At World Youth Day, Pope’s leading Italian bishop suggests Sodom wasn’t destroyed
August 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Italian Bishop Nunzio Galantino, a personal appointee of the pope and a prelate who has been extolled as the “prototypical ‘Pope Francis bishop,’” is coming under criticism after delivering a homily to young people at World Youth Day in which he rewrote the story of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
While the clear meaning of the text is to emphasize God’s hatred of sin, in the bishop’s telling the message of the story is about Abraham’s willingness to emphasize “positive possibilities” and "signs of hope" despite the “misdeeds” of the people of Sodom.
It’s an interpretation that fits less with Catholic tradition than with the grievous admonition from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family that the Church should emphasize the “positive aspects” of mortally sinful lifestyles.
Here is what Bishop Galantino said, according to a translation provided by author and commentator Rod Dreher:
The intense dialogue between God and Abraham in the first reading tell us about prayer. And it’s about prayer that Jesus is asked in the Gospel. A prayer which is not an escape from troubles and responsibility, but a live experience made of listening and answering, through which God creates an authentic relationship and pushes us to be daring. As daring as Abraham’s intercession prayer in favor of Sodom. A city upon which nobody would have bet a dime. His intercession prayer and his will to dare save Sodom. The city is saved because some righteous ones are there, even though a few of them. But the city is saved above all because Abraham, a man of prayer, is not a relentless accuser, he doesn’t speak against but in favor. Abraham, man of prayer, doesn’t point to the misdeeds, but he announces the possibility for something new. Abraham, man of prayer, announces and invites to look at the positive possibilities. Abraham, man of prayer, is a tireless searcher for sign of hopes to present to the Lord for Him to give them value.
Bishop Galantino is talking about the dialogue between God and Abraham recorded in Genesis 18. God was planning to destroy Sodom for its wickedness, but Abraham pleaded with God to spare the city. God agreed that if ten good men could be found there, he would spare Sodom.
Had the story ended there, Bishop Galantino might have had a point. But in Genesis 19, two angels enter the city, and Lot has to barricade them in his house because men from all over Sodom, both young and old, surrounded it and demanded that Lot turn them over to be raped. The angels order Lot and his family to leave the city, because they are going to destroy it on God’s orders. And that’s what happens. The clear implication is that there were not even ten righteous men in Sodom, aside from Lot’s family. Sodom was not saved, as Bishop Galentino preached, but was in fact destroyed. Abraham may well have been a “tireless searcher for signs of hope” in Sodom, but the Biblical story makes it clear that there were none to be found. God was willing to extend mercy to the city were there any righteousness in it at all, but aside from Lot and his family, there was none.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also comments on the bishop’s remarks at his blog, warning that remarks like these from a bishop so highly regarded by the pope are a “stinging condemnation” of the catechesis that youth are receiving today. He writes:
Forget about catechism and knowledge of the Bible for a second. EVERYONE who has a minimal cultural literacy at all knows that Sodom and Gomorrah were obliterated and – wait for it – that the term sodomy comes from Sodom.
So, what’s his game here? Is it to put into the empty heads of these young people that God did NOT destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (i.e., rewrite the Bible) because He does not abominate the “sin of Sodom”?
Sure, Bp. Galantino underscores Abraham’s intervention. Fine. It’s great to underscore what Abraham tried to do, but NOT at the expense of the truth about what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah! As good and as positive as Abraham was, it didn’t work, except for poor Lot. Moreover, when Abraham asked God to spare the cities because there might be good people in them, he is in no way condoning what the evil people did! Abraham seems to be fine with destruction of the wicked. He doesn’t want the innocent to be destroyed because of and together with the wicked.
The fact that such a thing might take place at a World Youth Day is dreadful. Also, I think it is a stinging condemnation of the catechetical and biblical preparation of young people today, that anyone would think that he could get away with this.