Love and Truth
There is much to commend in “Simply Loving,” by James Martin, S.J. (5/26). There is no doubt that “loving the sinner, while hating the sin” is easier for God than for man. We imperfect and fallen humans tend to either love both or hate both. It is hard to get it right, but we must try. It is the only way to see through to truth. The phrase became a mantra because it has always been a Christian maxim.
I do think we are in more difficult territory in some modern moral controversies. What the church teaches (and has always taught) as a sin, is being challenged as not a real sin at all, but an actual good. The faithful Catholic person cannot accept these redefinitions of morality, and Pope Francis will not succumb to the political pressure to abandon these central moral teachings.
The pastoral approach, however, is, I think, open to a shift, and this is what I think Pope Francis is doing. He is calling us to focus our gaze first on the person, to love the person, to “see the person,” before we see his or her religion, ideology, “orientation” and life circumstances. Only that way can we properly distinguish the person from the sin and keep love primary, without departing from the truth.
As a member of Courage, the Catholic ministry for gay men and women, I find myself at odds with Catholics and non-Catholics alike far more often than I feel I should. I’m mocked for wanting to pursue a life that keeps Christ and the church at the forefront, with certain principles that do not always conform to what the gay culture thinks I should do.
At the same time, I feel disrespected by a church that doesn’t seem fully willing to accept the fact that I believe—brokenness and all—that I was created exactly as God intended, for his specific purpose. It’s frustrating, but I think we’re on the verge of a breakthrough, and I want to play a part in that. The message that the church is not welcoming to gay men and women is simply not true, and we Catholics with a same-sex attraction need to step up and correct that perception in the community.
I write as an elder, a happily married heterosexual Episcopal priest, still studying, still learning at 78. I keep reflecting on Pope Francis’ insistence that “realities are greater than ideas.” The column “Simply Loving” is very good, but it starts out with an idea. What a different essay we might have had if it had begun like this: Among the many same-sex couples I know, three stand out.
Mark and Anthony, both in their 50s, have been together 20 years. They are raising a 4-year-old girl and a 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, are raising Marie’s granddaughter, a 9-year-old who in their loving care is overcoming years of trauma. 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 Episcopal 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. They’ve been together over 10 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.
Re the cover photo for the May 19 issue of America: The detainees at Guantánamo Bay are shackled, blindfolded and kneeling with U.S. soldiers standing over them. The caption on the inside front cover says the photo is from 12 years ago!
You have given us a visual presentation of what appears to be abuse and inhumanity. Is that your intention? Within the issue is “Morality and Morale,” an article by Luke Hansen, S.J., in which he asks whether the operations at Guantánamo Bay are moral. I do not have an answer to that and have struggled with this question for a long time. Without a complete picture of detainee treatment today, your cover is one-sided, prejudicial and immoral.
As a Marine officer from 1951 to 1956, I found “Morality and Morale” most disturbing, especially what General John F. Kelly said about following orders.
I was taught that an order must be followed. But as a thinking person, I needed to be certain that it was a legal order before I executed it. Any question about legality was to be submitted for review and evaluation prior to following the order.
The chain of command begins with President Obama as commander in chief. With due respect to General Kelly, I cannot help wondering how he can avoid evaluating “policy” orders that the president has said “are contrary to our interests.” At a bare minimum, does he not have a responsibility to present questions about the “legality and morality” of his orders? Is that not “who we are,” in the words of our president and commander in chief?
What is the West?
Re “The West Knows Best?” (5/19): What is the truth about the West? One has to go back at least to the 16th century, when Britain was brutally cut off from the unity of Christendom and entered upon a new age of colonialism and imperialism. That was the age when we encounter the two “mighty opposites” of William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon, the one siding with Catholic tradition (if in secular disguise) and the other with Protestant innovation. And it is, sadly, the latter side that has won out, even to the extent of representing “the West.”
It might well be added that early on in this period it was Islam that was the aggressor, by sea until the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and by land until the relief of Vienna as late as 1683. The so-called “Christian” nations of the West only became aggressors thanks to the advantages accorded them by science and industry in the new age, when the advent of “secularism” (whose other name is “anti-Catholicism”) had long since set in.
Faith and Fiction
I have been following with interest the ongoing discussion about the dearth of literary works written recently by Catholics. I have an ear to the ground, so to speak, regarding the literary tastes of ordinary Catholics. So I am bemused by your lack of attention to popular fiction. Isn’t that the field where evangelization and pre-evangelization is most needed?
I look for fragments, hints in the wind, in that field. Dean Koontz is an avowed Catholic who writes about God, eternity, the ongoing struggle between good and evil, violence and nonviolence, in a literary form I’d call “supernatural thriller,” reminiscent of the novels of Charles Williams, one of the Inklings. Koontz’s “Odd Thomas” series is especially spiritual and insightful, with a spiritual optimism and humor much needed in today’s popular culture.
Thank you for the courage of your new mission, as presented in “Pursuing the Truth in Love,” by Matt Malone, S.J. (6/3/2013). America has been faithful to its goal of exposing and exploring many of today’s social injustices, offering conscientious solutions based on the truth found in Catholic social teaching. Sadly, however, there is one issue I have yet to see explored: the Catholic Church as an employer.
I have been an employee of the church at the parish level for over 35 years. It is a calling, so low wages and long hours are accepted. My experience, however, has exposed much darker issues: the use of “at will” employment, the lack of due process and the absence of any financial safety net upon dismissal.
The problem is extensive, and few are willing to discuss it. I ask America to expose and explore this issue, which affects so many within our parish communities.
Readers respond to “Simply Loving,” by James Martin, S.J. (5/26):
The flaw in the analogy is that Zacchaeus’s sin was that of hurting people by defrauding them, while gay people’s alleged sin is that of loving the adult person that God designed them to love. Equating consensual committed love to theft is precisely the kind of condescension that forces gay people to doubt the good faith of the hierarchy’s purported “respect.”
For decades, I attended the Gay and Married Men support group in Washington, D.C. For years, the non-Catholic members would complain that the Catholic Church screwed them up. Why they would blame the Catholic Church was inexplicable. The Catholic guys in the group, to a man, said that they found the church and their pastors to be very supportive.