Pope Francis recently called for Christians who did wrong to people with same sex attraction to seek forgiveness. This was widely misrepresented and some Catholics wound up thinking the Pope was saying we should apologize for Church teaching. But a good number of Catholic bloggers rose to defend the Pope from these attacks, especially when they came from big names in Catholic blogging who had been defending the Church for years..
Unfortunately,there are some blog posts that seem to push an attitude of “we’re all guilty” of doing wrong to these people, and I think that will end up alienating faithful Catholics.
The problem is, the fact that some people do wrong does not mean all people do wrong and we need to avoid indicting every person who believes sin is sin. Many people were justly angered by Supreme Court justices striking down the defense of marriage laws and legalizing same sex “marriage.” They’re also justly angry when they suffer injustice.
See, anger in itself is not a sin. The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia makes a good distinction:
Its ethical rating depends upon the quality of the vengeance and the quantity of the passion. When these are in conformity with the prescriptions of balanced reason, anger is not a sin. It is rather a praiseworthy thing and justifiable with a proper zeal. It becomes sinful when it is sought to wreak vengeance upon one who has not deserved it, or to a greater extent than it has been deserved, or in conflict with the dispositions of law, or from an improper motive.
The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church (Kindle Locations 32267-32270). Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition.
We can, with prudence and balanced zeal, be angry at injustice and want it resolved—and we do not sin in such cases. We sin when our anger makes us want revenge on the innocent or by demanding more than justice allows. So, with that balance in mind, it is wrong to assume that all Christians angry at sin or for suffering injustice for their beliefs must be guilty and think they need to seek forgiveness.
As I see it, Pope Francis is talking about Christians who have treated people with same sex attraction as less than fully human, when our task is to show God’s love to our fellow sinners, even though their sins are different than ours. I believe he refers to those who think our faith justifies driving these people away and insulting them—those who go overboard in their rhetoric and those who think that we must ostracize them on account of their sins. The Pope’s message since 2013 was one of showing mercy, which is not the same as permissiveness. Each individual will have to look to their own conscience and see if they stand indicted by the Pope’s words. But neither you nor I can look at their conscience for them. We can only look at our own conscience and see whether we have failed to show love and mercy.
That means we need to stop using rhetoric that accuses and assumes that everyone must be guilty. Instead of saying "Don't be like that guy!” (which assumes bad will on the part of “that guy” and those who have similar concerns), let’s say, "Let us be merciful and charitable because that is God's will for us."
Another point we need to be aware of. Just because people take offense at us because we believe homosexual acts are wrong, does not mean we’re guilty of wronging them. Sure, if someone overlays the rainbow flag with Hitler, that’s seeking to offend. But if a Christian says, “I’m sorry, but these acts are sins,” and the person gets angry, the Christian has done no wrong. Yes, we must be careful to witness Our Lord in our words and actions. But just because someone gets angry when we will not call evil “good,” that doesn't mean we are to blame for that anger.
We should avoid both the idea that everybody is to blame and the idea that nobody is to blame. The Pope’s words call each of us to honestly examine our conscience, and see if we have done right or wrong. But let’s not use rhetoric that sounds like we think everybody has done wrong on this topic.