“I see you love gays more than God’s word!”

That was the FB private message I received from “Facebook User” last Monday night. Hmmm … I didn’t need to ponder too long before I realized who it was. Looking back in the string of comments, I noted that I had had previous conversation with this individual. A few months back, when they used the word “muzzies” to refer to Muslims on their FB page, I suggested that pejorative language was unlikely to result in a productive conversation. Well, did I get an earful! The user explained that the FB page was this individual’s page and they could write whatever they wanted on their page.

Alright.

What provoked their final comment to me, though? It was evident that “Facebook User” had unfriended and blocked me. Then they seek me on Facebook to make the above comment?

Earlier in the evening, before leaving to teach CCD classes, I had posted our Bishop’s statement in response to the Supreme Court refusing to take up the case of homosexual marriage, a respectful two paragraph reiteration of Church doctrine on marriage. I did this in response to the numerous pro-same-sex “marriage” posts on my feed. Headlines proclaiming the victory for same-sex “marriage” were all over my state, Virginia, and as a consequence, all over my Facebook account. I have family members who are gay. I love them. But quite frankly I felt I, too, had a right to express my opinion and belief. Needless to say, my gay family members and their friends responded to my FB post with the expected comments in favor of same-sex marriages, an antiquated Church, etc. I guess I didn’t respond quickly enough for “Facebook User.” So they effectively erased me from their life. Sad? I’m not.

The recent Synod on Marriage and Family that just concluded in Rome has been a conglomerate of messages.  For the conservatives it has gone too far, for the liberals not far enough. One thing seems clear to me. Catholic doctrine is not changing. There was not a suggestion of doctrinal change emerging from the Synod. What did emerge is a clear message that we as Catholics need to be more inviting as a prelude to being able to have a conversation. We need to be more welcoming. Jesus reached out to sinners. He did not shun them. Yes, His message was to “repent and sin no more” but that started with a conversation. The communities that Paul founded, notably the Corinthians, struggled with vices of lust and greed and pride and irregular marriages. They were no different than we are today. But Paul persevered in ministering to them, communicating to them the truth of God’s word.

I would venture a guess that on any given Sunday in most if not all Catholic parishes there are individuals who have the stain of mortal sin on their souls and they are right there in the communion lines. They are the individuals who willfully missed a Sunday mass or two (or three), couples who are contracepting, couples who are civilly divorced but without a Church annulment, couples where one or the other spouse is engaged in an extramarital affair, individuals who cheat on their income taxes, misreport their time at work, pad their expense account filings. These are all mortal sins, in violation of the Commandments given to us by God. The list goes on and on. And if we think we’re better than the person in the pew next to us, then we are guilty of the sin of pride!

Part of the problem lies with a poor job of catechesis. The average parishioner simply doesn’t know the basis for the foundational Church doctrines. While waiting to become “officially” Catholic, I attended mass faithfully every week. When the first annulment process went south (poor guidance although we had been told it would be a slam-dunk! No doubt God’s hand was at play in making us wait a bit longer.) I was devastated. Many of my cradle Catholic friends simply told me to go ahead and take communion, that I was “more” Catholic than they were. They didn’t understand that I just couldn’t do this. It wasn’t that simple for me. I struggled and tried to discern God’s will in keeping me waiting to receive Him in the Eucharist. The words, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” took on a new significance for my husband and me. The day the final annulment was granted (three years later) was a joyous day and even more joyous was the day I received my first Holy Communion.

If we simply ban all the sinners from our parishes who will be left to minister to? Who will be left to hear the word of God and experience what should be a welcoming embrace from the Church.

We need to develop relationships with those who are genuinely interested in a reasoned conversation, even if those people have irregularities in their relationships that place them in danger of eternal separation from God. It is EXACTLY these people that we should be talking to, catechizing, helping them to understand the long history of reasoning behind Church doctrine. It is these people who are perhaps most in need of Christ’s love as shown through the body that is His Church. They are in the pews for a reason. They are yearning for God’s love.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that that Church needs to change her doctrines. I honestly don’t believe that is possible without the Church becoming something she is emphatically not. Ours is not a Church that gives in to the temper of the times, a relativistic Church. The beauty of the Church to which I belong to is her timelessness both in message and meaning. But she also needs to learn how to speak more effectively to the times in which we live, to speak honestly and compassionately to those who don’t understand her teachings or her message or the “why” behind the message.

So … the statement “I see you love gays more than you love God’s word” is exactly the kind of response that the Synod is speaking against. The two are not mutually exclusive. I can love gays for the fact that they too are created in the image and likeness of God, just as I am. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Some homosexual behaviors, no different than those of some heterosexuals, are undeserving of respect and should not be supported. But I can love God’s word and love those people who I know are gay. I can do both. Jesus did not teach a message of hatred and exile.

The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.