The reaction to the simple and clear teaching on homosexuality is so visceral, so violent, so dark, that even otherwise outspoken and proud Catholics are gun shy on this particular issue, telling me that they are afraid to say anything, nervous to be labeled as evil and heartless, preferring to stay silent. This bullying is occurring in the whole western world at the moment, and it's so awful that even some gay people have (mostly quietly, for their own protection) decried what they see happening.
The Church is pretty much the only voice in the world that is not afraid to speak up against this sin (as she has done with other popular sins in the past), standing clearly for what is True. When the Pope and other Church leaders are bold, the rest of the flock finds the courage to speak as well.
But here's something that I don't understand, and it's perplexed me for years. For some reason, many faithful Catholics treat the sin of homosexual acts and gay "marriage" differently than any other sin, sexual or otherwise.
No faithful Catholic is afraid to say boldly that lying, cheating, stealing, blasphemy, greed, adultery, abuse, fornication, abortion, surrogacy, human cloning, contraception/sterilization -- all are grave sins. All have serious spiritual consequences, and we cringe and hurt to see our loved ones committing any of those sins. We hate those sins! We love the people, but we would never hesitate to speak or write on the wrongness and even the evil of those sins, many of which we have ourselves repented of.
But for some reason, active homosexuality sort of gets a pass, and we're told not to be so hung up on the gay "marriage" issue. I've even been told (more than once) that we should not be voting against gay "marriage" or engaging this issue in the public square, because to do so would make Catholics look "mean" and it will make people dislike us! There is a certain sympathy about this particular sin, and a reluctance to condemn it forcefully, that I don't see in any other area.
After the tragic vote in Ireland ushering in genderless marriage, I was heartened to hear the clarion statement given by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, calling it "a defeat for humanity". There is no question where the Church stands, and firmly. Yet, while I rejoice in the Cardinal's courage, other Catholics believe that statements like this are unhelpful at best, cruel and harmful at worst. They have great concern that such blunt and sweeping statements will not be received well by the LGBT community, that those souls will turn away from the Church, and that evangelization efforts will be hampered.
Here's what doesn't make sense to me about that. Let's say that a once-Catholic nation had been the very first in the world to pass a referendum in which the populace overwhelmingly and joyfully approved abortion. Or adultery. Or euthanasia. Or fill-in-the-blank sin.
Would a forceful Vatican statement against any of those sins be met with disappointment or frustration by the faithful? Would any of my Catholic friends be saying, "We really should not speak that way about [lying, cheating, stealing, blasphemy, greed, adultery, abuse, fornication, abortion, surrogacy, human cloning, contraception/sterilization] because we will offend and alienate [women, doctors, young people, corporate heads, pagans, adulterers, surrogates, etc.]." Probably not, and yet those groups of people might feel excluded or marginalized or unloved, too. (I'm not being sarcastic, I really mean that.) So, is it that we think of active homosexuality as somehow different from other sins? Or even worse -- is there a sort of soft bigotry going on, where we don't think gay people are capable of hearing and handling the Truth as well as everyone else can?
I've been told that we need to love people, not "condemn" people or make them feel "unwelcome" by speaking Truth out loud and unvarnished. Yet, this is a false dichotomy! We don't choose between Love and Truth. We choose both Love and Truth. In his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis goes over this, time and again.
There is a micro way to talk about things and a macro way. In the micro, we speak personally to individuals, we get to know them for their own sake, we laugh with them, break bread with them, love them. When sensitive questions arise or questions are asked, we speak the Truth. We are gentle and kind and respectful to all, and if we are not, then woe to us! It will not go well with us as we stand at our Judgement.
But in the macro, the Church as Teacher needs to be unambiguous and clear (and we laity have every right and obligation to repeat that Truth). The moral law is a beacon. It is True for everyone, and when the moral law is transgressed by entire nations, then yes, it is a blow not just to the Church, but to all of humanity. We say this clearly. We don't mince words. We speak the Truth in season and out. Who else will? Who else has been charged by Christ to do so? When we watch a traditionally Catholic nation embrace grave sin with shouts of celebration, we should be heartened, not concerned, to hear our Church speak with a clarion call, denouncing the evil we see.
In the macro, there are millions who do not understand that the Church will never change her teaching on homosexual sin. Most people assume change is coming just around the corner and so settle comfortably in their sin, even feeling "a step ahead" of the lagging Church. In the west, the comfort level for this sin is growing, and more people, not fewer, are becoming lost. If it were any other grave sin, every faithful Catholic would be fighting hard against it, and vocally.
One more thought, and it's personal. For every sinner that is "turned off" or stung by the Church pronouncing unambiguous Truth, there are others, like I was, who desperately need to hear it.
When I was in high school and in the midst of grave sin, I turned to the girl I saw as the most serious and devout of my Catholic friends. I asked her what I should do, whether I should continue on as I had been, down this sinful path (but one I was happy to be on). I will never forget her response. I even remember where I was standing. She placed her hand gently on my forearm, gave me a loving smile, looked me straight in the eye and said: "Leila, I just want you to be happy. You do what makes you happy."
At that moment, I decided to stop worrying about my sin.
She soothed and affirmed me when what I needed to hear was, "Leila, what the hell are you thinking?? You snap out of it right now, turn to God and stay on the straight path! I love you, and I am here to help you!"
I needed her to be the Church for me, not the world. Sure, I felt "loved" in that moment, and that comforting feeling led me to turn from the Truth, for at least a decade.
There are many millions like me out there, who need to hear the Truth clearly, who need to be held accountable to that Truth in order to change. Let's not forget about them and their spiritual needs.
Praise God for the Truth-tellers, and the ones who are not afraid to face the consequences of doing so.
I love being Catholic.
And I'm sorry for rambling and redundancy. It's very late here (early), and I'm just going to hit "publish".
Related: This thoughtful atheist gets it! Check it out: