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Thursday, July 20, 2017

“Sin is Bad” and Other Complicated Notions

Written by  Michael Warren Davis
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There have been many reviews of Fr. James Martin’s Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. Most of them are negative, which almost automatically makes them better than the book itself. 

The best is probably Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s in Crux. The crucial passage goes like this:

"Martin believes we should use the term “gay” or “LGBT” or “LGBTQ” because he says, “Names are very important, and I find the seeming inability of people to use something as simple as LGBT, particularly when Pope Francis himself has used the term gay, as disrespectful.”

Surely Martin understands why the term “same sex attraction” is used to describe people with a homosexual inclination. It is not to disrespect anyone, but because Catholics believe every person is greater than their sexual inclinations, and that it is degrading to identify a person only by their sexual urges."

That’s exactly right. And before we go any further, I’ll admit to using “gay” to refer to people with same-sex attraction in the past. I’m 23; Doublespeak is my first language.

I’ll just add this thought to Fr. Longenecker’s: liberal Catholics like Fr. Martin seem to forget that sin is a bad thing. And I don’t mean “bad” in the theological sense, though it certainly is that. I mean the by-product of sin is harm: physical, moral, and spiritual.

God’s not some tyrant who makes his subjects drink expired milk just to prove that He can. That’s a very popular notion among atheists, but it’s impossible to think that way and still call oneself a Christian. Surely Christ didn’t die to redeem us from the guilt we incurred for breaking laws He Himself instituted on a whim. 

This goes to the heart of the idea of natural law. The “laws of nature and nature’s God” aren’t arbitrary. They’re more like the laws of physics than they are the laws of a senate or parliament. They have immediate consequences – consequences we can perceive well before Judgement Day.

This is hardly ever more pronounced than with sexual sins. In the 1960s, the Sexual Revolution chastised the Church for forbidding masturbation. How stuffy, backwards, and utterly repressive that prohibition seemed! Yet only recently has science caught up with dogma. The pornography industry destroys its actors’ lives, both male and female. It causes men to objectify women, which ruins their ability to have real-life relationships. Those who bother trying begin to see their partners as disposable, which leads to our appallingly high rates of single-motherhood. Many become impotent.

It may seem amazing that the Church anticipated all of this. If so, that’s only because we don’t understand natural law. God has always known that we’re not capable of separating our reproductive faculties from their reproductive function. After all, He created us. He gave us a user’s manual, so to speak, in the form of Scripture and Tradition. And it’s never – not once – served us wrong. That’s why a healthy scepticism (if it’s ever healthy) always ends in a healthy obedience to dogma. 

Which is another reason why Fr. Longenecker is correct in saying we shouldn’t use phrases like “gay”, “queer”, or “LGBT”. God doesn’t forbid these things because they’re yucky: He forbids them because He knows they’ll ruin us. Catholics don’t say: “Yes, your life would be much richer and more fulfilling if you had sex with other men. But God says that’s a no-no; so, unfortunately, you’ll have to go without.” We say, “I love you as a brother, and I want you to live the fullest and richest life possible, which is a life of virtue. That means resisting this (and every other!) vice to which you’re inclined.” 

To identify anyone – “gay” or “straight” – by their sexuality is demeaning. But to identify them with the temptation to which they’re most susceptible is utterly cruel. We should no sooner call someone gay than we should call someone a drunk, even – if not especially – if they prefer it. You can’t “build bridges” to sinners by humouring them. Outreach and enabling are two very different things.

None of which should be novel to a priest, even if they’re a Jesuit. Which makes me wonder: why would Fr. Martin make this egregious mistake? There are two possibilities.

One possibility is that he’s simply forgotten.

The second is – and I don’t use the word lightly – diabolical. If Fr. Martin is cognizant of the true gravity of sin, and yet speaks of homosexuality the way he does, he must not think homosexuality is a sin. Building a Bridge, then, can only be the first step in a long campaign to alter the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. He wants us to get used to the idea of talking about same-sex attraction in a morally-neutral way. He doesn’t want it to have the negative connotation of “adultery”, “fornication”, and other sins of the flesh. 

Who stands to profit from this kind of moral confusion? I’ll give you three guesses.

Satan cried, “Evil, be thou my good,” but he doesn’t expect us to. That’s not his usual M.O. There are true Satanists out there, but you don’t have to worship the Devil to fall under his influence. Rather, he works by convincing us to doubt the teachings of Holy Mother Church. He knows we want to do what’s right, so he plants a warped idea of right and wrong in our minds.

Usually this is by convincing us that (X) is harmless, and therefore not a vice, because God only forbids what’s harmful. He told Eve, “No, you shall not die the death.” Today, he tells us, “If two men or two women want to be together, what kind of loving God could possibly object?”

Of course, Fr. Martin’s not telling us that homosexuality isn’t a sin. He’s certainly not crying, “Evil, be thou my good.” But he does want us to be “respectful” when discussing evil. That doesn’t sound to me like God’s handiwork.

Fr. James Martin promotes "Building a Bridge":


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