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God’s plan for conjugal love: A response to Cardinal Hollerich and the German synodal way

Revising doctrine would relativize Church teaching, thereby reducing it to evolve with the changing sensibilities of the moment while undercutting its divine foundation.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union, is pictured in a file photo during a news conference at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Jesus regularly challenged his followers, inviting them to put the kingdom first by denying themselves and taking up their cross. Jesus did not teach self-affirmation of one’s own desires or that we should prioritize human relationships over following the Gospel.

Rather, he said, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37-38).

Jesus’s teaching stands in sharp contrast to our culture that proposes self-fulfillment through following one’s own desires, especially through sexual pleasure.

In the Church, it can be tempting, though ultimately self-defeating, to embrace the culture’s view on “human sexuality,” abandoning traditional moral teaching as outdated or irrelevant. For instance, Luxemburg’s Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich recently posited: “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching [against sodomy] is no longer correct.” Speaking of past ages, he continued:

At that time, it was thought that the whole child was contained in the sperm of the man, and that was simply transferred to homosexual men. But there is no homosexuality in the New Testament. There is only the mention of homosexual acts, which were partly pagan ritual acts. That was, of course, forbidden. I think it is time for a fundamental revision of the doctrine.

This sentiment was reinforced by the German Synodal Way’s recent votecalling for the alteration of the Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality.

Revising doctrine would relativize Church teaching, thereby reducing it to evolve with the changing sensibilities of the moment while undercutting its divine foundation. Catholic doctrine does not find its origin in science, outdated or otherwise; it is based on God’s revelation. The Bible clearly condemns homosexual actions: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev 18:22). St. Paul affirmed this in the New Testament, speaking in Romans 1 of “shameless acts,” warning that effeminacy and sodomy would prevent inheritance of the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9), and calling for the correction of this sin in accord with sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:10).

The Bible does not single out homosexual actions, however, as it also condemns other sexual actions outside of marriage, especially adultery and fornication. God has created human sexuality for the procreation and education of children, in a way that reflects the communion of persons between man and woman in marriage.

Heresy has never been absent from the Church’s long history and recent times are certainly no exception. Dr. Christopher Malloy’s recent book, False Mercy: Recent Heresies Distorting Catholic Truth (Sophia Institute Press, 2021), outlines and responds to current attacks on the Church’s infallible teaching. It includes chapters entitled “Are Marriage and Sex Not Ordered to Procreation?” and “Is Sodomy Now Permitted?” that provide an excellent and decisive response to Cardinal Hollerich and the German Synodal Way’s erroneous position.

Malloy demonstrates in undeniable fashion that the Church’s teaching that condemns sodomy rests firmly on Scripture, the unanimity of the Church Fathers, pronouncements of ecumenical councils and the unbroken teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church. Catholic teaching on the disordered nature of homosexual acts cannot be separated from the proper understanding of the nature of marriage, flowing from the “infallible doctrine that marriage — and the sexual or marital act — is essentially ordered to the procreation and education of offspring” (293).

Malloy explains further that “the Church teaches infallibly that the sexual act is good only if it meets three conditions: (1) It is engaged in by a man and a woman. (2) The man and woman are married to each other. (3) The act terminates in a manner that is per se open to procreation. A sexual act that fails to meet any of these conditions is intrinsically and gravely evil” (329). Inclinations and acts are good only when “they correspond to the good of the nature” (332).

Homosexual acts cannot fulfill the proper end of human sexuality, and thus lead away from God’s plan for our flourishing and happiness.

For the true good of all people, the Church must communicate clearly and fully God’s will for human life and sexuality. It is truly flabbergasting that a Cardinal of the Catholic Church would call for a “fundamental revision of doctrine” as if the Church’s teaching were up for political debate or depended simply upon an Aristotelian understanding of sperm. Once again, science has nothing to do with this doctrine and has not been cited as support by the Church in her teaching. God’s plan for human sexuality flows from how he created us as sexual beings with a complementarity of male and female and ordered toward the fruitfulness of marriage — a reality made clear by both natural law and God’s revelation.

This foundational truth is not up for grabs, nor up for debate. As Malloy notes, “no authority whatsoever can change this” (358).


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About Dr. R. Jared Staudt 32 Articles
R. Jared Staudt PhD, serves as Associate Superintendent for Mission and Formation for the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor for the Augustine Institute. He is author of Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option (Angelico Press) and the editor of Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press). He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

19 Comments

  1. Awarding even less of an academic veneer to the red-hat Hollerich, it’s not even about moral theology, finally.

    Under his relator generalship, all of the local synods—as they will eventually genuflect before him at the 2023 Synod on Synodality—are likely little more than a grooming exercise for a world of unsuspecting block-parties. The man is totally malleable on a range of false issues and equally (equality!) clueless. Of the sin-nods, how many bishops already are biting their tongue as they obediently make things as little bad as possible—as they paint lipstick on this pig?

    One solution would be to actually succeed at real synods locally, truly, and then to pass nothing along nationally or continentally into the hands of the relator general. Of this relator general, why am I reminded not of moral theology, but of the comic baritone Major General in the opera: “The Pirates of Penzance?”

    • The mindset of Hollerich is most clueless about immutable truth, and he acts as though sin and the repercussions of sin, its antecedents and rationalizations, are a non-factor in understanding human behavior. When and where exactly, has “science” and its many deluded advocates, individually and collectively, ever “proven” that the word science cannot be abused to paper over ideological desire? Is he too dimwitted to not take note of a Catholic perspective that teaches us that we like to lie to ourselves about our sins? That we like to tell ourselves our sins are not sins? That we do this in thousands of ways within different scales? Oh, they weren’t using it anyway, so I’ll just take it. Well that store “overcharged” me last time, so I won’t go back for what they failed to charge me this time.
      On matters more grave, is there no meaning to consider about the motivating factors of mindsets when greater than 98 percent of homosexuals support abortion, a mindset that affected their “lifestyle” initially? “Science” does not disprove the insights of Catholicism, especially the one regarding the immutability of truth because, as the reflection of the perfect mind of God, He never deluded the peoples of the past.

  2. Hollerich’s wistful facial expression appealing to the militant homophobic male [and disgusted straight woman] to relent, is the message [partly]. And precipitates Francis’ mind, writer, new paradigmatic theologian, editor La Civiltà Cattolica, Jesuit Fr A Spadaro’s 2+2=5 theology.
    Two plus two equals five may seem odd to most, although it’s not brainless. Theology isn’t math. There are exceptions. Luxembourger Cardinal Jean-Claude, however, is not worried about exceptions that prove the rule. Rather Hollerich, seen in dramatic photographic posture seeks infinitely more. He wistfully intends with iron fisted papal blessing to create a rule.
    I’m reminded of Russia’s strategic military placements that prepared for a multi pronged unjust attack [this kind of politically motivated war isn’t justifiable] on the Ukraine overnight. Cardinals Hollerich Grand Synod relator, Scicluna [virtually similar on all moral doctrine] the heir apparent as CDF prefect. Tagel already in place as prefect Propaganda Fides.
    In Pope Francis’ strange theatrical pontificate the odd [the traditionalist might say morally bizarre] becomes the norm. Multi colored banners are seen flagging private homes, public buildings, Catholic churches, on altars, on stoles, on vestments [when and how might this end?]. Signals of the profligate proliferate, the multi colored decor of Vatican Grand Synod introductions.
    Those of us who hold to behavioral coherence with divine revelation essential to the moral order ordained by the Word will, and must, with every effort, breath, heartbeat, drop of blood stand fast.

    • Your post suggests you’re familiar with Peter’s post on the Major General. He’s good at math and knows Thomistic degrees of sentience. A few lyrics most apropos:

      “I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
      I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
      I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
      From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
      I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
      I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
      About binomial theorem, I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
      With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

      I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;
      I know the scientific names of beings animalculous: [Meiron has it on good authority that he really, truly does.]
      In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
      I am the very model of a modern Major-General…”

      • No, I wasn’t thinking of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta when I wrote. What your response evoked were memories, fond ones of a very good friend when studying in Rome for the priesthood. My friend was a former British Army major, convert to Catholicism. He had retired to Limerick Ireland purchased the Limerick Arms Hotel. He told me he and his wife [they were Anglican] soon [he quipped it didn’t take them long to decide] became Catholics. After she left this world he entered the Beda Pontifical.
        My friend had a great, black mustache, bald head, stout and cheerful. He had a wonderful bass voice and would often entertain the rest of us with Robert and Sullivan, my favorite was the Major-General. Among my most enjoyable conversations ever were with this former major over a flagon of wine [he was a big game hunter Africa were I taught as a layman]. I suppose it was our common love of life, and God’s creation that we related so well. One of the person’s with God’s grace I hope to see in our true home.

  3. Look, I’m not a theologian, so admittedly I don’t have a lot of insight into these matters.

    But maybe someone could explain to me how non-Catholics like this Hollerich guy are now serving as cardinals in the Church.

    Can anybody now just declare themselves cardinals?

    If I start to wear a little red yarmulke everywhere I go, can I be a cardinal and advocate for things like a two-day workweek and skimpier outfits on cheerleaders?

    And are the members of the baseball team from St. Louis now actually really Catholic cardinals?

    How does a theology degree make any of this make sense?

    I feel so sorry for Jesus when I see stories like this. Honestly, we Catholics don’t seem like people worth dying for.

    • I’ll explain it to you. There has been only one sliver of a moment in the history of Catholic dissent from the Faith where dissenters made a sensible argument, for a brief moment, even though it does not hold up. In arguing for a married priesthood, they maintain, validly, that it is corrupting to their personality development for clerics to go through life without anyone in their lives willing to remind them when they’re being idiots. This is clearly true.
      Of course, this situation can be overcome along the way in the lives of clerics if we laity were not so shy at reminding them, with due respect, of their weaknesses while they continue to pursue a holy life in a celibate priesthood.

        • In all honesty, as a widower, you made brought tears to my eyes to remind me of my late wife who was the final straw in my conversion from youthful atheism many moons ago, along with my devotion to Our Holy Mother. I am fairly well educated in science and philosophy, which my late wife was not, and when we were courting I once defeated her in a cynical intellectual argument, driving her to tears. It was my Damascus Road experience. I realized her good heart was much greater than my intellectual pretentions and this was the insight I needed to finally reveal God to me, that truth exists in purity, not in phony intellectual pretense. She changed my life. It was a grace to have been her full-time caregiver during her last two years.

  4. What a set-up: “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching [against sodomy] is no longer correct.”

    The “T”eaching is the Triune God’s, this, He, is The Foundation; not at any time is it, has it, or will be, a ‘sociological-scientific’ satanic foundation.

    Come Triune Lover and Beloved! Blessings

  5. OF COURSE the hand-picked man of Pontiff Francis declsres that the Church’s 2000 year apostolic teaching against Sodomy is FALSE.

    What can be reasonably expected other than that?

    The answer is attested to here in this video below, posted by Damian Thompson on his twitter account, showing the Pontiff being confronted by an Argentinian journalist (as I understand it) for defending the Argentinian pedophile priest Julio Grassi, and the Pontiff denying it. This despite the testimony of a member of the Argentinian Court who affirms that then Cardinal Bergoglio had indeed funded a million $$ defense of Grassi, and published a legal brief smearing the reputations of the victims and their supporters.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/holysmoke

    These are the men who restored yhe arch-sex-abuser and sociopath McCarrick, when they knew exactly what he had done. To them, sex abuse is just “chump change,” a distraction from “The Reform.”

    “The Reform” being the approval of sodomy etc etc etc.

    All very “up-to-date.”

  6. I may be missing the point, but I note the apparent dichotomy in your article vs the Bible. Excerpted:

    “The Bible does not single out homosexual actions”.

    Homosexual acts are mentioned in seven Bible passages:1 2 refer to rape (Genesis 19:5, Judges 19:22) 3 refer to intercourse between men (Leviticus 18:21-22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:27)

    If I am wrong, please correct me.

    • I meant that it condemns them alongside of other sexual acts outside of marriage, rather than simply condemning them and no others.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this. It is indeed appalling that a Catholic Cardinal would voice such a recommendation. What are people thinking? I totally support the Catholic Church in its position on homosexuality.

  8. Of course, Mr. Staudt is right and Cardinal Hollerich is a raving heretic and moral monster. Yet, Staudt is a lay employee of the Archdiocese of Denver and a professor, while Hollerich is one of the most powerful princes in the Church. He is a favorite of Francis precisely because of views like the one justly condemned in this piece. Francis’ henchmen only say what their boss would love to be more open about.

  9. All the major heresies in the Church have been by priests, bishops or Cardinals.
    For example, Nestorianism named for Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople and holding the highest office apart from the Pope. This Belgian cardinal’s heresy will pass too. The Church will remain!

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