What does St Paul say about homosexuality?

Was St. Paul homophobic? Some people come to that unfortunate conclusion when reading some of his writings about homosexuality such as Romans 1:24-27; 1Corinthians 6:9-10; and 1Tim 1:10. In particular, it must be noted that, in the Greco-Roman world of which Paul was a part, it was not uncommon for boys or young men to be kept for the purposes of prostitution. When Paul refers to “Sodomites” (1Cor 6:9), he is referring to those adults who used such boys for their own sexual indulgence. Likewise, Paul’s references to these types of acts must be seen within his more general warnings against any kind of sexual promiscuity. In essence, Paul is warning about any actions that will lead to sexuality becoming idolatrous – i.e. people seeking their ultimate joy and meaning in sexuality per se.

Paul’s references to homosexual acts were not particularly controversial to early Christians who knew that the holiness code of Leviticus forbad homosexual acts (Leviticus 20:13). Paul was merely reaffirming that which was held by faithful Jews and early Christians. We have no evidence that there was a movement afoot in Corinth to press for wider acceptance of same-sex activity. Paul does not single out homosexuality but refers to it within a list of other acts that were accepted as idolatrous but were now to be left behind by those who had chosen Jesus. So, although is not homophobic, he is clearly against any form of homosexual activity. Based on Scripture, the Catholic Church teaches that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.” (CCC 2357) At the same time, the Church teaches that people with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that any sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (CCC 2357)

Joe Paprocki

Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).