Rorate Caeli

On Pontifical Biblical Commission document and homosexuality, better not to rush to judgment

The Pontifical Biblical Commission, first created by Pope Leo XIII and strengthened by Saint Pius X, but transformed for the worse, like everything, after Vatican II, released this week a document dated from September 30, 2019, with the following title: "What is Man? An Itinerary of Biblical Anthropology" (Che cosa è l’uomo? Un itinerario di antropologia biblica).

Unfortunately, the document is currently available only in Italian and only in very limited circulation in printed form, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Some excerpts have popped up, claiming that the document states, among other things, that, "the erotic homosexual relationship should not be condemned," or favoring same-sex unions. Since the context of each quote is not available, we would caution any rush to judgment, even though so many bad things are to be expected from the Vatican in the current pontificate.

We wish to give two examples of the dangers of short excerpts without further data from the surrounding context. For instance, what if we say that "The Vatican" said that, "homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing"? Or that "The Vatican" said that, "homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love"?

The context for the first quote is the following:

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved. [emphasis added]

And the context for the second quote is the following:

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy. [emphasis added]

Both quotations come from the important 1986 Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Therefore, context is key. One may expect the worst and still be cautious regarding excerpts that do not provide a full view of the arguments presented in the overall context of a theological text. If the text turns out to be terrible, then it must be condemned. But a rush to judgment must be avoided.

As soon as the full document becomes widely available, we will return to this matter.