Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sin Is Sin; Always Was, Always Will Be.

Yesterday morning in Mass the text for the first reading was one of those that make many people squirm. I will admit it was not fun for me either. I certainly find no joy in talking about adulterers, prostitutes, or sodomites. Yet this passage from the book of First Corinthians was not skipped or ignored by the Church. As much as we may prefer not to discuss sinful sexual behaviors, we cannot ignore that they exist (and in record numbers today), and that the Church has declared them to be deadly. We read in First Corinthians:

Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God.

I am actually a bit surprised at this translation found in the New American Bible; which tends to be "light" on some of these challenging subjects. Yet, it comes right out and uses the term "sodomite" rather than something more politically correct like "homosexual" (which attempts to be a neutral euphemism). Whether we use technical terms, theological terms, or vague terms (like "those who choose a different life-style"), will reveal how we are approaching the subject.

The Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (the translation used in Ordinariate parishes), which is not very different from the NAB, says:

Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

This merges the terms "boy prostitutes" and "sodomites" into "sexual perverts", thus highlighting the idea that sexuality is limited to God's order, and all else is a perversion. A while back I had a conversation with a Catholic about the subject of sexual morals. She was trying to convince me that "homosexuals" are perfectly fine in the eyes of God, and that I was a "cruel bigot" (her term) because I said that homosexual activity was a mortal sin. The Universal Catechism is clear on this point:

2357 . . . Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Not much needs to be said in this regard. The Church's position is undeniable. This, of course, does not mean that we are to be mean and hateful towards those who suffer with these "depraved" temptations, any more than we should be mean and hateful towards to who suffer from the temptation to overeat or to gossip. Grave sin is grave sin, and we cannot invent our own "canon" of the worst grave sins. Only God is Judge. Sexual sins are on the rise right now, and even if some of them cause us to feel disgust, we must recognize that God can redeem anyone who is willing to repent.

Here is where one of the big challenges arises for those who desire to remain faithful to what God has revealed through the Church. There are many who approve of (or actively engage in) sodomy and they want to make it openly known to the degree that they have no problem offending those of us who see their behavior as a "grave depravity" which is "gravely disordered". Yet, at the same time, we are attacked and hated if we merely state the position of the Church towards these acts. In other words, they can offend us all they want with their actions, but we are not allowed to say anything which they "feel" offended by.

I am reminded of a homily I gave a number of years ago that caused much more of a stir than I ever imagined it would. I'm pretty sure I was not any more "offensive" in what I said that day than in any other homily I ever gave, but it is clear that I "offended" more people the day I gave the Church's definition of marriage ("one man, one woman, for life") than any other homily.

Why is that? What is it about the very definition of marriage that offends so many people? Is it just because we do not want to be told what to do? Although that may touch on the subject, I think it is much more an issue of the fact that for a couple of generations people have viewed the purpose of marriage as providing one's own personal pleasure. Hence, when someone tries to limit the definition of marriage, he causes offense to those who do not want a limited definition (in order to allow the free reign of lust).

Many people (even Catholics) have forgotten that few things (if any) were created by God for the sole purpose of our own pleasure. Yes, some things provide pleasure, but there is usually a deeper purpose for those things and the pleasure is usually a mere bonus. Therefore, if society is focused on "me first" and "my pleasure before anything else" then society will be offended by proper definitions and clear terms. The only other option we have, however, is false definitions and vague terms, and this is not what God would have us do.

Therefore I am pleased that the Scriptures are clear and that the Church can give her definitions in a clear and understandable way. Yes, that means that sometimes we need to squirm (as I said above), but it also means that we can learn God's truth, and better understand what He desires of us. Sin is sin; always was, always will be. Righteousness is righteousness; always was, always will be. Thanks be to God that He enables us to tell the difference.