I recently joined a comment thread at the National Catholic Register online (www.ncregister.com) and casually, okay, gratuitously mentioned my blog. Amazingly, some folks actually linked to this page and read my post entitled, "Let's Be People of Peace." I never expected the dressing down I received from people who now think I am in favor of a "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy when it comes to the LGBT community!
I now think I know what has caused all this hooplah. It was my comment in “Let’s Be People of Peace” that reads, “Telling people you only hate the sin won’t stick anymore because it still judges their actions. Who among us could protect our self-esteem from people’s criticisms of how we act?”
I never said I “love the sin” although I can see how people have now inferred that. I’m only trying to say that this argument has failed miserably in my conversations with gays and gay supporters, because they still feel as though they are being personally condemned. Of course I hate all sin. Of course I do not tolerate it either in my personal or public life. I just think that there is a time and place to tell people how much and why we abhor sin of any kind. To refrain from telling someone what is a sin and what isn’t doesn’t mean that I won’t get to it in time. I just would rather present myself as a kind and loving person first. This is part of the “delicate” process Pope Francis speaks of.
At the National Catholic Register I was exhorted to stop "tolerating" sin. I was quoted passages from scripture and excerpts from the writings of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen about how we must fight against sin. I was lectured on the differences between "charity" and "faithfulness." In short, the commenters would not be through with me until I was sufficiently clobbered. One person was quick to point out how Christ made a scene when he cleared the temple. I submit to you that the portrayal of Christ as an angry servant is the exception rather than the rule.
Christ was overwhelmingly forgiving in the face of sin. Recall the woman at the well. And what of the adulteress whose story contains the oft-quoted words, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?" In all of the gospels we see that there is a time and a place for anger. Moreover, if we are to follow Christ's example, our dealings with sinners must be charitable more than condemning. We walk a fine line, understandably, in how we present ourselves to those seeking grace. On the one hand, if we are not clear with others regarding our beliefs, people might assume that their sinful behaviors are being validated. On the other hand, if we are abundantly clear in our beliefs, the "patient" may not survive the cure.
My message in "Let's Be People of Peace" is that these dialogs we need to have with gays (and all sinners for that matter) cannot take place in any meaningful way if our message is one of condemnation from the outset. Remember that perception is everything. We may well understand that we hate the sin but not the sinner, but what does the sinner hear when we say it? The answer is that they feel condemned as as person no matter what we just told them. I have suggested that we merely try a different approach. If we insure our feelings of love and respect for others first, sinners may be more open to performing an examination of conscience next. Keep in mind that if we are not ordained ministers of faith, we have less clout when it comes to directing others. That is not to say that we are any less informed, it is just that the asking for and giving of spiritual advice is a sensitive matter that must be handled "delicately." So I will say it here as I have said it elsewhere this week, let's all be people of peace. You will catch more fish with a net than with a whip.