invited warmly to seek the help they need to live a life full of dignity, peace, chastity and grace, and so obtain eternal life; such help can be offered from priests, counselors, confessors, spiritual directors, medical doctors, therapists, and others who attend to the various physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the human person. They are also required to be prudent in their speech, to not publicize their conditions or deeds at large lest scandal be caused to those who are particularly weak or tempted; respecting of course the need to speak about these matters privately with those who can help them.

There is much rhetoric today regarding places and groups being “welcoming” and “open” to gay, lesbian and other such persons who suffer from such disordered inclinations. Let us expose that for what it is: an attempt to call evil good. Such groups do nothing to help homosexual persons, except expose them to weighty occasions of sin, and to affirm their disorder as if it were something good, natural or even willed by God.

It is perfectly possible to treat a sinner with charity, no matter what his sin or even no matter what his temptations, without needing to encourage the weak soul to fall into the sin or cultivate the temptation. So let us all renounce failures in charity against those who suffer these temptations, and show them our love by helping them live according to God’s will, with purity and chastity. And let us help all sinners the same way.

So we are all called to live according to God’s law, and we are all tempted, and we have all failed. Some have failed by giving in to temptations of homosexuality. For some these temptations are particularly acute due to forces that may have arisen from the outside, or which may have been cultivated by negligence in the realm of purity. No matter where the temptations arise, no matter how strong they are or frequent, they must be overcome by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is the risen Lord. He has conquered sin and he, he alone, has given hope to sinners. For homosexual acts are proven to be sinful by natural law, by the law of God, by the writings of the scriptures, and the constant teaching of the Catholic Church.

There are some, however, who are not so gentle in hearing the saving word of God. Blinded by their passions, they hate it. There are those who are militantly set against the Church’s teachings in these matters, and know no limit to their hatred of Catholicism. Some attempt to put on the clothing of Catholicism and say that homosexual acts are good. Some have even, to great scandal, donned the dignity of priestly and Episcopal robes, and damnably defended homosexuality or homosexual acts.[9] And if I could speak to all the clergy of the world, I would call those who are homosexual, not only by actions but even by inclinations, to do both themselves and the world a favor by resigning their office, applying for permission to return definitively to the lay state, and to never search for any office or employment of the Church, limiting their apostolate to prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and so obtain their salvation. Indeed, we have all seen the immeasurably scandalous deeds performed by some, deeds which in the vast, vast majority consisted in homosexual acts with minors. Unless they repent and repair the damage they have done, it would be better for them if they had never been born.

Dear brothers and sisters, do you have any idea of the proportions, significance, and crisis of our day? Among the countless enemies of Catholicism there are the militant gays – which is to be distinguished from the humble sinner working hard daily to overcome such temptations, and so becoming a saint –. This militant movement of homosexuality is crashing upon the front line of combat of the Catholic Church, that line, that acies, which consists of the family. No, this isn’t homophobia; I say they are sick with “Catholicphobia,” “truthphobia,” and “heavenphobia.” They will hate us always for offering them the way to eternal happiness, for we call them to renounce their lives of sin. Don’t let them intimidate you to think that they’re right about sin and that you have it all wrong. And don’t intimidate them, either; persuade them.

I pray that the Holy Family, glorious Mary, mighty Joseph, and Jesus the Savior, may inform every Catholic family with the faith, hope and charity necessary to live and die faithful to the Gospel.

I beg your forgiveness for extending myself beyond the usual 12 minutes this Sunday morning, and will strive to be more brief next week. May the Father bless you.


[1] Gen 19:1-11.

[2] Lev 18:22.

[3] Lev 20:13.

[4] Letter, Oct. 1, 1986, 6.

[5] Rom 1:18, 24, 26-27.

[6] 1 Tim 1:10; see Letter, Oct 1, 1986, 6 (last sentence).

[7] Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, Nov. 7, 1975.

[8] This is the “Letter” quoted in the previous footnotes.

[9] See text of a bishop, as an example, quoted in John Hardon, Catechism on Homosexuality (Imprimatur Bishop Burke, Lacrosse, 2003), Eternal Life (Bardstown, KY; 2003), p. 13. Or some of the scandalous actions and words of Bishop Gumbleton, auxiliary of Detroit. Or again, New Way Ministries, Pastoral Care of Lesbian and Gay People, Fourth National Symposium).

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