Theological Reflection on Homosexuality

A progressive Catholic reflection on Catholic Church teaching regarding homosexuality in dialogue with a Muslim and the Christian tradition....

Friday, May 02, 2003


Greetings All!

The following post was made by me on an Islamic website in response to Muslim going by the name Rasha. I was writing to Rasha regarding the issue of religious leaders blessing same gender unions.

Rasha argued that persons with the homosexual condition are cursed by Allah, and AIDs is proof of this.

I disagreed strongly with Rasha, and realized that my opinions need to find expression in the Catholic community as well, which is my reason for posting this here.

I am a frequent Mass going Catholic who believes strongly in Christ and honors our Blessed Mother. Yet, what I have to say will strike some as controversial.

In the following essay, the term (pbuh) stands for "peace be upon him", and is a common sign of respect among Muslims for our common prophets. I have added a bit to the original posting.

Regarding AIDs, Christians (should) believe our responsibility is really to bring healing and find solutions - not place blame and see it as a curse as some other religions do.

Sadly, even some people who call themselves conservative Christians will disagree with me.

Regarding homosexuality.....

Let me preface my comments by stating that compared to other issues, the Bible has very little to say about homosexuality. Indeed, as far as I know, I am covering every conceivable text that deals with the subject even ambiguously below, and this post, while long, is nowhere near the length of the entire Bible.

If one turns to statements by the historic Church, the picture becomes even more cloudy until the twentieth century, when this issue receives the most attention.

Thus, even a Catholic argument from "Sacred Tradition" is weak because there isn't much of a tradition on the subject. Nothing has ever been said in an ecumenical council, or an ex cathedra solemn papal definition.

It just seems to me that even if I am wrong about this issue, homosexuality is not God's highest priority on his hit list of serious sins.

Islamic View: It seems from the articles posted by Rasha that the Qur'an has very little to say about homosexuality per se, and I cannot find much in the Qur'an myself. The Q'ran simply doesn't explicitly mention the subject of homosexuality at all.

Indeed, a person must know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (land of Lut) before opening the Qur'an, because the Qur'an does not say why the cities were destroyed.

There seems to be more reliance on what Muslims admit is non-infallible hadith traditions or religious texts of non-Muslim origin.

In other words, Allah did not reveal that homosexuality is wrong in a clear expression found within the text of the Qur'an itself. Rather, Allah assumes you have heard a story elsewhere from some other non-infallible extra-Qur'anic source.

Natural Law Theology:

So an argument is made against homosexuality based on the notion that all people are born with a natural desire and attraction for members of the opposite sex in order to procreate. In this argument, Muslims and conservative Christians often use similar ideas and similar terminology.

The natural "end" or goal and purpose of sexual acts is procreation and to express unitive love through gender complementarity. Because homosexual acts are not ordered to procreation, they are said to be "disordered".

The homosexual condition is said to be an inclination ordered toward a grave evil. In this world-view, conservative Catholics and Muslims agree. Catholics call it natural law theory. In this view, homosexuality is "disordered".

However, we know that people are born with disorders that are not moral faults, such as blindness, deafness, etc,..., I'll return to this in a moment.

Natural law theory does not only state things in the negative, such as 'thou shall not kill', or 'thou shall not commit adultery'.

Rather, each negative command protects a positive value. We can re-word the negative command as a positive, such as respect life and honor the dignity of human sexuality.

I affirm all ten commandments said to be the center of the law of Moses (pbuh).

The positive value preserved by the negative commands against perversions of sexuality is that sex is most pleasurable, meaningful, and holy when the act occurs within the context of a consensual relationship between two people open to procreation and publicly committed to a life-long partnership.

In this context, sexuality is transformed from a mere animal act, into love making. The act becomes a graced moment of sharing in the love of God and her creative power. The normative character of married love is expressed in the opening chapters of Genesis, where two people leave their parents to become one flesh.

Turning back to the issue of people born blind...We do not expect blind people to drive cars, or lame people to walk. Nor do we hold them at moral fault if they need the help of society to function. Indeed, in the West, laws have been passed to make buildings more accessible to persons with various handicaps.

The psychological community has long known that among a small group of the general population, there are those who seem to have sexual attractions for members of the same gender.

No cure has been found for this "disorder", despite attempts at hormone therapy, electro-shock therapy, talk therapy, and behavioral modification programs.

Threats of civil punishment do not change the desires or the behavior.

Indeed, many who consistently experience these desires claim that they have tried everything from intense religious practice to medical treatment in order to change their desires - all to no avail.

Subsequent research in the field of genetics and biology has indicated that a twin separated at birth from an identical twin is statistically more likely to indicate homosexual desire if his or her twin also experiences the desires.

Likewise, family histories indicate that homosexuality manifest in siblings and seems to statistically run through generations matrilinearly.

On the flip side, there have been instances of identical twins where one is gay and the other is not.

The evidence plays to both sides of the debate.

It seems that there exist no specific gene that predermines one will be gay. If there were, identical twins would always be of the same orientation.

At the same time, the fact that identical twins can possess differing orientations rules out nurture as a key factor in determining sexuality. Further, the statistics rule out random chance of free choices made by individuals.

There may be a cluster of genes that lead to a predisposition to homosexuality under certain conditions. These conditions may be physical conditions as early as the womb.

Furthermore, research on male brains in the 1990's (by Dr. Levey) among known homosexuals who died of AIDs has indicated certain characteristics distinctive from brains of known heterosexuals who have died.

It is not clear whether AIDs may have caused these distinctive characteristics.

However, some of the characteristics are common to female brains, indicating the possibility that some homosexual males share feminine traits with women at the biological level.

Again, combined with the statistical evidence for a genetic predisposition, we see that the homosexual condition may be more physically determined than determined by choice or influences of nurture.

Likewise, in rare cases where men were raised as girls due to the penis being hidden before puberty, the men were heterosexual after puberty. This indicates that nuture does not likely dictate orientation.

All of these indications suggest the possibility that homosexuality is a condition that may have a genetic component, or that may form so early in childhood as to be irreversible.

In light of these recent findings, many believers in natural law theory argue that persons born in a condition of homosexual attraction should be encouraged to find ways of expressing their sexuality that are healthy and as close to the norm as possible.

While married love between heterosexuals might be a normative model for human sexuality, it may be unreasonable to expect that all people are called to heterosexual marriage per se.

It may also be unfair to the potential spouse to expect a homosexual person to enter into a heterosexual marriage.

The Roman Catholic Church acknowledges the possibility that for some people, homosexuality may be "innate" and "deep seated" such that it can be described as an "orientation" or more or less permanent "condition" of being "inclined" to homosexual acts.

The condition, itself, is not considered a sin, though all homosexual acts are considered by the Church to be "intrinsically" immoral. Homosexual persons are encouraged to base their entire identity on this "disordered" condition. Such persons are "called to chastity". It is considered deameaning to the homosexual person to say chastity is impossible.

All Christians, including married heterosexuals, are called to chastity. Chstity does not imply celibacy. It means refraining from immoral sexual expression.

However, so long as the values of mutual consent, permanent commitment, and an openness to children are maintained, could honor and bless a gay union?

Theologically, homosexual unions might express the same unitive dimension in sexuality as a sacramental marriage between a man and a woman who experience infertility.

Taking this view may be the most compassionate and humane solution for this particular condition, and Christ taught merciful compassion.

Grace builds on nature. How can the homosexual Catholic be supported by the Church to live a graced life according to a homosexual nature elevated by grace?

Some opponents of rethinking the issue argue that there exists a natural complementarity between male and female that homosexual relationships cannot enjoy.

However, given that we know of the existence of hermaphrodites, I think it is simplistic to assume that the whole human race can be divided neatly into masculine and feminine categories.

God seems to have created variety in our species.

Perhaps we need to think beyond a gnostic dualism and begin imagining legitimate diversity. Rather than viewing the world in balck and white polarities, we might need to imagine living color.

The celibate calling blessed for priests and those vowed to religious life does not express a complimentarity of the sexes in the way that marriage does, and perhaps homosexuality can be compared to this.

Even in homosexual relationships, there tends to be one partner who assumes a more feminine role, while the other assumes a more masculine role.

Historically, in Eastern Christianity, there was an ancient rite called the adelphopoiesis whereby two people of the same gender were joined in an inddissoluble bond of love making them eternal siblings.

While this is not technically a marriage, this rite may be restored as means of allowing people of the same gender to enter into a permanent loving union.

In theory, it is nobody's business whether two people who chose such a bond are engaging in sexual relations or not. A couple bound by adephopoiesis may elect to abstain from all sexual activity all the days of the their lives. Most likely, some would chose to express the love of their bond sexually.

Such activity is between the couple and God, though Catholics in such a union would certainly seek the advice and direction of a good and compassionate confessor.

In civil law, such a union could be given many of the same rights and benefits as a marriage without moral qualm, since civil marriage does not concern sacramental theology.

On the level of sacramental theology, the blessing of adelphopoises probably cannot be called a sacrament, since it does not go back to Christ.

Yet, the Church's power to bless certain certain life-style choices is a powerful way to affirm the dignity of a choice. Celibate committment is not a sacrament, but the Church's blessing on it is almost thought of as a sacrament by the average Catholic layperson.

Let's turn now to the Scriptures.

Genesis 19: The story of Sodom and Gomorrah related in the Qur’an is more explicitly documented in the Christian Bible. Muslims believe the Bible is corrupted, so it would seem inconsistent for Islam to appeal to the Biblical witness, or to argue against alternate interpretations of the narration in Gn 19.

There are at least four possible inferences that can be drawn from the Genesis 19 account:

1) Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for the sin of rape.
2) Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for the sin of inhospitality.
3) Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for the sin of homosexuality.
4) Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for general wickedness and immorality.

Let's look at the story closely....

The context of Genesis 19 follows the story of three heavenly visitors coming to Abraham (pbuh) in chapter 18. Abraham had shown the visitors the customary hospitality expected among ancient Middle Easterners.

Many Arabs are familiar with the importance of hospitality. My wife is from East Africa, just across the sea from the Middle Eastern Arabic penninsula, and hospitality is still held among the highest of virtues in her country.

In a world before hotels and motels, travelers relied upon the hospitality of strangers in order to survive.

Indeed, the Israelites cursed those who did not show hospitality:
Cursed be he who violates the rights of an alien, the orphan or the widow! And all the people shall answer, 'Amen' (Deuteronomy 27:18)
Deuteronomy also recalls the memory of Israel's hatred for the Amelekites because of their lack of hospitality while the Hebrews traversed the desert (see Dt 25:17-19).

At the end of chapter 18 of Genesis, after having shown the three heavenly visitors hospitality, Abraham (pbuh) pleads for Sodom and tries to bargain with God to save the righteous of the city.

In the opening sentences of chapter 19, the angels have entered Sodom and are greeted hospitably by Lot (pbuh), a righteous man:
Gentlemen, please come aside into your servant's house for the night, and bathe your feet. You can get up early to continue your journey.
In verse 4, before they go to bed, all the men in town (every last one, including the young boys) comes to Lot's (pbuh) house. They demand to see the visitors that they may "know" them.

The Hebrew word translated as "know" can have a sexual connotation.

However, of the 943 times this word is used in the Old Testament, it only has a sexual connotation in about 10 other places.

In other words, we cannot be certain that the townsmen were threatening to perform sexual acts with these men based on this word. They may have simply been saying, "Send them out so we can speak to them".

Undoubtedly, Lot (pbuh) did believe that the townsmen had evil intentions. Whatever those evil intentions, the townsmen were perceived as inhospitable. Perhaps Lot (pbuh) did suspect that the townsmen implied sexual abuse in their use of the word, "know", but the text does not provide certitude.

If "know" is being used in a sexual sense, is the real sin homosexuality, or gang rape, or sort of a vague combination of all of the above?

Whatever the case, Lot (pbuh) is so disgusted by the potential for inhospitality that he attempts to bribe the townsmen with his own virgin daughters!

What kind of morality is that for today?

Lest we doubt that Lot (pbuh) is trying to protect the virtue of hospitality, after offering his daughters, he says:
But don't do anything to these men, for you know that they have come under my roof.
I mentioned that my wife is from East Africa. She claims that the very first time she read the text, it seemed obvious to her that the story was about hospitality. The first time she heard it applied to homosexuality, her response was "What?".

My point is that we need to be very careful not to read our own cultural presumptions into the text.

In the New Testament, Jesus interprets the destruction of Sodom in terms of hospitality. In Luke chapter 10, Jesus commissions seventy-two disciples to go into the neighboring villages to preach door-to-door. Regarding villages that do not accept the disciples, Jesus instructs in verse 12:
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town
There is a parallel passage in Matthew 10:14-5 that confirms this same point.

It seems almost certain that the real sin condemned in the story of Lot's (pbuh) escape from Sodom and the eventual destruction of the city is primarily and specifically a sin of inhospitality, and a general wickedness secondarily.

If homosexuality is an issue at all, it seems to rank after inhospitality, gang rape, and general wickedness in the mind of the Biblical author.

Just to drive home the point, we can look at some passages that refer to Sodom and Gomorrah later in the Bible....

Let's start with a verse that seems to run counter to my argument:

In Jude, verse 7, the New Testament indicates harsh judgment on evil-doers, and states:
Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and desired after strange flesh, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
The words translated as "strange flesh" are "sarkos eteras", and the translation is literal. Some Evangelical Protestants argue that the desire for "strange flesh" set in the context of sexual promiscuity might refer to homosexuality. Thus, Jude 7 might indicate that the primary sin of Sodom was, indeed, homosexuality.

However, in the context of Judaism, the desire for "strange flesh" could refer to a violation of dietary codes, and could be a desire for pig-flesh and other non-kosher foods. At any rate, the notion of a desire for "strange flesh" is not clearly homosexual desire.

II Peter 2:6-10 refers to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah within the context of general wickedness, particularly idolatry. The author also alludes to cruelty, deception and oppression, with only some hints at sexual sins including adultery and generally depraved desires. There is no specific hint at homosexuality.

In the KJV Old Testament, Deuteronomy 23:17 was mistranslated to include the sodomite with an apparent homosexual context. The Hebrew qadesh and qadeshah, however, refer to temple prostitutes, and there is no evidence these specific prostitutes were homosexual, or that there position became synonymous with homosexual activity.

Even if the prostitutes were homosexual, there is the issue that temple prostitution to a fertility god is idolatry, and there may be no intent to condemn homosexuality. The KJV seems to have made an anachronistic mis-translation based on some Latin manuscript mistranslation dating to the fourth century.

Other Biblical passages that refer to Sodom or Gomorrah do not refer to any type of sexual sin. Throughout the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah are said to have been condemned for inhospitality, oppression of the poor, idolatry, general wickedness, fornication, robbery and so forth. No other verse in the Bible even comes close to saying Sodom or Gommorah were destroyed for homosexuality: (See Dt 29:23, 32:32, Is 1:9-10, 3:9, 13:19, Jr 23:14, 49:18, 50:40, Ez 16:49,53,55,56, Amos 4:11, Zeph 2:9, Mt 10:15,11:23-24, Rm 9:29, and Rev 11:8)

Bottom line conclusions regarding Genesis 19: It seems highly improbable that homosexuality was considered the primary sin of Sodom. Historically, Origen and other early Church fathers interpreted the passage as a condemnation of inhospitality, which seems to be the best reading of the text.

The homosexual connotation anachronistically read into the story does not appear until the late fourth century, and did not come to prevail until after the Protestant reformation. Until then, the primary sin of Sodom was inhospitality. Jesus accepted and used this interpretation according to the Gospels. Even if we do not fully accept the inhospitality inference, the text remains ambiguous at best.

Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13

Muslims believe that the Torah given to Moses is not faithfully preserved in the Books of Leviticus. Christians do not follow the Book of Leviticus in absolute literalness, since they traditionally see the rituals described in the text as a typological (symbolic) prefigurement of Christ. Few Jews today follow the Book of Leviticus with absolute literalness either, believing the writing to be merely an early history of their development as an ethnic people and a primitive understanding of their relationship with God. Yet, Leviticus contains what seem to be the most clear passages against homosexuality in the Bible.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. Such a thing is an abomination. (Lv 18:22)
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for this abominable deed. They have forfeited their lives. (Lv 20:13)
The Hebrew word "Toevah", translated as "abomination" and the root of "abominable", indicates ritual impurity. It is the same word used more frequently for idolatry and violating the dietary regulations. It is not the same word used for breaking moral laws, such as theft, robbery, murder and lying.

Chapter 16 of Leviticus lays out the prescriptions for the day of atonement (Yom Kippur), including the scapegoat and the fast. Chapter 17 continues with regulations regarding kosher diet practice. Chapter 18 deals with sexual purity, and chapter 19 with various rules to keep from idolatry. Chapter 20 deals with penalties for sins and means of reconciliation, and chapter 21 deals with priesthood, leading up to sacrificial rules.

What I am pointing out here is the broad scope that Leviticus, and particularly chapter 18 and 20, are in a context of priestly rituals and purity for worship. It is not altogether clear that the Hebrews intended these passages to apply to all people as part of a moral law, rather than a priestly code for ritual worship activity. Perhaps these are priestly rules in particular. It is interesting to note that Leviticus does not condemn lesbianism (there were no women priests at that time)!

Another point to keep in mind with taking Leviticus too literally is that the book tells us:
Anyone who curses his father or mother shall be put to death. (Lv 20:9)
Are we really ready to execute our teenage children the first time they say "damn it" to us?

There are many moral demands in Leviticus that people do not follow today. How many of us today refuse to eat lobster?

Take a look at the following rather humorous yet germaine letter regarding this use of Leviticus to condemn homosexuals:
Laura Schlessinger is a US radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show.

Recently, she said that as an observant Orthodox Jew homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned in any circumstance.

The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination.

End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by ev.19:27. How should they die?

I) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.
Similar points could be made regarding the way some folks appeal to the Bible in support of a vague notion of "family values".

The Biblical notion of family often included polygamy in certain eras. Wives are often considered property. Divorce is permitted in some places, and forbidden in others. In the New Testament, Christ tells us to hate our family, and Paul seems to place celibacy above marriage and family. There are no clear "family values" spelled out in the Biblical witness.

Finally, it is important to note that the passages from Leviticus do not deal at all with the idea of homosexual orientation, or a condition of unchanging homoerotic desire. It is improbable that the authors had conceived such an idea.

Indeed, the first appearence of a word to describe such a condition in any language appears to be the nineteenth century. Even if we feel that we cannot interpret these passages as anything other than a moral judgment against homosexual acts, the passages are not condemning those individual persons who experience such desires!

Conclusion regarding Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: I cannot speak conclusively for Jews, but Christians have never had problems with interpreting Leviticus in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the mercy he displayed to the adulteress woman in John 8:1-11.

In New Testament theology, we are freed from obsessive concern with following the letter of the levitical law, and encouraged to follow the spirit of the law. We have always read a more symbolic meaning in the OT text pointing to the NT. We have always tempered the more obscure moral demands in light of the two great commandments: love God with your whole heart, mind and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself.

This has allowed for a development of tradition that is open to reviewing the law when it appears dehumanizing, and discarding those elements that do not express love while trying to preserve the deeper positive meaning intended by the author.

Yet, our own very recent tradition has developed more, not less, homophobic in recent history. The issue then becomes whether our traditions, as they have developed recently, are more an erroneous human tradition than they are a sacred development under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Are we imposing an anochronistic meaning on the text?

Using Leviticus to bash homosexuals does not seem consistent with a genuinely Christian attitude. The Levitical passages are ambiguous, at best, due to context and placement within the whole of Scripture.

Deuteronomy 22:5:
A woman shall not wear an article proper to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's dress; for anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, your God.
This passage does not deal with homosexuality at all. Cross-dressing is behavior that occurs among heterosexual men and women as well homosexuals. If we read this literally and anachronistically today, we might condemn all women who wear pants.

Moreover, in the context of ancient Israel, men wore robes, and women wore headcoverings. What does this mean today?

This passage is intended more broadly to address a proper respect for gender differences and the dignity of each gender, as well as moderate and appropriate dress. The passage has absolutely nothing to say to the issue of homosexuality.

Romans 1:26-27
Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another.
Paul's letter to the Romans builds the case for a theological position that would later be developed by Saint Augustine as the notion of original sin. The main thrust of chapter one is to spell out the idea that we all of humanity is entangled in a web of sin.

None of the specific issues are Paul's main point, since his main driving point is to demonstrate that each and every one of us are sinners in need a savior. The eternal verity of the passage may lie in the general principle, rather than any specific example.

Paul's main point is that we are all sinners, and only secondarily can we look at each specific example he uses to demonstrate this point. With that introduction, let us look more closely at this specific passage.

The context of much Paul's writing is the Greco-Roman world, which included cultural mores where older and married heterosexual men often took young boys as lovers.

These boys were young enough that by today's standards, any of Paul's condemnations could be directed at pedophilia or ephebophilia, rather than adult monogamous homosexuality.

In many cases, these boys were obtained through the slave trade, which violates the rule of consent in what we would consider a just use of sexual expression.

In the passage above, Paul seems to imply that such a social condition arose as a punishment for sin. Note also that the condition is a punishment in itself, rather than a punishable offense.

Another important issue is in the bolded words in the passage above. Paul is condemning freely chosen homosexuality and lesbianism.

Natural law theory would affirm that heterosexual marriage is the normative model for establishing sexuality morality.

However, we know today that some people seem to be born into a condition of homoerotic desire. Paul is condemning those with a choice, but we now know some people have homoerotic desires that are not chosen!

Even if this condition is not purely genetic, such a condition seems to form in some people before the age reason and becomes manifest in early puberty.

Self consciousness of this condition will depend on the ability of the subject to refrain from complete repression of sexual desire in an attempt to become asexual.

God certainly is not requiring that people completely repress the gift of their sexuality!

In the modern world, we are able to distinguish the difference between pedophilia (which is an abuse of power over the young person), and homosexuality (which can occur between consenting adults).

We are also able to distinguish between freely chosen and short-term homosexuality (such as seen in heterosexual prisoners or adolescent experimentation), and a permanent life-long condition that is not chosen.

Conclusions regarding Rm 1:26-7 Paul is addressing freely chosen homosexuality by a heterosexual, and most likely that type associated with pedophilia and the sex-slave trade. Who wouldn't continue to condemn a sex slave trade involving the sale of minors to married people today?

Paul sees the condition of this trade as a punishment for deeper idolatry, rather than a punishable offense itself.

However, Paul could not have conceived of or intended to address the condition of permanent homosexuality we have discovered since his day, since the concept did not exist in Paul's day.

This passage does not address people of homosexual orientation who desire life-long companionship with another adult like themselves. Paul's main point is that we are all sinners, and given all these ambiguities, it is unlikely Paul specifically is addressing the questions we are asking today.

I Corinthians 6:9-10
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor malakoi nor arsenokoites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The first highlighted word in bold (malakoi) is translated from the original Greek into English variously as weakling, effeminate, and object of male lust. The word itself is very ambiguous. In some Bibles, it is combined with the following bolded word to mean homosexual. In others, it is translated as boy prostitute. Given the Greco-Roman context, I am inclined to see forced male child prostitution as the issue here.

The second highlighted word (arsenokoites) is translated variously as sexual pervert, weak man, practicing homosexual, sodomite, or homosexual. In actual fact, this word is only found in one other place in all of ancient literature – I Timothy 1:10.

The origin of the word "aresenokeites" is "arsen"+"koite".

"Arsen" comes from "arrostos", meaning weak, sick, infirm, or invalid.

"Koite" literally means bed, but has a connotation of a conjugal bed.

Literally, the word "aresenokoites" means "weak one lying down". If we combine it with "malokai", we may have a homosexual connotation.

Literally, in its denotative sense, we would have "weaklings nor bedded invalids" ("oute" is the word for nor). One could argue that perhaps this is a condemnation of cowards or lazy people.

However, I concede that the context seems to point to something more than weak men due to illness or laziness. There is a sexual connotation that is possible. Yet, can we be certain that such a passage refers to homosexuality as we mean it today?

Conclusions regarding I Cor 6:9: This passage literally says weaklings and invalids will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps Paul is condemning lazy people?

There was a sexual connotation to both "malakoi" and "koite" in secular Greek, but no clear connotation of homosexuality.

In the historic context, it is more likely that Paul was writing concerning pedophile sex-slave trade and boy prostitution, than it is likley that he is condemning homosexuality.

Slavery and prostitution dishonor sexuality by squashing free consent and love.

This passage is very ambiguous when applied to the modern concept of homosexuality, which includes two members of the same gender freely loving one another in a mutually consensual adult monogamous relationship.

I Timothy 1: 8-11
We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers and mothers, murderers, the unchaste, arsenokoites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
We saw "aresenokoites" in our exegesis of I Corinthians 6:9 above. The word literally means a sick man lying down. Perhaps it is a lazy person if we see no sexual connotation.

We suggested above that the historic context for the use of the words in a sexual context included a world that traded in young boy prostitutes sold on the sex slave trade. This seems to be even more obvious in I Timothy 1:10, where the word "arsenokoites" is preceded by the unchaste and followed by kidnappers. It seems highly unlikely that this passage has anything to say specifically to what happens between two consenting adults who love each other.

I Thessalonians 4:3-7
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in lust and concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (Taken from the KJV)
This passage is sometimes misused to condemn homosexuality by interpreting the words "possess his vessel" as meaning that a man should keep his penis to himself, and not "...,defraud his brother."

However, the more obvious meaning of the entire passage is to avoid hetersexual adultery, and not take your neighbor's wife. The passage is not referring to adult homosexuals.

Overall Conclusions: The Bible repeats certain truths over and over again. These are the truths that should guide our lives. Even conservative evangelical Christians and fundamentalist have a saying that the primary meaning of the Bible is in the main and the plain found in the whole of scripture - not isolated verses taken out of context to form a pre-text.

Every book of the Bible tells us that God loves us with an infinite love, and that his love should inspire us to love him above all things and our neighbors as ourselves. All moral codes are based on loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Persons struggling with homosexual desire often are the most devout among us, and turn to religion to try to find healing from these uncomfortable desires. Others who suffer with this condition often leave religion in anger, frustration, and bitterness.

Islam has very little to say about homosexuality in the Qur'an. Christianity and Judaism have only a handful of ambiguous texts at best.

The Gospels do not mention homosexuality at all.

The number of passages referring to homosexuality in the entire Bible (I think I've hit them all above) is miniscule compared to condemnations of idolatry, oppression of the poor, heterosexual adultery, murder, bribery, unfair business practices, drunkenness, inequity, and other forms of social injustice or personal sin.

Jesus taught the Christian to treat people with love and compassion, and to temper all justice with mercy and forgiveness.

In this light, I believe that a complete review and reinterpretation of the Christian tradition on homosexuality is in order.

Perhaps we can restore the rite of adelphopoiesis as a way of recognizing same gender love today, and such unions would bear witness to the strength of non-biological brotherly or sisterly love within the Church.

To date, the teaching authority in the Vatican does not seem to fully agree with me, but there are indications of some confusion even among members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. When the Catechism of the Catholic Church was first published, paragraph 2358 read as follows:
The number of men and women who have deeply-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is 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.
I believe this statement in the CCC was a superb progressive step for the Church in recognizing the moral demand upon believers to treat persons with a homosexual condition with the compassion and dignity Christ demands.

Unfortunately, the Vatican has decided to change the language of the paragraph in such a way that conservatives are lead to believe that homosexuality is a deliberate and disordered choice. The same paragraph now reads:
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.
I believe that this change in Church doctrine was not helpful to those in the Catholic community who struggle homosexual desires, nor to those who deal with the homosexual community outside of the Church.

I know from my own personal experience in seminary training that many of the Church's finest priests are persons with a homosexual orientation. It almost seems cruel to its own that the Vatican would change the language in such a way as to imply that the orientation itself is a moral disorder.

Yet, truth does not change. If people experience the homosexual condition due to factors that lie largely outside of the realm of human freedom and choice, we must love and accept the person with a homosexual orientation as they are.

Restoration of the rite of making siblings and condemning unjust discrimination would be steps that appear to me to be in the right direction.

May the Mother of God intercede for me if I am in error.

The weakness of my argument is simply that I argue much from ambiguity and silence where the historic Christian faith, though sparse in references, seems to militate against my interpretation, especially since the fourteenth century culminating in a rash of homophobia in the twentieth century.

There are those who will say I am building a case of "special pleading", but I do not understand how they can be so certain.

Furthermore, while the argument of historic precedent may carry some weight with Roman Catholics, who believe in the concept of Sacred Tradition, it should not carry nearly as much weight with Protestants.

Regarding an argument from tradition, Catholics should also bear in mind that no infallible rulings have been made by Popes or Councils.

The bulk of Christianity should accept that the Bible is quite ambiguous about adult homosexuality. There are more passages supporting slavery than there pasages ambiguously referring to homosexuality.

Note that I am not arguing for a sexual free-for-all.

The moral principles I outline above would condemn rape, adultery, easy divorce, pedophilia, ephebophilia, heterosexuals acting out homosexually in experimentation, prostitution, bestiality and so forth. Sexuality must be expressed in a committed monogamous relationship between consenting adults with an openess to raising children.

Yet, my theology treats people who are simply different due to circumstances beyond their control with dignity, mercy, and respect. In this sense, it feels right without violating intellectual principles of orthodox theology.

I allow for the possibility of a non sacramental but powerful church blessing on same gender love, and those who join in such a partnership may be like infertile couples who may chose to adopt. In civil law, this union would be recognized as similar to marriage in the equality of rights and benefits.

Peace and Blessings!
J. Cecil


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