An Open Letter to an Outraged Reader

I rarely do this – respond publicly to a letter to the editor written about one of my columns. But you raised issues that need to be addressed -- publicly, and in all of the papers that carry my column, because I want to reach everyone who thinks the way you do.

Quite frankly, your attitude scares the hell out of me.

The article was about homosexuality and the current clerical scandals. You said that I neglected to address the heart of the issue, and instead “squandered half or more” of the article discussing whether or not homosexually oriented men alone pose a threat to children. Well, yeah, I did. Only I wouldn’t call it “squandering.” That’s what the article was about -- to challenge the notion people seem to have that all, or most, people with a homosexual orientation are also child abusers.

You seemed to have a real problem with the fact that I find blanket accusations that all homosexuals are likely to abuse children unfair to those Catholics – and former Catholics – who self-identify as “gay” and yet are horrified by the abuse of children. You responded only by reminding me that these people are in a state of mortal sin. 

Yeah, I know that. And your point is? The only conclusion I can imagine is that you believe we have no obligation to act in fairness to those in mortal sin. Could you really, possibly believe that? 

But the part that nearly made me lose my lunch was when you blithely declared those who are away from the Catholic Church, as well as homosexuals, to be “hell-worthy.” Hell-worthy? Hell-worthy? Do you have any idea of the gravity of such a statement? Please, please tell me what has lead you to believe that you, or anyone this side of Divinity, are in a position to determine who is and is not “hell-worthy.” The mere thought makes my blood run cold. Yes, every mortal sin does tremendous damage, and places an eternal salvation at risk. But while understanding which acts constitute mortal sins is relatively straightforward, the parameters of what constitutes culpability in the individual soul are far more complicated. The Church teaches that feelings and passions can diminish individual culpability for a sin, as can external pressures and pathological disorders. (cf CCC 1860) You can’t, in your limited human understanding, possibly begin to understand the workings of an individual human heart, and thus determine who is or is not deserving of eternal damnation.

Look, the disagreement here isn’t over whether or not homosexual activity is sinful. We both agree that it is, and that those engaging in it are at the very least putting their souls in tremendous jeopardy. The problem, from my perspective, is that you don’t seem to care. Our attitude towards these people should be one of Christ-like love. A vast majority of them are involved in this “lifestyle” because they’re looking for love. We need to demonstrate to them that real love isn’t found in immoral sexual activity, but rather at the foot of the cross. How do you think that is accomplished? By looking down your nose at them, judging them and proclaiming them “hell-worthy”? Think again. That will most likely drive them further away. And you’ll have to answer for it on Judgment Day.

We, as Christians, are supposed to love. That’s the heart of all of the commandments? We’re supposed to be Christ to others – including those with a homosexual orientation. Christ loves them and desires their salvation. We’re called to help, by extending His love to them. Whether or not they return to Christ will be partly determined by the love they see in us. 

Loving doesn’t mean condoning actions. In fact, real love demands that we point out sinful behavior. But we need to do that in the context of loving charity – to show that it’s because we love them that we hate their sin – because the sin hurts them. And we need to mean it.

And, based on your letter, I’m not seeing that love in you.

I’m honestly concerned about you, and others like you. You’re on a very dangerous path. I would strongly encourage you to take a close look at the attitude I saw reflected in your “hell-worthy” statement. It doesn’t reflect the teaching of the Church in its fullness. It’s a sinful attitude. If you don’t believe me, just look at scripture. Look at what Christ said about judging. (You can start with Matthew 7:2) Look at the way He treated sexual sinners. And then look at the way he treated the self-righteous and the proud. All of this should give us a little hint as to what we can expect on Judgment Day. 

I think that, in the end, you will find that many of those you have so blithely declared “hell-worthy” will be entering the Kingdom ahead of you -- and of me, and of the many others of us who consider ourselves to be so very, very righteous.