Three Church Leaders on Homosexuality

In the past few days we have had three leading church figures come out speaking quite forthrightly on the topic of homosexuality. Their remarks range from what might be called the good, bad, and the ugly. Each had rather different approaches to the subject, and it is worth examining each in turn.

Let me jump straight into what they had to say. Russian Patriarch Kirill will be the first, and his is clearly the strongest stance on the sin of homosexuality. Although speaking primarily about homosexual marriage, he clearly sees the threat that the homosexualist movement is posing in general.

One news item carries the story this way: “In his Sunday sermon this weekend in Kazan Cathedral in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill, Primate, of the Russian Orthodox Church, warned against the extraordinary rise in many western countries of the homosexualist movement. Kirill said that the trend of legalizing ‘gay marriage’ is ‘a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse.’

“It ‘means people are choosing a path of self-destruction,’ he said. He said he supports the recently passed national ban on homosexualist propaganda that has prohibited the Gay Pride festivities that have become a prominent feature of national life elsewhere. ‘Lately, we have enormous temptations, when a number of countries opting for sin is approved and justified by the law, and those who, acting in good conscience, are struggling with such laws imposed by a minority, being repressed,’ Kirill said.

“He added that everything must be done to prevent the approval of sin ‘on the spaces of Holy Russia.’ Otherwise, ‘the people are embarking on the path of self-destruction’. The sermon came the Sunday following the passage in Britain of the Cameron government’s so-called ‘equal marriage’ bill.”

Interestingly, Russian leader Putin has been taking a strong stance of late against homosexuality as well. They both seem to be able to see the threat it poses, while most of the West is blind to the destructive changes taking place all around them because of the militant homosexual agenda.

Our second case – not really bad, but ambiguous at best – involves Pope Francis. Ambiguity often can occur here, partly because of conflicting press reports, and partly because of commentary on the run – in this case, remarks made during a plane flight.

Previous papal remarks in the past have sometimes led to uncertainty and at least conflicting press accounts – think of the controversy some years back concerning papal remarks about evolution. Here too there seems to be a lack of clear agreement as to where exactly the new Pope is heading.

Let me draw upon one newspaper which has had fairly extensive coverage on this: “When Pope Francis said he wouldn’t judge gay priests, he opened the door to a new era of reconciliation within the Roman Catholic Church, which has struggled for decades to confront the presence of homosexuality in its ministry.

“The pontiff was traveling aboard a turbulent overnight flight to Rome from his first overseas trip—a journey marked by his plain-spoken appeals to Catholics to reground the church in grass-roots ministry—when he broached the delicate issue of how the Catholic hierarchy should respond to clerics who are gay, though not sexually active. In doing so, he departed from the posture that has long shaped papal thinking on gay priests.

“‘Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?’ the pontiff told a news conference in response to a question. ‘You can’t marginalize these people.’ Pope Francis reaffirmed church teaching by referring to homosexual acts as a sin. But he wielded his formidable bully pulpit to shift the tone of how the church regards homosexual orientation at its highest ranks.”

If this is somewhat ambiguous, it is not just lay people and non-Catholics like me who seem to be getting mixed messages here. Consider a number of Catholic leaders who are quoted in this article. They too are getting quite differing readings and understandings of what the Pope actually said:

“Never before had a pope spoken out in defense of gay priests in the Catholic ministry, said Vatican analysts, and past popes have traditionally treated homosexuality as an obstacle to priestly celibacy. In 1986, the Vatican defined homosexuality as an ‘objective disorder,’ and in 2005 Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, formally barred men deemed to have ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’ from entering the priesthood.

“Pope Francis ‘is showing a deep respect for the human condition as it is, instead of approaching things in a doctrinal way,’ said Alberto Melloni, a church historian. ‘This isn’t a change in the church’s teaching,’ said Rev. James Bretzke, a theology professor at Boston College. ‘What’s important is the change in style and emphasis.’

“Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York echoed the pope on Monday, saying a priest’s homosexuality ‘wouldn’t matter to me as long as one is leading a virtuous and chaste life.’ But, he added, ‘My worry is that we’re buying into the vocabulary that one’s person is one’s sexual identity and I don’t buy that and neither does the church.’

So if church leaders appear to be somewhat confused or unclear here, how much more the rest of us? Indeed, the fact that some homosexual lobby groups have already expressed at least qualified praise for the Pope’s remarks may be quite telling in itself.

Of course he is right when he says he is not changing church teaching when he speaks of inner orientation versus outward action. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does indeed teach that (see Section 2357). I have discussed this more fully elsewhere. See here for example:

But not all Christians buy this distinction, including many former homosexuals. The testimony of both Scripture and many ex-homosexuals is that lustful desires too are sinful, and God is able to change a person’s inner desires and inclinations, just as he can change their outward actions. But this is not the place for that particular debate.

So depending on various factors, the Pope is either saying nothing new here, or he may be saying things at least somewhat differently or with a new emphasis, from past church teaching on this topic. And that is how other Catholic leaders have viewed this, not just me.

Finally we have Archbishop Tutu from South Africa. Now his articles most certainly are ugly, at least for the biblical Christian. Although he retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, he still speaks out and has the ears of many. What he said about homosexuality is as bizarre as it is a slap in the face to orthodox biblical teaching.

Speaking at a UN-backed pro-homosexual rally, he made these incredible remarks: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.” He went on to say, “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level”.

He of course is simply mistaken in the second remark. There is no similarity between these two issues whatsoever, as I carefully document in my book Strained Relations. But it is his first comment that I must address here. All he is really saying is this: God is wrong about homosexuality, and I reject God’s position on this.

Such rebellion and shaking of the fist at God and His Word is a terribly dangerous thing to engage in. Indeed, if he keeps it up, his wish will simply be granted. Hell is full of those who reject God, spit on His Word, and think they can do a better job of running the universe than God.

By actually telling God he is wrong here, and pressing his own flawed, finite and fleshly morality, Tutu has declared he is standing against God, and with the militants. So yes, with that heart of deadly defiance, he is indeed choosing his own fate, and he will get what he desires: life apart from God in a lost eternity.

So here we have three quite different takes on the issue of homosexuality by three religious leaders. If I had to choose who I feel most at home with, there is not a bit of doubt here: the Russian patriarch gets my vote. Tutu most certainly doesn’t, and as a non-Catholic, I can only hope Pope Francis is not beginning to cave in here. Time will tell I guess.

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26 Replies to “Three Church Leaders on Homosexuality”

  1. Thanks Jarred. As I write in my article, it is not quite clear whether this is a new and worrying cave-in, or just more of the same. I guess we will have to wait and see how this pans out.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  2. PS one more thing, if any Pope changed the teaching on homosexuality or premartial sex in general, it would no longer be Roman Catholic.
    Tara Kelly

  3. Dear Bill, I am starting to wonder about Pope Francis. I am admiring the stand of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Perhaps Pope Francis is saying hate the sin, but love the sinner. Let us see what happens and pray for the best.
    Regards, Franklin Wood

  4. Come back Pope Benedict! Pope Francis’ comment “who am I to judge” is wise in that it reflects the words of Jesus “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone”. Hopefully the new Pope is a skilled diplomat who will reel out his full message over a period of time, keeping everyone on side. The new Archbishop of Canterbury has caved in. Politicians have caved in to the lure of the Pink Pound, the intimidation of lobbyists and progressives as their bloodless revolution gathers apace. Russia has been to the secular wasteland where Western “democracies” are headed and knows the danger. Africa can see the folly of legally enforcing “equal marriage” – and yet African nations are told by the USA “to evolve” to accept same sex marriage or be denied aid. Civil partnerships for a minority issue would have been the better option and same-sex couples could enshrine their relationship in law without encroaching on marriage as understood as being the faithful union of a man and a woman.

    A homosexual man may protest about bigots but what is more bigoted than discriminating against the entire female sex in terms of sexuality and even in some cases referring contemptuously to women as “breeders”. People who disagree are called haters but who is threatening death and ruin here? Who rejects the natural way of human reproduction which ensures the continuation of human life? Education on homosexuality is already being rolled out in schools but if the Terrence Higgins Trust teaching aids such as the video The Bottom Line are anything to go by, that would be more about sexual technique than the process of human reproduction and life continuing. I press the point, to disagree is not the same as to hate.

    Archbishop Tutu declares he would refuse to go to a “homophobic” heaven and would rather go to the “other place”. He has pleased his audience while shaking his fist at God. Hmm.

    Rachel Smith, UK

  5. If a priest is homosexual in inclinations, but does not “practise” homosexual actions (ie he fights off temptations to sin), then he is not a sinner! However,The Church should not accept such people (in my opinion) into the priesthood, since there is risk that scandal could arise: it’s too much temptation to risk it:they should be screened out. BUT if some have gone through the seminary without falling into sin, then one must accept them. One cannot “assume” that they will yield to temptation.
    Jerome Gonzalez

  6. As a catholic, Pope Francis causes me great unease. I’ll be praying to St. Athanasius from now on, I’m thinking. 🙁

    Debra Franklin

  7. Thanks Jerome.

    As I say, this is where real disagreement can occur. Simply take a different sin and see how your first remark sounds: “If a priest is adulterous in inclinations, but does not ‘practise’ adulterous actions (ie he fights off temptations to sin), then he is not a sinner!” This of course is exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    And Paul clearly speaks of the homosexual desire (not just actions) in Romans 1:24: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”

    I speak to all this much more fully in my book Strained Relations. So although I am quite aware of what the Catholic Catechism says on this matter (as I mention in my article), this is an area where many can and do disagree.

    But admittedly, this can be a rather difficult topic to get completely right. Indeed, as another Protestant has just written: “Clarification is in order here: The impulse to have sex with a person of the same sex, a close kin, or a person of the opposite sex other than one’s wife (if one is married) is by definition a sinful impulse because it is a desire to do something that God expressly forbids. But we are not held culpable for the mere experience of the impulse, only if we give in to it in thought or deed. And then we must repent. Sexual attractions can be sinful attractions if they are attractions for doing things that are absolutely prohibited by God. But one doesn’t commit sin until allowing such attractions to control our thoughts and/or behaviors. The ‘such were some of you’ statement in 1 Cor 6:11 does not mean that Christians will no longer struggle with sinful sexual desires, including homosexual desires. But it is true that as believers we should neither be constructing an identity based on such desires nor submitting to such desires in our thought life and behavior.” (Robert Gagnon)

    So thanks for your remarks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Bill: the Catholic Church TEACHES that harbouring sinful thoughts is a sin: it is gravely sinful to harbour lustful thoughts, be they homosexual or “straight”. I was writing about a homosexual who fights off (successfully resists )thoughts that are sinful. This is commendable, NOT sinful. If one harbours impure thoughts, one sins and must confess that sincerely and make a firm purpose of amendment. So it is NOT “sinful” to BE a homosexual in inclinations, but is IS if sinful thoughts are “harboured” or sinful actions taken.
    Jerome Gonzalez

  9. Bill,
    What I heard through the television media was that Pope Francis was supporting “gays”, which is probably what MSM wants us to think. But when I heard his comments, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” and “You can’t marginalise these people.” I thought his comments were not a defence of homosexuality, but of persons of good will seeking the Lord. Any one of good will who seeks God must at some point, let go of all sins including homosexuality. Who wants to marginalise people who are seeking God?

    There may be some grounds for concern with papal statements, but the thing that angered me was the implication that his comments supported homosexuals in their homosexuality. Few seconds sound and visual bites seem designed to leave a particular impression and thoughtless agreement, rather than to encourage critical thinking.
    As for Bishop Tutu and his “homophobic” heaven, he should have known that opposition to homosexuality comes not from a fear (phobia) of same sex relations, but from a love of heterosexual marriage and its Divine origin. Homophobia is not the alternative to homosexuality as its proponents would have us believe.
    Robert Greggery.

  10. Loved the Gagnon quote and the general trend of the RC teaching. Much of the confusion arises from Christians buying into the vocabulary of the “gay” lobby, e.g. gay/straight, orientation. We need to stick with biblical terms like “temptation” and “sin”.

    Jon Newton

  11. I wonder what the stance is with our Coptic Orthodox Church, under the leadership and guidance of H H Pope Tawadros II. Personally speaking, the Scripture is straight forward, Leviticus 18:22-23 — You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. (NKJV)

    Leviticus 20:13 — If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. (NKJV)

    Romans 1:22-32 — Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (NKJV)

    Deuteronomy 22:5 — “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God. (NKJV)

    …and this, Bill, is our source of life and where the Church receives Her way of life.
    Michael Tadros

  12. I have prayed that my words are the right ones.

    My name is Daniel, at a young age I was sexually mistreated by a male family member. I was bullied into believing it was my fault, soon later my parents divorced, again I was told and taught that it was my fault because I was “Gay”. Now at a young age, we are all impressionable, over time I began to believe it. Now you are probably wondering where this is leading, I will get to that in a moment, it is important to understand all the facts.

    From a young age I heard Christians in my life speak of how “God doesn’t approve of homosexuality, how gay people in the end can’t make it to heaven.”

    As you can imagine, I grew up hating myself, Depression took hold, and it’s roots grew ‘very’ deep. Suicidal thoughts, hateful thoughts and sexual immorality were a daily routine for a long time. The enemy was constantly telling me Jesus can’t be real, or he’d save me from myself, that God was a cruel and horrible creator, for I was doomed to burn in hell.

    I have found Jesus now, I have forgiven those that caused me so much pain, I am still an unsaved Christian but I feel the Holy spirit will only solidify my understanding in this topic. I do not disagree that Homosexuality is immoral, I do not disagree that practicing homosexuality in flesh and in mind is a sin and finally, I do not disagree that heaven is unreachable if you do not repent to your sins (whatever they may be)

    My opinion is this, and saying so while battling daily with my inner ‘demons’ if you will.

    Homosexuality is a sin that is being taken far to lightly in this world. For it not only drags down the individual, but can potentially drag down people that support it. Take Archbishop Tutu, (the only source for my argument here is what is written above)
    “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.” Unfortunately his wish will be granted. Like all who (and well worded) Raise their fist to God.

    Even though I knew I had been mistreated, and that it could possibly have had some impact into why I so readily and so heavily believed and defended the ‘Fact’ that I was gay, It was still instilled into my mind that I was born this way, that it was OK to be GAY, that I will be accepted for who I am, look, the world is so welcoming nowadays that in my country Gay Marriage is Legalized. I applauded that fact, I was happy.

    My eyes have been opened. What I once though was Goodness, and a step forward for humanity has been revealed to me as quite the opposite.

    I am a hypocrite in saying this but I pray I am filled with Courage and faith to carry out my own words when I become baptized and even before then. I pray we all have the courage to sit idle no longer, to preach God’s word instead of being frightened of persecution, if you know the truth, if you have no plank in your eye, I say it’s right to Judge others when they are wrong, for deep down when we sin, our spirit knows it is wrong. Homosexuality is the issue, the people are not. Do not mistake my words for Hatred towards the people, but the only way I can see getting through homosexuality for myself is to hate the sin, with all my heart.

    (John 3:16-18)

    Everyone one of us can be saved, if we choose to have faith in him. Every Homosexual can be saved if they want it enough, for we as people are not condemned, the sin we commit condemns us. (rebuke me if I’m wrong, I am a new Christian) It comes down to proper teaching, of HIS word and yes, some worldly teachings as well. Freedom starts with accepting Christ into your heart. If I have been vague on anything or if you have questions I will answer as best I can. I just hope my words are seen for what they are, and I re-iterate. Hate the Sin, love the sinner.

    Daniel Joseph

  13. Well said, Daniel. I hear your sincerity and my heart goes out to you. I take your words as they are spoken. After all words and their meaning are important. Jesus said that the time will come when we have to account for every careless word we have spoken. For me, Jesus is the stillness of truth in our turbulent world. We have to hold steady to that truth, like a rock in a storm-tossed sea. I agree it’s time to be more vocal about our belief, in love, not in hate.

    Rachel Smith, UK

  14. I am mystified at how someone gets to be an archbishop when they clearly don’t understand theology. Archbishop Tutu called God – the loving God who sent His perfect Son to die for ALL sinners – homophobic? As far as I was aware, God isn’t homophobic any more than he is gluttonophobic, prideophobic or any other type of “phobe”. Since this is one of the basic teachings of the Bible – God loves the sinner but hates the sin – I can’t help but think that the Reverend Tutu should get off his soapbox and back into the Word.

    Daniel, congratulations on the transformation you have undergone. As a reformed glutton (one of the deadly sins) I know just how hard it is to accept the unpleasant truth about myself, and to choose to live a life that is pleasing to God in a society which tells us that we should indulge all our whims. “Deny your self” is still unpopular theology, but it is the only one that leads to true freedom. Keep trusting God. His way is the best way!

    Nicola Saad

  15. I wonder if we have all absorbed unconsciously the legacy of the AA movement. It has done much good work and grew out of a painful necessity, but I believe it has mislead its members in the way that their identity still lies in them being an alcoholic though be it an ex-alcoholic, or now, with all the different groups that have sprung up with the same philosophy “whatever your problem is anonymous”.
    I never belonged to one of these groups, but I have a sense that the members are never encouraged to understand the new birth fully, to have their identity in Christ Jesus and to trust in His power to deliver them from the hold that sin once had over them. God delivered me from smoking, I know it and I would never identify myself as an ex-smoker. I am just wondering if that could be the cause of the ambiguity surrounding Pope Francis’s remarks that, though he believes in people’s ability to not practice what they are tempted by, he does not necessarily believe in the power of God to “truly no longer lead us into temptation” as Jesus has asked us to pray.
    This of course is sometimes a very gradual process and I would personally not put people into a position where old temptations could surface until they have proven themselves free of them. This is part of “being our brothers keeper” and being shepherds to those under our care.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  16. Daniel Joseph, if you are born again, you are saved. An unsaved Christian is an oxymoron. Awesome testimony though. Keep at it and keep trusting Jesus.

    Debra Franklin, I say this in love as a former Catholic. You should be praying to God the Father in the name of his son Jesus as the Bible says to do. Praying to a mere man is as useful as praying to your socks. It is idolatry an senseless.

    Mario Del Giudice

  17. As you are aware Bill, I spent several years researching homosexuality and homosexual paedophilia. These individuals freely chose this dangerous, disgusting lifestyle. In my opinion and several credible scientific papers, such people have been described as psychologically deranged! The health cost of medication for these men and women is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

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