That sin of Sodom which cries out to heaven
François Elluin, The inhabitants of Sodom provoke the divine wrath, engraving for the libertine work "Le pot pourri de Loth," 1781.
The congregation for the doctrine of the faith reprints as-is the 1986 letter on homosexuality, precisely as various governments are legalizing gay unions. The commentaries of Ratzinger and Cardinal Biffi ...
VATICAN CITY, May 18, 2102 – The congregation for the doctrine of the faith is more engaged than ever before in expanding the range of distribution of its own magisterial production.
Not only has it inaugurated a new website full of documents:
> Vatican Diary / The Holy Office at the click of a mouse
It has also given a mandate to Libreria Editrice Vaticana to reprint those volumes of its series "Documenti e studi" which had sold out and were therefore unavailable in stores.
The series, born in 1985, has the stated aim of "collecting in separate volumes the bilingual text of the major documents issued by the congregation, together with an introduction by the cardinal prefect that represents their teaching in the current context, and with commentaries that illustrate their main themes."
In this way, the congregation wants "to fulfill its twofold duty to promote and protect Catholic doctrine, especially on fundamental and controversial points."
The series was also born to "correspond to a desire" expressed by John Paul II: that of establishing "a trustful and constructive dialogue between the Roman curia, an organism at the service of the ministry of the successor of Peter, and those – bishops, priests, faithful, and theologians – who are bound, although to varying degrees, to explore the teaching of the Church."
The first volumes that have been reprinted, with new covers, are those concerning:
- the "Declaration on procured abortion" of 1974 (no. 3 of the series, published in 1998);
- current topics of eschatology (no. 5, 2000);
- the instruction "Donum Vitae" of 1987 (no. 12, 1990);
- the letter "Communionis Notio" of 1992 (no. 15, 1994);
- the "Considerations on the primacy of the successor of Peter in the mystery of the Church" of 1998 (no. 19, 2002).
But in addition to these, another booklet has again been published that is of particular relevance.
It is the one dedicated to the pastoral care of homosexual persons (no. 11 of the series), published for the first time in 1995 and containing the letter on pastoral care for homosexual persons signed on October 1, 1986 by the prefect and secretary at the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Albertone Bovone, after John Paul II had approved it and ordered its publication.
This document is relevant because never before as in recent months has the question of homosexuality been at the center of disputes and controversies that have involved the Catholic Church. With positions that are not unanimous even at the highest level of the hierarchy.
It should be enough to recall the recent decision in Austria of the cardinal of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, to approve, in spite of the contrary opinion of the pastor, the election as member of a pastoral council of a homosexual cohabiting in a union recognized by the city government, and manifestly not repentant – but rather proud – of his behavior.
Or the vigorous disagreement manifested a few days ago by the cardinal of New York, Timothy Dolan, against the public support given by President Barack Obama to the legalization of so-called "gay marriage."
The move by Obama was all the more striking in that it came immediately after a referendum in the state of North Carolina in which the citizens voted into the constitution the classical definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman: a definition for the support of which the field had been taken, at the age of 93, even by the charismatic evangelical leader Billy Graham, to whom Obama had gone in "pilgrimage" to receive his advice in April of 2010, continuing a presidential tradition inaugurated by Dwight Eisenhower.
In North Carolina, the constitutional definition of traditional marriage was supported by 61 percent of the voters, with more than 1.3 million votes, and opposed by 39 percent, with about 832,000 votes, even though the promoters of the amendment were able to scrape together just barely more than half of the funds raised by its adversaries: less than 1.2 million dollars against more than 2.3 million.
In the same days, and with the same proportion of 61 percent, the Methodist convention meeting in Tampa, Florida reiterated the traditional teaching of this Protestant confession, which defines homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian doctrine."
A pronouncement in contrast with other historical Protestant denominations of the United States – the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans – that in recent years have voted in favor of the admission of openly gay pastors.
Returning to the 1986 letter of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, the tendency in it is to correct a permissive interpretation on homosexuality that was given by a previous "Declaration on some questions of sexual ethics," published by the same congregation in 1975.
The new document establishes that the homosexual "inclination" itself "must be seen as an objective disorder." And "therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option."
The 1986 letter warns that there is "there is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws," in such a way as to make it conform to "pressure groups" according to which "homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing."
In the presentation of the 1986 letter written by then-cardinal Ratzinger in 1995 – reproduced in part further below – it is explained that this was conceived precisely because "ways of thinking were being spread more and more that brought sound doctrine on homosexuality into question and made more difficult the pastoral care of homosexual persons."
And "the influence of such currents," the prefect of the congregation noted seventeen years ago," has not diminished" after the publication of the document. On the contrary, it has continued to grow, "above all in the United States of America and in Europe," to the point of confirming even more "the relevance of the letter."
A relevance that has never been lacking, so much so that Libreria Editrice Vaticana has now republished the 1995 booklet without further commentary.
Among the commentaries republished is that of Jesuit Father Maurice Gilbert, a prominent biblicist, who highlights the fact that in the New Testament, Saint Paul "declares that homosexuality is incompatible with an authentic Christian life," thereby reiterating a teaching "in conformity with and also in reference to that of the Old Testament."
With the verve that sets him apart, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi has also come back to this issue recently, taking a dig at those who love to fill their mouths with citations from the Sacred Scriptures but intentionally forget the words of Saint Paul about homosexuality.
The elderly but still lively Cardinal Biffi – see his text below – does not mention any names.
But recently, for example in the book "Credere e conoscere" written by Senator Ignazio Marino and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini – of which the page dedicated to homosexuality was previewed for the readers of "L'Espresso" and "Corriere della Sera" – the Jesuit cardinal, a renowned biblicist, makes no reference to what Saint Paul says on the topic.
In reality, the Church has always considered homosexuality among the most serious sins, while still maintaining the distinction between sin and sinner, the former always to be condemned and the latter always to be treated with mercy.
In the famous Catechismo Maggiore of Saint Pius X published in 1905, in the answer to question 966, homosexuality is the second of the four "sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance": "voluntary homicide"; the "impure sin against the order of nature"; the "oppression of the poor"; "defrauding a laborer of his just wage."
And the new Catechism of the Catholic Church published in 1992 and in edizione tipica in 1997 does no less.
In paragraph 1867 it reiterates that "The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are 'sins that cry to heaven'":
And it continues, in biblical language:
"The blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner."
The 1986 letter of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith on pastoral care for homosexual persons:
> "Homosexualitatis problema"
JOSEPH RATZINGER: "EVERYTHING STARTED WITH THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION"
(From the introduction to: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ""Lettera sulla cura pastorale delle persone omosessuali, 1 ottobre 1986. Testo e commenti," Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1995/2012)
It is no coincidence that the spread and growing social acceptance of homosexuality should be accompanied by a serious crisis in the area of marriage and the family, by a widespread mentality hostile toward life as also by a frightening sexual freedom.
Without wanting to contest the plurality of causes of this phenomenon, it can be said that at its root is a "new" and completely transformed understanding of human sexuality.
The "sexual revolution" unleashed in the 1960's was intended to "free" human sexuality from the straightjacket of traditional morality. It began to sing the praises of sexuality as a simple consumer good and means for obtaining pleasure. The satisfaction of the sexual impulse was propagandized as the way to happiness and to the true development of the personality. Values like self-control and chastity were accepted less and less. Many maintained that sexual continence was unnatural and unlivable. Others in turn sought to transfer human sexuality completely into the realm of the "private" and the "subjective": if two persons love each other and want to express this in the language of love, why should they be prevented from doing so?
Subsequently the exercise of sexuality was detached more and more from marriage, and above all with the global spread of contraception, from procreation. It was asserted that the "old" understanding of sexuality corresponded to another culture, which in the meantime had been transformed.
Even the biblical affirmations had to be considered in the context of the time and situation back then, and could not be understood as "atemporal" moral truths. This applied in particular to the passages in which the Bible speaks of homosexual practices.
The traditional argument, according to which sexual behavior is immoral if it contradicts the "nature" of man, was abandoned. What is "natural" or "unnatural" would also always depend on the respective culture and subjective sensibility of a people. And moreover, homosexuality could also be found in nature. Many designated the different abnormal forms of sexuality, including homosexuality, as simple "variations" of nature, which should be accepted and approved: just as there are persons with black, white, or red skin, just as some use their right hands and others their left, so also many would have a disposition to heterosexual love, others to homosexual love.
Behind these and similar ideas is concealed a central problem of morality: what is the nature of human sexuality? Or more in general: what is the nature of man? And when does an act correspond to this nature?
If the concept of nature, as in the approaches mentioned above, is understood only in a physical-empirical way, in fact it is not possible to reach a univocal judgment on the moral value of an act that would transcend the different cultures.
The concept of nature, which underlies the whole of tradition and also the magisterial pronouncements of the Church (cf. "Veritatis Splendor," nos. 46-53), is nevertheless not of a physical character, but metaphysical: an act has been and is considered as natural when it is in harmony with the essence of man, with his being as intended by God. On the basis of this being, which shines in the order of creation – and is reinforced by revelation – reason can deduce the imperative of duty, above all if it is illuminated by faith. In nature, or rather in creation, man can recognize a "logos," a meaning and purpose, which leads him to true self-realization and to his happiness, and which ultimately is founded in the will of God.
In the loss of this metaphysical conception of nature, which is accompanied by an almost total abandonment of the theology of creation, is to be sought one of the main causes of the moral crisis of our days.
If human duty, in fact, is no longer seen as anchored in the being and therefore in the wisdom of the creator, there remains only the alternative that is derived from human wisdom. But then it is the work of man, subjected to the change of time, able to be reshaped and manipulated. Good and evil, then, would ultimately be decided by the majority. Then "pressure groups," which are able to guide mass opinion, have great prospects of success.
The Church cannot, in a magisterial pronouncement, give an answer to all the basic questions mentioned above. Since in any case ways of thinking were being spread more and more that brought sound doctrine on homosexuality into question and made more diffiicult the pastoral care of homosexual persons
In the years after the publication of this letter, the influence of the currents mentioned above has not diminished. In public opinion, homosexual behavior seems to be substantially accepted already. The pressure of some groups, which are asking for legal equivalence for the forms of homosexual life with the traditional form of marriage, is becoming ever larger in various states, above all in the United States of America and in Europe. Such attempts demonstrate the relevance of the letter.
GIACOMO BIFFI: "I AM WITH PAUL, AND ANYONE WHO CENSURES HIM IS A COWARD"
(From: G. Biffi, "Memorie e digressioni di un italiano cardinale", new expanded edition, Cantagalli, Siena, 2010, pp. 609-612)
Regarding the problem of homosexuality that is emerging today, the Christian conception tells us that one must always distinguish the respect due to persons, which involves rejecting any marginalization of them in society and politics (except for the unalterable nature of marriage and the family), from the rejection of any exalted "ideology of homosexuality," which is obligatory.
The word of God, as we know it in a page of the letter to the Romans by the apostle Paul, offers us on the contrary a theological interpretation of the rampant cultural aberration in this matter: such an aberration – the sacred text affirms – is at the same time the proof and the result of the exclusion of God from the collective attention and from social life, and of the refusal to give him the glory that he is due (cf. Romans 1:21).
The exclusion of the Creator determines a universal derailing of reason: "They became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22). The result of this intellectual blindness was a fall, in both theory and practice, into the most complete dissoluteness: "Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies" (Romans 1:24).
And to prevent any misunderstanding and any accommodating interpretation, the apostle proceeds with a startling analysis, formulated in perfectly explicit terms:
"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. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper" (Romans 1:26-28).
Finally, Paul takes pains to observe that the greatest abjection takes place when "the authors of these things . . . not only do them but give approval to those who practice them" (cf. Romans 1:32).
It is a page of the inspired book, which no earthly authority can force us to censor. Nor are we permitted, if we want to be faithful to the word of God, the pusillanimity of passing over it in silence out of concern not to appear "politically incorrect."
We must on the contrary point out the singular interest for our days of this teaching of Revelation: what St. Paul revealed as taking place in the Greco-Roman world is shown to correspond prophetically to what has taken place in Western culture in these last centuries. The exclusion of the Creator – to the point of proclaiming grotesquely, a few decades ago, the "death of God" – has had the result (almost like an intrinsic punishment) of the spread of an aberrant view of sexuality, unknown (in its arrogance) to previous eras.
The ideology of homosexuality – as often happens to ideologies when they become aggressive and end up being politically triumphant – becomes a threat to our legitimate autonomy of thought: those who do not share it risk condemnation to a kind of cultural and social marginalization.
The attacks on freedom of thought start with language. Those who do not resign themselves to accept "homophilia" (the theoretical appreciation of homosexual relations) are charged with "homophobia" (etymologically, the "fear of homosexuality"). This must be very clear: those who are made strong by the inspired word and live in the "fear of God" are not afraid of anything, except perhaps the stupidity toward which, Bonhoeffer said, we are defenseless. We are now even charged sometimes with the incredibly arbitrary accusation of "racism": a word that, among other things, has nothing to do with this issue, and in any case is completely extraneous to our doctrine and our history.
The essential problem that presents itself is this: is it still permitted in our days to be faithful and consistent disciples of the teaching of Christ (which for millennia has inspired and enriched the whole of Western civilization), or must we prepare ourselves for a new form of persecution, promoted by homosexual activists, by their ideological accomplices, and even by those whose task it should be to defend the intellectual freedom of all, including Christians?
There is one question that we ask in particular of the theologians, biblicists, and pastoralists. Why on earth, in this climate of almost obsessive exaltation of Sacred Scripture, is the Pauline passage of Romans 1:21-32 never cited by anyone? Why on earth is there not a little more concern to make it known to believers and nonbelievers, in spite of its evident timeliness?
(s.m.) That the unmistakeable condemnation of homosexuality made by Saint Paul in the letter to the Romans should create havoc not only in the Catholic Church but also in other Christian confessions is proven – among other things – by the dispute underway among the Waldensians, the best known and most lively of the "historical" Protestant communities present in Italy.
In 2010, their annual synod approved the nuptial blessing of homosexual couples "where the local church has reached a mature and respectful consensus."
After this, in the following months some pastors effectively blessed weddings between men and between women. Supporting them was the pastor Maria Bonafede, who holds the highest position in the community, that of moderator of the Waldensian Tavola.
But the opponents of homosexual marriage were also seasoned. They published a manifesto of opposition. And taking the field in their support was the most famous, authoritative, and esteemed of the Waldensian biblicists, the pastor Paolo Ricca.
In June of 2011, in the official Waldensian weekly "Riforma," Ricca wrote that by giving approval to the blessing of homosexual couples, the synod had made a decision "praeter Scripturam," outside of Scripture. And he cited Saint Paul from the letter to the Romans, the same one cited by Cardinal Biffi in the passage reproduced above.
That of going outside of Scripture is the most scorching of accusations, for a Protestant. But the leadership of Waldensian pastors and theologians replied to Ricca that Saint Paul must not be taken literally, but interpreted in the "context" of his time, influenced by prejudices of a "patriarchal stamp" and of "ethnic-religious disdain" unacceptable today. . . .
The dispute continues. For the details, see on the blog "Settimo cielo":
> Matrimoni gay in casa valdese. Ed è subito divorzio
The memorable reflection of Benedict XVI on the sin of Sodom and on the mercy of God, at the general audience of May 18, 2011:
> The Ten Just Men Who Did Not Save Sodom and Gomorrah
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.