Stop Preaching Half the Gospel

Fr. James Martin
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No authentic pastoral program will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin…. [W]e wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.
(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” 1986)

If you are looking for an exemplary masterwork representing the not-so-fine art of public scandal, don’t look past an August 2 article found in Jesuit-run America magazine titled “Why should the church reach out to L.G.B.T.Q. people?

True, the article’s author, celebrity Jesuit Fr. James Martin, is a priest whose name most of us are weary of seeing in print—someone praised and encouraged by the Holy Father himself. But this recent article affords an opportunity to analyze how so many in the Church (not just Martin) follow in the footsteps of the devil himself in using “pieces of the truth” to lead others into sin. 

Keep in mind the Catechism’s definition of the intrinsically evil sin of “scandal” (paragraph 2284): 

Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter.

All who commit the sin of scandal are literally taking their cue from the Father of Lies, Satan, who was the first and most effective tempter, leading our first parents into original sin. In Genesis, as well as in the accounts of Satan’s temptation of Jesus Himself in His 40 days in the desert, we see how the devil always employs distortions of the truth in order to try to lead his listeners into sin. 

This should hardly surprise us, given that God is Author of all creation, all truth, goodness, and beauty. Satan’s nearly boundless pride is utterly offended by the fact that he himself is a mere creature—and the only thing a mere creature can do to foment evil is to diminish and mar created truth, goodness, and beauty. Thus, our classic definition of evil itself is that it is not in fact a “thing” but is the absence of a thing—a deprivation of the good. 

And this is the point of departure for examining the recent America article, which excels in its expression of partial truths and suppression of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and which will only tempt others to sin. 

The article poses this question, which it then tries to answer: “Why should Catholics reach out to L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics or, more broadly, to L.G.B.T.Q. people?”

Implicit in the question itself is a fundamental error that makes clear the author is not thinking with the “mind of the Church” on this issue. The Church, in her doctrine, rejects the ideology that claims that “LGBTQ” are somehow “identities” or (an even more destructive premise) “people.” Rather, those letters represent conditions based on attractions and emotions that are themselves contrary to human nature and human flourishing. The question is an admixture of truth and error—it’s half the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not all of it. 

Yes, we should desire to reach out to those who embrace the false ideologies of “sexual orientation” and gender. But we are called by Christ to reject the deprivation of the good inextricably bound up in what the letters “LGBTQ” represent. 

The article claims that “LGBTQ people” are among the “most excluded” in the Church and are subjected to seemingly relentless and “expected” so-called homophobia.

Let’s assume that such claims are about “half” true—there probably does still exist in some corners of the Church expressions against self-identifying “LGBTQ people” that are prejudicial and contrary to human dignity. If so, such unjust discrimination also qualifies as only “half” the Gospel and should be eradicated. Yet, what makes this tactic overwrought is the notion that anything uttered that is not full-throated blessing and support of all things “gay” is in fact “homophobic.” Church teaching itself is considered homophobic by virtually everyone promoting the “gay-is-good” philosophy. 

The article continues down this overblown rabbit hole by citing a flurry of statistics generated by, wait for it, a dissenting “gay-is-good” organization purporting to be Catholic, DignityUSA (can you say “confirmation bias”?). 

But we don’t hear the full Gospel of Jesus Christ from the author on this point—instead, he merely calls a dissenting organization that specifically and directly undermines Church teaching an “advocacy group.”

Also cited is a 2016 PRRI survey stating that “negative messages about L.G.B.T.Q. issues are one of the most significant reasons that Catholics leave the church.” It’s not just “church attendance” at issue here, however—the author cites a 2020 Trevor Project survey that showed a disproportionate rate of suicide among youth identifying as “LGBTQ.” 

Audaciously, the article says, “Stigmatizing language, especially stigmatizing language from religion, can have life-and-death consequences.”

Did you get the message? It turns out that the Catholic Church’s language for conveying God’s truth about homosexuality must be causing young people to kill themselves. 

Well, except it’s really not doing that. If people experience suicidal ideation after hearing God’s truth about human nature, it’s neither the truth nor human nature that is the cause. Rather, wouldn’t the better conclusion be that maybe some kind of psychological disorder is at work here within the person with suicidal ideation?

Except that such a conclusion contradicts the secular dogmatists who adhere to the non-scientific claims of “gay-is-good.” After all, these dogmatists turned that corner in the early 1970s when homosexuality ceased being described as a psychological disorder and abruptly became healthy and normal. Yet, higher rates of suicide persisted. So, of course, the cause there must be the Church, not the condition. 

Stop preaching half the Gospel, please. 

More words are spent in the piece on the issues of “stigmatizing language,” “negative things” said in the Church about homosexuality, and how “accepting adults” can help young “LGBTQ Catholics” feel welcomed in the Church. 

Oddly, no specific examples of what counts as negative and stigmatizing are given in the article.

Oddly, no assertions of the truth of Church teaching that homosexuality is contrary to human nature are given in the article. 

But this is assuredly by design. America magazine will only ever give us “pieces of truth” on this issue. Its operators want the ambiguity, the lack of precision. They want you to think that what is true, good, and beautiful here is actually negative, dangerous, suicide-causing doctrine that must be reversed. They want you to think that the only truly “accepting adults” who can be trusted by “LGBTQ Catholics” are those who reject Church teaching on this issue. 

Stop preaching half the Gospel. 

The reality here is that Catholics embracing the “gay-is-good” mindset don’t want “welcome.” They want error affirmed and validated. They literally desire only half the Gospel. They want the “closeness, compassion, and tenderness” without the truth. The truth offends them. The kind of acceptance being sought here involves accepting pieces of the truth as the whole truth. And that is not what the Catholic Church is supposed to be about. 

Rather, authentic pastoral care, closeness, compassion, and tenderness—as well as authentic “welcome”—rests squarely on the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not a portion of it. It rests upon a loving willingness to be like St. Simon of Cyrene, a companion who helps carry the cross, not an “ally” who stands by pretending there’s no actual cross weighing down their brother in Christ. 

True tenderness and compassion—suffering “with” someone—is being able to withstand the onslaught of the Father of Lies, who leads the way in leading others into sin through the suppression of the fullness of truth. 

Catholics—especially Catholics with same-sex attraction—assuredly do not need more pathways to temptation and scandal. 

What we all need most is for voices like America magazine to stop preaching half the Gospel. 

By

Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body, and sexuality. He can be reached at: dearjimrussell@gmail.com

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