Joseph Ratzinger has one of the clearest and most insightful minds on the planet. Nowadays his day job is being Pope, which involves numerous duties apart from writing academic treatises. However, back in 1995, he penned an introduction to a Vatican document about homosexuality which seems prophetic, although perhaps it’s just logical. The paragraphs below have been reprinted from the blog Chiesa, written by the “Vaticanologist” of the Italian newspaper L’espresso, Sandro Magister.
It is no coincidence that the spread and growing social acceptance of homosexuality should be accompanied by a serious crisis in the area of marriage and the family, by a widespread mentality hostile toward life as also by a frightening sexual freedom.
Without wanting to contest the plurality of causes of this phenomenon, it can be said that at its root is a “new” and completely transformed understanding of human sexuality.
The “sexual revolution” unleashed in the 1960s was intended to “free” human sexuality from the straightjacket of traditional morality. It began to sing the praises of sexuality as a simple consumer good and means for obtaining pleasure. The satisfaction of the sexual impulse was propagandized as the way to happiness and to the true development of the personality. Values like self-control and chastity were accepted less and less. Many maintained that sexual continence was unnatural and unlivable. Others in turn sought to transfer human sexuality completely into the realm of the “private” and the “subjective”: if two persons love each other and want to express this in the language of love, why should they be prevented from doing so?
Subsequently the exercise of sexuality was detached more and more from marriage, and above all with the global spread of contraception, from procreation. It was asserted that the “old” understanding of sexuality corresponded to another culture, which in the meantime had been transformed.
Even the biblical affirmations had to be considered in the context of the time and situation back then, and could not be understood as “atemporal” moral truths. This applied in particular to the passages in which the Bible speaks of homosexual practices.
The traditional argument, according to which sexual behavior is immoral if it contradicts the “nature” of man, was abandoned. What is “natural” or “unnatural” would also always depend on the respective culture and subjective sensibility of a people. And moreover, homosexuality could also be found in nature. Many designated the different abnormal forms of sexuality, including homosexuality, as simple “variations” of nature, which should be accepted and approved: just as there are persons with black, white, or red skin, just as some use their right hands and others their left, so also many would have a disposition to heterosexual love, others to homosexual love.
Behind these and similar ideas is concealed a central problem of morality: what is the nature of human sexuality? Or more in general: what is the nature of man? And when does an act correspond to this nature?
If the concept of nature, as in the approaches mentioned above, is understood only in a physical-empirical way, in fact it is not possible to reach a univocal judgment on the moral value of an act that would transcend the different cultures.
The concept of nature, which underlies the whole of tradition and also the magisterial pronouncements of the [Catholic] Church (cf. “Veritatis Splendor,” nos. 46-53), is nevertheless not of a physical character, but metaphysical: an act has been and is considered as natural when it is in harmony with the essence of man, with his being as intended by God. On the basis of this being, which shines in the order of creation – and is reinforced by revelation – reason can deduce the imperative of duty, above all if it is illuminated by faith. In nature, or rather in creation, man can recognize a “logos,” a meaning and purpose, which leads him to true self-realization and to his happiness, and which ultimately is founded in the will of God.
In the loss of this metaphysical conception of nature, which is accompanied by an almost total abandonment of the theology of creation, is to be sought one of the main causes of the moral crisis of our days.
If human duty, in fact, is no longer seen as anchored in the being and therefore in the wisdom of the creator, there remains only the alternative that is derived from human wisdom. But then it is the work of man, subjected to the change of time, able to be reshaped and manipulated. Good and evil, then, would ultimately be decided by the majority. Then “pressure groups,” which are able to guide mass opinion, have great prospects of success…
In the years after the publication of this letter [in 1986], the influence of the currents mentioned above has not diminished. In public opinion, homosexual behavior seems to be substantially accepted already. The pressure of some groups, which are asking for legal equivalence for the forms of homosexual life with the traditional form of marriage, is becoming ever larger in various states, above all in the United States of America and in Europe. Such attempts demonstrate the relevance of the letter.
(Excerpted from the introduction to: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “”Lettera sulla cura pastorale delle persone omosessuali, 1 ottobre 1986. Testo e commenti,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1995/2012)