Who Says Homosexual Activity Is Wrong?
Saints and Doctors of the Church on the sin of Sodom
We often hear homosexual activists argue that there’s nothing in the Bible that condemns homosexuality. Of course, they need to twist crystal clear passages from both the Old and New Testaments to claim they refer to a lack of hospitality rather than same-sex lust.
For millennia the Catholic Church has consistently opposed unnatural vice. Here is a brief sampling of useful quotes from Saints, Doctors of the Church, Church Fathers and ecclesiastical writers who condemn homosexual vice in their writings.
1. Athenagoras of Athens (Second Century)
Athenagoras of Athens was a philosopher who converted to Christianity in the second century. He shows that the pagans, who were totally immoral, did not even refrain from sins against nature:
But though such is our character (Oh! why should I speak of things unfit to be uttered?), the things said of us are an example of the proverb, “The harlot reproves the chaste.” For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure — who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonoring the fair workmanship of God.
Tertullian was a great genius and apologist of the early Church. Unfortunately, after an initial period of fervor, he succumbed to resentment and pride, left the Church and adhered to the Montanist heresy. Because of works written while still in the Church, he is considered an ecclesiastical writer and, as such, is commonly quoted by popes and theologians. His treatise On Modesty is an apology of Christian chastity. He clearly shows the horror the Church has for sins against nature. After condemning adultery, he exclaims:
But all the other frenzies of passions — impious both toward the bodies and toward the sexes — beyond the laws of nature, we banish not only from the threshold, but from all shelter of the Church, because they are not sins, but monstrosities.
Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine and the “Father of Church History,” writes in his book, Demonstratio Evangelica: “[God in the Law given to Moses] having forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men.”
4. Saint Jerome (340–420)
Saint Jerome is both Father and Doctor of the Church. He was also a notable exegete and great polemicist. In his book Against Jovinianus, he explains how a sodomite needs repentance and penance to be saved: “And Sodom and Gomorrah might have appeased it [God’s wrath], had they been willing to repent, and through the aid of fasting gain for themselves tears of repentance.”
5. Saint John Chrysostom (347–407)
Saint John Chrysostom is considered the greatest of the Greek Fathers and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church. He was archbishop and patriarch of Constantinople, and his revision of the Greek liturgy is used until today. In his sermons about Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he dwells on the gravity of the sin of homosexuality:
But if thou scoffest at hearing of Hell and believest not that fire, remember Sodom. For we have seen, surely we have seen, even in this present life, a semblance of Hell. For since many would utterly disbelieve the things to come after the resurrection, hearing now of an unquenchable fire, God brings them to a right mind by things present. For such is the burning of Sodom, and that conflagration!
Consider how great is that sin, to have forced Hell to appear even before its time! … For that rain was unwonted, for the intercourse was contrary to nature, and it deluged the land, since lust had done so with their souls. Wherefore also the rain was the opposite of the customary rain. Now not only did it fail to stir up the womb of the earth to the production of fruits, but made it even useless for the reception of seed. For such was also the intercourse of the men, making a body of this sort more worthless than the very land of Sodom. And what is there more detestable than a man who hath pandered himself, or what more execrable?
The greatest of the Fathers of the West and one of the great Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine laid the foundations of Catholic theology. In his celebrated Confessions, he thus condemns homosexuality:
Those offenses which be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which hath not so made men that they should in that way abuse one another. For even that fellowship which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature of which He is author is polluted by the perversity of lust.
Pope Saint Gregory I is called “the Great.” He is both Father and Doctor of the Church. He introduced Gregorian chant into the Church. He organized England’s conversion, sending St. Augustine of Canterbury and many Benedictine monks there.
Sacred Scripture itself confirms that sulfur evokes the stench of the flesh, as it speaks of the rain of fire and sulfur poured upon Sodom by the Lord. He had decided to punish Sodom for the crimes of the flesh, and the very type of punishment he chose emphasized the shame of that crime. For sulfur stinks, and fire burns. So it was just that Sodomites, burning with perverse desires arising from the flesh like stench, should perish by fire and sulfur so that through this just punishment they would realize the evil they had committed, led by a perverse desire.
Doctor of the Church, cardinal and a great reformer of the clergy, St. Peter Damian wrote his famousBook of Gomorrah against the inroads made by homosexuality among the clergy. He describes not only the iniquity of homosexuality, but also its psychological and moral consequences:
Truly, this vice is never to be compared with any other vice because it surpasses the enormity of all vices.… It defiles everything, stains everything, pollutes everything. And as for itself, it permits nothing pure, nothing clean, nothing other than filth. …
The miserable flesh burns with the heat of lust; the cold mind trembles with the rancor of suspicion; and in the heart of the miserable man chaos boils like Tartarus [Hell]. … In fact, after this most poisonous serpent once sinks its fangs into the unhappy soul, sense is snatched away, memory is borne off, the sharpness of the mind is obscured. It becomes unmindful of God and even forgetful of itself. This plague undermines the foundation of faith, weakens the strength of hope, destroys the bond of charity; it takes away justice, subverts fortitude, banishes temperance, blunts the keenness of prudence.
And what more should I say since it expels the whole host of the virtues from the chamber of the human heart and introduces every barbarous vice as if the bolts of the doors were pulled out.
Commenting upon St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1:26–27), St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, explains why the sin of homosexuality is so grave:
Given the sin of impiety through which they [the Romans] sinned against the divine nature [by idolatry], the punishment that led them to sin against their own nature followed. … I say, therefore, that since they changed into lies [by idolatry] the truth about God, He brought them to ignominious passions, that is, to sins against nature — not that God led them to evil, but only that He abandoned them to evil. …
If all the sins of the flesh are worthy of condemnation because by them man allows himself to be dominated by that which he has of the animal nature, much more deserving of condemnation are the sins against nature by which man degrades his own animal nature. …
Man can sin against nature in two ways. First, when he sins against his specific rational nature, acting contrary to reason. In this sense, we can say that every sin is a sin against man’s nature, because it is against man’s right reason. …
Secondly, man sins against nature when he goes against his generic nature, that is to say, his animal nature. Now, it is evident that, in accord with natural order, the union of the sexes among animals is ordered towards conception. From this it follows that every sexual intercourse that cannot lead to conception is opposed to man’s animal nature.
Saint Catherine, a great mystic and Doctor of the Church, lived in troubled times. The papacy was in exile at Avignon, France. She was instrumental in bringing the popes back to Rome. Her famous Dialogues are written as if dictated by God Himself:
But they act in a contrary way, for they come full of impurity to this mystery, and not only of that impurity to which, through the fragility of your weak nature, you are all naturally inclined (although reason, when free will permits, can quiet the rebellion of nature), but these wretches not only do not bridle this fragility, but do worse, committing that accursed sin against nature, and as blind and fools, with the light of their intellect darkened, they do not know the stench and misery in which they are. It is not only that this sin stinks before Me, who am the Supreme and Eternal Truth, it does indeed displease Me so much and I hold it in such abomination that for it alone I buried five cities by a divine judgment, My divine justice being no longer able to endure it. This sin not only displeases Me as I have said, but also the devils whom these wretches have made their masters. Not that the evil displeases them because they like anything good, but because their nature was originally angelic, and their angelic nature causes them to loathe the sight of the actual commission of this enormous sin.
Saint Bernardine of Siena was a famous preacher, celebrated for his doctrine and holiness. Regarding homosexuality, he stated:
No sin in the world grips the soul as the accursed sodomy; this sin has always been detested by all those who live according to God. … Deviant passion is close to madness; this vice disturbs the intellect, destroys elevation and generosity of soul, brings the mind down from great thoughts to the lowliest, makes the person slothful, irascible, obstinate and obdurate, servile and soft and incapable of anything; furthermore, agitated by an insatiable craving for pleasure, the person follows not reason but frenzy. … They become blind and, when their thoughts should soar to high and great things, they are broken down and reduced to vile and useless and putrid things, which could never make them happy. … Just as people participate in the glory of God in different degrees, so also in hell some suffer more than others. He who lived with this vice of sodomy suffers more than another, for this is the greatest sin.
Saint Peter Canisius, Jesuit and Doctor of the Church, is responsible for helping one third of Germany abandon Lutheranism and return to the Church. To Scripture’s condemnation of homosexuality, he added his own:
As the Sacred Scripture says, the Sodomites were wicked and exceedingly sinful. Saint Peter and St. Paul condemn this nefarious and depraved sin. In fact, the Scripture denounces this enormous indecency thus: “The scandal of Sodomites and Gomorrhans has multiplied and their sins have become grave beyond measure.” So the angels said to just Lot, who totally abhorred the depravity of the Sodomites: “Let us leave this city. …” Holy Scripture does not fail to mention the causes that led the Sodomites, and can also lead others, to this most grievous sin. In fact, in Ezechiel we read: “Behold this was the iniquity of Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance, and the idleness of her, and of her daughters: and they did not put forth their hand to the needy, and the poor. And they were lifted up, and committed abominations before me; and I took them away as thou hast seen” (Ezek. 16:49–50). Those unashamed of violating divine and natural law are slaves of this never sufficiently execrated depravity.