Saturday, July 16, 2005

Contemplata aliis Tradere on "Saints and Sinners"

Paul Lew has intriguing thoughts on judgement and mercy here. Behold his concerns:
However, sometimes, when we are too quick to judge, to condemn, to cast out and to shun the sinner in our midst we don't give time for the healing action of God's grace in their lives. Already too many people feel cast out by the Church and even if they were to repent, they don't seem to do so in the embrace of the Church, nor do they feel inclined to come home; their first experience was so traumatic and wounding. The current proposal to bar all and even chaste homosexuals from ordination runs the terrible risk of sending a signal (even if this is unintended) that such people afflicted with same-sex attraction are just hopelessly impure and beyond redemption and without the grace to live chaste, Christian lives. The difficulty is that the Catechism teaches that by pure friendships, prayer and sacramental grace homosexuals "can and should... approach Christian perfection" (cf CCC, 2359). This suggests that homosexuals can be saints and yet, some would propose, they can't be priests or deacons. Are priests and deacons uber-saints?! There needs to be more informed thinking on this and other issues which touch the hearts of too many Catholics to run the risk of inadvertently alienating them, of pulling up the weeds which may well have the potential to be wheat...
His concern about our tendency to quickly dismiss the sinners in our midst holds especially true for those of us in the blogosphere. I've felt the sweet rush of combox puritanism sweep through me. It's so easy to aim my faith like a rapier at the confusion or obstinance of a fellow Christian. Instead of offering support or fraternal correction, I seek rhetorical blood. I'm not alone. Many of us have seen exactly these scenes play out in combox warfare across the blogosphere.

We all know fidelity to the Magisterium is important. We all understand the importance of orthodoxy in doctrine. Do we believe in orthopraxy in discipleship as well? Perhaps we need to pay attention to that more. I don't need to claim e-respectability at the expense of another. None of us do.

As to his specific concerns regarding the Vatican's proposal to ban homosexual men from the Priesthood, I shared my ambivelance here. I agree with Mr. Lew (or should I say Friar Lew?) that we as Catholics do not want to send the message that homosexual men are "hopelss". On the other hand, and speaking as a father, I don't want to send families the message that children are expendable. The prudential concerns of homosexual men that may lack the maturity to live celibately can't be minimized over concerns of messages sent. It's a difficult situation to address. All our prayers should be with those responsible for this decision, especially if they have failed at this responsibility before.

However, all of us can embrace mercy in our daily interaction with one another. All of us are healed sinners. The Body of Christ on earth, the Church, is no exclusive society of elites-in-training. We are not the Jedi. We are the patients. The Church is the hospital. Christ is our Physician. All of us would do well to live by the words, "There but by the Grace of God go I." Fewer things could be truer than that.