The Sin of Sodom

Where does the word “Sodomy” come from and what does it mean? The word refers to the city of Sodom–a city in the Book of Genesis which, along with Gomorrah, was known for the wickedness of its inhabitants.

In Catholic moral theology sodomy is one of the sins that “cry out to heaven”.  These four grave sins are referenced in Old Testament passages, and in the present discussion about homosexuality it is worth taking time to read the passage from which we get the term. The story is found in Genesis 19. Abram’s nephew Lot and his family have gone to live in Sodom and they are visited by two avenging angels who come to rescue them from the city’s impending doom.

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lotwas sitting in the gateway of the city.When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.“My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feetand spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insistedso strongly that they did go with him and entered his house.He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast,and they ate.Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet themand shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner,and now he wants to play the judge!We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

But the meninside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindnessso that they could not find the door.

The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you?Get them out of here, because weare going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so greatthat he has sent us to destroy it.”

What are we to make of this ancient story? Has it anything to say to our present condition? What do the homosexualists make of the passage? Read more.


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  • Brad

    “Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness…”

    Blindness: yet another, this time quite literal, example of what St. Paul identifies as the “seared conscience” of the creature so mired in sin that he is no longer willing — willing — to see his own sinfulness, his own sins — actual, personal sins — or to ask forgiveness from the God who would otherwise forgive. This creature only echoes the luciferian words of his current god, who once fell like a lightning bolt from heaven to hell screaming, “non serviam”. The world utterly resounds with those words today. For as many beautiful and humble prayers rise upwards to the Holy Trinity from here in this vale, there are as many sickening mutterings of “non serviam” that rise up. They rise up before they go down, down, down into the pit which is their desired resting place.

  • A.J.

    I think attributing the label “homosexual” to the crowd at Sodom is a bit problematic. They clearly wanted to engage in the homosexual rape of the visiting angels, however the text seems to imply that they might have been satisfied with having their way with Lot’s daughters. Acknowledging that human sexuality resembles something of a sliding scale of preference– from the purely homosexual on one end to the strictly heterosexual on the other– I think the story of Sodom illustrates a crowd who just wanted a body to rape, regardless of gender. The strangers were something new, probably fairly alluring, and their sexual appetites were inflamed.

    My point is that it that using this story to make a point about the morality of homosexual sex in modern times is deeply flawed, and brushing over the fact that Lot offered his virgin daughters up for gang rape is frankly disturbing. What happened to protecting the family? Also, whether you draw a distinction between people in homosexual relationships living quietly at home and those living lives of promiscuity and activism (the two aren’t necessarily peas in a pod), the fact that homosexual sex is singled out as being somehow worse than other sins doesn’t pass the smell test.

  • Mary

    Ah Father, if only all priests would tell it like it is. About homosexuality, about provocative clothing, about entertainment that leads us away from God, about a myriad of sins. Tell it to us at Mass every Sunday. Tell it to the people whose knowledge of putting their faith into practice is limited to what they hear in the homily once a week. I think the pews would start to fill up again. I’m not a drinker, but I would imagine that any bar that watered down its drinks would start to lose customers. Same goes for watered down homilies and parishioners. Stay strong and keep up the good work. We need you. Thank you.

  • Amy

    Do those who insist that “God needs to be kept out of politics” have Satan, the Master of Lies with them in the voting booth? When we look at the sins that cry out for vengeance, are not these (and many others) the works of a disordered heart because God is left out? When people who claim to be faithful to God yet refuse to live by the moral laws of God, they are hypocrites. True conversion and putting God first and formost in our daily living is a challenge that can only happen if we choose to live by His laws, letting go of self and letting the gifts of the Holy Spirit to take hold in our lives.

    Peace to all.

  • Jack

    \\The homosexual interpreters say that the sin of Sodom is not homosexuality but “the failure to offer hospitality to strangers.\\

    Ezekiel 16:49 is very specific about what the sin of Sodom was. Sexual behavior is never mentioned.

    Furthermore, there is a similar story to the destruction of Sodom in Judges 19. It involves heterosexual gang rape and the destruction of the city where this crime took place.

  • m
  • cecelia timberlake

    It bothers me tremendously that Lot offered his daughters.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    The Ezekiel verse is interesting. I was unaware of it before. Thanks for mentioning it. Clearly, the inhabitants of Sodom were not guilty of just one sin, but of many.

  • Howard Kainz

    I think the epistle of Jude offers the common New Testament interpretation of the sin of Sodomy. JUD 1:7 “As Sodom and Gomorrha, and the neighbouring cities, in like manner, having given themselves to fornication, and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.”

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Did you read my whole post? I never once singled out homosexual as being worse than other sins.

  • Howard

    I think the general and traditional repugnance for homosexual activity — more than for other sins — has two main roots.
    1 It is a sin to which most of us are not tempted. We each find it too easy to make excuses for our own sin and to deny mercy to those whose sins hold no attraction for us.
    2 Although a small percentage of people will always be tempted to this sin, when it becomes widespread it is a symptom of a bigger problem — a collapse of morals within the society. The best analogy comes, ironically, from the days when AIDS was just beginning to be recognized. Doctors noticed that some patients had serious infections from fungi that were normally a harmless part of the human flora, easily kept in control by the immune system. Troubling as the infection was, it was not the main problem: the main problem, for which the infection was diagnostic, was the lack of a functioning immune system.

  • Howard

    I agree. The picture of him in Genesis is a pretty sorry one, though in 2 Peter 2;7,8 he is called a just man. I never would have guessed.

  • Scotty Ellis

    I would argue that it is quite difficult to take any particular Biblical story and draw from it general conclusions about universal morality or the gravity of certain sorts of actions. For example, what conclusion am I to draw from the story of Ananias and Sapphira? That it is a sin worthy of capital punishment to fib about how much you got in exchange for your property when you are giving a huge donation to the Church?

    Narratives are not easily translatable into such imperatives, unless it’s a simplistic, moralistic piece (which the majority of the Bible is not). So, too, it is difficult to read about Sodom and Gomorrah, with its complicated back story, the hidden motivations of all the characters involved, and come up with a “therefore, all homosexual acts are sinful.” Clearly, the men of the city planned a homosexual act that was abominable (homosexuals don’t generally approve of rape any more than heterosexuals), and as mentioned before it appears likely that rape, rather than a specifically homosexual rape, was their main intention, as they would have been assuaged by Lot’s daughters.

    In order to achieve the interpretation that homosexuality in general is condemned by the passage, we must include a large number of assumptions from outside the narrative, the majority of which originate in the Mosaic Law, a law whose dictates are for the most part considered unimportant or even heinous (how many Christians would advocate, as commanded in Deuteronomy 22, that rapists should pay off the father of their victims and get to marry them?). A more coherent argument would need to be presented in order to clarify that homosexuality is even a morally relevant concept, as Christ spoke not a word on the matter.

    What I would say is clear within the context of the story is that both heterosexual and homosexual urges are potentially immoral, and that sexuality can very easily give rise to violence (perhaps especially in the context of a mob).

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    You are correct. We do not condemn homosexual actions from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah alone. Instead the Catholic Church makes the judgement that homosexual actions are sinful based on the whole testimony of Scripture, natural law and the unbroken tradition of the Judeo-Christian religion (and every other religion) from the beginning of human civilization.

  • Chris Balding

    I find it interesting that some people would say that Sodom’s sin is lack of hospitality. It clearly states in black and white that Lot offered his daughter’s, WHO HAD NEVER BEEN WITH A MAN. I can’t imagine a man in the biblical times that wouldn’t jump for a virgin. If you’re a father and have two beautiful daughter’s, could you honesty offer them up to men that just wanted sex? I think Lot had guts. The case here that needs to be pondered on is why didn’t the men take the virgin daughter’s? Instead they wanted MEN. Foreign or not they were men.

  • Howard Kainz

    Fr. Longenecker, when you say, “some moral theologians consider oral sex to be a form of sodomy,” is this a reference to oral sex as a type of foreplay leading to sexual intercourse by a married couple? Sounds unusual.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    there is a difference of opinion.

  • FrancesM

    It seems to me that Lot’s offerring of his daughters was to prevent the men from committing a truly unnatural sin. As contemptible and damning as heterosexual rape is it is man doing something natural in a sinful manner; homosexual rape, otoh, is both sinful and unnatural.

  • Scotty Ellis

    I don’t know how much Fr. Longenecker wants to talk about this issue, but I want to second the question and add that it seems like there is tension within these sorts of moral theological proclamations. On the one hand, there is the idea that we don’t want to reduce sexuality to the merely mechanical moving parts. On the other hand, these theologians have paradoxically concluded that unless a very specific placement of parts occurs at a very specific moment (I am attempting to maintain decorum, but I think it is obvious of what I am speaking) then the sexual act is rendered immoral. Simultaneous, certain other placements of parts are often considered immoral. It seems that, far from elevating sexuality from its merely mechanical functions, these sorts of rules actually reduce sexuality and its moral status to nothing other than the mechanical placement of parts, assuming of course that this placement of parts takes place within the context of a particular social institution.

  • Michael

    Why do we blame our priests? How is it that moral code has to be left to them? We are talking basic civil behavior and respect for each individual. Why does that need to be repeated time and time again from the podium? Are the masses forever children? My priests always provoke thought and walking in the ways of Jesus! What other lessons do we need to be told? Time to put the blame on the individuals that are turning their face away from God and engaging in activities that are shameful.

  • Danielle

    Since Lot lived in the town, I always figured his offer of his daughters was more of a smoke screen. He knew these people, and he knew they wouldn’t accept, so he could make the “offer’ knowing full well the answer. But then he could say “well…I offered an alternative and you said no…” Not that it made his daughters feel better, I’m sure. They had their own issues to work out later in the story. No innocents there…(excepting the angelic visitors, of course.)

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    1. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament, not a social institution. 2. While we consider the circumstances and intention of a sin may lessen or increase a person’s culpability we also acknowledge that certain particular actions are, by their very nature, sinful. So, for example, it is sinful to willfully take another human being’s life. Circumstances and intention may lessen the culpability–but that particular action is always wrong. Likewise, anal intercourse is always wrong. Circumstances and intention may lessen the culpability, but they do not render the sinful action good.

  • terry nelson

    Dear Father – Please consult the CDF’s Letter to Bishop’s on Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person (1986), which affirms scripture regarding these issues:

    “In Genesis 3, we find that this truth about persons being an image of God has been obscured by original sin. There inevitably follows a loss of awareness of the covenantal character of the union these persons had with God and with each other. The human body retains its “spousal significance” but this is now clouded by sin. Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.

    Against the background of this exposition of theocratic law, an eschatological perspective is developed by St. Paul when, in I Cor 6:9, he proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God.”-

    This document authored by then Cardinal Ratzinger is frequently ignored. It shouldn’t be.

  • Scotty Ellis

    Actually, Catholicism recognizes that not all marriages are sacramental – that is, there are indeed real marriages that are really not sacramental marriages. Marriage as a social institution predates the Church’s sacramental institution of marriage. But this aside, I do not see the dichotomy between something being a social and a sacramental institution. That all aside, when we speak of murder, we do not speak of some particular specific material arrangement of parts. Murder is not reducible to some particular mechanics (so, for example, piercing someone’s chest with a knife is not intrinsically immoral – it is immoral if it is done to murder them, permissible if it is done in war contexts, and perhaps even a duty if one is a surgeon and is attempting to save someone’s life). My point is precisely this: that in matters of sexuality, it seems that specific material and mechanical circumstances are considered intrinsically immoral, which I would argue reduces the morality of sexuality to its mechanical/anatomical arrangements. Furthermore, there seems no way to simply prohibit a particular sexual act without this purely materialistic reductionism, because by allowing context and intentionality one would be forced to admit the possibility that a particular arrangement could be permissible within certain contexts (just like it is permissible in certain contexts to pierce someone’s chest with a knife, take money from their wallet, or any other purely material description of a circumstance).

    Thinking more about the issue, this seems connected with the Sodom and Gomorrah story. This story is not about homosexual sexuality within the context of a loving or committed relationship; it is about these acts within the context of violence and rape. Since acts cannot be removed from their context, how can we argue that such an act is intrinsically wrong without context (please note that something like “rape is always immoral” or “adultery is always immoral” are already referencing quite highly contextualized acts)?

  • Paul Rodden

    This is where Liberal Protestant Biblical ‘scholarship’ becomes so useful: if it doesn’t fit your worldview, jettison it.

  • Susan

    Thank you Father! I much admire your fire for preaching truth. From a mother of a daughter who’s turned her back on her authentic feminism to live a homosexual lifestyle. I ask for assistance from St. Gabriel that through the power of our Lord my daughter, and your sons and daughters will be cured of their disorders; that He would give them all spouses of His choice; and He would give us parents of such children the courage to live truth without compromise, all loving them unconditionally. Thank you Lord for thinning the veil so I can see more clearly. Thank you for priests such as Fr. Longenecker !

  • Alexandra

    I’m confused about this point as well, and yes I did read the whole post. What is it that leads to the interpretation that it is specifically homosexual rape that is being condemned instead of just rape in general?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    If you are a Christian you should not publicly justify homosexual actions in this way. You are intentionally making something complicated which is simple in order to justify evil. This is an intellectual sin.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    One of the points of the post is that the historic understanding that the story is only about homosexuality is incorrect and that it is about more than that. It is about sexual perversion and violence–in this case homosexual rape.

  • Vladyk

    But why is homosexual rape different from heterosexual rape?

  • Howard Kainz

    Fr. Longenecker, you say, “I never once singled out homosexual as being worse than other sins.” This needs a little clarification. Certainly there is a gradation among sins. Maiming someone is less serious than murdering. Among sexual sins, Thomas Aquinas in the Summa 2-2 q. 154, a. 12, says that sodomy is the second most serious sin in sexual matters, because it is so unnatural. The worst sexual sin is bestiality, intercourse with animals.

  • Gregg the Obscure

    I must suggest consulting the Summa (Secunda Secundae Pars #154 – here, scroll down to Articles 11 and 12) regarding this heinous crime against nature. St. Thomas Aquinas makes quite clear what the Church understands by the term “sodomy”.

  • Gregg the Obscure

    “My point is precisely this: that in matters of sexuality, it seems that specific material and mechanical circumstances are considered intrinsically immoral, which I would argue reduces the morality of sexuality to its mechanical/anatomical arrangements. ”

    They’re intrinsically immoral because they cannot under any circumstance meet the simple criteria of what would make the act moral, namely: (1) occurrence within a valid marriage, (2) full consent of the husband and wife and (3) openness to new life. If a sexual act meets those three simple criteria, it’s all good. Acts that fail in regard to one or more of those criteria are sinful. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t complicated and it most certainly isn’t mechanical.

  • Wade

    You need to read verses 49 and 50 together, as the context requires.
    49 Now look at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy.
    50 Instead, they became arrogant and committed abominations before me; then, as you have seen, I removed them.
    They (Sodom and her daughters) were “removed” after having committed “abominations.”

  • Scotty Ellis

    I appreciate the reply, Gregg. However, I would like to point out that there is quite a bit of fuzzy logic in play with points 1 and 3.

    First, not every culture has the same concept of marriage (indeed, not every culture even has a concept that matches up with what Catholic theology calls “natural marriage”). Clearly, sexuality still exists within these cultures, and usually there are still norms in play within those cultures that govern sexuality, but I think it is a difficult argument to make that would say that a tribal chief who has numerous wives is performing an immoral act when he consorts with them when his culture has absolutely no moral precepts governing the matter and may instead have precepts requiring such acts. So, then, the very nature of what is a “valid marriage” is itself a matter of question (unless you are simply referring to valid within a sacramental sense; which is fine, but not exactly helpful since marriage is not simply a Catholic institution).

    As to point 3, there are several points requiring clarity: first, whence comes this imperative that every sexual act must be “open to life?” It is clearly not derivable from any observations about human life, society, or the act itself. If it is a matter of revelation, this does not help those who are unconvinced of the legitimacy of that revelation, even if it may function as a guide for those who do accept it. But even overlooking this point (one clearly relevant to the homosexual question in general), I might point out that the Church really does permit sexual acts that have no real chance of producing life. We may take NFP for an example: a glance at literature on the matter shows that NFP advertises a far lower “failure” rate than artificial birth control (or even withdrawal), which suggests that practically speaking one would be statistically more open to life using artificial birth control. Women and men who have been rendered entirely and irrevocably infertile may still engage in sexual acts with their spouses (it is helpful to note that citing the possibility of miracle isn’t too helpful to clear this matter up: why couldn’t God miraculously cause conception to occur to override artificial birth control?). So, then, it is not even really the case that “openness to life” is the real criteria. I would argue that the only major criteria in place (aside from the question of marital context) is that a strictly defined anatomical event must occur, and certain other events must not; the “openness to life” criteria is not really applicable despite the fact it is offered as the underlying rationale.

  • Andrew


    What is the source of your Biblical quote in your article? Which translation did you use?

    The pro-homosexual crowd will not back down from their attacks on tradition and will simply state that the translation or analysis is erroneous. “Jesus never onced preached anything against homosexual sex” or words to that effect.

  • Scotty Ellis

    Fr. Longenecker,

    I am simply attempting to understand the matter at hand. I am a Christian, yet I am not convinced that there is a good reason to simply prohibit homosexual acts. The matter may appear simple to you, but I do think it is more complicated. I would appreciate you not ascribing malicious motives to me. I don’t believe that you are intentionally treating a complicated matter so simplistically in order to condemn innocents. You are clearly sincere in your belief, which from my point of view means you are someone who should be able to address my concerns and help me sift through the matter at hand.

  • Brian

    Martin Luther called the “Sin of Onan” marital sodomy.

    All forms of hormonal contraception act as an abortifacient, to varying degrees.

    Abortion is homicide, another of the sins that cry out to Heaven for vengence.

    So our country has many reasons to fear the vengence of God.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I am happy to help you sift through your confusion on this matter.

    The human penis is designed for urination and insemination. The anus was designed to expel feces.

    Natural law, innocent human nature, and the virtually all religious traditions have universally condemned anal intercourse as harmful and un natural.

    I hope this helps you understand.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    because homosexual rape compounds violence with un-natural sexual relations.

  • Gregg the Obscure

    While in contemporary primitive societies there may be valid polygamous marriages, in the developed world, a polygamous marriage is clearly not valid. In ancient times the economic position of women and the number of men who died young made polygamy somewhat of a moral imperative to preserve families who would otherwise have fallen into grievous harm. Such is not the case in the developed world today.

    The openness to life attribute of sexuality is one of those things – like the prohibition of euthanasia of the elderly – that were once generally self-evident to everyone, so there was little said about it explicitly. The best treatment of that topic is in Humanae Vitae, which itself rests on millenia of Catholic and Jewish teaching. The first command given by the Most High to His people was to be fruitful and multiply, Onan’s coitus interruptus was condemned in harsh terms. One of the oldest of all non-Scriptural documents in Christianity, the Didache which is widely regarded to have been written in the first century, condemns abortion (see 2:2). On a more positive note, the surprising pregnancies of Sarah and Elizabeth are reported as cause for rejoicing.

    Rather than merely responding to questions, though, I’d like to pose one: can you present any evidence of any Christians (or Jews) promoting sexual behaviors that specifically exclude conception that date to before 1900?

  • Anthony

    @ scotty ellis Common law recognizes that sticking a knife into somebody, even if you are a surgeon and are doing to for their own good, is still an assault.
    In the common law system one can never assent to an assault, except in the case of surgery.
    In that sense the common law admits that some things are intrinsically wrong despite any good that may come of them.

  • John

    In Ezekiel it goes on to say that they were guilty of abominations and that God dealt with them when He saw it. Homosexual activity is listed as an abomination in Leviticus and that squares perfectly with the Genesis account. They were all those things listed an also guilty of abominations. Paul’s account in Romans 1 reflects on this as well.

  • Clinton


    Thanks for your defense against the scourge of homosexuality. I think you said it best:
    “The human penis is designed for urination and insemination. The anus was designed to expel feces.” Even if one refuses to acknowledge the sinfulness of homosexuality, you can’t argue reasonably against the biological truth of it.

  • Vladyk

    So heterosexual sex without consent is still natural?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Sexual intercourse between a man and woman is, in itself, natural, but violence or force or lack of consent pervert and distort the natural action. Sin is not only what is un natural, but it is also that which is natural being twisted or perverted.

  • Alexandra

    You say that it compounds violence with unnatural sex act, so does that mean that homosexual rape is a worse sin than heterosexual rape? That would mean that homosexual sex is a worse sin than sinful heterosexual sex. I think you are very clearly labeling homosexual sex as one of the most specifically worst sins of Sodom.

  • Scotty Ellis

    It’s probably in part due to the fact that I see the world as a rather complicated affair that your two points have only raised more questions. I understand that this dialogue might become wearying, so do feel free to stop at any time, but if you are willing I wonder if you would clear up some things:

    First, what does something’s design have to do with the morality of its usage? A hammer is explicitly designed for hitting nails (we might even be so generous as to say it is designed for hitting things in general). Is it immoral if I use it as a paperweight? If I use as a hunting weapon? If I make it into a piece of a sculpture? Human ingenuity constantly develops new purposes and uses for already existing structures, both man-made and natural or biological structures. I think your implicit connection between design and morality has no clear basis in reality, for three reasons: first, evolution progresses partly through the adaption of an already existent part (which may serve a distinct purpose) to a sometimes completely different usage, which indicates that the process is contingent on creatures not being limited by any particular abstract assessment of their organs’ “design,” “purpose,” or “intentionality.” Second, even assuming something does have a proper usage does not necessitate that alternative uses are immoral. Someone can say “sure, the penis is used for urination and insemination. It is also used for other non-procreative human sexual activities.” Finally, it seems a matter of special pleading that I have never heard a Catholic once use this logic in reference to any other thing whatsoever except for sexuality.

    Second, the fact that something has been believed or held to be true by a large majority through history does not mean that thing is actually true. It simply means that that belief deserves a fair hearing and honest inquiry, which is why I’m asking you these questions in the first place. The unfortunate thing is, I’ll admit, I will not and cannot “simply” believe what you are saying, if by “simple” you mean that I must somehow ignore or jettison my concerns. If I am to hold what you say to be true, I do not want to do it in bad faith, so to speak – I want to do it genuinely.

  • Scotty Ellis

    Aside from the fact that most midwifes in Europe were also well versed in contraceptive and abortifacient methods? Aside from the fact that most prostitutes (most of whom were Christian) were apparently well aware of these methods? You mean, in official Church documents or in the writings of the saints and doctors? No, I cannot. It is surely clear that contraception was in fact considered sinful by Christians and most Jews (although Jewish scholarship does not always charge Onan’s sin as a matter of contraception and rather as a matter of his failure to accomplish his duty to produce heirs for his dead brother’s wife). But I would only note that the fact that something was at one point always considered sinful by Jews and Christians is no clear indicator that it was always viewed that way. For example, usury was strongly prosecuted by Christianity (and Judaism before it), to the point that the charging of any interest whatsoever was strongly condemned by the Church as sinful. This is now, of course, no longer the case; there is still a condemnation of something called usury, but the nature of this sin has been so thoroughly altered that it is clearly not referring to the same act. This change was brought about in part by the Church’s gradual recognition of the legitimacy of charging interest in order to make up for the opportunity cost of loaning capital. It is possible (though I am not saying this will happen) that such a change in the Church’s sexual ethics will occur; the Church has already shown a certain willingness to slightly alter its ethic. The approval of natural family planning – and the more or less explicit endorsement of sexual acts deliberately committed in a way to minimize the chances of procreation – was certainly perceived by a conservative element within the Church as a change, and I believe that they were right. It may be (again, speculation) that the Church will worry as much about contraception three hundred years from now as it concerns itself with usury today. I speculate that it will only concern itself three hundred years from now over abortifacient contraceptives, but I could very well be wrong.

  • Scotty Ellis

    I would like to see you take a doctor to court for cutting open his patient’s chest during a heart surgery. I would be very humored to see the doctor and his patient’s response to your insistence that the doctor was committing an “assault.”

    The morality of putting a knife into someone’s chest is completely contextual. To determine if the act was right or wrong, we must look beyond the mere mechanical arrangement of the act (the metal of the blade penetrating the flesh of the victim’s chest) and examine the motivations and intentions of those involved (aha! He is on an operating table, having come to the surgeon to have a faulty heart valve replaced. It turns out the doctor was doing absolutely nothing that could be described as morally wrong).

  • New Yorker

    Father, there are studies that show the average life expectancy of homosexuals to be only 38 years. Apparently they suffer from a variety of emotional problems stemming from the emptiness of rampant promiscuity. They have high rates of suicide, substance abuse, and domestic abuse. They suffer from diseases rarely if ever found in heterosexuals like anal cancer and specific types of urinary tract infections. And, all of this happens even when they live in communities that openly embrace the lifestyle. Encouraging homosexual behavior on any level is evil because you are essentialy encouraging someone to engage in a life style that leads to an early grave.

  • Vladyk

    So what you’re basically saying is that a man raping a woman is less of an evil than a man raping a man because the latter is a sin against nature?
    I’m sorry, there is nothing more natural about hetero rape than homo rape just because the gears mesh better in the former than the latter.

  • Gregorio

    Just to echo, and expand upon, Clinton’s point about Fr Dwight’s relatively (that word) graphic language above. His blunt statement, which he was pretty much forced into giving, if you follow the thread, leaps off the page. And herein lies one of the key discussion points of the whole debate around homosexuality (and indeed abortion). So much discourse takes place under the guise of social nicety; pitter-patter rhetoric and phraseology that dances on eggshells all the while trying to make a serious point. One of the earlier posters, whom I don’t criticise here, actually admits to wanting to retain decorum and avoids graphic language. Yet you can almost see the precise scientific and anatomical words straining in the background, just waiting to be unleashed. The active homosexual sophists trade on this all day long. It’s a debate long on sentiment and emotion and rights and dignity and lifestyle…but it never once descends to the “down and dirty”. Why is that? What does that tell us? That active homosexuals don’t like to talk about the graphic details? I’d say so. But the squeamishness doesn’t stop there. Try having “the graphic conversation” in the workplace, at the dinner table, in the parish tea-room, around the TV when the matter is prompted. Faeces at breakfast whilst discussing the Grey Lady’s latest pro-sodomy editorial? Just a no go. People avoid the graphics. Understandable. Why, though? It reveals a lot, actually. Yet, people in offices, at dinner tables, in parish tea-rooms and in family TV settings are quite prepared to have that general debate – just not THAT part of the debate. Talk about elephants in the room! Sure, we shouldn’t be salaciously offensive just for the shock-element, or to deliberately offend people. But, at the same time, if someone is getting pretty strident with me about the discussion – I don’t care whether it’s a sweet granny or a spotty 16-year-old – they’re gonna get straight talk (no pun) back. Then watch them treat you as the vile animal. And that’s for just talking about it! For, I’ll say this: I remember when I first learned about abortion (9) and my natural lights told me “that’s wrong” (even though I still didn’t know how babies got into “women’s stomachs”); and I remember that school biology lesson (15) about the pretty smart (really, genuinely, it’s worth studying) mechanics of the human sphincter and then equally, by my own lights, I reasoned that it may as well have a neon “no entry” sign attached for the really hard of discerning. Really, until we’re all prepared to have the “biological conversation” about the dangers of anal intercourse (homo- and heterosexual) – and let’s not pretend there’s not a major public health issue here also affecting us all (e.g. germs, door handles, tap handles, hand-shaking, crypto-sporidium, the list is endless) – and be equally graphic about abortion (I mean it really took until people understood the use of “the scissors” before the horror of partial birth abortion [as though that heinous phrase itself wasn't enough!] finally hit home), then we’re just dancing around in pretty circles. Well said, Fr Dwight.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    OK, let’s get rid of the homosexual element altogether–anal rape of a woman is worse than vaginal rape. Look at it that way if it helps you to understand what I think is a fairly simple point.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I find that very often people complicate that truth they do not wish to accept.

  • Nick from Detroit

    Mr. Ellis,

    As usual, you are wrong.

    “To determine if the act was right or wrong, we must look beyond the mere mechanical arrangement of the act (the metal of the blade penetrating the flesh of the victim’s chest) and examine the motivations and intentions of those involved [...].”

    Not true. If the surgeon uses a dull, rusty blade to penetrate the victim’s chest, while still intending on replacing the faulty heart valve, is he not still committing an immoral act? I.e., he is using the equipment in an improper way, a way that it was not intended to be used. The doctor is violating the natural law, even though his intent is to heal.

    Your argument about the tribal chief with multiple wives also fails. Just because it was/is a norm of his society doesn’t make it morally correct. This is an appeal to the majority, a logical fallacy. Other cultures believed in human sacrifice. Did that make this form of murder, even if the victim was willing, moral? Of course it didn’t.
    The tribal chief might not be culpable for the sin he is committing, if he is unaware that he is sinning in the first place, but this doesn’t change the fact that he is sinning.

    Finally, Christ did speak about the proper role of sexuality between men and women in Saint Matthew’s Gospel:

    “And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’” – Matthew 19:3-6

    Christ Himself says that God made men and women in order to marry and make babies, quoting from the book of Genesis, of course. And, that the marriage was for life. This would have been an opportune time for Christ to say that homosexual relationships were now allowed, don’t you think, Mr. Ellis?
    The Christian teaching against homosexual acts & relations will NEVER change. Trust me.

  • Nick from Detroit

    Mr. Ellis,

    It occurred to me that my rusty, dull blade analogy was not apt. Try this one:

    If the surgeon uses a machete or an ax to penetrate the victim’s chest, instead of a scalpel, while still intending on replacing the faulty heart valve, is he not still committing an immoral act? I.e., he is using the equipment in an improper way, a way that it was not intended to be used. The doctor is violating the natural law, even though his intent is to heal.

    I think that this better fits the improper use of the equipment argument, since it is purely mechanical and immoral, despite the intent.

  • EBS

    Dah, Dah and Dah!. Chris spot on. I think we are chasing our tails, twisting and distorting the biblical meaning, becoming too blind in the process to even see what is so obvious. Someone once said to me- commonsense is a superhero power- not everyone possesses it.

  • EBS

    You know Scotty, if I had a word count, I bet you that your responses equalled the total amount f responses on this whole forum. That tells me your convoluted gibberish is as long winded as your convoluted thinking. Father needed a few lines to explain to you in clear English the reason why anal sex is wrong. PERIOD! If you can’t debate it without going into a long-winded rant, how the he’ll are you meant to understand the Catholic teaching on it. It’s not RELATIVE. It’s quite simple. Your gut tells you it’s perverted, distorted and nothing more than pure self-gratification. There is no concern for a greater meaning, or a greater good, or care for the other person. Sex in marriage is open to life. ALWAYS! Anal sex, Oral SEx and all forms of sex between the same sex can NEVER be open to life- no matter how hard they tried ( excuse the pun).that should say it all in plain English. No mechanical b$&@s&$@ jargon there.

  • Scotty Ellis

    And I find very often people totally avoid objections to which they have no good response.

    So, here’s a simple question:

    Do you believe it is sinful to use something in a way different than the purpose for which it was designed?

  • Scotty Ellis

    It depends. If he can achieve his aim using a machete or an ax, and nothing else is available, then there is no reason he shouldn’t. Of course, he probably couldn’t achieve his aim in this manner and would more than likely cause harm and death, so it is likely the case that unless the surgeon has a quite spectacular level of skill that he shouldn’t proceed.

    In any case, this isn’t exactly the subject at hand. I’m not asking whether every piece of equipment could be used for every purpose (clearly, I can’t use a herring to chop down a tree, although it is notable that although it would be ridiculous for me to try it still wouldn’t be sinful). I’m asking 1) if the intended purpose or design of equipment carries with it a moral prohibition against using it in a different manner 2) if there is ever a strictly material description of a circumstance devoid of context that can be considered a priori immoral (even your axe in the chest fails; it is morally permissible to use an axe to defend one’s own life and it is also permissible to use it in the prosecution of a just war). In the case at hand, it seems quite clear that we have a reduction and decontextualization of an act and natomical arrangement.

  • Scotty Ellis

    I was unaware that a word count had anything to do with whether something is gibberish or not. If you are unable to follow the thread of longer arguments, I am deeply grieved.

    Father gave me a description of the design of certain anatomical parts. Are you saying, EBS, that it is sinful to use something in a way other than it is designed?

  • Scotty Ellis

    Are suppositories sinful?

  • Vladyk

    So basically what you’re saying is that vaginal rape where the rapist wears a condom is worse than a case in which the rapist doesn’t wear a condom?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Rape is always bad. I’m so glad we agree on this.

  • Gregg the Obscure

    Perhaps some analogies from areas with less emotional resonance might be helpful. Food is necessary for life and is a source of pleasure. Sometimes people – myself very much included – use food in immoral ways. Nearly everyone recognizes that gluttony and wasting food are wrong, particularly when some people lack sufficient food. Were someone to devise a means by which people could eat as much as they wanted without any of the usual consequences for overeating, it would be obvious that this intentional disabling of a normal bodily function is gravely immoral. Even the secular culture recognizes that things like bulimia are disorders. Sexuality is not necessary for the survival of the individual, but is necessary for survival of humanity. It is also a source of pleasure subject to misuse. As with food, the optimal goal is to partake in sex in a way that balances pleasure with its natural function.

    Sometimes people engage in non-marital sex with no immediately apparent negative consequences, however the same is true of drunk driving. We ban drunk driving because it has the potential to cause great harm, even though every episode of drunk driving does so. Emotional disturbances, infections diseases and worse are the too common results of non-marital sex. When sex is (rightly) viewed as a good proper only to marriage, the divorce of sexuality’s recreational aspects from its procreational aspects becomes more incongruous.

    The sins that cry to heaven for vengance are qualitatively different than other grave sins because they treat people as only means to an end. Were someone to steal my car, it would harm me, but it wouldn’t diminish my human dignity. Even the depraved contemporary world can see how slavery (the ultimate expression of depriving the worker of his wages) and exploitation of the vulnerable attack the basic dignity of their victims. One reason that our society is so eager to define personhood narrowly is that there’s still a vestigal recongntion that intentionally killing a person isn’t a good thing. When one person reduces another to an object of sexual pleasure, absent kenotic self-giving, human dignity is similarly injured.

  • Andrew

    For real? That’s medicine, you are comparing apples with oranges.

  • Peter Brown

    Ezekiel does make the point that sexual sin was not the only sin rampant in Sodom. You can’t read Ezekiel to exclude Genesis, however, particularly since the account in Genesis is much fuller; and Genesis is pretty clear that the sin of Sodom (of “all the men in the city”, now, not just a few folks) was far more than a simple failure to offer hospitality. Sex–and specifically sexual violence–was intrinsically bound up in it.

  • Gregg the Obscure

    Challoner’s note to the passage (from ca. 1752) is on point “That is, these were the steps by which the Sodomites came to fall into those abominations for which they were destroyed. For pride, gluttony, and idleness are the highroad to all kinds of lust; especially when they are accompanied with a neglect of the works of mercy. ” Pride, gluttony, idleness and neglect of the works of mercy (or at the very least leaving the acts of mercy to government) are singularly characteristic of the post-modern nightmare world and all too common in my own life too.

  • Peter Brown

    You can’t take the question out of context that way and still expect a useful answer.
    Some of the essential points of context:
    - First, who designed it? There’s a lot less at stake when I use something designed by a human being (let’s say, a hammer) for a non-designed purpose (e.g., as a paperweight) than if I use something designed by God (let’s say, my body) for a non-designed purpose (that would be, for anything other than to glorify God).
    - Second, what are the relationships involved? When I use a hammer as a paperweight–assuming I don’t leave the handle sticking out and thereby set up a booby trap for the next person who walks past my desk, and further assuming it’s my hammer and my paper, etc.–there really aren’t a whole lot of relationships affected. But that’s simply never true of sex. Every sexual act other than solo masturbation involves other people physically, and even masturbation generally involves other people as fantasies; furthermore, both Scripture and Tradition make it very clear that my relationship with God is involved in every sexual act.
    - Third, and least important but still useful as a question, is the use in question simply *other* than the design use, or is it directly *contrary* to the design use? One might argue, for example, that our gluteus maximus muscles aren’t really designed for sitting on–they’re designed for balance while walking as bipeds–but there’s nothing about sitting on a chair that has inspired any significant volume of moral debate, perhaps because there’s no real contradiction between sitting on a chair and then getting up to walk somewhere (unless one sits to the point of sloth, but sloth is neither uniquely nor even primarily about sitting per se). However, if I start sticking my penis in places it was never designed to go, with the intent of getting the sensation of putting it where it *was* designed to go but apart from the relational and (pro)creative context in which sex is designed to occur–well, that contrariness should serve as a red flag, just as bulimic expulsion should serve as a red flag that my use of food is fouled up somewhere.

  • Nick from Detroit

    Mr. Ellis,

    “It depends.”

    No, it doesn’t. Why do people, when they lose an argument, find it so irresistible to move the goalposts? Stick to what you have written, please. You stated quite clearly that “[t]he morality of putting a knife into someone’s chest is completely contextual. To determine if the act was right or wrong, we must look beyond the mere mechanical arrangement of the act.”
    I provided an example in which the “mere mechanical arrangement of the act” can determine if the act is moral, or not. Thus, proving your statement false.

    “If he can achieve his aim using a machete or an ax, and nothing else is available, then there is no reason he shouldn’t.”

    This is where you move the goalposts in an attempt to salvage your losing argument. In the analogy, the scalpel is always available. Just as members of the opposite sex and marriage are always available to the individual. So, this availability argument does not apply. Nice try.

    “Of course, he probably couldn’t achieve his aim in this manner and would more than likely cause harm and death, so it is likely the case that unless the surgeon has a quite spectacular level of skill that he shouldn’t proceed.”

    This admission fits nicely with the analogy, since homosexual acts and relations are destructive to those who commit them. But, there is NO level of skill that would allow them to achieve the results of a licit marriage, i.e., a loving relationship between a man and a woman. This is because there is no love involved, only lust.

    “I’m not asking whether every piece of equipment could be used for every purpose [...].”

    Straw man. Nobody ever claimed that to use “every piece of equipment” for a purpose other than what it was designed to do, was sinful. The discussion was limited to human reproductive organs.

    To answer question #1: In the case of human sexuality and the uses of the reproductive organs and the digestive system, yes, using them for a purpose they were not designed is morally proscribed.

    To answer question #2: Again, a straw man. Who ever claimed that this was an a priori argument? Questions of morality are answered by God. Again, see Matthew 19. Questions of biology can be answered by science. Father Longenecker already answered both the theological and biological purposes of the reproductive organs.

    “[...] (even your axe in the chest fails; it is morally permissible to use an axe to defend one’s own life and it is also permissible to use it in the prosecution of a just war).”

    Again, this has nothing to do with your wrongly stated premise, i.e., that “[t]he morality of putting a knife into someone’s chest is completely contextual.” If a surgeon attempts to use an ax to perform surgery, when scalpels are plentiful, he is committing an immoral act. Self-defense doesn’t enter into it. Why do you repeatedly try to change the premise?

    I will assume that you have conceded that your tribal chief argument was wrong, and, that you misrepresented Christ’s position on homosexual acts, since you didn’t address either in your reply?

  • Nick from Detroit

    Oops! Those last paragraphs should read like this:

    “[...] (even your axe in the chest fails; it is morally permissible to use an axe to defend one’s own life and it is also permissible to use it in the prosecution of a just war).”

    Again, this has nothing to do with your wrongly stated premise, i.e., that “[t]he morality of putting a knife into someone’s chest is completely contextual.” If a surgeon attempts to use an ax to perform surgery, when scalpels are plentiful, he is committing an immoral act. Self-defense doesn’t enter into it. Why do you repeatedly try to change the premise?

    I will assume that you have conceded that your tribal chief argument was wrong, and, that you misrepresented Christ’s position on homosexual acts, since you didn’t address either in your reply?

  • Vladyk

    I’m glad we agree on that too. What i’m not glad about is that you distinguish between better and worse types of rape, and that the way in which you do so seems to imply that rape is more of a moral evil when the rapist wears a condom than when he does not because it entails compounding violence with an unnatural act. I find this type of thinking deeply disturbing.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    You are putting words in my mouth then blaming me for a position I never articulated. It sounds to me like you are arguing that because the Catholic Church says the use of condoms is wrong that we would therefore say a rape without a condom is better than a rape with a condom.

    Catholic moral theology is an objective and legal discussion of human moral choices. In the discipline of moral theology there are many finely nuanced positions that can be argued. There can be some rapes that are worse than others just like there can be some murders that are worse than others or some theft that is worse than others.

    That’s why I did not rise to your bait about rape and condoms. If you like, I could propose a scenario where rape with a condom would be “better” than rape without a condom, and I could propose a scenario where rape without a condom would be “better”. The argument would be pointless. One of the reasons it would be pointless is that I cannot imagine why any rapist would bother to put on a condom. What would he say, “Excuse me madam while I put on this prophylactic for although I plan to rape you I would not wish you to become pregnant or receive a disease from me.”

    That’s why I simply said rape is evil.

  • Vladyk

    I’m not sure if you’re aware of this Father, but it is possible for men to receive diseases through sexual intercourse as well. You could have someone wanting to rape a prostitute but not want to contract HIV, and have her tied up while he puts on a prophylactic. It’s a very probable scenario.

    I’m sorry if I put words in your mouth, so you don’t think that there are objectively more and less morally offensive forms of rape(i.e. those that are violent, and those that compound violence with unnantural acts)?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    We could imagine many different scenarios of rape which were un-natural and violent in many different ways and to many different degrees of severity and offensiveness–each one would be a separate case. I am not interested in hypothetical situations, but in real events.

  • Vladyk

    So then why did you say that “anal rape of a woman is worse than vaginal rape”?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I’m sorry I’ve lost your train of reasoning and don’t really know what point you are trying to make.

  • Vladyk

    I am referring to the quote above that you made on May 11, 2012 at 5:26 am. Could you explain what you were trying to say about vaginal rape and anal rape?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Anal rape is worse than vaginal rape because it is intrinsically an un natural action. Furthermore, it is more degrading, humiliating, painful and more likely to cause disease and injury. i expect with your twisted logic you will now attempt to say therefore that I am saying vaginal rape is okay, so let me assert that all rape is a horrific crime that cries to heaven for vengeance.

  • Joe Anon

    I think the point is that lust is immoral. Sexual intercourse, even between married people must be open to the possibility of procreation. Obviously, the mechanics are important.

  • Kenneth

    Well done Alexandra, so bright and clever of you to get the point. All rape is bad, and homosexual sex is one of the worst sins of Sodom.
    I’m not quite sure what took you so long in getting there, but I’m very happy for you.

  • Kenneth

    The ‘lack of hospitality’ ruse is pretty lame. To offer the men virgins is very shrewd, though. There’s an ongoing PBS story, and a growing awareness of Arabian boys who are being used sexually, in what is evidently a very open way. So, the story of Lot has some similarities to modern day pornographic perversions (see for example, ‘The Kite Runner’.)

    Offering two virgins would have probably dampened the enthusiasm of the predators since it would have been highly morally offensive in their evidently confused code to even think about raping a virgin girl. It also would have given Lot a chance to get inside pronto.

    Overall, I’m of the mind that arguing the nuances of sexual sin is not the point of the story, as much as the point of the story is how mankind can be so given over to evil that they are blinded by it.

  • Victor Wowczuk

    The problem is, Father, that the USCCB disagrees with you. The sin in Genesis is one of inhospitality. See footnote 18:20 at
    So whom are the faithful supposed to believe, St Jude at 1:7, or the USCCB???

  • badfinger

    Ezekiel 16:49&50 Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.

    Funny how as the “worst sin” of Sodom it was not bad enough to be specifically listed as one of Sodom’s sins.

  • badfinger

    So it wasn’t important enough to name specifically? It’s hidden in the word “abomination” along with lying tongues and incense and cutting your hair and beard? Something that is apparently so evil would have been listed specifically along with the others.

  • James

    Really? You were unaware of this verse? So you present yourself as some sort of expert on this subject, and here you are a former Evangelical, Anglican and now a Catholic priest and you were unfamiliar with this passage? One which clearly has great significance to the very topic with which you are trying to expand upon… Unbelievable but probably not at all uncommon.