On the Paradox of Love and Law – A Reflection on the Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter

In the gospel today Jesus cuts right across the modern Western tendency to oppose Love and Law, Law and Joy. Though we oppose them, Jesus joins all three concepts and summons us to a new attitude. Lets take a look.

I. Connections – Jesus says, As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father”s commandments and remain in his love.” “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.

Note here how the Lord joins three concepts: Love, Law and Joy. This precisely the opposite of what western culture does. The best that Western culture will admit of Law is that it is a necessary evil. While this is the best assessment of it, the more routine assessment is that law is somehow an unloving imposition by the powerful upon the unpowerful, by the hierarchy on the laity, by the (evil, unloving, oppressive, Pharisaical, etc.) Church on decent people.

But whereas the modern world severs law and love, Jesus links them. How do we both experience and show love? Jesus says, we do so by the keeping of the commandments. Jesus sets forth a vision whereby we, having experienced God’s love, desire and rejoice in his commands. We also show love to the Lord, by this very obedience and joyful adherence to his commands. And this loving obedience goes even further by setting forth an abundant joy, by the very keeping of those commands.

Again, this goes completely contrary to modern notions that sever joy from law and oppose them, and that describe God’s love abstractly, and separate from his love. The loving God is somehow “nice” and makes no demands, sets no limits. The “loving” God, according to the world, has few or no rules, he affirms, encourages, accepts, and includes.  Or this is the thinking.

But the real Jesus is far more complex. He is surely loving, especially of sinners, he encourages, includes the outcast, and so forth. Be he also speaks of sin and rebukes it. He embraces the sinner, but says, “sin no more.” He lays forth a demanding moral vision, even as he shows mercy. In this Gospel, Jesus joins love and law, and says the law brings joy. They are not opposed, they are not either/or, they are both/and.

Yet the modern world insists that love and law are at opposite poles. Consider the remarks of President Obama on Wednesday, describing his reasons for embracing so called gay “marriage.”

…In the end the values that I care most deeply about and she [Michele] cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me….

To be fair to the President, his remarks are a bit difficult to interpret absolutely, he is speaking off the cuff rather than reading prepared remarks. But that said, he (wrongly) affirms Gay “marriage” by, in essence, evoking just the flawed polarity we have been critiquing. It would seem he is saying that, “Jesus was a pleasant sort of fellow, who loved every one, and all these rules (about sexuality and other things) cannot possibly have come from him. He was an affirmer, an inclusive Messiah who befriended the outcast etc, et al… All he really cared about is that we treat each other nicely, and just as we would never want to be upset, we should not upset or offend anyone by what we say or do.

Now, all these things have some truth. But the fact remains that Jesus was a lot more complex and diverse than just the affirmer in chief who went about saying pleasant things. In fact he often held many very contrary things in tension and balance.

Consider the following portrait from Ross Douthat in his recent book:

Christianity is a paradoxical religion because the Jew of Nazareth is a paradoxical character. No figure in history or fiction contains as many multitudes as the New Testament’s Jesus. He’s a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine at weddings. He’s an apocalyptic prophet one moment, a [careful and] wise ethicist the next….He promises to set [spouses and one another and] parents against children,  and then disallows divorce; he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts….He can be egalitarian and hierarchical, gentle and impatient, extraordinarily charitable and extraordinarily judgmental. He sets impossible standards and then forgives the worst of sinners. He blesses the peacemakers and then promises that he’s brought not peace but the sword. He’s superhuman one moment; the next he’s weeping….

Douthat goes on to conclude:

The boast of Christian orthodoxy, as codified by the councils of the early Church and expounded in the Creeds, has always been its fidelity to the whole of Jesus…..[Where heresy says which one] Both, says orthodoxy….The goal of the great heresies, on the other hand, has often been to extract from the tensions of the gospel narratives a more consistent, streamlined, and noncontradictory Jesus. [1].

Again note, in this Gospel, how Jesus joins Love, law and joy. This is paradoxical in modern terms, but true in gospel terms. For the president to merely appeal to “love” and the “golden rule” is to appeal to Jesus in an incomplete and “choosey” way.

The fact is, the real Jesus, and the apostles whom he inspired to write the Gospels AND the epistles, opposes Homosexual activity (Rom 1:18ff; 1 Cor 6:6-9; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Lev 18:22; Lev 20:13; Gen 19 inter al.), as well as illicit heterosexual activity (cf Eph 5:5-7; Gal 5:16-21; Rev 21:5-8; Rev. 22:14-16; Mt. 15:19-20; 1 Cor 6:9-20; Col 3:5-6; 1 Thess 4:1-8; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Heb 13:4). He and his inspired apostles and prophets say so plainly, and these authors, apostles and prophets, do so in love.

We do not have time here to set for the whole teaching on homosexual and heterosexual sins. You can read more here: Biblical Teaching on Homosexual Activity.

The point here is to accept that Jesus, who is love, does not hesitate to teach on many moral topics and warn sinners of judgment. He both personally, and through his inspired apostles, does not fail to speak with clarity on anger, greed, malice, neglect of the poor, divorce, fornication, adultery, impure thoughts, homosexual acts, lack of faith, revenge, dishonesty, the sin of human respect, false and worldly priorities, and the list could go on.

It is simply false to say as the President implies and others say that  Jesus is love, and the Golden rule of “be nice” is all that is required. Jesus’ love is more encompassing than moral abstractions and generalities. Such diminished notions of Jesus and the Gospel exist on the right as well in concepts such as the prosperity gospel, and often unquestioning notions of going quickly to war etc.

Not only does Jesus link love to the keeping of the commandments in this text he also says the keeping of the commandments leads to joy.

Of this, I am a witness. God’s law gives joy to my heart. Regarding sexuality, as a priest, I live as a celibate, like Jesus, and my life is very fulfilling. I have been faithful to my celibate commitment without fail as a priest. I have not strayed from proper boundaries, I do not look at pornography, I am not in any way sexually active with women or anyone. In all this I am not repressed, I am not sad or lonely. My life is joyful, I am fulfilled and see my celibacy as a gift. To those who cannot marry, whether because they are homosexual, or young, or have not met the right person, I say God can and still does bless you. Living celibately is fulfilling, and joyful for those who are temporarily and/or permanently called to it.

The Church cannot and will not affirm either Gay “marriage”, homosexual acts or illicit heterosexual acts. In so doing we are not any more unloving, repressed, or sad than Jesus (who is none of these things). Neither can we affirm any other acts or attitudes that the Bible calls sinful. These things are all said and taught in love, and they bring joy to those who will accept them.

The Lord is no liar, and he promises that love, his commandments, and joy are all interrelated. I am a witness that this is true. Thus, note the connection between love, law and joy.

II. The Core – The Lord says, This is my commandment, Love one another as I have loved you. While it is true that the Church, and all of us as individuals, must speak the truth, we must speak it in love. We are not out to win an argument, to overpower, or to merely criticize. We are out to love. It is not helpful, and quite likely harmful, to correct people we do not first love.

Hence the Lord’s command to love one another is at the core of any preaching or teaching task. There are many today who declare that they do not experience love from the Church, only “denunciations.” It is a hard thing for the Church to convey to a large number, to a nation, or to a culture, our love. But to the degree we have failed to convey it, or even have failed to have that love we must repent, and strive ever more to both have love, and express it.

That said, the mere fact that we announce God’s law and summon others to it does not make us unloving. There is no doubt that some will take offense, no matter what we say or how we say it. But the anger or hurt of others does not always mean we have done or said something wrong. Jesus, who was sinless, offended many and was a sign of contradiction, then, even as he is now.

But for the Church we must never fail to ask for a deepening love, even for those who hate us, misunderstand us and misrepresent us. The core of Jesus’ teach is “Love one another.”

Jesus goes so far as to say that we must be willing to endure martyrdom in order to lovingly speak the truth to others. He says, No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Are you and I willing to endure hatred, being spit upon, laughed at, being called hateful, bigoted and homophobic, backward, repressed, intolerant and so forth, so that others can hear the truth? Jesus was willing, because he had the kind of love to stay in the conversation, even when many (not all) hated him. What are you willing to bear to proclaim the truth in love?

III. Camaraderie – Jesus also links knowledge of his law to friendship. He says, You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

Note too another connection Jesus makes that the modern world rarely does. The world thinks of rules and laws and commandments in terms of slavery and subservience. But Jesus links these to friendship. A friend knows what his friend is about, and gladly seeks to understand and support him. Scripture says, Happy are we. O Israel, for what pleases God is known to us (Baruch 4:4)

Yes, true friendship seeks to know and understand the friend and to accomplish what is important to ones friend. Many today call themselves the friend of Jesus, but they give him little more than lip service. A true friend of Jesus is delighted to know his will and accomplish it.

IV. Call – Jesus says, It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” And thus, in the final lines, we are reminded that the Lord who has chosen us can and will equip us to live his law, to bear fruit in the keeping of the commandments, to be someone the Father can trust with blessings.

To be rebellious and resentful is to be untrustworthy of further blessings. But here again the Lord stresses, the keeping of the commandments is linked to love, and to further blessings.

The commandments bring joy, they are rooted in love and bring blessings. Do you believe this? or will you accept the worldly thinking that opposes love and law, law and joy, law and friendship? The choice is yours, but as for me, I am already a witness that the law is love, it is joy, it is friendship. Yes, I am a witness. How about you?

This song rejoices in the Light of Jesus, the clear Sun (Son) of Righteousness who shows the way to the way to the Father:

20 Replies to “On the Paradox of Love and Law – A Reflection on the Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter”

  1. With “same-sex marriage,” the issue is not love — it is NOT about love. A man loving another man is a good thing. We are told by Jesus in this Gospel to do that very thing. A man should love another man.

    I should love my father. I should love my brother. I should love my male friends.

    The problem isn’t love. The problem is (a) certain misguided physical activities that are contrary to the truth of the human body, which is ordered toward one kind of physical joinder and is not ordered toward another kind of physical joinder, and thus is contrary to the truth of the human person as a whole, and (b) erroneously calling such activities involving the body “love.”

    Men should love other men. But love must necessarily be consistent with truth, such that while men should love other men, they should not act inconsistent with truth by seeking certain kinds of physical joinder with other men. (And the same can be said of women loving women, etc.)

    As far as the “Law” is concerned, as far as “Commandments” are concerned, there really is only one, and it is not at all harsh, or at least by all rights should not be considered so. And that one law is this: Truth — be true to the person that God made you to be.

    God made you for love and for freedom. So be that.

    Now, just how is that unfair or harsh?

    If people prefer to whine and cry that they don’t like such radical freedom, that it was wrong to be brought out of bondage and that they want to go back to Egypt, that is their problem, not God’s. All God is expecting and commanding is that we be true to ourselves as we were made by Him to be, to be authentically free to love and be loved in truth.

    1. Bender, it’s not just radical freedom that Jesus calls us to, the same can be said about peace. When he said, “My peace I leave you”…it’s not really the peace that most people are thinking about because most people have their heads stuck in the mud.

      The beatitudes are really mind boggling.

  2. While Jesus dined, preached, walked,and talked with sinners, no sinner left Jesus’ company thinking that Jesus was ok with his or her sins. How could he love us and let us think that sin was ok when it is in fact the source of suffering for ourselves and/or others. We are all hurt and damaged by it. Jesus is the sole remedy.

  3. Thank you for your clear explanation of Jesus’s teaching. When the world appeals to the Bible, it is difficult for someone like me who has little Catholic education to articulate why they are wrong. I always appreciate your insights.

  4. Wonderful reflection, Monseigneur. The Church’s teachings have been distorted by Moderists for quite a while and has turned us into a society of “sentimentalists” that distort the true meaning of words like love, law, joy and charity. Just last year I learned the Church’s true definition of charity – “As a virtue, charity is that habit or power which disposes us to love God above all creatures for Himself, and to love ourselves and our neighbors for the sake of God.” (per the Catholic Encyclopedia). Not exactly what I previously thought.

    Elizabeth Scalia wrote a piece last year called “The Soft Tyranny of Sentimentalism” that’s very applicable to your thoughts, Monseigneur.
    A quick quote “Sentimentalism is the force of feel-goodism, the means by which we may cast off the conventions of faith and casually dismiss those institutions that refuse to submit to the trending times and morals. The Sentimentalist trusts his feelings over hallowed authority or the urgings of his reason, frequently answering hard religious questions with some noble-sounding phrase like “The God I believe in wouldn’t . . . ” (fill in the blank).”
    It’s certainly worth a read.

    There’s quite a difference between the Church’s classical definition of love and the sentimentalists’.

    1. Thanks for posting that definition of Charity. The Catholic writer, Flannery O’Connor said something about sentimentality that I can’t quote exactly, but that I think that I can paraphrase accurately: She said that sentimentality is a kind of softness that leads to bitterness. That helps me to seek to avoid sentimentality in that I don’t want to become bitter.

      1. I found the exact quote: “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”
        ― Flannery O’Connor

      2. I also saw this quote from Flannery O’Connor in the same article by Elizabeth Scalia:
        “In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness, and tenderness leads to the gas chamber. ~ Flannery O’Connor”

        Also, regarding Charity (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03592a.htm), St. Paul’s famous 1 Corinthians 13 (“Love is patient, love is kind…”), according to the accurate Douay-Rheims translation is really ” Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not…”. Even though it was read at my wedding, I didn’t know the Douay-Rheims translation until the last year.

  5. GK Chesterton once said (I paraphrase) “If the church has walls, it is the walls of the schoolyard or nursery. A school, set on a high cliff, must of necessity have walls, and high ones. However within those walls, the most riotous games may be played. Take away the wall, however, and the laughter and happy rushing about stops, and the children retreat to the center of the yard, more constrained by their “freedom” than by an wall of man’s devising.

    When I was a little girl, living in South Asia, my father was often out of the country on diplomatic service. His friends came over to our place to help my mother and to be a fatherly presence to myself and my siblings. My “Uncle Eric” taught me to play cricket. My “Uncle Oliver” taught me to ride a bike. My “Uncle Denzil” introduced me to limericks and PG Wodehouse and taught me to dance the foxtrot and a bunch of other old fashioned dances that seem hilarious now (I was six). My father was glad to know that we and my mother were well taken care of. He was never jealous : divorce and infidelity was unheard of. I don’t think it occured to him to worry what my mother might be up to. When we moved to America at age 8 my mother often remarked how lonely it was for American women. They did not dare let their husbands have women friends because they were so afraid of being divorced. When my father was away on mission (several months at a time) we learned to amuse ourselves within the family. It was difficult for my mother, and eventually my Dad got a better job that allowed him to not have to travel for more than a few weeks at a time. That helped, however there remained less friendship, and certainly no more intersex friendship in America because the “liberty” that permitted divorce, overwhelmed the restrictions that permitted friendships.

    When I was 15, I won a competition that permitted me to spend a summer working in an immunology laboratory in a Naval Research Institute. My mentor was the kindest, and most honorable of men. I LOVED that summer, and afterwards I was his summer technician for the next 5 years. He wrote my college, medical school and residency letters of recommendation. When we were working late, sometimes I would go to his home, and we would go over data together. His beautiful and trusting wife would bring us ice tea and cookies, close the door and leave us together for hours while we discussed the mechanism of immune suppression by parasites. Nothing happened. I loved him like a teacher and mentor, perhaps a little like a father (I still do.) He loved me like a student. Much of how I treat my own students stems from the way he treated me.

    However, if I had a daugter interested in science, I don’t believe I would be willing to have her spend several hours a week, closeted alone in the home of a man 20 years her senior. Nor, do I think that any honorable man would wish to have such a relationship. It would be too dangerous. People would talk, Accusations would be made. So now the rules are that all work should be done in the work place with the door open at all times. There is less love between teacher and student now that there is more “freedom.” I feel sorry for the teenagers of today, who have so fewer mentors and heroes than I had.

    When I was in college I was on the fencing team. We were a close knit sisterhood who showered in the ice cold communal showers of our college sports facility. (If you flushed one of the toilets, the water in the shower suddenly switched to boiling hot, and you could make an unsuspecting teamate leap from the shower). We slept 2 in a bed when travelling to distant competitions. Sometime after I graduated an openly gay fencer joined the team. People stopped showering together but lined up primly outside. Folks liked and welcomed her (she was a good athlete) but It was awkward, like having a guy in the showers. Eventually the college built individual showers and put in a bunch of rules regarding away trips and I believe things improved. But I am glad I had the friendly, unembarassed, towel flicking horse play that can only occur among good friends, whose nakedness is incidental and innocent.

    What I am saying is that Msgr. is correct. Joyful acceptance of natural boundaries permitted greater love, friendship and joy than the “freedom” that replaced it.

    There is a disease many of you have probably heard of called “Duchenne muscular dystrophy.” The problem with the disease is that the slender, elastic, almost invisible lining that separates the muscles becomes porous and leaky. This lets muscle proteins out, and sets up an inflammatory response. In defence the body comes up with thicker and thicker scar tissue that eventually wraps around the muscle cells. This separates the cells from one another, it means that the cells cannot work as well, and can no longer work together effectively Eventually the cells shrivel up, and die, encased in layers and layers of scar tissue.. Please God, one day we will be able to find a way to plug the leaks in the original, whisper thin, elastic membrane, which would allow the cells to return to their true freedom.

  6. Beautiful hymn. I think that there is an implicit claim in the concept of so-called gay marriage that homosexuals are locked into their way of life and that that is the best that they can do, an implicit kind of fatalism. This implicit fatalism is not in accord with the Golden Rule. I don’t not want people to treat me as though my identity, for all time, is set in stone by past actions, good or bad.

  7. I too find my life joyful and fulfilling. I live celebately with my sister, and we have raised two adopted children (now aged 22 and 15). I think that of our many friends and acquaintances I have to be probably the happiest person I know. Could I wish somethings to be different? Absolutely. However my celebacy, to which I feel permanantly called (despite not being either a priest, nun or other religious, and despite not having any physical or mental barrier to sex) is definately not one of them. God has richly blessed us, and I rejoice in my life which includes Jesus as the head of my family.

  8. You rightly admit the need for balance in all this, and the complexity of the real Jesus: “He is surely loving, especially of sinners, he encourages, includes the outcast, and so forth. Be he also speaks of sin and rebukes it. He embraces the sinner, but says, “sin no more.” He lays forth a demanding moral vision, even as he shows mercy. In this Gospel, Jesus joins love and law, and says the law brings joy. They are not opposed, they are not either/or, they are both/and.”
    Importantly, with Jesus the embrace precedes the admonition–something which certainly caused scandal and offense among Jesus’ would-be followers who may have expected him merely to triumphantly affirm their existing condemnations, delineations and marginalizations. He was known for being the “friend” of sinners–while friends always challenge one another to be the best people possible, they do so from a perspective of personal love. The troubling thing to me in this whole conversation (in the blog and in our culture) has been the reduction of persons to “threats” or “movements” (Modernists, angry gays, etc.) or even the reduction of homosexual persons to graphic depictions of particular acts seemingly intended to arouse horror or disgust.
    You have given a wonderful testimony about how celibacy has been an opportunity for grace and joy in your life, but it is presumed that you chose it freely. My guess is that the big dividing line here is that homosexual persons generally believe that their situation is not freely chosen. You must admit it would certainly be harder to find joy and grace in a situation in which someone is told they are fundamentally disordered and that celibacy is mandatory for moral reasons. I disagree with Bender’s assessment that sexuality is merely about “physical joinders”, and the CCC admits to the complexity and profundity of sexuality in our ability to relate to other human beings. In all this I’m not speaking about orthodoxy, but orthopraxy.

    1. Well, I didn’t just freely choose celibacy, I was called to it. And whether one is permanently called to live that state as I am or temporarily called to live that way, as an unmarried person one day open to marriage is, God gives the grace to live chastely. For some that means fidelity in marriage (heart and mind as well as physically), not as easy as everyone presumes, by the way. For others it means to embrace a celibate condition as they seek for a marriage partner. For others, homosexuals (and there are not a few heterosexuals who never find marriage as well) this means to live in an on-going, if not permanent celibate state. I have no doubt that God who calls us to chastity gives the grace to each to live it, whether in faithful marriage or in the continence of the single life.

      You do not doubt grace, do you?

      As for your final remarks, I have deleted them since they are gratuitous, and personally offensive. You don’t know me Daniel, and I don’t have the time on the Internet to do all the velvet glove stuff you incessantly require. Sometimes in conversations, other things have to be held equal. But I am not what you describe and I would ask you to consider how you tend to accuse others of what you yourself are most guilty of.

    2. I disagree with Bender’s assessment that sexuality is merely about “physical joinders”

      Bender would disagree with that too because that is not what Bender said.

      Sexuality encompasses the whole of the person, both the whole of the body and the spirit. We are male in the entirety of our being, body and soul, and we are female in the entirety of our being, body and soul.

      But it is undeniable that certain body parts of the male are specifically made for joinder with specific body parts of the female, whereupon there is an exchange of procreative genetic material, and these parts are not made for joinder with other body parts where the transmission of procreative genetic material is superfluous.

      Make no mistake, men are called to love other men, and they are called to a fullness of love which, like the love within the Trinity, is unitive and fruitful. But they are not called to have sex with each other. Even more pointedly, they are not compelled, as if they are mere mindless puppets, to have sex with each other. We are all — all of us — provided with free will. Even those with same-sex attractions have free will. No one — certainly not God — makes them do anything that is contrary to the truth of their being, such as by sexual activity with between men. That is entirely a matter of them choosing to do that.

  9. I never doubt grace, but grace always builds on nature. Where God calls, one must accept in authentic freedom, not because one is told he has no choice. Humans are graced by God in their historical reality–which is often messy. We have articulated wonderful spiritualities in the history of the Church to help many embrace chastity in its many forms, but the only one for a homosexual person seems to be “The Law is clear–don’t do it. No further comment.”
    You are right that I don’t know you, and my final comments were not specifically directed to you but rather to the general tone of many of the comments. I’m sorry if you were offended. I’m happy to offer the velvet glove as well as requiring it…

    1. Thanks Daniel, and while I cannot affirm of the tone of all the comments on this blog either, I do have some sympathy for those who struggle with anger and bewilderment in a culture where all the former landmarks have been swept away. That said, I often have to press delete on the worst defenders, more than I would like, and some comments do manifest a problematic attitude. Neither will I say that I handle them all well as the volume is sometimes overwhelming and I have to be brief.

      Regarding freedom, I am not sure why that is an issue. Human freedom must be presumed. No one is required to embrace or live the Catholic or Christian view. They are free to reject it fully. That said, it simply flows from revelation and tradition that living in the celibate state is the authentic response that one should freely accept as a consequence of affirming scripture and sacred tradition. It may be hard, but it is the expected outcome based on what God reveals. If one falls short, confession is part of the Catholic experience too. But one is always free, no one is forced to do it.

      I don’t know what your “no further comment” is all about. I have on-going discussions with lots of people about their struggle to conform to all sorts of moral teachings and doctrinal too. So do all pastors. But orthodoxy here must insist that the call is clear, even if there is a struggle to get there.

  10. Daniel said, “We have articulated wonderful spiritualities in the history of the Church to help many embrace chastity in its many forms, but the only one for a homosexual person seems to be “The Law is clear–don’t do it. No further comment.”

    I reply, I don’t see a serious objection here. Take for example a man or a woman who has no real prospect of ever getting married and who is tempted by the evil of pornography. To put it as you do, “The Law is clear–don’t do it.” happens to be entirely true, an no amount of “further comments” can ever make the use of pornography good. It’s the same for homosexual acts. All of us as sinners have temptations, but neither the sins, nor the temptations are who we truly are, they destroy who we truly are. Here’s were we see errors from what I will loosely identify as Ultracalvinism that has a kind of theocratic stranglehold on modern man. We see it in right-wing fundamentalists who see same-sex attraction as a sign of unelection–meaning they think even the attraction in itself is a sin and therefore, a person with it is predestined to Hell. But what most of society currently is blind to is a left-wing ultracalvinism that has simply subtracted a traditional God from their equation, but the remaining philosophy that remains is no less false, creepy and deadly to the soul. It says that same-attraction is a sign of election and that one has been predestined to act on this attraction.

    1. Scott,
      I agree that pornography is bad and should always be avoided. I disagree that this is “entirely” true–the entire truth must deal with the whole person. Why it is bad is part of the truth: What is does to those involved, how it harms our psyche and relationships, how it dramatically fails to love, etc. It is also necessary to understand the situation of a person who is drawn to pornography, who may suffer from an addiction, or depression, or loneliness. Simply being proscriptive isn’t helpful if we don’t address the underlying human realities which lead us to sin. To say “It is bad” is not incorrect, but the human person needs to be adequately considered. Jesus dealt most notably with human beings, not abstract concepts.

  11. I think Msgr. Pope’s blog comes at a good time for me. Here’s why:

    In the recent past, I thought that my “orthodox” Catholic worldview might have caused me to forget, or disregard, Jesus’ teaching about loving God and loving one another. Why? It seems that my love for intellectual truth and curiosity about all things doctrinal were filling the vacuum. Perhaps I was not focusing enough on the “loving Jesus” by loving others, I thought. And certainly, I was very preoccupied with “being right” rather than being understanding. I did not know it at the time, but this tension between law and love would become dangerous for me.

    I started to think that the Church, like Fundamentalist sects, was a little too narrow-minded on the subject of homosexuality. I had met two married women who were raising six adopted children, and I thought that surely this would please God–two persons giving both life and a family to kids who might have been aborted or orphaned. In fact, a liberal catechist once mocked some of us during a catechetical formation class by downplaying our pro-life desires with the statement that we presumably “were not doing enough about the problem of unwanted children.” Since then, I have heard this same argument echoed on Yahoo! discussion boards where homosexuals, humanists, and Christians attacked each other over the merits of Christianity in the “public square.” I wonder now if the catechist supplied the idea to the humanists, or if it was the other way around.

    This past year, I became involved with the parish RCIA program. My parish pastor is extremely liberal and claims to belong to the Jesus Seminar. I knew this going in, and on more than one occasion I corresponded with him about comments he’s made–such as, “Original Sin was invented by Augustine: you don’t have to believe in it as a Catholic.” “Masturbation is not disordered.” “Having sex (even though confessed as fornicatory) fulfills a natural need for affection…You don’t need to confess fornication…receive Communion even when you don’t go to Confession because we give general absolution during the Penitential Rite.” “No priest should deny Communion to a pro-abortion politician.” I liked the idea of seeing what volunteering in a more liberal RCIA program would be like, but ended up wanting to publicly challenge the pastor. I kept silent by reminding myself, “The guy is just trying to bring people to the Church through Jesus–love–and not substantive dogma. But truly, I seriously doubt now that he can believe in the divinity of Christ.

    So while I was trying to liberalize my pastoral dimension as a Catholic, I was beginning to listen to the words of a pastor who, with the above quote about Original Sin, was basically playing into the hands of the homosexuals/atheists who argue that the Bible is so unreliable and false that anything that emanates from it must be flawed. I watched a You Tube video of Cardinal Pell debating Richard Dawkins on atheism, and the Cardinal stated that Adam and Eve might have been fictional. In the discussion board, an atheist followed up by saying that the logical conclusion would be that there could be no such thing, then, as Original Sin, and Christ died for nothing. Now I was beginning to get depressed.

    While I was trying to “broaden” my mind by working on becoming a more (for lack of a better word) “pastoral” Christian, I was setting myself up for becoming a heretic: in fact, I entertained the idea that the Church might just possibly be so right about law, that she was profoundly wrong about Jesus. My pastor did not help matters much by downplaying “our fixation on sexual sin.” In fact, he never spoke about sin at any of the RCIA meetings, and never mentions it in his homilies. He was elated when one Catechumen stated his RCIA program was “so much better than the RCIA at another other parish with all of its many rules about Catholicism.”

    Fortunately, my wandering from orthodoxy in trying to become more loving was short-lived, and this blog by the Msgr. is helpful reading. On a side note, I see same transformation from God Almighty to Man almighty happening within the Mass itself–comparing with my earliest memories of the Mass before the Council. I like to say that the reformists have effectively transformed us from individual God worshipers to communal people worshipers. I like the old way better.

    Do I think it is not possible to be both loving and doctrinal? No. But now that I have read the above, I realize that “love” was never a problem for me. Perhaps I should learn to argue more lovingly. However, I am fearful about how the good intentions of many people are becoming more and more harmful to both the Church and to civil society.

    Thank you, Monsignor Pope, and thank you, Mr. Reed, for steering me this way.

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