It can be hard to love fellow Catholics who use their positions in politics or the media to publicly attack Church teaching—very hard. But love them we must. And one of the ways we should show that love, and spread the Gospel, is by correcting them and encouraging them to accept the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of the universal Church.
Often this is seen as just criticizing or “judging”, especially when it comes to confrontational issues of mortal sin such as same-sex “marriage” and abortion. And the liberally thrown around—but misunderstood—quote from Pope Francis on those with same-sex attractions, “Who am I to judge?” certainly complicates attempts to correct those whose opinion of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality has been formed by the secular media, rather than a faithful and knowledgeable teacher.
Though it is not fair to the full context of the Holy Father’s comment, the partial quote has often been used by those who want to deny that there is such a thing as sexual sin. It hurts people’s feelings, we’re told, to point out that a person is embracing mortal sin. And hurting people’s feelings is now publicly denounced as bigotry.
The entire New Testament is filled with stories of Jesus and the apostles identifying the sins of others before inviting them to repent and faithfully follow God. Yet time and again those who cry out against discussions of sin hide behind a misinterpretation of Matthew 7:1: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.”
Indeed, as Father Peter West makes clear, “There is a difference between judging the state of a person’s soul, which Jesus forbade, and judging actions and trends in society, which every rational person must do.” He continued, “We must make judgments about what is good for our own soul and the souls of others, especially those to whom ties of family and friendship bind us closely.”
The problem of Catholic public figures not adhering to the teachings of the Church is certainly not new, but it remains a danger for the universal Church and her mission to save souls. Because of their influence, these figures can lead our brothers and sisters astray from the faith—the sin of scandal. One who is guilty of scandal is responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged, and the damage done when false teachings are spread can be long-lasting and severe.
The entire section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church dealing with scandal (paragraphs 2284-2287) is well worth reading, and particularly warns against elected officials, business leaders, teachers, and “manipulators of public opinion” using their influence to lead others to do evil.
We are reminded in this section of the Catechism that the sin of scandal prompted Jesus to utter the curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Because of the Information Age, we see Catholics embracing and leading others to mortal sin all too often. A number of Catholic politicians who support abortion and same-sex “marriage” immediately come to mind (House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry).
Catholic CNN anchor Chris Cuomo angered many after his recent interview with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore over Moore’s resistance to same-sex “marriage”. In addition to arguing in favor of redefining marriage, Cuomo said in the interview, “Our rights do not come from God,” and went on to argue on his Twitter account that God is not the author of Natural Law.
Numerous Catholic universities have come under fire for supporting professors who stray from Church teaching on abortion and marriage in the classroom. Most recently at Marquette University, a philosophy teacher squelched any opposition to same-sex “marriage” in the classroom stating that such opinions were “not appropriate”, “harmful” and “offensive.” When a student challenged the professor, she suggested the student drop her class. Adding to the controversy, a tenured professor at Marquette was fired for publicizing the incident and defending the student.
When we see Catholics on television and social media defending these intrinsic evils, several completely human responses might be anger, frustration, or even pulling a St. Nick. It’s easy to get caught up in emotion. But our focus can’t be to simply tear someone else down.
We should respond to these attacks on the faith out of love for the Lord, His Church, and our fellow man. And while we should strive to respond in charity, it’s okay if that response is not done in sweet and gentle kindness.
Stern love which refuses to enable sinful behavior is a topic Monsignor Charles Pope recently commented on:
We tend to equate kindness with love; this is a mistake. Kindness is an aspect of love, but so is rebuke and so is punishment. Mercy and patience are aspects of love, but so are insisting on what is right and setting limits. Very often, true love requires us to be firm and insistent. Sometimes being kind is rather unloving, since that can assist or enable people in doing things that bring them great harm.
There are many teachings of the Catholic faith that a significant number of Catholics don’t understand, or even seem to know about. When Catholic public officials, either intentionally or unintentionally, make statements that could lead others away from the true faith and toward sin, we shouldn’t view it as a common occurrence to be ignored. We have a responsibility as disciples of Christ, given to us by Jesus himself, to spread the Gospel.
We must pray for the conversion of those involved in committing scandal. But we should also challenge them, in charity, by calling attention to their errant teachings and beliefs before inviting them to repent and faithfully follow God. Nothing less than the eternal salvation of our brothers and sisters in Christ is at stake.