Grappling with Truth Isn’t Easy
One of the more amorphous aspects of the Catholic Church that persuades me of the wisdom of its approach to conceptualizing life is that it eschews easy answers to thorny problems. (That doesn’t mean, of course, that individual Catholics or even broad movements of them don’t from time to time slip into human habits.) Bishop Tobin raised a case-in-point example of this quality in a September essay:
The gist of the letter [from the grandmother of a homosexual young man] is found in this paragraph: “Many men and women could not find themselves in love with a person of the same sex unless God made them that way. What is very serious is the attitude of disapproval and even violence that is often extended to gays. We are called to love everyone and not to be judgmental. When Church leaders speak out, it gives silent permission to others not to love gays.”
Bishop Tobin cycles through a number of issues that create similar challenges for the reconciliation of the Church’s call to love with its moral conclusions, returning to the topic at hand:
As I wrote to my correspondent, the fact that the Church has love and respect for homosexual persons does not mean that we can ignore the immorality of homosexual acts or the homosexual culture. Nor does our respect for homosexual persons mean that we should sit back silently while a highly-organized political movement seeks to hijack the institution of holy matrimony and change its definition as a union of man and woman — a definition that comes from God and has existed from the beginning of mankind.
That people with homosexual inclinations are human beings worthy of love and respect, that they experience their own intimate loves no less intensely than do heterosexuals, and even that their desires are natural do not negate the moral reasoning of the Church when it comes to their expression of their love — much less the longstanding and well developed theology that centers on the institution of marriage.
The easiest path is to grab onto any justification to allow people to do as they want to do, but what people want to do is not always (even often) the same as what they ought to do. If the “progressive” tendency is to cut loose tradition and moral gravity in order to accommodate the mores of the day, an equally facile mirror tendency is to cut loose the requirements for tolerance and compassion.
Neither approach fully accomplishes the goal toward which it is oriented. By letting love become license, the dogmatic liberal shirks the responsibility to guide and to be faithful stewards of the culture that has brought humanity so far. By letting responsibility become a yoke of rules without regard to the difficulties that they impose and rejection that they might imply, the dogmatic conservative fails to adequately apply the lessons of the culture that he strives to protect.