We live in a place and time where the moral law of God is being watered down by a society that wants all “truth” to be relative. A society that seeks to suggest immoral behavior is really not immoral. And in fact, tries to make the case for it being okay. One of the biggest issues facing American society today with regards to this is homosexuality. So, for a Christian, how would one answer the question posed in the title of this blog post? With all the talk these days about calling the union of two people of the same sex “marriage,” it begs an answer. Jesus is never recorded in Sacred Scripture as mentioning homosexuality, same sex attraction or the gay lifestyle. Because of this, the question sometimes asked by those who accept and promote this lifestyle, claim that Jesus is okay with it. But would they be correct in their reasoning on this subject?
Well for one thing, in first century Palestine, homosexuality was not a pressing issue. Jesus spoke to the main issues of His day, and this topic wasn’t high on the priority list. The topic would have been considered taboo back then and the people would have been shocked and embarrassed to speak of such things.
Also, only a very minuscule amount of Jesus’ words were ever written down. St. John says; “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name (Jn. 20:30-31).” Because we have so few of His words recorded, we cannot say one way or the other if He actually verbally condemned such behavior. But, we could say the same thing about abortion (another topic that was a non-issue in Jesus’ time), yet Jesus would have roundly condemned that behavior. Jesus never mentioned many issues that were immoral, but that doesn’t mean it would be alright to practice them today.
The one thing we do know about Jesus is that He was not a pagan, but a Hebrew Jew. Because of this, He obeyed the Law of Moses completely. And since He is also God, the second person of the Trinity, He gave that Moral Law to the Jews. He didn’t come therefore to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it; “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 15:17-19).”
Jesus upheld the Law and even made it more stringent. So, what does the Law say about homosexuality? “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22).” The reason for this Law was because the pagans practiced such sexual deviations. If we look at the next passage in Leviticus, we see that God puts the homosexual act in the same category as incest and bestiality. The punishment was death. “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is wickedness; they shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. If a man lies with a beast, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the beast. If a woman approaches any beast and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them (Leviticus 20:13-16).” Since Jesus was an obedient Jew, we can safely say that no rational person would suggest that Jesus would say that the acts of homosexuality, incest or bestiality is not sinful.
With regards to homosexuality, the Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law. Homosexual desires, however, are not in themselves sinful. It is not sinful to have homosexual inclinations, but would only be a sin if one acted on those inclinations. The same would be true with regards to improper heterosexual desires. A person is not sinning until they act upon those desires in some manner.
Some might be wondering if the sin of homosexuality in the Old Testament is still relevant today. One might bring up the fact that some things that were not permitted in the Old Testament is now permitted today. Things such as following the hand washing rules, eating pork and shellfish, or needing male circumcision. Just because some of the ceremonial requirements are no longer binding, its moral requirements are.
In the New Testament, while speaking to the guilt of mankind, St. Paul says, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Romans 1:26-27).” In his first letter to the Christians in Corinthian, he says: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God… (1 Cor 6:9-10)”
The Catholic Church teaches: “Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2357).
Jesus loved the sinner without condoning the sin. Knowing that those persons with homosexual inclinations are carrying a big cross, we as Catholics and Christians are called to love and cherish every person no matter what their sexual orientation or conduct.
Until next time, God bless.