daily biblical sermons

Does the Catholic Church now accept same-sex civil unions?
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 29th Week of the Year, October 22, 2020
Ephesians 3:14-21, Psalm 32, Luke 12:49-53

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49-53).



In this reading we see that the peace on earth that the angels sang over the plains of Bethlehem at Jesus birth is not something that will come right away. In fact, two thousand years have passed since his birth, and this magnificent prophecy about peace on earth that Christ would bring has still not come to fulfillment, except among those that have accepted Christ and his teachings. Jesus warns us today that this indeed will be the case so that we are not overly discouraged when we find that the Christian faith itself is precisely what in many cases causes division among people.



Jesus says today that he will not bring peace on earth, but rather division within the family itself, the father against his son, and the son against his father; the mother against her daughter, and the daughter against her mother, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51).



This will happen because those that believe in Christ will come into conflict with those that do not accept him and his teachings. They will be bitterly opposed to one another. Those that accept his moral teachings, for example, will be bitterly opposed by those that reject them and are in love with their sinful way of life and feel that Christianity is condemning them for their favorite sins.



“Wherever there are hearers of the Gospel who are hardened, impenitent, and determined to have their sins – the very message of peace, becomes the cause of division! Those who live after the flesh – will hate those who live after the Spirit. Those who are resolved to live for the world – will always act wickedly towards those who are resolved to serve Christ” (JC Ryle, 1858).



A good example of this is what happened just yesterday (October 21, 2020) in Rome, where it was announced at a film festival that a new documentary film about the life of Pope Francis has just come out, and in this film Pope Francis says, “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.” He also says, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they [homosexuals] are legally covered, I stood up for that” (LifeSiteNews October 21, 2020).



As you can well imagine, a statement like this from the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, in a new popular film has caused tremendous division throughout the Church and the world. The secular press is applauding it as a great step forward by the Catholic Church, a marvelous 180° turnabout from its previous medieval, old-fashioned teaching. The Church, they are saying, has finally brought itself up to date with the modern world, where it should be, and is rightly casting off old, out of date traditions.



But faithful Catholics are seeing this in a quite different way. For example, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island (not to be confused with the pro-homosexual Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey) stated, “The Holy Father’s apparent support for the recognition of civil unions for same-sex couples needs to be clarified. The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions. The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships. Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human rights and civil rights recognized and protected by law. However, the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible” (LifeSiteNews).



In the same vein Archbishop Vigano, the former papal nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, said, “One does not have to be a theologian or moral expert to know that such statements are totally heterodox and constitute a very serious cause of scandal for the faithful.” He then goes on to say, “We are called to side with those who defend life, the natural family, and national sovereignty. We thought that we had the Vicar of Christ at our side. We painfully acknowledge that, in this epochal clash, he who ought to be guiding the Barque of Peter has chosen to side with the Enemy, in order to sink it” (LifeSiteNews).



So, what is happening here? Division. Who is causing the division? Jesus Christ and his teachings. And what is God’s teaching on this topic? That we find in Sacred Scripture. That question is clear and easy to answer. Numerous scriptural texts condemn homosexual actions as gravely sinful and as abominations before God, for they are a perversion of the God-given gift of human sexuality.



People with a same-sex attraction, of course, must be treated with kindness and human respect, but this should not lead us into the error of denying our faith which is based on the Scriptures, the word of God, which is divine revelation, which in no uncertain terms condemns homosexual actions. So, while loving the sinner, we must hate and oppose the sin for the good of everyone, first of all for the good of those who suffer from the disorder of same-sex attraction to help them see the light, repent and reform their life, and bring it into alignment with the word of God. We must also hate and oppose the sin of homosexual acts for the good of society.



St. Paul says that homosexual acts are the punishment of God for the sin of idolatry. Since the pagans worshiped creatures rather than the creator, God punished them by giving them up to the evil passions of homosexual behavior, “For this reason [because of their idolatry] 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).



So, what is St. Paul saying? He saying that these homosexual acts are “dishonorable passions,” which are against nature, “Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural” (Romans 1:26). So homosexual acts, according to the word of God, are “unnatural,” that is, against nature. Then St. Paul goes on to tell us, “Men [were] committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27). In other words, St. Paul calls homosexual acts “shameless” (in Greek aschemosynen, meaning indecent or indecency). So divine revelation in the word of God, in the New Testament, sees these homosexual actions not as a blessed expression of human love, which they would have been if they were conducted between a man and a woman within the bond of matrimony, but as indecent, unnatural acts, and dishonorable passions. In other words, they are depraved acts of sexual perversion that pervert God’s plan for human sexuality and so are offensive to him and gravely sinful.



So how is it possible to approve of a relationship that is entered into for the express purpose of committing perverted homosexual acts that are gravely sinful and offensive to God? Such relationships might be tolerated, but certainly not approved of and given protected legal status, for to do so is to say something is good, protected, and cherished, which God himself tells us in his revealed word is the exact opposite. God calls them shameful, indecent, unnatural, and dishonorable acts of sexual perversion. No faithful Christian or Catholic can accept such a relationship as good.



So, what do we do with this statement that the Pope released yesterday? First of all, we note that it is not an infallible statement. He expressed no intention to say something using his power of infallibility. Secondly, is not a magisterial statement, for such statements are released in apostolic exhortations, encyclicals, or other known forms of expressing papal magisterium. It is simply an oral statement in a documentary film about his life. If you go online, you can watch and hear him say it.



Even if this were a magisterial statement in a proper magisterial document, it would still not be authentic magisterium, nor would it bind anyone, because it does not possess the qualities of authentic magisterium, namely that it never contradict Scripture or the unbroken Tradition of the Church on this topic. But this statement contradicts both Scripture and Tradition. Therefore, it could never be authentic magisterium. No one is bound by it.



So, what should our response be to this statement? It should be opposition to a mistaken opinion verbally stated in a documentary film which is contrary to God’s moral law as stated in divine revelation in Romans 1:26-27 and in other biblical texts both in the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) and is contrary to previous authentic magisterium. Even NBC news was quick to point out that this new teaching is a break from the Church’s traditional teaching.



As faithful Catholics, we must continue to believe what we have always believed and what the Scriptures clearly teach us as God’s revealed will and plan, namely that homosexual activity is intrinsically evil and can never be approved of. It is therefore the obligation of faithful Christians and Catholics to reject any teaching that approves of homosexual actions or homosexual relationships, no matter who it is that is teaching it, and to seek to refute it with reasoned arguments and arguments based on divine revelation and the Tradition of the Catholic Church. No human being, not even a Pope, has the authority to change this teaching.



Official Catholic teaching on this topic has in no way been changed by this verbal expression in a documentary film. The official teaching of the Catholic Church on this topic is stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “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 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).

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