The National Catholic Review

Everybody knows that same-sex marriage and homosexual acts are contrary to Catholic moral teaching. Yet that same teaching also says that gay and lesbian people must be treated with “respect, sensitivity and compassion.” As more states pass laws legalizing same-sex marriage, more gay and lesbian Catholics are entering into these unions. This leaves some Catholics feeling caught between two values: church teaching against same-sex marriage and church teaching in favor of compassion. In Seattle a few months back, for example, many high school students protested the ouster of the vice principal, who was removed for marrying another man.

Most people who oppose same-sex marriage say they do not hate gay people, only that the traditional understanding of marriage is important and perpetually valid. Other opponents of same-sex marriage invoke the oft-repeated mantra, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” If that is so, then why do so many gay people say they feel hatred from members of the church?

Let me suggest a reason beyond the fact that many gays and lesbians disagree with church teaching on homosexual acts: only rarely do opponents of same-sex marriage say something positive about gays and lesbians without appending a warning against sin. The language surrounding gay and lesbian Catholics is framed primarily, sometimes exclusively, in terms of sin. For example, “We love our gay brothers and sisters—but they must not engage in sexual activity.” Is any other group of Catholics addressed in this fashion? Imagine someone beginning a parish talk on married life by saying, “We love married Catholics—but adultery is a mortal sin.” With no other group does the church so reflexively link the group’s identity to sin.

The language of “hate the sin, love the sinner” is difficult for many gay people to believe when the tepid expression of love is accompanied by strident condemnation. And the notion that love calls first for admonishing the loved person seems to be applied only in the case of gays and lesbians. To take another example, it would be like telling a child, “You’re a sinful child, but I love you anyway.” This can end up sounding more like, “Hate the sinner.”

Look how Jesus loved people who were hated in his day. Take the story of Zacchaeus, the diminutive man who climbs a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus as he passes through Jericho (Lk 19:1-10). As chief tax collector, and thus head of all the tax collectors in the region, Zacchaeus would have also been seen by the Jews as the chief sinner in the area. When Jesus spies him perched in the branches, he calls out, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus then promises to repay anyone he has defrauded. “Salvation has come to this house,” says Jesus.

Notice that Jesus shows love for Zacchaeus even before the man has promised to do anything. That is, Jesus loves him first, by offering to dine with him, a powerful sign of welcome in that time. Jesus does not say, “Zacchaeus, you’re a sinful person because you’re gouging people with taxes collected for the oppressive occupying power, but even though you’re a public sinner, I love you anyway.” He simply loves him—first.

The story of Zacchaeus illustrates an important difference between the ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus. For John the Baptist, conversion came first, then communion. First you repent of your sins; then you are welcomed into the community. For Jesus, the opposite was more often the case; first, Jesus welcomed the person, and conversion followed. It’s not loving the sinner; it’s simply loving.

What might it mean for the church to love gays and lesbians more deeply? First, it would mean listening to their experiences—all their experiences, what their lives are like as a whole. Second, it would mean valuing their contributions to the church. Where would our church be without gays and lesbians—as music ministers, pastoral ministers, teachers, clergy and religious, hospital chaplains and directors of religious education? Infinitely poorer. Finally, it would mean publicly acknowledging their individual contributions: that is, saying that a particular gay Catholic has made a difference in our parish, our school, our diocese. This would help remind people that they are an important part of the body of Christ. Love means listening and respecting, but before that it means admitting that the person exists.

James Martin, S.J., is editor at large of America and the author of the new book Jesus: A Pilgrimage (HarperOne).

Show Comments (165)

Comments (hide)

Tim Reidy | 6/5/2014 - 9:52am

Folks, since this conversation is now taking place among just a few individiuals, feel free to take it offline. There will be other opportunities to take up this topic, I'm sure. The comments thread here is now closed.

Ryan Hoffmann | 6/2/2014 - 10:37am

Thank you, Fr. Martin, for this wonderful reflection. We applaud priests like yourself who do not shy away from talking about important pastoral issues to God's people. Further, we stand in solidarity with you in your affirmation of LGBT people and their faithfulness. Here at Call To Action, we continue to work for the day when all our brothers and sisters, regardless of sexual orientation, can rejoice in the Church they love!

Bruce Snowden | 5/31/2014 - 8:44pm

"Good grief!" as Linus might say! The conversation on this site of which I have contributed goes on and on reflecting as it were, the "Godhead!" - it seems to be everlasting! There has been enlightenment at least for me, so that's good - I love back and forth, but has very much else been accomplished? Of course there's always the satisfaction of expressing one's point of view, a good thing. Maybe the following old adage makes some sense here, . "Everything is received and expressed in accordance with the personality of the one who receives it." Oh well, I thought I was done - am I now? Please God, Yes!

Michael Barberi | 5/31/2014 - 2:34pm


The June 20,1866 Instruction of the Holy Office signed by Pius IX was from two sources:

1. J. F. Maxwell, “The Development of Catholic Doctrine Concerning Slavery,” World Jurist 11 (1969–70): 306–7.

2. "Reflections on Slavery" by Diana Hayes in Change in Official Catholic Moral Teachings, Editor Charles E. Curran (New York: Paulist Press (2003), p.69.

Here is the context:

The U.S. Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted at that time, abolished slavery. "Rome had never unequivocally condemned slavery, mostly out of fear of offending Spanish and Portuguese royalty. Gregory XVI finally condemned the slave trade in 1839, but not slavery itself. If pressed, the Vatican fell back on the medieval argument that, while slavery was an evil, it was not an unmitigated evil, for it allowed slaves to be Christianized. Although the Vatican was officially neutral during the Civil War, Pius IX made not secret of his sympathies for the Confederacy. However, deplorable its social system, the South at least was not infected with the virus of liberalism" (Morris, p. 78).

The 1866 quotation appears in many other sources such as the Society of Biblical Literature. Also, Noonan in "Development in Moral Doctrine" summarizes the conclusions about the issue if the Church changed its historic teachings when he stated "What was forbidden became lawful (the cases of usury and marriage); what was permissible became unlawful (the case of slavery) and what was required became forbidden (the persecution of heretics". Noonan also concluded that the Church for more than nineteen hundred years did not condemn slavery per se.

I did not search for the original document but relied on published books and essays that vetted the material. It was only until 1891 and 1965 that the Church condemned slavery in all its forms. Therefore, history makes clear that the Church has been morally inconsistent on the issue of slavery.

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 5:22pm

Michael - I know you relied on secondary sources and not the primary sources. There is an inherent danger in doing this as the bias of the secondary author cannot be removed. But, I have presented several other secondary writers (Dulles, Panzer, etc) that disagree with Noonan, Maxwell et al. The only way to resolve the dispute is to go through the primary source. I accept you don't think that is necessary. You believe your secondary sources and that is sufficient for you.

Very smart Catholics and Protestant Academics use the same primary sources when studying Scriptural passages and come with diametrically opposed interpretations (e.g. On the Eucharist, Apostolic Succession, the Petrine Ministry and moral Theology), so even going to primary sources is not definitive. That is why academic methods to resolving doctrinal disputes are weaker (human authority) than listening to the Magisterium.

Michael Barberi | 5/31/2014 - 6:12pm


To imply that these prominent theologians somehow did not read and interpret correctly the original document is being disingenuous and inappropriately condescending. Some theologians, as you mentioned, my disagree but this is far from claiming the truth about this teaching merely because some one claims that their version is correct.

What you do not appreciate is the fact that published essays in theological journals and published books go through rigorous reviews by several independent theologians with expertise in the subject matter. Additionally, after at least two independent theologians have approved an essay, it goes to an independent editorial review board that also reviews it and must approve it. Therefore, published essays in theological journals or books that are published are appropriately vetted.

Your continued belief that human agency, e.g., prominent scholars, cannot be trusted to resolve doctrinal disputes, and that the Magisterium can be trusted to articulate the absolute moral truth is a circular argument. By this standard, there should never be any debate by theologians on magisterium teachings because magisterium teachings can only be reformed by the same authority that proclaimed such teachings to be the truth to begin with. This is ridiculous.

I am afraid we are debating, once again, the difference between your world view and mine.

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 10:16pm

Michael - I am well aware of the peer-review process. My point is that several scholars see the Church's teaching as a development of doctrine, and others do not. Theological disputes are common and cannot resolve themselves. That is why we have a Magisterium, with popes and councils. But, when an author says the popes never condemned slavery outright BECAUSE of fears of upsetting the Spanish and Portuguese, they are making a leap from fact to interpretation. Do they have a document where several popes give this reason? No, they just presume it. And the prior papal criticisms specifically directed at subjects of those nations contradicts their view. Don't you think that Cardinal Dulles also read his sources when he came to a different conclusion than Noonan or Maxwell, and Dulles is a more notable theologian.

Again, my general point with your arguments is that they are essentially piecemeal criticisms and suffer from not offering any alternative scheme for what you say you believe. Some examples:
1. You say Jesus meant to protect the Church and not the Magisterium from doctrinal error, but then say the Church has reversed itself several times on doctrine, implying the Church has not been protected. Which is it?
2. You seem to declare some very limited doctrines are known with certainty (e.g. the Trinity, Real Presence) but most others (the ones you oppose) are reversible. Who gets to decide which doctrines fit into which group?.
3. You get very upset if I say your approach is fundamentally Protestant, yet you think a Jesuit who leaves the Church for the Episcopalians is still among the faithful? Is there a Church on earth that has the whole fullness of the faith the Apostles left us, or are we truly left spiritual orphans? Are all Christian churches in the same unprotected boat, or is one the true Church Christ founded? If the former, when churches disagree on doctrine, how is this resolved?
4. Finally, a very specific dissonance. You say homosexuals are offending the Natural Law if they have heterosexual sex, resting your harsh judgment on a different sexual nature. But you say, bisexuals should choose one or the other. You abandon the Natural Law obligation for them and replace it with a lifestyle choice. This is what I mean by half-baked. I could go on as your posts haven given me a lot of inconsistency to work with.

Despite all this, I think you are sincerely trying to find your way. God bless.

Michael Barberi | 6/1/2014 - 6:35pm


Your criticisms are equally relevant to your authors as well. You fail to recognize or accept that there are legitimate disagreements on the issue "if the church ever changed its teachings on slavery, usury, the freedom of religion and the torture of heretics". My previous objection and comment focused on your claim that one cannot trust human agency, e.g., any theologian's work on such subjects, and therefore, we should all trust and obey the magisterium. This is your world view and not mine or the majority of Catholics.

Also I correct what you claim I said.

1. I never said that Jesus meant to protect the Church and not the Magisterium. I said, please read this carefully: Jesus was referring to His Church, and Church is the people of God, inclusive of the pope, clergy, theologians and the general laity. I also said that how the Holy Spirit protects the Church is not precisely known with certainty and is a mystery. This is far from your erroneous claim, once again, about what I said.

The fact that teachings have been changed is a testament to the fact that the Holy Spirit moves us all to the truth in both agreement and disagreement. This is something you reject because it is not you world view. This is not surprising to me or anyone else who follows our arguments.

2. I never said that certain teachings are reversible. I said that certain teachings should be the subject of a rethinking and this can mean a responsible change in the teaching or a change in the pastoral application of the moral norm underpinning the teaching. However, some teachings are considered a reform of a teaching, and slavery is one of them. You can disagree but your arguments are not persuasive.

3. At present, the only person or group that can change a teaching is the pope or the magisterium, meaning all the bishops in union with the pope. This does not mean that the works and voices of the laity, theologians, and priests cannot, and do not, influence the decisions of the pope or magisterium. History has demonstrated this. Thus, the Holy Spirit moves us all in respectful debate and scholarly work forward towards a better understanding of truth. We all, including the pope and magisterium, do not see the fullness of truth in every moral teaching.

3. We are all God's children. He wants us all to be with him in heaven. He is merciful and his grace is given to everyone, something that is a mystery. Frankly, I don't care if you call my arguments Protestant, Jewish or any other name. This approach is name-calling and name-calling is not relevant to the discussion on the issues we have been discussing.

4. I never said, once again, that homosexuals are "offending" the natural law if they have heterosexual sex. I said that heterosexuals that voluntarily choose homosexual sex are going against their nature, a nature they were born with. By going against nature does not ipso facto mean the moral or immoral. Go back and reread my many comments on this. I am not going to repeat them. This is another example where you take liberty with my remarks and conflate them to suit your argument.

5. As for bi-sexuals, this has nothing to do with those who are born with a homosexual or heterosexual orientation. Bi-sexuals might have a homosexual and heterosexual orientation, but this does not mean that they are equally born with both. I have no idea. For one thing, a marriage is a committed, faithful, loving and lifelong relationship between the agents who enter into it. If a bi-sexual marries a person of the same gender, or opposite gender, then they must abide by the same vows, obligations and responsibilities as any homosexual or heterosexual couple who enter into a marriage as well.

To be clear, my arguments do not fall or rise on bi-sexuality. We were discussing same-gender marriage and sexual acts within a committed, faithful, loving and lifelong relationship. You want to claim that because I don't have all the answers, or answers to bi-sexuality, that my arguments are half-baked and erroneous. That is non-sense.

You only see what you want Tim.

God bless.

Tim O'Leary | 6/1/2014 - 9:53pm

Hi Michael – I agree the criticism about secondary sources apply equally to Dulles and Panzer, except that they might be willing to give longer quotes and less interpretation to what Pope Pius said, since they are favorable to him. I said below that I agree there is an active dispute on the issue, with authors on both sides. Hence, my call to go to the primary sources.

You say: “I never said that Jesus meant to protect the Church and not the Magisterium. “ Here is the direct quote from below (your post marked 5/28, 5:35p) “To wit, how many times have I said to you that the "Church" is protected by the Holy Spirit from error, NOT the magisterium.”

You say: “I never said that certain teachings are reversible.” I think you are saying that reforms that are not reversals can happen. OK. I think we can agree here. I would probably use Dulles’ terminology that these are developments of doctrine, which he juxtaposed to reversals.

You say “At present, the only person or group that can change a teaching is the pope or the magisterium, meaning all the bishops in union with the pope. This does not mean that the works and voices of the laity, theologians, and priests cannot, and do not, influence the decisions of the pope or magisterium.” I agree. As for a novel understanding of the Natural Law regarding gender, I think you have to cover all the letters in LGBT to have a fully-baked challenge to the Tradition.

I never said your thinking was Jewish (far from it), but I do believe there is a certain individualistic “protestant” way of coming to the truth that you and several of your allies have. I do not mean it to be name-calling, but descriptive, meaning when one’s personal considered opinion (“for good reasons”) becomes the final arbiter of what true doctrine is. I have many Protestant friends and have spent considerable time in their bible discussion groups, etc. I have a love for many of our separated brethren, even if we debate & disagree. I believe all Christians can have a relationship with Jesus, and I use the word Christian to cover our separated brethren, our dissident brethren and our faithful brethren. The Pope is the shepherd of all Christians, even though most do not follow his teaching. It will probably always be so, until the parousia.

FYI - You need not keep saying that my arguments are not persuasive to you as this is obvious and goes both ways, or we wouldn’t be continuing to debate.

Michael - I try hard to keep to the topics under discussion and stay away from any personal criticism, but I sometimes fail to do that when I think the Magisterium is being unjustly attacked or insulted, or its character is attacked. I will try to do better on that part, as this website is so much better for these doctrinal discussions and debates than almost everything else out there, where ad hominem insults (like David's below) are the norm. I think I am done now. God Bless.

Michael Barberi | 6/2/2014 - 3:15pm


I think that you think I am misguided as when I say that Jesus never said that the magisterium was protected from error. Do you truly believe that you are giving all my comments an honest reflection? We are blogging Tim. See the larger context. You believe that every magisterium teachings are the absolute moral truth with certainty and you base your convictions on the interpretation….meaning that Jesus said this when he was speaking to Peter and said.. upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

I don't interpret Scripture this way. Most theologians, informed Catholics and many priests and bishops also don't believe the Magisterial is protected from all error in every one of its moral teachings, taught as truth.

When I said that the Church is protected for error but not the magisterium, I meant the magisterium per se. In other words, Jesus was not singling out the magisterium, nor a specific individual or group, but his Church as His Body, which is the People of God, inclusive of the pope, bishops, priests, theologians and laity (this includes the magisterium but the Church is not the magisterium).

This is your world view Tim and I respect it. But, kindly don't think that you are right merely because your point of view agrees with the magisterium. I have offered legitimate, intelligent and compelling arguments for a rethinking of certain moral teachings. We live in a profoundly divided Church and in a crisis of truth. Don't you think the magisterium plays a role in this? Don't you think that if the magisterium is protected from error and teaches the absolute moral truth that they also are responsible for providing a convincing moral theory in support of these teachings they claim are certain and the absolute moral truth? When we have profound non-reception is this merely because the secular culture has a better explanation, or that all the arguments by prominent theologians, Cardinals and priests, and informed Catholics that disagree with certain teachings are misguided? Or do are you merely saying that no one can trust human agency (scholarly works, et al) and, therefore, it is morally imperative that all Catholics obey every teaching of the magisterium? If you do, and I believe this is your point of view, then we, and many others, disagree for good reasons.

I don't have to cover all the letters in the LGBT to have a fully-baked challenge to the Tradition. My arguments don't rely of the letters in the LGBT. Also, not every Protestant, Jew or Muslim should be described by a very negative and demeaning term such as dissident. It is a very loaded term that can come across to our Christian brothers and sisters as insulting.

I do appreciate your comments especially the one where you said you will try keep the discussions on point, and do a better job with respect to any personal criticism. That would be a significant improvement and will go a long way in our exchanges in terms of keeping things positive and respectful.

You should realize by now Tim that I do not unjustly "attack or insult" the magisterium or any pope. I disagree for good reasons and these reasons raise legitimate arguments that certain teachings, claimed to be the absolute moral truth, should be the subject of a rethinking….and this means a responsible change in the teaching or a change in the pastoral application of the moral norm underpinning the teaching. I do think that JP II was wrongheaded about certain teachings, but this should not be interpreted as being irresponsibly insulting or degrading.

Thank you for being done for now. I am also done.

God Bless.

Frank Bergen | 5/31/2014 - 12:53pm

I wrote a comment last evening and somehow it seems to have been swallowed up in cyberspace. I write as an elder, a happily married heterosexual Episcopal priest, still studying, still learning at 78. I've been keeping up with my Jesuit brother Francis -- I was a Jesuit for 17 years, long before James Martin's day -- and keep reflecting on Francis' insistence that facts trump ideas. And I'd like to apply that notion to Martin's essay. It's very good but it starts out, quite literally, with an idea: "Everybody knows... contrary to Catholic moral teaching." Had he gone on to state that he thought Catholic moral teaching is simply out of whack in this matter I'd be applauding and offering refuge from the still hyperactive Vatican thought police. But the acceptance of the idea essentially vitiates all the love he would shower on our lesbian and gay, transgendered and otherwise non-conforming sisters and brothers.

What a different essay we might have had if he had begun like this: Among many other same-sex couples I know, three stand out. Two are active members of the parish I serve. Mark and Anthony, both in their 50s, have been together 20 years, married a year ago in California. They are raising a 4 year old girl and 2 year old boy entrusted to them by birth parents unable to care for them. They are initiating adoption proceedings for the kids, who have begun to flourish in their care. Marie and Antoinette, also in their 50s, had their commitment blessed in a packed parish church a year ago after several years together. They are raising Marie's granddaughter, a 9 year old who is overcoming years of trauma in their loving care. Both these couples are integral to our parish life and active in the community. And they have the unstinting support of their fellow parishioners. A third couple, Dee and Lee, are both priests. Without strong institutional support but with the faith that moves mountains, they have founded and grown a Nativity model middle school for children living in poverty and in need of an educational experience unavailable in the public school system. They've been together over ten years and from close observation I can say what they have accomplished couldn't have been done by one of them alone. Their gifts and graces truly complement one another.

To my mind these real people and their factual stories trump Martin's opening statement that "everybody knows...." I'll go further and add that, beyond "respect, sensitivity and compassion", I love these people and I'm sure their unions are as blest as my own 25 year heterosexual one.

Michael Barberi | 5/31/2014 - 3:05pm


Thanks for these comments. I agree that most same-gender couples, married in a civil or religious/church ceremony, live a good moral life, are faithful to their loving, lifelong commitments and vows before God. They care for children adopted or had, and their social, psychological and spiritual upbringing are not significantly different than the upbringing of children by heterosexuals.

There are some bloggers that will disagree with you, but their disagreement does not render your judgments and comments as erroneous opinion or ideology as some of their comments may imply. As a faithful episcopal priest with a significant number of years of experience in this vocation, and a Jesuit for almost two decades, there is much truth to what you say about same-gender couples who strive to love God and neighbor. I believe that the RCC should treat same-gender people with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and change its pastoral application of its teachings about homosexuality and sexual acts within a committed, faithful, loving and lifelong relationship.

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 5:29pm

I would also add that some people leave their wives and set up home with someone else, and manage to raise kids and are responsible. That doesn't justify adultery. Many people today don't even marry and they raise kids well enough. But that alone is not the test for a Christian moral way of life.

Michael Barberi | 5/31/2014 - 6:52pm


Nor are your assertions of the so-called Christian moral way of life.

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 1:37pm

Frank - I think you might agree that ideas can be facts. You love these people would be a fact, but "I'm sure their unions are blessed" would be an idea. Isn't it a fact that we are all sinful and in need of God's grace. While We ask for God's blessing, we also ask for deliverance from the burdens of sin. I suspect you left the Catholic Church because you lost the belief that it was the only Christian community with the fullness of the faith. That might be the rejection of a fact, or an idea. Finally, it would be more charitable for you to acknowledge that those Jesuits and Catholics who believe in the full Catholic faith are trying to love their neighbor just as much as those who believe some other theology.

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 1:40pm

to love someone is to want the best for them including the health of their soul. to not care about the whole person, their soul, or to be negligent about their salvation, would be the opposite of the commandment to love one's neighbor.

David Mooneyhan | 5/31/2014 - 11:27pm

After reading MANY pages of your responses to honest, thoughtful Catholics, I DO have to conclude that you are a rules-obsessed, OCD spiritual cripple.

Sandi Sinor | 6/2/2014 - 10:57pm

If you hang around long enough reading the comments to these blogs, you will learn that not only are some commenters here always "right", without paying any attention to facts brought to their attention,the resort to any measure at all to assert their "rightness" and others' "wrongness". A favorite tactic is setting up straw men by putting words in others commenters' "mouths" that they can knock down in order to prove that they are "right". They also always have to have the last word.

Just a friendly warning. Some of us (we who lack the christian patience and charity of Michael B) have learned to simply ignore certain people who post in order not to "feed" their need to show off how "right" they are.

David Mooneyhan | 6/4/2014 - 11:57pm

Thank you, Sandi!

Tim O'Leary | 6/1/2014 - 12:39am

David - At least a cripple can be open to being healed. God Bless.

David Mooneyhan | 6/5/2014 - 12:02am

Unlike someone who believes he owns all truth, and despises anyone who is not identically deluded.

And please don't bother to respond. The unbelievably insulting things you've already said (especially equating homosexuality with pedophilia) actually BEG for some thoughtful silence on your part.

Frank Bergen | 5/31/2014 - 12:03am

James Martin has written an admirable piece advocating putting love of the lesbian and gay neighbor first, and refraining from dragging in the caveat that they are being loved even though they are sinners. First line of the essay, however, sets the stage by repeating the sad statement that "Everybody knows..." My reaction: nice try, James, but until we can break out of the box and begin to think like our Jesuit brother Francis it will all be 'same old, same old.' Francis is trying to tell us that facts trump ideas and I'd like to share a few facts. A couple in my town, both priests -- Episcopal of course since they are women -- have overcome immense odds to found and grow a Nativity model school strengthened by their decade-long love for one another and their dream of educating kids living in poverty and unlikely to succeed in traditional public schools. I'll play a role in their wedding when they are allowed by the state of Arizona to marry. Two men in their fifties, together twenty years and married a year ago in California, are raising two children of birth parents who are unable to provide for them and who wanted my friends to have them. The couple are initiating proceedings to adopt the children. In assuming these responsibilities they have had the enthusiastic support of their and my fellow parishioners. Two women also in their fifties, joined in a union blessed by our parish priest a year ago after several years together, are raising the granddaughter of one spouse, again with the parish community's encouragement. Knowing these couples, being part of their lives, I have no doubt that their unions are as God-blessed as is mine with my wife. Facts trump ideas, a basic principle that ought to be taught in all our schools, especially in our schools of theology. After all, it's our Jesuit brother Francis' maxim. Break out of the box, James.

Tim O'Leary | 5/30/2014 - 11:12pm

I just found out something relating to Michael’s oft-used “quote” from Blessed Pope Pius IX (below 2-3 times). It appears to be a deliberate mistranslation and to be nefariously taken out of context to make it appear to be a defense of slavery, when it is the opposite. It is not Michael’s fault but that of Bokenkotter and Noonan, who had an obligation to give the full context, but didn’t.

1. The quote is not from Pius IX but from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office {Instructio Number 1293: Found in Collectanea, Vol. 1, pp. 715-720}. While he signed it, it is a little different than an encyclical or a declarative papal teaching. But, this is a minor quibble.

2. Importantly, the English word slavery is not in the original Latin, but servitude, and its use is more nuanced and complex that let on with the short quote and word insertion. Distinctions are made between just and unjust servitude, etc. And this is only a preamble to a call for a complete abolition of unjust servitude, closer to our understanding of slavery as in the Americas. See this site (In Italian – sorry)

3. Most egregiously, the quote is taken completely out of context to make it appear to be a defense of slavery when the whole context is an attack on slavery, a litany of praise of previous popes for their condemnation of one type of slavery or another, including endorsing his immediate predecessor’s strong call for abolition of slavery of the Negro. Then there is this quote “the Roman Pontiffs have left nothing untried by which servitude be everywhere abolished among the nations" and "it is especially due to them [i.e., the popes], that already for many ages no slaves are held among very many Christian peoples.” Hardly a defender of the status quo.

I don’t make the claim that Popes have always condemned slavery, as Jesus and Paul didn’t. It was part of all societies that Christianity evangelized and was accommodated more than us moderns would have liked, in hindsight. But, popes have been at the forefront of condemning it, and have always been ahead of the more intransient laity, who thought they knew better what Christianity meant. This is a very instructive example of development of doctrine, not a reversal of doctrine. When you get to heaven, you might ask Jesus why He was more interested in slavery of the soul than slavery of the body, but I think He will have a good answer.

Paul Ferris | 6/1/2014 - 8:52pm

Tim what good is a reference to a site that is in Italian....are you crazy ?

Paul Ferris | 5/31/2014 - 9:40am

I think women priests and same sex marriage will be looked at in the future as a development of doctrine and not a reversal. That is the way the institution of Catholicism always justifies change. Like we were the first ones to think of it really....freedom of religion, the press, free elections, women's right to vote, democracy not monarchy etc....It would be easier to say that often in the two thousand plus years since Jesus and the Apostles, the Roman Catholic Magisterium has led from behind....which is perfectly understandable.....for it is made up of humans who in your own words conform to the culture....I think future generations will look back at our time and wonder how Catholic Americans could accept nuclear weapons,......and go to communion on Sunday

David Mooneyhan | 5/31/2014 - 11:31pm

BRAVO, Paul!

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 6:19pm

So, to sum up your view, the RCC will eventually come around to accepting all the current beliefs in the Church of Paul Ferris. At least you don't lack confidence. May the force be with you.

Paul Ferris | 6/1/2014 - 9:59pm


You wrote "according to the church of Paul Ferris".....there isn't nor will there ever be one because even if I am crucified I will not rise again on the third have my word on it.

Mary Campbell | 5/30/2014 - 4:44pm

In our parish, our talented music director of 8 years was recently let go because he had married a man. This is wrong. Many of us sent a letter to the Bishop but received no response or acknowledgment. I believe nothing like this should happen again in any parish in our country!

Tim O'Leary | 5/30/2014 - 10:15pm

Mary - I don't quite get the outrage here and I think it s feigned. A teacher publically and blatantly goes against the well known and declared teaching of the Church, and expects to keep his job in a Catholic institution. Would you be similarly outraged if a married heterosexual became a polygamist, or publically entered into an adulterous affair, or told everyone he was now working part-time as an abortionist, or had taken a job as the local executioner, or joined an anti-Catholic atheist club? The bottom line is that the Church would be hypocritical to keep him on.

Would you be similarly outraged if an editor of Out magazine announced that he had successfully undergone sex reparative therapy and was then fired from his position? or if a leader in the NAACP announced he was joining the KKK? Institutions have the right to not be hypocritical. Note that this parish had not fired him when he was most probably living a lifestyle incompatible with Catholicism for 8 years. Now they are paying for their abundant mercy. It was only when he made a public and political act that some action had to be taken, at the risk of other people's souls. It would have been different if it was a public school, since gay marriage is a secular construction.

As to children of lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender couples (do they get to adopt too, is there a quota), I think any child should be accepted into a Catholic school as long as the parents sign agreement that the child will be given a Catholic education. otherwise, it is rank hypocrisy. Catholic schools are not in the business of providing a secular service, but in providing a Catholic education as part of their evangelizing obligation to "go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Mt 28:19)

Paul Ferris | 5/31/2014 - 11:51am


Your blaming the laity and not the hierarchy for slavery is a stretch even for you. The male priests who sponsored the Ursulines in New Orleans took their direction from members of the clergy, not the laity. Their order was founded in Italy and France after all.....I heard this morning that 200 Catholic teachers in Cincinnati were being forced to accept a provision they will not support gay lifestyles and will not live together before marriage. I am hoping the teachers reaction to the contract changes will be to go on strike.

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 1:34pm

Gosh, Paul. Can't you put your responses in the correct sections, as this comment is a complete non-sequitur here?. I addressed it in the correct place.

Paul Ferris | 6/1/2014 - 3:23pm

OK...I am sorry...I will go check...I can hardly wait to review your response.

David Mooneyhan | 5/30/2014 - 9:31pm

Amen, Mary!

This is absurd in a church that says it cherishes justice.

Michael Barberi | 5/30/2014 - 8:59pm


Thanks for this. This practice is one of the reasons why the Church/magisterium's teaching about treating same-gender individuals with respect, compassion, and charity reminds all Catholics that there is a a contradiction between the word pronounced and the deed as practiced.

I also find appalling that adopted children of same-gender Catholic couples who are married civilly are often not permitted to attend Catholic elementary school.

It is no wonder that same-gender people feel disenfranchised and excluded from the RCC. They are standing on the outside of the doors of the Church and are only inviting in as objectively disordered second-class members.

Paul Ferris | 5/29/2014 - 9:29am

5.0 out of 5 stars Masterless Mistresses, July 23, 2011

By Emily Clark

This review also shows how important the teaching on marriage and family was to the Ursulines even in the face of being part of the institution of slavery. I think men religious in America also owned slaves. To me it shows that to emphasize the importance of chastity does not cover all the virtues and should not be looked at in isolation of everything else. I prefer to use the word integrity instead of chastity because in the Roman Catholic tradition, chastity often can be reduced to no venereal pleasure outside of is a mortal sin !!! But owning slaves is not a mortal sin....

Amazon Customer "friend of Tassc International" (Waterville, Maine United States) - See all my reviews

There has bee some discussion about the Magisterium and slavery. I offer a review of this book I wrote for

This review is from: Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727-1834 (Paperback)

This book by Tulane University Professor, Emily Clark, about the colonial history of the Ursulines in New Orleans is a wonderfully written tapestry of how only a handful of religious women became part of the complex and fascinating story of the city of New Orleans in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Clark's book is a blend of historical scholarship beginning with the spiritual founding and formation of the Ursulines in Italy and then development in France. Who were these Ursulines? Why did they come to Louisiana? What physical hardships did they undergo? (As a companion to this book I suggest Voices From An Early American Convent, edited by Emily Clark) What were their apostolic and cultural achievements? Professor Clark tells the story of the Ursulines not only in their charitable works such as teaching, running orphanages, and hospitalers, but also how they ran plantations as slave owners.

This last activity may come as a surprise to modern readers but the story is well documented with the family names of slaves. Professor Clark credits the Ursulines with keeping slave families together, unlike Spanish and British/American slave owners. They also followed the French mandate of seeing that Indian and Blacks were baptized and raised Catholics. Still Professor Clark does not fail to mention that in 1864 with the emancipation of Blacks, all the slaves were happy to leave the Ursuline plantation. And how did the Ursulines deal with borders and slaves who could not live up to their strict moral code? They sold them off.

Professor Clark devotes a large portion of her book to the thesis that the Ursulines, as unmarried self-supporting single women, (without master husbands) represented a different model of Christian womanhood than Protestant married women. In fact Professor Clark relates that the Uruslines posed a threat to leading men of New Orleans during the American Republican era which had little regard for the independence of women after its successful revolution from Britain.

Professor Clark writes that the Ursulines were hierarchical in their own Order's makeup and that they conformed to the prevailing class social structure, yet they exhibited an egalitarian spirit when ministering to the spiritual welfare of their charges; i.e. Indians, blacks, rich, poor, women.

Professor Clark scholarship never gets in the way of a very clear and entertaining writing style. Even more important, in my opinion, Professor Clark, shows enormous admiration, even love for these pioneering women without losing her professional historian's discerning judgment.

Definitely five stars.

Tim O'Leary | 5/30/2014 - 12:40pm

Paul - could this be an example of nineteenth century "Nuns on the Bus" since the contemporary Inquisition had commanded slaveholders to free their slaves? Or, maybe, the nuns should have listened less to the local laity and more to the Vatican.

Paul Ferris | 5/30/2014 - 4:08pm

Once the North took over New Orleans from the South, a northern soldier died. His superiors went to the Irish pastor of a local parish and asked if he would bury the Northern soldier. His response: "I wish I could bury them all." The Catholic clergy and laity followed whatever the custom of the locality. They were not part of the abolition movement just as Catholics did not lead in the Civil Rights movement.

The nuns did have priest superiors in New Orleans. They were not following the laity. To quote my four year old granddaughter Sydney to me: "Jidoo (grandfather) you got it all wrong. Tim, you got it all wrong. These Ursulines who bore unbelievable hardship in coming to the USA. They were great women but they were never taught by the Magisterium that slavery was intrinsically evil and a mortal sin. If they had been taught this they never would have owned slaves.

Michael Barberi quoting Noonan provide enough evidence that the Magisterium has not been on the side of Jesus on this issue. To you not to admit this is dumb and you are not dumb. Your idea that the Pope's were not complicit in the castration of boys choir members in Italy is also dumb. As a heterosexual with a normal sex drive I accept that gays have the right to same sex marriage and you have said nothing to persuade me that the Magisterium so far does not have it all wrong. There is also no reason why women should not be allowed in the priesthood. All are baptized the same way. Women are not baptized with an asterisk saying they cannot be priests.

Tim O'Leary | 5/31/2014 - 11:47am

Paul - while I don't think you are dumb, you may not have detected my tongue-in-cheek attitude regarding the good sisters, who would indeed be influenced by their local superiors more than by Rome. The popes spoke out since the 15th century, but it was not continuous and one could be forgiven for think they had given up on the idea since the lay world had ignored them so much. But, way-to-go with your last paragraphs, ending with a flourish of heterodoxies. Lots of questions for St. Peter, when you meet him at the gates of heaven.

Paul Ferris | 5/31/2014 - 1:12pm

I hope I meet him. I am a Maronite Catholic. Our motto is "iman Boutrous, English: my faith is Peter's faith.

We are the only Eastern Church that has no Orthodox counterpart. We are "Roman" all the way. Recently there was a married deacon ordained in the United States which Rome prohibited lo these last hundred years. What could Rome do ??? We have Lutheran and Episcopal priests converts so how could they tell the Maronites not to infect the Catholic Church in America with our age old married priest tradition. I really not a fan of Eastern Rite practice of allowing married men to the priesthood but not allowing those already ordained to "fall in love" and marry., Also only celibates can be bishops....isn't there something contrary to that in the Pauline epistle to Timothy or was it Titus...."a bishop should only be married once."? All this would be off topic if your main argument against same-sex marriage was not based on what the Magisterium says.

Tim O'Leary | 5/30/2014 - 12:36am

Interesting, Paul - I am sure you do not mean to say that owning a slave is in itself a mortal sin (one must know it is wrong, and most cultures do not seem to have judged so). However, it would be for those who were excommunicated by the several Popes quoted below in the C15-17 period, and by the Inquisition (mentioned below). I know we are way off track, but I was finally able to track down the source of the Pope Pius IX quote that Michael and his sources repeat so frequently. It was in Instructio 1293 (Collectanea , Vol . 1, p. 715-720). I could only find an Italian source on the internet. It says Piux IX was using the term for servant, not slave. A second site said the same thing, but in passing. I wonder if any of the books critical of the Pope address this lost-in-translation issue?

I quote directly from a google translation (- sorry)
"Recently circulating on the internet this step of Pius IX: 'Slavery itself, considered in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law. There may be many just rights to slavery and both theologians and commentators of the sacred canons have made ​​reference ...... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law that one slave can be sold, bought, exchanged or given away.'

"This step is deliberately mistranslated from the Latin, and even a few phrases of private enlightening. It should be translated and integrated in this way, more correctly:

'The servants as such, considered in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law. There may be many just rights to the easement and both theologians and commentators of the sacred canons have referred ...... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law that a servant can be sold, bought, exchanged or given away. vendor should clearly examine whether the servant put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty and that the buyer can not do anything that might harm the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the servant.

"In Latin, the term used in the document and mistranslated the word slavery is " servitudo "and that translated with the word slave is" served . "

"Historically, this term can include both those who are in penal servitude (such as inmates who are forced to work) and in voluntary servitude, contracted (for economic reasons who freely makes available to someone his freedom) than those who are in conditions of slavery (i.e. considered as objects owned by a master.)" Here is the link

Then! Pius IX immediately followed that remark by praising the many Roman Pontiffs who “have left nothing untried by which servitude be everywhere abolished among the nations." Hardly a pro-slavery pope.

Bruce Snowden | 5/26/2014 - 10:52pm

Forty-seven years ago at our Wedding Mass the celebrant instructing my wife and I before the exchange of vows said, “Sacrifice is usually irksome, only love can make it easy and perfect love can make it a joy!” Subsequently those words proved true, exactly as our vows implied, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Marriage teaches to take life as it comes, not always seeking the “easy way” but accepting the reality of the “hard way” realizing that there are some things that one cannot have and so by the grace of God we accept built-in limitations and by simply loving, gracious acceptance becomes possible, sacrificially perfecting love. Do not the realities of Christian Marriage faithfully lived model in fact the realities and limitations of life in all its aspects? I think so!

Michael Barberi | 5/27/2014 - 3:52pm


Forty-two years ago I exchanged the same vows with my wife. We took life as it came and there were many difficult and sorrowful events that we struggled through. Thanks to the mercy and grace of God brighter days came and after 40+ years, I can truly say that all the sacrifices perfected our love. During this time, I continued to attend weekly Mass, have a daily prayer life, etc. However, there were times that this was not the case. Nevertheless, by the grace and mercy of God I eventually got back to the right path again.

The model of Christian marriage does reflect the realities and limitations of life. We are imperfect beings, and we sin. However, thanks for the suffering, death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus, we are redeemed and made children of God. The major focus of us all should be on God, then family, then neighbor, then self. This can be the case for same-sex couples in a committed, faithful, loving, and lifelong relationship.

Bruce Snowden | 5/27/2014 - 5:57pm


We have sailed the same boat on the rough sea of Christian Marriage, but luckily "sacrifice" was the indispensable oar that got us through the realities of life. Certainly not easy but with the grace of God doable to the point where joy is often found granted by our "hide and seek God" who sometimes seeks while we hide and at other times he hides while we seek. It is a blessed experience and I thank you for your witness and I truly feel honored to be able to share with you testimony of a grace-filled life that we both share .The Lord blessed us with four children one going to the Lord in the third month of the first trimester through miscarriage, our saint, and three grown sons who have given us seven grandchildren, 4 granddaughter and 3 grandsons. God bless Christian Marriage identified by St. Paul as a model of the Church. How true! Again, Mike, Thanks!

Michael Barberi | 5/27/2014 - 7:47pm

Hi Bruce,

Our experiences of marriage are different but not dissimilar.

In this mysterious journey called life, I am drawn to embrace more closely mercy, charity and understanding, especially with respect to our neighbors that have been born with a same-sex orientation, an orientation that is not chosen but simply is. If such an orientation is truly and "objective disorder" as the magisterium claims, then the grace of God must be able to transform the person with this disorder. In reality, the presence of an orientation towards a person of the same sex does not appear to bring along with it any emotional or psychological configuration, even less any deformation, which is not found equally among people of the majority orientation. People with a same-sex orientation are not found to more impatient, unfaithful, selfish, pleasure seeking, or incapable of being good Samaritans, or more prone to anger, of rivalry, violence or resentment…than the majority with a heterosexual orientation.

If everyone with a same-sex orientation must live a lifetime of sexual abstinence, does God freely give the infused gift of celibacy to all those that are "required" to live this way? What large segments of the human population are prohibited from marriage and are automatically "required" to do this?

On the other hand, there are good reasons not to deny those born with a same-sex orientation the same choices that heterosexual have, namely, a choice between a marriage and a life of sexual abstinence. Why confine them to a life of sexual abstinence, something that must be voluntarily chosen in order for it to work? Should they all embrace "heroic virtue" regardless of the reasons to the contrary, whether it is practical, whether it is overly burdensome, whether it is an extreme form of virtue? Can it be possible that the magisterium might find a way for people born with a same-sex orientation to enter into a blessed non-sacramental marriage under certain conditions?

Perhaps the magisterium will find a way to treat gay people with more compassion, respect and understanding, especially those who who seek God, want to flourish, to love another in a faithful, committed and lifelong relationship, to adopt a child that no one wants, to adopt a frozen embryo and give it life, to love and serve those in suffering and hardship, and to become a member in full standing in the Catholic Church. This may take a long time, but I have hope for a better pastoral application of certain moral norms that should be the subject of a rethinking.

I wish I had the answers.

Bruce Snowden | 5/28/2014 - 1:43pm


I wish I had the answers too, about your expressed same sex orientation dilemmas. Regarding that question, the best I understand it, everyone, including same sex oriented people are called upon by Christ to practice heroic virtue, however that heroism may be required even if it requires a lifetime of self denial. Your expression, "infused gift of celibacy" is interesting and perhaps a person called to a precise form of sexual abstinence, which incidentally includes just about everyone as the Spirit instructs, may need such a gift and if the need is of Divine origin , the answer must also be of Divine origin. So yes, as the need exists God remains ready to grant it. Often we want no part of that invitation rooted in the way life in the Heavenly Kingdom will be, where "there will be neither marrying, or giving in marriage, but where all live as angels do." Earthly experience is transient - the heavenly experience is permanent beginning here on earth. The Doctor of the Church, Catherine of Siena says, "Heaven begins here-and-now."

Now I don't know if this example (examples always limp) will make any sense. But let me give it a try. There's an apple tree on the grounds where I live. This year the tree was loaded with flowers. If every flower produces an apple its going to be a bumper crop. However, experience shows that not every flower is "sexually" productive - not every flower produces an apple. Some, it seems to me are called to be celibate! Studying for 82 years spiritual and earthly realities I have come up with a "principle" that says, "Whatever is possible naturally, is also possible supernaturally." This certainly applies to the analogy of the sexually inoperative apple flower versus humanity's infused celibacy necessary to all according to a Divine manifesto.

They who are specially gifted that way were "conceived" that way, beautifully attractive but created to be sexually abstemious. Is this a hard saying? It certainly is, the back fitted by Christ to the burden, which is really a unique gift! All humanity in one way or the other are called to be a sexually inoperative "apple flower" with infused grace to be everything they are meant to be and this excludes no one, according to the Divine patterns.

Is this just plain stupid, or does it have some redeeming grace? If you want to response with enlightenment please do so, and I'll tackle that response sometime tomorrow.

Michael Barberi | 5/28/2014 - 4:42pm


I find it hard to believe that such a large segment of the population (e.g., some surveys put it between 1%-5%+), who are born with a same sex orientation and are "required" to practice a form of self-denial and heroic virtue defined as a lifetime of sexual abstinence. Let me try to address your argument.

It is true that we are all called to practice heroic virtue, the question before us is to define it. Aristotle and Aquinas believed that one should practice the mean of a virtue, not one extreme or the other. As I have argued, prudence is the measure of chastity-temperance, the virtue the magisterium says should guide our sexual appetite. How many days of self-denial in the form of sexual abstinence should married couples practice? Is there a specific number of days per month that is morally right, and anything less is immoral? Is there a specific number of days that meet the minimum definition of "heroic virtue"? I think not, as prudence would dictate.

On the other hand, if someone voluntarily chooses to be celibate or abstain from sexual intercourse in a marriage for 12, 15 or more days per month and both spouses agree to do this for God or for another good reason, there is nothing immoral about such a decision. They are voluntarily choosing these acts of self-denial. These specific acts of self-denial are not being "imposed" upon them by authority.

It is one thing to require a lifetime of sexual abstinence for those that "voluntarily" want to become priests, and quite another to "require" it for every person of a large segment of the population for one's salvation. In the former, the agent has a choice (marriage or celibacy). In the later, there is no choice for the agent; they must practice a lifetime of sexual abstinence.

Aquinas teaches us that God will not ask us to do the impossible. As a general principle, I agree. However, we are talking about moving from a general principle to a specific application of the general principle in concrete circumstances. As Aquinas teaches us, the more specific we get, the more the general norm becomes less certain. In the case of same-sex oriented persons, it is human agency (e.g., the magisterium) that is defining the requirement and mandatorily imposing it. Witness the fact that in ancient times everyone was assumed to be heterosexual, and homosexual acts chosen by heterosexuals were considered an abomination and immoral. I agree. However, can we apply this with moral certainty to same-sex couples in a committed, faithful, loving and lifetime relationship?

To your point that God gives us all the grace to do His Will. If so, how do we explain that fact that many seminarians do not take their final vows because they lack the gift of celibacy. Is this gift given to few "individuals" who voluntarily choose celibacy, or to a large segment of the populations who are "required" to practice a lifetime of sexual abstinence?

Bruce, I do not have the answers to these complex moral questions. This issue is more complex, than say contraception. However, I am moved by charity, compassion and mercy, as well as reasoned arguments, that the teaching about homosexuality should be the subject of a rethinking. Perhaps, there will be some changes in the pastoral application of this teaching by the Synod on the Family. If not, I believe we will be arguing about it for many years to come. It is a teaching I believe can be developed.

I agree: When we reach Heaven, "there will be neither marrying, or giving in marriage, but where all live as angels do". We do what we can in this life and we should not make salvation more difficult for one than other.

I am open to further education and your comments, perhaps sometime tomorrow.

Bruce Snowden | 5/29/2014 - 7:57pm

Michael, From all that you have written I clearly see you are sincerely trying to be simply loving, including and especially towards our sisters and brothers of same sex preferences. I do too. However, I am experiencing two problematic areas which, please allow me to discuss very briefly and frankly. I hope it doesn't send "swarms of angry bees" with stinging vitrol all over postings, but instead I pray that the peace of Christ may reign.

First of all, I must disagree with unions between same sex individuals being called "marriage." St. Paul calls Christian marriage a model of Christ's relationship to his Church. At least since the Bronze Age marriage has been understood as a loving, or not so loving union between a man and a woman which is sometimes biologically productive in the generation of children. It seems sensible and logical to me that it should be this way.

On the other hand I would have no objections if same sex individuals enter into loving Civil Unions, with all the social security and benefits that are given to married couples. Are all loving relationships blessable because they are loving? I'm inclined to think that way and so I hope that Catholic theology can discover some way to confirm that hope. Having said this I run smack into Augustine who reminds, that "Although charity (love) is good, it must never be practiced contrary to sound judgment." There are many who claim that same sex unions violate sound judgment.

I also have a problem with same sex couples adopting children. To properly develop an infant, a child, needs a mother and father, necessary to understand sexual differences and accept personal identity, differences between male and female which among other ways is discovered through differences in skin texture, voice tone and in scent. Also the "woman's touch" her loving and thinking, are intrinsically different than a "man's touch" his loving and thinking ways. In the unifying togetherness they ideally complement one another, whereas together, together in same gender startles.

I truly try to live in love as Jesus taught and to remember the words of Holy Father Francis, "Who am I to judge?" I do try! But that "darn thing" called "conscience" keeps getting in the way! It's the only conscience I have and until it is proven to be incorrect, I am bound by it.

Thanks for the back abd forth and if you want to continue I'll be happy to cooperate as long as I'm not just talking baloney! Again, thanks!

Tim O'Leary | 5/29/2014 - 10:35pm

Bruce - I think Michael says somewhere that you are bound to follow your conscience, so he would sympathize with you on this. I would say your conscience seems to be working rather well, in that it often doesn't resolve issues but presents itself as an annoying unease when things seem wrong, despite many telling you all is fine and dandy.

God Bless.

Bruce Snowden | 5/30/2014 - 12:04pm


Thanks for joining the back and forth. Many decades ago, in a moral theology class dealing with chastity, precisely the Vow of Chastity that Religious take, the teacher said to us very young men, "No doubt you guys will find the Vow of Chastity very challenging, so remember that sin resides in the will, not in any external action." That principle has outlined my conscience ever since, helping me to make across the board moral distinctions regarding sin as needed . So in every way I do say, "Who am I to judge?" We try our best and leave the rest in the merciful hands of God.

Incidentally, that wise priest who years ago help to form my conscience, one day I found in a Nursing Home unable to speak and curled into a fetal position in a sleep-back wheelchair. He appeared semi-conscious and I bent over and whispered his name and mine too, but there was no response. What a shocker! He was a fantastic homilist with a booming voice and laughter. He has passed on to the Land of the Living where he is seeing up front and close what we now see only dimly, through Faith. Again, thanks for joining in.


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