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What did Saint Paul mean when he said: “That is why God abandoned them in their inmost cravings to filthy practices…”?


1. This verse refers to the pagans who, even though they knew God (because He could be recognized by the things He did), did not give Him their hearts, but gave it to the idols or to themselves: “they knew God and yet they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but their arguments became futile and their uncomprehending minds were darkened” (Rom 1:21).

2. The darkening of the mind, meaning the inability to see light, caused them to abandon themselves to the impurity in their hearts. 

The sacred text says: “That is why God abandoned them in their inmost cravings to filthy practices of dishonouring their own bodies because they exchanged God’s truth for a lie and have worshipped and served the creature instead of the Creator, who is blessed for ever” (Rom 1:24-25).

3. However, Saint Thomas points out that “since impurity of this kind is a sin, it seems that God would not give men over to it because God himself tempts no one to evil” (cf. Jas 1:13).

4. The same Saint Thomas goes on by saying that “it should be noted that one sin can be the cause of another directly or indirectly: directly, inasmuch as from one sin he is inclined to another (…). 

Indirectly, when the first sin merits the exclusion of grace, so that once it is removed, a man falls into another sin. In this way the first sin is the cause of the second indirectly or incidentally, inasmuch as it removes the preventative. (Commentary to Romans 1:24)..

5. Therefore we can say that God “gives men over to sin indirectly, inasmuch as He justly withdraws the grace through which men are kept from sinning, just as a person would be said to cause another to fall, if he removed the ladder supporting him.

In this way, one’s first sin is a cause of the next, which is at the same time a punishment for the first one” (Ibidem).

6. In his monumental commentary to the Letter to the Romans, Bible scholar Heinrich Schlier explains it in the following way.

He starts out with a quote from Saint Augustine: “In which way did He abandon? Not by pushing, but by relinquishing (Quomodo tradidit? Non cogendo, sed deferendo)”.

7. And then he comments “To whom where the pagans abandoned? The Apostle answers: First of all, to impurity, according to the desires of their own hearts”, using a term that “alludes to sexual unrestrainedness in thoughts and actions” so the self-glorification of man is the same thing as the self-“abandon to destructive sexuality”.

It is a destructive sexuality because the heart of man has given in to egoistic lust, therefore “dishonouring and dirtying itself”.

“If man therefore dirties his body by sexualizing life and obeying to the covetousness of his heart, this is a consequence of having been abandoned by God and of His wrathful judgment (where wrathful means holy -Ed.).

With this judgment, God responds to man’s self-apotheosis, which has its root in ungratefulness and disobedience towards the Creator and finds its practical expression in the pagan gods.

The deification of creation that causes these phenomena leads to the dishonoring of self and the profanation of the world. Many forms of the ancient pagan cults give historical testimony to this fact”.

8. Schlier goes on by saying something very interesting that almost reads like a prophecy considering it was written in 1977, almost forty years ago:

“In the self-deification that characterizes the post-christian secular world, the dirtying of man through sexuality makes a comeback; but the agnostics don’t recognize it and don’t present it as a dirtying, but rather as a glorification.

Therefore the criteria for evaluation and the capacity for judgment itself are distorted in the ambiguous thoughts of the man who denies himself to God”. (Theological Commentary to the New Testament, Letter to the Romans, p. 119).

9. I don’t know if Schlier would use the same verbiage as he did 40 years ago.

But what I relayed to you is what he wrote at a time when he was free to write about homosexuality what is actually said in the epistle to the Romans.

I wish you a serene new year, I recommend you to the Lord and bless you.

Father Angelo