Robert J. Willis, Ph.D.
Prejudice mars the history of Christianity. Finding some clue in the old or new testaments, Church authority developed a united stance against outsiders. Initiated by sermons and letters of the Post-Apostolic Fathers, theologians followed suit. Then, as the hierarchical structure of the Church coalesced, papal letters and local councils of bishops reinforced a solidifying position. In such manner the teaching magisterium gave birth to Tradition. Consider two instances of this process.
Christians and Jews
According to the Gospels, Jewish leaders conspired to murder Jesus. After his death, they persecuted his followers by informing the Roman authorities of this heretical religion.
By the middle of the 2nd Century, the Jewish People, not just its high priests, had become the murderers of God. In an Easter sermon, Melito, bishop of Sardis in Asia Minor, eloquently condemned Israel:
This is He who was put to death. And where was He put to death? In the midst of Jerusalem. By whom? By Israel: because He cured their lame, and cleansed their lepers, and gave light to their blind, and raised their dead! This was the cause of His death. Thou, O Israel, wast giving commands, and He was being crucified; thou wast rejoicing, and He was being buried; thou wast reclining on a soft couch, and He was watching in the grave and the shroud. O Israel, transgressor of the law, why hast thou committed this new iniquity, subjecting the Lord to new sufferings—thine own Lord, Him who fashioned thee, Him who made thee, Him who honored thee, who called thee Israel?
At about the same time, Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho accused the Jewish nation, not only of killing the Christ, but also of perpetrating the persecution of His followers:
For other nations have not inflicted on us and on Christ this wrong to such an extent as you have, who in very deed are the authors of the wicked prejudice against the Just One, and us who hold by Him. For after that you had crucified Him, the only blameless and righteous Man, . . . you not only did not repent of the wickedness which you had committed, but at that time you selected and sent out from Jerusalem chosen men through all the land to tell that the godless heresy of the Christians had sprung up, and to publish those things which all they who knew us not speak against us. So that you are the cause not only of your own unrighteousness, but in fact that of other men.
Early in the 3rd Century the first of the Church’s esteemed theologians, Origen of Alexandria, proclaimed the sentence of history upon Judaism: suffering, destruction, and the loss of their privileged place as God’s people:
One fact, then, which proves that Jesus was something divine and sacred, is this, that Jews should have suffered on His account now for a lengthened time calamities of such severity. And we say with confidence that they will never be restored to their former condition. For they committed a crime of the most unhallowed kind, in conspiring against the Saviour of the human race in that city where they offered up to God a worship containing the symbols of mighty mysteries. It accordingly behooved that city where Jesus underwent these sufferings to perish utterly, and the Jewish nation to be overthrown, and the invitation to happiness offered them by God to pass to others, –the Christians . . . .
Such opinions as these set the stage for the demonizing of the Jews, their people and their religion. In 386 the bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom, preached a series of eight homilies Adversus Judaeos. He did not hesitate to insult and demean them:
Many, I know, respect the Jews and think that their present way of life is a venerable one. This is why I hasten to uproot and tear out this deadly opinion. I said that the synagogue is not better than a theater and I bring forward a prophet as my witness . . . . “You had a harlot’s brow; you became shameless before all.” Where a harlot has set herself up, that place is a brothel. But the synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it also is a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. Jeremiah said: “Your house has become for me the den of a hyena.” He does not simply say “of wild beast,” but “of a filthy wild beast,” and again: “I have abandoned my house, I have cast off my inheritance.” But when God forsakes a people, what hope of salvation is left? When God forsakes a place, that place becomes the dwelling of demons.
Not long thereafter, in 388, the bishop of Callinicum, on the River Euphrates, led an anti-Semitic mob in burning down a synagogue. The emperor, Theodosius, decreed punishment for the arsonists. In addition the inciting prelate must rebuild the synagogue. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, remonstrated. He told Theodosius that he, Ambrose, would assume any prescribed penalty as he would have burnt it down himself “that there might not be a place where Christ was denied.” Indeed, he declared, “ I was the more slack because I did not expect that it would be punished.”
Between 413 and 429 Augustine of Hippo worked on his prodigious and influential City of God. In an excerpt from Book XVIII written c. 425 Augustine presented his theory as to the place of Judaism after Christ:
For us, indeed, those suffice which are quoted from the books of our enemies, to whom we make our acknowledgment, on account of this testimony which, in spite of themselves, they contribute by their possession of these books, while they themselves are dispersed among all nations, wherever the Church of Christ is spread abroad. For a prophecy about this thing was sent before in the Psalms, which they also read, where it is written, “My God, His mercy shall prevent me. My God hath shown me concerning mine enemies, that Thou shalt not slay them, lest they should at last forget Thy law: disperse them in thy might” [Psalm 69: 10-111]. Therefore God has shown the Church in her enemies the Jews the grace of His compassion, since, as saith the apostle, “their offense is the salvation of the Gentiles” [Romans 11:11]. And therefore He has not slain them, that is, He has not let the knowledge that they are Jews be lost in them. . . . But it was not enough that he should say, “Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law,” unless he has also added, “Disperse them,” because if they had only been in their own land with that testimony of the Scriptures, and not everywhere, certainly the Church which is everywhere could not have had them as witnesses among all nations to the prophecies which were sent before concerning Christ.
Ironically, reasoned Augustine, God uses the Jews, the enemies of Christ, as witnesses, wherever they are dispersed, on behalf of Christ’s Church. Christianity needs Judaism to help in the prophetic proclamation of the Messiah fulfilled in Jesus, the Christ.
In the 13th Century Thomas Aquinas did, finally, distinguish between the leaders of the Jewish People and the common folk. The former, he maintained, sinned most grievously in that they killed the Son of God, knowing Who He was, and did so out of malice. The latter sinned grievously as to the death of Christ, but they could be forgiven because they did not fully recognize Him as the Son of God nor did they kill Him maliciously.
Given this negative assessment of the Jews by early Fathers, bishops and theologians, local and general councils imposed restrictions upon fraternizi between Christians and Jews.
A council in Elvira, Spain, in 306 legislated: “Catholic girls may not marry Jews or heretics, because they cannot find unity when the faithful and unfaithful are joined.”It added: “If any cleric or layperson eats with Jews, he or she shall be kept from communion as a way of correction.” The Council of Laodicea in Phrygia in 364 extended this prohibition to include “portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics” and “unleavened bread from the Jews.” In his life of Constantine, we learn from Eusebius that the 1st Council of Nicaea changed the dating of Easter for, among other reasons, “it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul.” The 3rd Synod of Orleans, France, in 538 even “prohibited the Jews from appearing in public between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday.” The Council of Trullo in 692 offered a summary provision:
Canon XI. Let no one in the priestly order nor any layman eat the unleavened bread of the Jews, nor have any familiar intercourse with them, nor summon them in illness, nor receive medicines from them, nor bathe with them; but if anyone shall take in hand to do so, if he is a cleric, let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.
In other words, have nothing to do with a Jew.
Evidence from two later councils should emphasize the extent of the separation required between Christian and Jew.
Church fathers met in Rome for the 3rd Lateran Council in 1179. It declared: “Jews and Saracens are not allowed to have Christian servants.” Moreover, “the evidence of Christians is to be accepted against Jews in very case.” In 1215 they met again in the 4th Lateran Council. The stark words of its 68th canon send chills through a 20th Century Christian confronted by the horror of the Holocaust:
In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jew or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress . . . .
Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially on Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all, for the reason that some of them on these very days, as we hear, do not blush to go forth better dressed and are not afraid to mock the Christians who maintain the memory of the most holy Passion by wearing signs of mourning.
In 1227 the Synod of Narbonne, France, pronounced even more baldly these prohibitions:
Canon 3: That Jews may be distinguished from others, we decree and emphatically command that in the center of the breast (of their garments) they shall wear an oval badge, the measure of one finger in width and one half a palm in height. We forbid them moreover, to work publicly on Sundays and on festivals. And lest they scandalize Christians or be scandalized by Christians, we wish and ordain that during Holy Week they shall not leave their houses at all except in case of urgent necessity, and the prelates shall during that week especially have them guarded from vexation by the Christians.
Need we wonder where the Nazis got their inspiration for a prescribed Star of David on Jewish clothes, or about restricted ghettoes, like the infamous one in Warsaw?
The concluding sentence from Narbonne points to the papal position during the Middle Ages. Popes, in general, followed the lead of Augustine in arguing that the Jews served a useful purpose in the worldwide propagation of Christianity. They discouraged violence, therefore, against the Jewish people and against their properties, not out of love and concern, but out of their own ecclesial aspirations.
This did not, of course, stop inter-religious violence. The Christian people, in Christian lands and with Christian armies, made no fine theological distinctions. As far as they knew, the Jews killed Christ and should pay the consequences. They also furnished convenient victims. During the First Crusade, in 1096, for example, Count Emicho of Leiningen assembled “a large force on the Middle Rhine.” As he moved down the Rhine toward Cologne he plundered and killed Jews in the small towns. At Metz in May, “the pattern there was typical: the Crusaders told the Jews to be baptized or face death. This pseudo-religious action was always accompanied by the seizing of the possessions of those killed.” All told, commentators estimate as many as 12,000 Jews died at the hands of the Crusaders in Germany alone. This pattern of persecution extends from the Crusades through the Inquisition, from the coerced baptisms and forced expulsions from Catholic Spain, to the pogroms and mass extermination of the 19th and 20th centuries.
In 1965 the Second Vatican Council finally disavowed religious justifications for anti-Semitic persecution. In its “Declaration On Non-Christian Religions” it left no doubt about the Church’s current position:
Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred Synod wishes to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit above all of biblical and theological studies, and of brotherly dialogue.
Out, then, with the stricture of the Council of Trullo that a Christian should not “have any familiar intercourse with them.” The statement continued:
True, authorities of the Jews and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be blamed on all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as repudiated or cursed by God, as if such views followed from the holy Scriptures.
The bishop of Sardis had gone overboard in his rhetorical castigation of Israel. This council surpassed Aquinas: the common folk do not need forgiveness for the murder of Jesus. And, at last, Vatican II separated itself from its own bloody history of ecclesiastical and civil persecution:
The Church repudiates all persecutions against any man. Moreover, mindful of her common patrimony with the Jews, and motivated by the gospel’s spiritual love and by no political considerations, she deplores the hatred, persecutions, and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and from any source.
They deprecate the actions of the bishop who led an anti-Semitic mob to burn down a synagogue; they condemn the murder of Jews by rogue Crusaders; they stand firmly opposed to all political persecution.
On March 23, 2000 Pope John Paul II visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. In his brief remarks he echoed Vatican II:
As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel of truth and love, and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and at any place.
Some had hoped for a direct apology; they did not receive it. Two weeks before at Sunday mass the pope had asked, in general, for forgiveness for the Church’s sins. But in both instances he could not bring himself to say simply that the Catholic Church has sinned, as a community and through its leaders, against the Jewish people.
We are left with this question: Is the Church’s historic condemnation of Judaism, taught by its Fathers, furthered by its councils, and collaborated in by its popes, part of Church Tradition? If so, then, clearly, Tradition can and does change; if not, then nothing stands theologically in the way of changes in accordance with the perceptions and values of the community in a given historical moment.
Christianity and Homosexuality
Turn now to our main example: the troubled history of homosexuality in the Christian community. Keep in mind this question: Does the condemnation of homosexuality constitute Tradition or not? If it does, can it not change just as the Church’s position toward Judaism has; if it does not, why then may it not develop and alter according to our enhanced understanding of human sexuality and personal relationships?
Justification #1: The Sin of Sodom
Church leaders excoriated male-to-male sex as the sin that drew down God’s wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah, upon the cities of the plain. As I have explained elsewhere,contemporary scholars attribute to them pride, greed, and the systematic abuse of strangers in their relatively well-to-do communities. These attitudes and resulting actions, not homosexuality, deserved divine retribution. A time-conditioned and erroneous interpretation of the Old Testament fueled the moral fury of Christian commentators. Citing Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton the reviewer noted:
Meanwhile according to Crompton, church fathers like Augustine and John Chrysostom perpetrated the interpretation that homosexual behavior was a sin. One of their most influential contributions was the reinterpretation of Genesis 19, the story of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to the prophets, Jesus, and many early commentators, God destroyed Sodom for its inhabitants’ wealth, arrogance, and lack of hospitality.
Consider some typical passages in the Church Fathers.
The Apostolic Constitutions, compiled near the end of the 4th Century, enlarging on a passage in the late 1st Century Didache, asserted: “ ‘Thou shalt not corrupt boys’: (5) for this wickedness is contrary to nature, and arose from Sodom, which was therefore entirely consumed with fire sent from God.”
Clement of Alexandria in the latter part of the 2nd Century presented a common warning:
The fate of the Sodomites was judgment to those who had done wrong, instruction to those who hear. The Sodomites having, through much luxury, fallen into uncleanness, practicing adultery shamelessly, and burning with insane love for boys; the All-seeing Word, whose notice those who commit impieties cannot escape, cast His eye on them . . . ordered Sodom to be burned, pouring forth a little of the sagacious fire on licentiousness . . . .
It proved to be a recurrent justification of Augustine. “Foul offenses against nature . . . such as were those of the men of Sodom: which should all nations commit, they should all stand guilty of the same crime . . . .” What happened to Sodom? — “a fiery rain from heaven turned into ashes that whole region of the impious city, where custom had made sodomy as prevalent as laws have elsewhere made other kinds of wickedness.” In arguing for the supremacy of truth, he proposed the example of Lot offering up his virgin daughters to the mob rather than have it homosexually abuse his guests. If Lot sought to preserve the natural use of sex, how much more should we strive to seek truth, the natural function of the mind? Lot’s offer “even pertained to the righteousness of that just man, that to his daughters he chose this rather to be done, than to his guests . . . .”
Near the end of the 6th Century, Pope Gregory the Great graphically linked Sodom and homosexuality:
. . . in Genesis we read that our Lord rained fire and brimstone upon the city of Sodom: that both fire might burn them, and the stench of brimstone smother and kill them: for seeing they burned with the unlawful love of corruptible flesh, by God’s just judgment they perished both by fire and an unsavory smell; to the end that they may know that they had, by the pleasure of their stinking life, incurred the sorrows of eternal death.
Or again in his Regulae Pastoralis:
Which thing Lot expresses well in his own person, when he flies from burning Sodom, and yet, finding Zohar, does not still ascend the mountain heights. For to fly from burning Sodom is to avoid the unlawful fires of the flesh. But the height of the mountains is the purity of the continent. Or, at any rate, they are as it were upon the mountain, who, though cleaving to carnal intercourse, still, beyond the due association for the production of offspring, are not loosely lost in pleasure of the flesh. For to stand on the mountain is to seek nothing in the flesh except the fruit of procreation.
At about the same time, the Christian Emperor Justinian issued two decrees specifically targeting homosexuality. In both Novel 77 and Novel 141 he linked “disgraceful lusts, and acts contrary to nature” with God’s “just judgment upon those who lived in Sodom, on account of this very madness of intercourse, so that to this very day that land burns with inextinguishable fire.” Should anyone, after being warned, persist in such behavior, the prefect of the Capital is “to inflict on them the extreme punishments . . . . ”
Two Church councils, not to be outdone by civil authorities, prescribed severe ecclesiastical penalties for sodomites:
Third Lateran Council (1179), Canon 11: “Let all who are found guilty of the unnatural vice for which the wrath of God came down upon the sons of disobedience and destroyed the five cities with fire, if they are clerics be expelled from the clergy or confined in monasteries to do penance; if they are laymen they are to incur excommunication and be completely separated from the society of the faithful.
Fifth Lateran Council (1514): In order that clerics, especially, may live in continence and chastity according to canonical legislation, we rule that offenders be severely punished as the canons lay down. If anyone, lay or cleric, has been found guilty of a charge on account of which the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience, let him be punished by the penalties respectively imposed by the sacred canons or by civil law.
In his apostolic constitution Horrendum illud scelus Pope Pius V refers to sodomy as “that horrible crime” and notes its condemnation by that council’s fourth session. Let this conclude the discussion of God’s destruction of Sodom justifying the Church’s wrath against same-sex relations:
That horrible crime, on account of which corrupt and obscene cities were destroyed by fire through divine condemnation, causes us most bitter sorrow and shocks our mind, impelling us to repress such a crime with the greatest possible zeal.
Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council issued this decree: “Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature . . . be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery (Session 4, X, V, 31).” . . .
Therefore, wishing to pursue with the greatest rigor that which we have decreed since the beginning of our pontificate, we establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, let him be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be put to death, as mandated by law as the fitting punishment for laymen who have sunk into this abyss.
Thus do many, both civil and ecclesial, relying on misinterpretations of the crime of Sodom, wreck violence upon a sexual minority among them.
Justification #2: The rejection of pederasty
Hellenism surrounded early Christianity. Political authorities branded the fledging community as irreligious and offensive to the pantheon of its deities. Followers of this Christ, therefore, must worship the official gods or die.
Church leaders combated this persecution in three ways: they drew a clear distinction between Christian and pagan behavior; they asserted the moral superiority of their religion; they strengthened members both to resist the temptation to defect and to sustain them during the trials imposed by a vengeful government.
As I have shown elsewhere, in that pagan world young boys assumed the role of the natural affective partners for older males. Both Greeks and Romans treated pederasty as natural, expected, and normal. By condemning the passivity of boys servicing the sexual needs and desires of men, whether consensual or forced, whether free or prostituted, the Early Church embraced a strong, defining moral stance contrary to the dominant culture. Moreover, some influential pagans themselves denounced the coerced pederasty of slaves and the demeaning feminizing of young male prostitutes. The Christian position, therefore, generated some sympathy among the more educated and philosophical pagans. This could be used to political advantage.
Historians and theologians point rightly to the consistent condemnation of pederasty by the Church. But they often neglect to mention the socio-political reasons for that position. Moreover, they tend to equate pederasty and homosexuality. The latter, at least in its interpersonal incarnation of adult males loving one another in stable and committed relationships, did not exist as a cultural phenomenon in the Roman Empire down through the Middle Ages.
The earliest prohibition against pederasty surfaced in the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 74). The author illustrated it with a ludicrous natural biology: “Moreover thou shalt not eat the hare. Why so? Thou shalt not be found the corrupter of boys, nor shalt thou become like such persons; for the hare gaineth one passage in the body every year; for according to the number of years it lives it has just so many orifices.”  Soon thereafter, the Didache, reflecting upon the Lord’s commandment to love one another, ticked off a number of grievous violations against it: “You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born.” Presumably, these behaviors were widespread enough in the pagan community to merit warning Christians to avoid them. Note it did not mention homosexuality.
In the next century two Church Fathers railed against pederasty. Justin Martyr in 151 addressed his First Apology to the emperor, Antoninus Pius, his royal sons, and the Roman Senate. He accused the Romans of exploiting children and rationalizing this as religious mysteries. The Christians, certainly, did not engage in such irreligious behavior:
. . . we see that all so exposed (not only the girls, but also the males) are brought up to prostitution. And as the ancients are said to have reared herds of oxen, or goats, or sheep, or grazing horses, so now we see you rear children only for this shameful use; for this pollution of females and hermaphrodites, and those who commit unmentionable iniquities, are found in every nation. And you receive the hire of these, and duty and taxes from them, whom you ought to exterminate from your realm. And any one who uses such persons, besides the godless and infamous and impure intercourse, may possibly be having intercourse with his own child, or relative, or brother. And there are some who even prostitute their own children and wives, and some are openly mutilated for the purpose of sodomy, and they refer these mysteries to the mother of the gods, and along with each of those whom you esteem gods there is painted a serpent, a great symbol and mystery. Indeed, the things which you do openly and with applause, as if the divine light were overturned and extinguished, these you lay to our charge; which, in truth, does not harm us who shrink from doing any such things, but only to those who do them and bear false witness against us.
Echoing his predecessor, Clement of Alexandria, director of its catechetical school, disputed the pagan accusation of sacrilege. He, rather, accused them and their gods, of the most offensive and irreligious actions. With biting irony he described their sexual misadventures:
Heracles is the son of Zeus . . . and a true son he is; for long and weary as the time was in which he accomplished his twelve labors, yet in a single night he corrupted the fifty daughters of Thestius, becoming at once bridegroom and adulterer to all these maidens, Not without reason, then, do the poets dub him “abandoned” and “doer of evil deeds.” It would be a long story to relate his varied adulteries and his corruption of boys. For your gods did not abstain from boys. One [Heracles] loved Hylas, another [Apollo] Hyacinthus, another [Poseidon] Chrysippus, another [Zeus] Ganymedes. These are the gods your wives are to worship!
In the latter half of the 4th Century John Chrysostom wrote Adversus Oppugnatores Vitae Monasticae. In it he graphically detailed life in Antioch. He implied that lustful sexual behavior of men with youth was ensnaring even Christians:
Indeed to be able to escape these snares [in any way] seems desirable, and there is some danger that womankind will become in the future unnecessary with young men instead fulfilling all the needs women used to . . . .
There is among some animals a powerful sex drive, an irresistible urge no different from madness. Even so, they do not experience this type of love but remain within the bounds of nature. Although roused ten thousand times, they never transgress the laws of nature. But seemingly rational humans, the beneficiaries of godly learning, those who instruct others in what should and should not be done, those who have heard the Scriptures brought down from heaven—these do not consort with prostitutes as fearlessly as they do with young men. Just as if they were not men, as if God’s justice did not wait, as if there were no final judgment, as if darkness covered all and no one could see or hear such things, they dare . . . .
Chrysostom delivered a set of six homilies on the Epistle of Titus. Commenting on the third chapter, verse six—“. . . so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life”—he spoke about “the brutality of mankind before the coming of Christ.” He took as his example the Greeks:
They were addicted to the love of boys, and one of their wise men made it a law that Pederasty . . . should not be allowed to slaves, as if it was an honorable thing; and they had houses for this purpose, in which it was openly practiced. And if all that was done among them was related, it would be seen that they openly outraged nature, and there was none to restrain them.
Note the negative comparison between Christian love and pagan pederasty: only with God’s grace may Christians flee such temptations.
In commenting on Christ’s denunciation of the scribes and pharisees when they hypocritically indulged in lengthy prayers (cf. Mt. 23: 14), Chrysostom bemoaned: “What mournings and lamentations does this call for, when the members of Christ have become a tomb of uncleanness?” In that sinful state some dare to come into the churches of God. From them issues forth, not incense, but a stinking smoke:
What then is the stinking smoke? Many come in gazing at the beauty of women; others curious about the blooming youth of boys. After this, do you not marvel, how bolts are not launched, and all things are not plucked up from their foundations? For worthy both of thunderbolts and hell are the things that are done; but God, who is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forbears a while his wrath, calling you to repentance and amendment.
Here Chrysostom emphasized how Christians differentiate themselves from the hypocritical leaders of the Jews as well as the pagan Romans. Sexual morality accomplished this, especially as regards pederasty.
The Church recognizes seven ecumenical councils; that is, the whole Church accepts the decrees of those councils. In addition, the fathers at one or more ecumenical councils ratified the decrees of ten other general councils. Excepting the biblical Council of Jerusalem, these seventeen councils occurred between 314-787 A.D. These dates represent a period after the Roman persecution, during the legitimization of Christianity within the Roman Empire and its acceptance as its official religion, and under the rule of Christian emperors.
Only one local council, one not formally accepted by an ecumenical council, legislated against pederasty. In Canon 71 the Council of Elvira, meeting in 306 in Granada, Spain, declared: “Those who sexually abuse boys may not commune even when death approaches.” Another, the Council of Ancyra in Galatia, did pronounce ecclesiastical punishments for those “who are guilty of bestial lusts.” However, the next canon, XVII, exacted a penalty against those “defilers of themselves with beasts, being also leprous . . . .” The previous canon, therefore, though disputed, most likely referred to bestiality, not male-to-male sexual activity. How should we understand this temporal sparsity of conciliar attention to same-sex behavior?
During the period of governmental persecution, Christians needed to separate themselves from the pagans and to meet the charge of sacrilege. They used opposition to pederasty as one means of doing this. Having won governmental acceptance, Church leaders looked inward to ecclesiastical organization. They showed more interest in hierarchical order than apologetics. From the 5th to the 11th centuries, pederasty as a topic of concern fell to the wayside. Popes, bishops, and councils left the punishing of male-to-male sex to the civil authorities. Undoubtedly, some Christians (as Chrysostom indicated) still preferred boys to women; however, the official church chose not to deal administratively with this aberration any more than it would any other purportedly sinful behavior.
In summary, therefore, the struggling and young religious community denounced the practice of pederasty, not homosexuality, primarily for socio-political reasons.
Justification #3: Role Confusion and Effeminacy
Leviticus 18:32 stated: “And thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman, for it is an abomination.” I have discussed at length the meaning of this passage in “The Misuse of Scripture to Abuse Homosexual.” Recent scholarship attributes the prohibition to males acting passively like women. In the patriarchal society of ancient Israel, men ruled over and possessed their women. Leviticus did not condemn homosexuality in general; it did so because it judged that homosexuality confused male and female roles and harmed Jewish society.
Some Church Fathers echoed this condemnation. In his Exhortation to the Greeks in the year 190 Clement of Alexandria applauded a Scythian king who slew with an arrow a man who “was imitating among the Scythians the rite of the Mother of the Gods.” He had been performing “by beating a drum and clanging a cymbal, and by having images of the goddess suspended from his neck like the priestesses of Cybele . . . .” The king justified his action “on the ground that the man, having been deprived of his virility in Greece, was now communicating the effeminate disease to his fellow Scythians.”
In the 3rd Century, Novatian, a Roman presbyter and schismatic pope, penned a long letter on The Jewish Foods. In it he argued: “in animals the character, the doings, and the wills of men are depicted.” His analogy included this strange attack on effeminacy:
Thus in the animals, by the law, as it were, a certain mirror of human life is established, wherein men may consider the images of penalties; so that everything that is vicious in men, as committed against nature, may be even the more condemned, when even those things, although naturally ordained in brutes, are in them blamed. For that in fishes the roughness of scales is regarded as constituting their cleanness; rough, and rugged, and unpolished, and substantial, and grave manners are approved in men; while those that are without scales are unclean; because trifling, and fickle, and faithless, and effeminate manners are disapproved. Moreover, what does the law mean when it . . . forbids the hare? It rebukes men deformed into women.
At the same period Cyprian of Carthage wrote Donatus. While pointing out the errors of the world, he directed his hearer to turn his “looks to the abominations, not less to be deplored, of another kind of spectacle. In the theatres also you will behold what may well cause you grief and shame.” After speaking of various crimes portrayed on stage, he exclaimed:
Men are emasculated, and all the pride and vigor of their sex is effeminated in the disgrace of their enervated body; and he is most pleasing there who has most completely broken down the man into the woman. He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skillful he is considered to be.
Toward the end of the century, Lactantius, a Christian apologist, created The Divine Institutes. Listing the crimes of their accusers, he singled out those “who prostitute their own persons to lust; who, in short, unmindful of what they were born, contend with women in passivity, who, in violation of all propriety, pollute and dishonor the most sacred part of their body. . . .”
In a patriarchal world, one in which men dominated and in which women obediently served them, churchmen disparaged the effeminate as disruptive of the rightful order.
Justification #4: Procreation and Pleasure
Some moralists denounced homosexuality because it does not satisfy God’s injunction to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth . . . (Gen. 1:28). But consider this closely. In early Judaism a small tribe of monotheists needed members, both to protect itself from the encroachments of polytheistic peoples who surrounded them, and to supply necessary field hands for herding and farming. When Christianity split off from its Jewish roots, it dismissed this procreative imperative as it anticipated the imminent return of the triumphant Christ.
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus extolled those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” He did not require his disciples to embrace that example, but he “who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Mt. 19: 12). Paul echoed his Master, but added as regards the unmarried: “I think that in view of the impending distress it is well for a person to remain as he is” (1 Cor. 7: 26). Going yet further he wished that “all were as I myself am;” that is, not married. Counseling unmarried or widowed Christians, he said: “it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Cor. 7: 7-10). Clearly, the New Testament writers did not expect all community members to procreate.
The Early Church embraced this position. It held long arguments concerning the conjunction of marriage and Christianity: it found them compatible; about allowing widows and widowers to remarry: with some hesitation it permitted it. It blessed the chastity of vowed monks in the desert; it urged continence upon ecclesiastical leaders. By the 12th Century the Church formally decreed that clerics could not validly wed. Indeed, clerical dignity, the elevation of clerical and religious states above the lay state, married or single, depended upon chastity and continence and celibacy accepted for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Both Scriptures and Church history rule out any requirement for Christians, whether heterosexual or homosexual, to procreate.
Perhaps, then, the rejection of same-sex behavior rests not on avoiding procreation but rather on wasting the seeds of human life. Ancient biology took male sperm to be the material cause of a human baby. The mother contributed nothing other than the instrumental cause, the incubator required for the seed to grow and bloom. For the male to ejaculate except inside a woman would be tantamount to cutting off the sperm’s incipient life.
Ignoring the flawed conception of human biology, the Church in addition presents a contradictory picture. It prohibits masturbation, birth control, and homosexual sexuality. Why? Could it be because of the wasting of male sperm? One might entertain that possibility but not in the face of what its moralists do allow. Married couples may have intercourse during a woman’s infertile period, or even if one partner lacks fertility, or even if illness or injury produces sterility, or even if advanced age negates the possibility of conception. In all such cases, male sperm may enter the female vagina, yet only fruitlessly. No concern here for wasted seed; marriage in itself dictates morality.
Must we conclude that homosexuality lacks righteousness because gays and lesbians interact sexually only outside marriage? But the Church excludes marriage from all except one man with one woman. Homosexuals desiring to wed by definition cannot. The Church forbids two women or two men to marry, yet only by marriage may couples live morally acceptable sexual lives. In effect, the Church requires clerical celibacy and monastic chastity for gays and lesbians. Why? If failure to procreate does not explain this stance, if the squandering of male sperm does not constitute a valid excuse for exclusion, and if not being married when such is denied them seems both unreasonable and unjust, then what can validate this restriction?
Paul offered a clue in the passage from 1 Corinthians quoted previously. Stay single, he taught unless you “cannot exercise self-control.” In that case marry rather than be “aflame with passion” (1 Cor. 7: 8-9). Homosexuals earn censorship for their uncontrolled passion. Consider some examples from our Church Fathers.
In speaking about the linkage of adultery and fornication, Tertullian concluded: “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 the shelter of the Church, because they are not sins, but monstrosities.”
Cyprian of Carthage in the middle of the 3rd Century addressed Donatus. After commending the graces of baptism, he expatiated on the errors of the world:
Oh, if placed on that lofty watch-tower you could gaze into the secret places—if you could open the closed doors of sleeping chambers, and recall their dark recesses to the perception of sight,—you would behold things done by immodest persons which no chaste eye could look upon; you would see what even to see is a crime; you would see what people embruted with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do,—men with frenzied lust rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them.
John Chrysostom delivered numerous homilies on Scripture. Commenting on Romans 1: 26-27 he remarked: “All these affections were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored, than the body in diseases.” During his homily on 1 Thessalonians: 4: 1-8, he remarked that a wife, if she be “a woman of free estate . . . was espoused to her husband to be his partner in life, and for the procreation of children, not for the purposes of indecency and laughter; that she might keep the house, and instruct him also to be grave, not that she might supply him the fuel of fornication.”
Augustine produced a clear distinction between marriage and intercourse: “The union, then, of male and female for the purpose of procreation is the natural good of marriage. But he makes a bad use of this good who uses it bestially, so that his intention is on the gratification of lust, instead of the desire of offspring.” Sin disfigures such intercourse: “It is, however, one thing for married persons to have intercourse only for the wish to beget children, which is not sinful; it is another thing for them to desire carnal pleasure in cohabitation, but with the spouse only, which involves venial sin.” Indeed, intercourse as pleasure of concupiscence does not belong to marriage:
This gratification incurs not the imputation of guilt on account of marriage, but receives permission on account of marriage. This, therefore, must be reckoned among the praises of matrimony, that, on its own account, it makes pardonable that which does not essentially appertain to itself. For the nuptial embrace, which subserves the demands of concupiscence, is so effected as not to impede the child-bearing, which is the end and aim or marriage.”
Aquinas echoed the Augustinian doctrine. Quoting Isidore of Seville he agreed: “ ‘a lustful man is one who is debauched with pleasures.’ Now venereal pleasures above all debauch a man’s mind. Therefore lust is especially concerned with such like pleasures.” In considering “whether the matter of lust is only venereal desires and pleasures,” he responded:
And just as the use of food is directed to the preservation of life in the individual, so is the use of venereal acts directed to the preservation of the whole human race. . . . Wherefore just as the use of food can be without sin, if it be taken in due manner and order, as required for the welfare of the body, so also the use of venereal acts can be without sin, provided they be performed in due manner and order, in keeping with the end of human procreation. . . . Wherefore there is the greatest necessity for observing the order of reason in this matter: so that if anything be done in this connection against the dictates of reason’s ordering, it will be a sin. Now lust consists essentially in exceeding the order and mode of reason in the matter of venereal acts. Wherefore without any doubt lust is a sin.
What may we make of these theological assertions? The Fathers cited preached procreation as the sole aim of marriage. At best the “nuptial embrace” constituted a necessary condition, a necessary evil given the fallen state of human nature. Venially sinful in itself, it became permissible and without sin through it occurrence within the marriage bond. The Fathers did not understand, as the Church later would come to affirm, that marriage has two goals, unitive and procreative, love and children. They had no conception of sexual intercourse as a means of, and expression of, the love of the couple. They disparaged passion and pleasure, laughter and sexual play as being non-essential to procreation; these, however, enter into the warp and weft of marital union.
The Fathers painted a picture of homosexual activity with words like “frenzied,” “rushing upon,” “mad lust,” “aflame with passions,” “with frenzied passions,” and “madness of vice.” Could not these descriptions apply equally to heterosexual encounters between sexually starved teenagers, infatuated adulterers, marauding rapists, wife swappers, in marital and extramarital orgies? Would we not disparage all heterosexual interaction if heterosexuals only expressed themselves in these ways? Whose dark rooms had Cyprian peeked into? Does anyone have data that proves that all homosexuals, always and everywhere, “rush upon” each other “in frenzied passion”? Might not some gay and lesbian couples cherish each other deeply, consistently, so as to enhance the ability of both to live reasonable, healthy, and productive lives? May not their homes be as warm and dedicated as comparable heterosexual ones? Disparaging passion as a necessary evil and portraying homosexuals in lurid extremes does not justify the rejection of normal, loving people with a homosexual orientation.
Justification #5: Contrary to nature
The righteous accuse homosexuals of acting unnaturally. They quote the Epistle to the Romans for proof. As I have argued elsewhere, when Paul speaks of something being contrary to nature he means not customary, unusual, original, unacceptable, or unexpected. Present-day critics schooled in the natural law philosophy of Aquinas commit an intentional fallacy when they attribute their meaning of “unnatural” to Paul.
The Fathers of the Church used the word similarly. Consider a few examples. Tertullian appeals to the law of God known by all:
Demanding then a law of God, you have that common one prevailing all over the world, engraven on the natural tables to which the apostle too is wont to appeal, as when in respect to the woman’s veil he says, “Does not even Nature teach you?”—as when to the Romans, affirming that the heathen do by nature those things which the law requires, he suggests both natural law and a law-revealing nature. Yes, and also in the first chapter of the epistle he authenticates nature, when he asserts that males and females changed among themselves the natural of the creature into that which is unnatural, by way of penal retribution for their error.
The Romans, accustomed to obedience, constitutionally follow the law. They also expected men to act like men, not like women, and vice versa.
Clement of Alexandria could hardly contain himself as he described men attempting to look and behave like women:
But the using of pitch to pluck out hair (I shrink from even mentioning the shamelessness connected with this process), and in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to nature’s modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures, yet the doers not ashamed of themselves, but conducting themselves without shame in the midst of the youth, and in the gymnasium, where the prowess of man is tried; the following of this unnatural practice, is it not the extreme of licientiousness?
Our men do not act that way! What must people think! Shame, shame on these unnatural ones!
Lactantius described “the crimes of the wicked”:
Who prostitute their own persons to lust; who, in short, unmindful of what they were born, contend with women in passivity, who in violation of all propriety, pollute and dishonor the most sacred part of their body; who mutilate themselves, and that which is more impious, in order that they may be priests of religion . . . .
Passivity, taking a woman’s role, offended propriety, impiously and unnaturally.
Eusebius of Caesarea forbade “all unseemly practice and the union of woman with woman and man with man;” Basil the Great echoed him in one of his letters when he dictated discipline for one “who is guilty of unseemliness with males.” Augustine denounced “those foul offenses that be against nature” for they “are offenses against the customs of men . . . .” “Unnatural” equaled the unseemly and uncustomary. Augustine went so far as to encourage a man’s engaging a prostitute rather than expecting his wife to have intercourse for lust rather than children. Such would be less against the natural goal of marriage—procreation—as only being adultery. After all, for Augustine intercourse in marriage constituted a venial sin.
Having examined these and similar statements by the Fathers, John Boswell came to this summary conclusion:
Where “nature” does occur in early Christian theology, as in the writings of Augustine, its use is quite different from that common among popular moralists or the Alexandrian school. For Augustine as for Paul, “nature” referred to the characteristics of individuals or things rather than to an ideal concept. He wrote of the “nature of good” or of “human nature,” and even when he seems to treat of “nature” in the abstract . . . it turns out to be human nature he is discussing. The abstraction which later ages would call “nature” was usually “order” (“ordo”) in Augustine’s works—an amoral force which supported evil as well as good.
For them, to act “against nature” meant to act in an unusual fashion. Nature did not constitute any universal force, philosophical or theological. That did not occur until the 13th Century. Consider briefly the steps toward this meaning.
In the year 512 Boethius, a philosopher and theologian living in Pavia, wrote a theological tract Contra Eutychen et Nestorium. In discussing the constitution of the God-Man, he defined nature in four different ways:
1. “Nature belongs to those things which, since they exist, can in some measure be apprehended by the mind.” Nature is the totality of things.
2. “Nature is either that which can act or that which can be acted upon.” Nature here refers to corporeal or incorporeal substances.
3. “Nature is the principle of movement properly inherent in and not accidentally attached to bodies.” He considered here only physical bodies.
4. “Nature is the specific difference that gives form to anything.” Form creates this nature and nature actualizes this form.
Nothing here would differentiate homosexuals from heterosexuals.
Near the time of his death in 636 Isidore, Bishop of Seville in Spain, completed his major and most influential work, Etymologiae. In it he defined natural law as follows:
Natural law is common to all nations, because it is maintained by natural instinct rather than legislation. Under it are comprised the union of male and female; care and rearing of children, common possession of all things; individual liberty for all; [free] acquisition of all things on land, sea, or sky; return of goods borrowed or owed; repelling violence with force. For these things and those like them are never considered unjust but always natural and right.
Note that he neither denied nor affirmed the naturalness of homosexuality except implicitly.
“From Isidore to the jurist Gratian in the twelfth century there was virtually no discussion of natural law as a norm for human society.” In 1140 Gratian compiled a collection of ecclesiastical norms. This Decretum would become a standard introductory text in European law schools. It it he declared that natural law dictates the following: “Each person is commanded to do to others what he wants done to himself.” As to the content of that law, he included Isidore’s definition.
Only in the 13th Century did any construction of nature explicitly exclude homosexuality as being unnatural. In 1179 a professor of theology at the University of Paris, Peter of Poitiers, wrote five books of Sentences, synopses of his lectures. Simon of Sywell, a canon of Lincoln and erstwhile professor at Oxford, England, later did a gloss on this work. He gave four meanings to “nature”; the last treats of homosexuality: “Sometimes ‘natural’ refers to what is not unusual [contra usum], like intercourse between man and woman, ‘unnatural’ [innaturale] to what is unusual.” Notice the return to “unusual” equaling “unnatural.”
Between 1265-1273 Thomas Aquinas produced his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica. It would become the norm for succeeding centuries up to the present. In it he established the doctrine that homosexuality violated the natural law.
Aquinas taught that the first principle of the natural law is this: “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” From that all else flows: 1) “Whatever is a means of preserving human life, and warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law;” 2)” those things are said to belong to the natural law ‘which nature has taught to all animals’;” 3) “man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society.” “As regards the general principles whether of speculative or practical reason, truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known by all.” “. . . [A]ll sins, as being against reason, are also against nature . . . .”
Turning to the question of lust, Aquinas agreed with Isidore: “a lustful man is one who is debauched with pleasures,” and venereal pleasures “debauch a man’s mind.” But since “the preservation of the nature of the human species is a very great good . . . the use of venereal acts can be without sin, provided they be performed in due manner and order, in keeping with the end of human procreation.” Note here the reprise on “debauched with pleasures” and the sole aim of procreation.
He condemned homosexual acts as “contrary to the natural order of the venereal act as becoming to the human race.” He did not explain what makes “the natural order” natural, nor what measures an act as becoming or unbecoming, except that it “is called ‘the unnatural vice.’” Since he proceeded to note that the disorder comes through “copulation with an undue sex, male with male, or female with female, as the Apostle states” (Rom. 1: 27), we must presume that with the addition of “undue” he judged these actions to be unnatural as being uncustomary, unusual, and against commonly accepted practice. Moreover, “since by the unnatural vices man transgresses that which has been determined by nature with regard to the use of venereal actions, it follows that in this matter this sin is gravest of all.” We must conclude that Aquinas declared homosexual acts unnatural because they do not deposit the male sperm in the female vagina and do not, therefore, lead to procreation. For all his philosophical argumentation, he simply repeated themes already present in the Fathers: sex for pleasure, unusual sex, and sex not open to offspring.
One must, however, wonder how homosexuality as love between consenting adults does not meet Aquinas’s criteria for being part of the natural law:
1. “Good is to be done and pursued.” Is committed love evil?
2. “Whatever is a means of preserving human life, and warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law.” Adults in committed and loving relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, grow personally, and enjoy enhanced possibilities of physical and psychological health.
3. “Those things are said to belong to the natural law ‘which nature has taught to all animals.’” Given our present knowledge, Aquinas would not wish to push this. We know that many animals court promiscuously, some display homosexual and bisexual behavior. Others produce offspring asexually; yet others have both female and male organs. We are coming to understand that some humans from birth have by their nature a homosexual orientation. As Aquinas further stated: “which nature has taught to all animals, such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring, and so forth.” He falsely presumed heterosexual intercourse as the only reality.
4. “Man has a natural inclination to know about God and to live in society.” Male couples and female couples live in their own personal societies; they often engage socially with other gay and lesbian couples. Only heterosexual intolerance keeps many of them from participating fully in the greater community. And who has asked such couples about their spirituality, about the effect their loving relationship has on their approach to God? For those who assume the sinfulness of homosexual love, gays and lesbians can only be estranged from God. For those who recognize the love, God is present.
Aquinas accomplished a masterful theological sleight-of-hand. For over twelve hundred years, Christianity had denounced same-sex relations because they disrupted the community. They either confused sexual roles, making some men like women. Or they marked Christians as no different from their pagan, Hellenistic neighbors. Christian leaders, beholding such uncustomary behavior, branded it as unnatural, as παρά φύσιν. Aquinas turned this inside out. He taught that sexual activity by its very nature must be procreative; this law exists in the depths of human nature; any non-procreative use of human sexuality contradicts that law and violates nature; being unnatural, we must consider such behavior unusual and unacceptable. Aquinas did not follow Scripture and Tradition; he interpreted it to serve his own agenda at a time when strong societal forces opposed homosexuality. Ironically, the common and usual created a natural law to justify condemning the unusual.
We have analyzed five justifications for intolerance toward homosexuality. None compels adherence.
Ecclesiastical and civil leaders opposed homosexuality on the grounds that God had punished it in Sodom and Gormorrah. Contemporary scholarship rejects, or at least questions, this interpretation.
From the Early Church to the present, Christian leaders have outlawed pederasty, the pursuit of boys to satisfy the sexual requirements of older males. Although some pederasts may also engage in homosexual activity, not all homosexuals sexually abuse boys. Adults in committed and loving same-sex relationships are not, thereby, pederasts. To prohibit the latter does not forbid the former.
Church Fathers preached against homosexuality because it distorted males, making them into females. This antagonism walked hand in hand with a patriarchal culture that considered women as inferior to men and treated them as the possessions of men. Today we reject this male chauvinism. Moreover, we applaud men who become more rounded persons through the acquiring of so-called feminine characteristics. Rather than causing role confusion homosexuality promotes role enhancement.
Some churchmen taught that procreation alone justified sexual activity. They based this in the first place on God’s command to “increase and multiply, and fill the earth.” Christianity has consistently rejected this demand as falling upon it. Then churchmen argued that all sexual behavior must be open to procreation. But they allowed married couples incapable of conceiving to engage sexually. This reveals the real argument: only married people may express themselves through sex. We must ask, however, on what basis? Finally, they did not understand, as the church has at last, that in marriage the love of the partners constitutes as valid a goal as procreation. Sexual pleasure and mutual enjoyment do not equal lust when they further the bond of love.
Many moralists denominate homosexuality as unnatural. No matter the assertion of Aquinas and his natural law adherents, “unnatural” reduces to non-ordinary or non-normative, to unacceptable in a given society, to unusual and unexpected in a male-female culture. In our day intolerance toward gays and lesbians is breaking down. More often straight society is recognizing both the presence of gays and lesbians, and celebrating their unique contributions to our mutual community.
This discussion leaves one disputed and unanswered question. Our Church takes the position that only the married may engage in sexual behavior. It bases this contention on two inseparable goals of marriage: procreation and the love of the partners. In the United States, at least, married Catholics soundly reject this inseparability. They practice birth control equally with their non-Catholic neighbors. They justify this as being reasonable and loving given the realities of themselves and their family. For them the expression of their sexuality flows from their mutual love, not from the possibility of some resultant conception.
When one agrees with this position, it leaves open sexual interaction whenever and wherever human beings are expressing their mutual love. Realizing this, many Catholic parents accept as appropriate and reasonable behavior their children living in pre-marital sexual relationships. They only expect that the sexual interactions flow from an honest and developing love. Other Catholic parents bless the same-sex relationships of their sons and daughters as long as they hold the promise of a loving, happy, and fulfilling life.
It leaves, therefore, this question: if the love of partners justifies their mutual sexual interaction, then why must sexual activity be confined to marriage? Is this unchangeable Tradition, or is it dependant upon societal and cultural acceptance? The evidence compels me to maintain the latter.
 Adversus Judaeos, Homily I, Part III. Cf. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrystostom-jews6.html
 City of God, Book XVIII, Chapter 46. Cf. http://people.bu.edu/dklepper/RN470/augustine_jews.html
 Canon 50. Ibid.
 Canons XXXVII and XXXVIII. Cf. http://reluctant-messenger.com/council-of-laodicea.htm
 Abbott, Walter. The Documents of Vatican II. “Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.” New York: The America Press, 1966, pp. 665-667.
 Willis, Robert. “The Misuse of Scripture to Abuse Homosexuals”: Genesis 9-30—The Sin of Sodom.
 Fox, Margaret. “A History of the Closet.” In The Yale Review of Books, Vol. 7, #2, Spring, 2004. Cf. http://www.yalereviewofbooks.com/archive/spring04/review08.shtml.htm
 Confessions, Book III, Chapter VIII. Cf. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/augustine/Pusey/book03
 City of God, Book XVI, Chapter 30. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.iv.XVI.html
 De Mendacio, Section 10. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf103.v.v.xi.html
 Contra Mendacium, Section 20. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf103.v.vi.xxi.html
 Dialogues, Book IV, Chapter 36: Of the Punishment of the Men of Sodom. Cf. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/gregory_04_dialogues_book4.htm
Willis, Robert. “The Misuse of Scripture to Abuse Homosexuals”— Romans 1: 18-32.
 Epsitle of Barnabas, 10: 6. Cf. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/barnabas-lightfoot.html
 Didache 2:2. Cf. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html
 First Apology of Justin, Chapter XXVII. Cf. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-firstapology.html
 Exhortation to the Greeks, Book II. Cf. http://www.theoi.com/Text/ClementExhortation1.html
 Adversus Oppugnatores Vitae Monasticae, Book III, Chapter 8. Cf. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/chrysos-opp3.html
 Cf. Leviticus 18: 22, 20: 13—The Condemnation
 Exhortation to the Greeks, Book II. Cf. http://www.theoi.com/Text/ClementExhortation1.html
 Epistle I:8. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.iv.i.html
 On Modesty, Chapter IV: Adultery and Fornication Synonymous. Cf. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian32.html
 Epistles, 1:9. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.iv.i.html
 Homily IV on Romans 1:26-27. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf111.vii.vi.html
 Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, paragraph 12, July 25, 1968. Cf. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
 “The Misuse of Scripture to Abuse Homosexuals” —Romans 1: 18-32.
 De Corona, Chapter VI. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.vi.vi.html
 The Instructor, Book III, Chapter 3. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iii.iii.iii.html
 Demonstratio Evangelica, Book IV, Chapter 10. Cf. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/fathers/eusebius_de_06_book4.htm
 Confessions, Book III, Chapter VIII, 15. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/augustine/confessions.vi.html
 De Bono Conjugali, Sections 11 and 12. Cf. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf103.v.ii.xii.html
 Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980, p. 150.
 Contra Eutychen et Nestorium, Book 4. Cf. http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk-files=92222&pageno=42
 Boswell, op. cit., p. 314. Cf. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Roman/Texts/Isodore/5*.html
 Boswell, op. cit., p. 312.
 Ibid. Article 4, ad responsum.
 Ibid. Question 153, Article 1, ad responsum.
 Ibid., Article 2, ad responsum.
 Ibid., Article 12, ad responsum.