Vivamus molestie gravida turpis
“While the world changes,
the cross stands firm.”
- St. Bruno
This week I had two old friends drop me. One’s female, one’s male, and each lives with same-sex attraction. I’d never been preachy with them. I’d answered their questions honestly, when they asked me what I believe. And we respected each other.
That’s a lot harder now.
Why? Because Father James Martin, S.J., advisor to Pope Francis, is claiming that Catholics can and should approve of same-sex relationships. Now neither of these friends wants to speak to me. They think I have the option of accepting their sexual lifestyles, but I’m just willfully refusing. Out of a mindless nostalgia for old social norms.
Every day has its fashionable heresy. In the 1930s in Europe, that was vain and wrathful nationalism. In the 1960s and 70s, it was envious Liberation Theology.
In today’s Zeitgeist it’s sexual issues that are holding Christians’ good names hostage, even their livelihoods. That word in its literal sense means “Spirit of the Age,” but perhaps it’s more fruitful to call it the Spirit of the World, of the Prince of this World.
He knows what he wants and how he can typically get it. In past ages he spoke to our vanity, wrath or envy. But in this lackadaisical age the Tempter has lowered his sights. He tries to lure us away from the fullness of Christian truth by speaking to baser, more elemental appetites: Our lust, but even more, our sloth.
He goads and threatens us to look at our neighbors and shrug. What business is it of ours if people sink into sad and sinful lifestyles? It’s not worth getting called names like “bigot” and “hater” to warn perfect strangers against that. (So long as they don’t frighten the horses, you know.)
We have plenty of pastors eager to christen such lukewarm indifference as “pastoral” charity, “dialogue” or “welcoming.” In reality it’s spiritual laziness.
Each of us shares a little differently in the brokenness of Creation, the bitter harvest of Adam’s sin, whose side effects Jesus didn’t come to wipe out all at once, but to suffer along with us and sanctify. The greatest temptation for Christians has always been to pretend otherwise — to imagine that Jesus’ mission was to eliminate all pain and sacrifice. That urge goes all the way back to Peter, who tried to stop Our Lord from completing His mission on the cross.
Remember what Jesus said to him? “Get behind me, Satan!” It’s an ancient error, to mistake the grove at Gethsemane for a brand new Garden of Eden; to try to replace the Cross with some rainbow-colored maypole.
I know these truths all too well, because I long wallowed in our postmodern sexual brokenness. Still today I am tempted by sloth to shrug at sin, to keep shallow friendships in place and win the bored applause of the public. But with God’s grace I fight against it. It was only that grace that pulled me out of the ditch in the first place.
So let me tell my story.
I was an atheist until I was in my late 20s. I felt nagging doubts about this arid, airtight worldview. But I strategically delayed giving them any further thought until … my testosterone levels began to decrease a little. Finally I couldn’t fend off any longer my conviction that God existed and His name was Jesus.
But I kept my new faith secret for more than a year. Why? Because I was still sleeping around. I didn’t believe I could stop it. The women were all “consenting adults,” so I couldn’t bring myself to see the harm in it. I prayed for help, but felt like it never came.
Of course I was fooling myself, first of all about the harm I actually caused. There were broken hearts, STDs and at least one abortion. Men who choose to live promiscuously don’t know how many of their “partners” choose to have an abortion — perhaps without even telling them. Some won’t find out until the Day of Judgment.
I say all of this to make it clear I am no church lady. I’ve struggled and still struggle with sinful inclinations and wrong habits. But thanks to clear and persuasive spiritual formation and God’s patient grace, I came to understand that Chastity is real. That it’s a central Christian virtue. I’ve fought to practice it within my marriage, and model its importance for my children.
So I understand what it means to be tempted and fail in matters of sexuality. That’s why I’ve never been “hawkish” on homosexual issues. I’ve followed the Church in its teachings, but I’ve left it to others to preach that part of the Gospel.
Father James Martin is one of the most media-savvy priests in America. He pals around with Martin Scorsese and appears on network TV. And now he’s using that fame and influence for evil. As Joseph Sciambra wrote here, Fr. Martin is building bridges to the LGBTQ community with thin, rotten pieces of wood; with half-truths and lies.
This prophet of apostasy endorses the shrug of indifference that most straight Christians have toward the struggles of their brethren with same-sex attraction. He’s saying that faithful Christians like Sciambra are wasting their time. There’s no need to struggle. Just “go with the flow.”
Contrast that with Cardinal Robert Sarah, or the pastors who drafted and signed the Nashville Declaration. I thank God for them. They know how challenging Christ’s teaching on sexual morality is, especially in our culture today. When your inclinations and the media and the law sing in harmony, there is just one discordant note: the Gospel. It’s unchanging, unchanged, a stark tone that calls us back from our selfish passions.
I love my friends with same-sex attraction, as I love other sinners, and love myself. We’re sinners all. And I hope beyond hope that all my friends and I can live lives of chastity, peace and joy. I know how challenging that is. It is for me. And because I’m a modern Christian, I suffer from the sin of presumption. I feel that God loves us all and forgives us all and we will all be redeemed regardless of how we live. That is how I feel.
But I also think. And my thoughts cause me to doubt. I worry about my friends’ relationship with God and their eternal destiny. I worry even more about the despair and loneliness that I see in the “gay community.”
Father Martin is lying to my friends. He is lying to your friends. He is lying to young Catholics with same-sex temptations who long to live chaste and holy lives. When a pastor with such credentials and such a platform joins the world and its Prince’s chorus, countless young people will inevitably take this as an endorsement of their temptations.
Father Martin is piling up millstones, and chaining them round his neck.
Vivamus molestie gravida turpis