11 Love and truth will meet;
justice and peace will kiss.
12 Truth will spring from the earth;
justice will look down from heaven. (Psalm 85:11–12).
There’s an ugly battle flaming up between Catholics when it comes to the Orlando mass shooting. it’s a battle over how to address the people who have a same sex attraction when it comes to condolences. Are they a community? Or are they not? The dispute is over whether one should send condolences to the “LGBT community” or whether that would look like an endorsement of sinful acts. This seems like something which they can resolve charitably. Unfortunately, it’s gotten to the point where the two sides are practically throwing anathemas at each other, assuming the other side is guilty of bad will or even malice.
Setting Up the Situation
To sum up the two positions briefly (and hopefully, fairly):
- Those who think we should use term “LGBT community” say this is no different than referring to “the black community” or the “Jewish community,” and nobody should take offense or think this is an endorsement of sinful behavior.
- Those who oppose the use say that grouping people by their inclination or behavior is not the same as real ethnic or religious communities, but instead equates people with their behavior. Also, given the tendency of the media to present such things as “CHURCH TO CHANGE TEACHING” headlines, it does matter whether or not Catholics use this term.
So the question is over whether calling people with a disordered attraction a community is in keeping with the command to love the sinner and speaking against the sin.
There’s no official teaching on the proper form here. The official statement from the Holy See said:
The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred. Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort. We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.
The Pope did not use the term, but there’s no doubt he was clear in condemning an evil act and showing love and compassion for victims and their families. So, unless wants to condemn the Pope, there is nothing wrong with avoiding the term. On the other hand, some bishops did use the term in sending condolences and Catholics dispute whether this was right.
Here’s the Problem
The problem with this debate is many debaters are openly insulting of the other side, accusing them of being bad Catholics. Hotheads among Catholics who support using the term “LGBT community” accuse those who don’t like it of bigotry and a lack of compassion for the victims and their families. Hotheads among Catholics opposed to the term accuse those who do use it of heresy and sending a false message to the world. Neither side is free of inflammatory rhetoric (So don’t go pointing fingers at the other side).
But people are assuming that a dispute proves a lack of love or a neglect of truth. Yes, we want to show compassion to the victims and their families. Yes, we want to condemn the mass shooting as something evil regardless of how the victims lived. But we also must make clear (where fitting) that our moral beliefs are not going to change because of the evil some do.
So, we have an obligation. Before we condemn a Catholic for being heretical or hateful, we have to know the intentions the speaker or writer had. Does the person who uses the term “LGBT community” mean to endorse something against Church teaching? Or is this a case of simply not thinking about the potential meanings people might draw from it? Does the person who does not use the term mean to show hatred to the victims? Or is it a case of wanting to be clear about where the Church stands?
What gets overlooked is the fact that a person may not intend what the listener/reader believes it the point. We should strive to speak clearly. But not all will have the same talent in doing so. We have to realize that condolences phrased differently than we like may not mean support of evil. It is possible the speaker is unclear or we have simply misunderstood because we give words meaning that the speaker does not intend. If the speaker uses the term, but does not mean to support sin, we must not condemn him for heresy. if the speaker does not use the term, but does not act out of hatred in doing so, we must not condemn him of bigotry. It is only when we know the person acts from a bad motive, that we can offer a rebuke.
It’s hypocrisy to love the person far away and hate our brother. God, who told us to love our enemies, also told us to love our neighbor as ourself. So if we call for love and compassion for the victims, but will not show it for the fellow Christian who we argue with, we are doing wrong. It’s time to stop accusing each other of bad will and time to start understanding what the other person meant, accepting different views as valid when they are compatible with Catholic belief and gently guiding them back when they are not.
Savaging each other over disagreements because we assume the other is deliberately choosing to do evil is rash judgment and we become hypocrites if we refuse to love our fellow Christian.