I hope this is taken in the spirit in which it is offered…
The thing is, I’ve tried to be upset about the Pope’s recent interview. It isn’t my default setting, I’m afraid. I’ve bristled a bit at the timing and the phrasing of some of his previous impromptu statements, however, and I know this is fine. We don’t need to agree with everything the Pope says. But in those previous cases, when the dust had settled, I always found that all of the supposed damage his remarks were alleged to have caused (or were going to cause, we were told) turned out to be illusory. This time, though, the similarity of his statement (via initial reports) to statements by certain bishops that I’d taken exception to seemed to promise here finally my opportunity to be on the side of the nay-sayers – to prove in my own person the truth I have really yet only been able to hold theoretically: that, yes, we can indeed in good faith and good conscience disagree with the Holy Father on such matters and in such circumstances.
I listened to some smart people talking about the interview, and found their causes to be upset ostensibly pretty just and reasonable. Then I read some commentary on the matter and found this, too, compelling.
But then I made the mistake of reading more commentary. And then more. Suddenly, my commitment to being upset began to waver. I got a sense from all this commentary like unto that which Chesterton had on his way to orthodoxy when he encountered criticisms of the Church. Some would say the Church was too licentious and wordly, others that she was too ascetic and penitential; some that she was too merciful, others too draconian in justice; some that she was too esoteric, others that she was too meddlesome in engaging in mundane affairs and matters of state. Chesterton began to realize that all the critics might be wrong, for different reasons – but that all attested to the fact that whatever was this Thing they criticized, it was unique and monstrous. Now this isn’t to say that the criticisms I encountered of the Pope’s remarks were of this same type, i.e. that they varied between two extreme valences. Indeed, most were all on one side. They said the Pope was wrong for saying the Church owed gays an apology. It’s in what they went on to say that they scattered afield. Some talked about ISIS, some about abortion (for some reason), some about Evangelicalism, some about Western secular liberalism, some about Disney, some about Jesuits. None really simply drilled down into the issue at hand, that is to say, but all seemed to try quickly to change the subject. And that gave the effect of there being something uncomfortable here, that nobody wanted to talk about. Which made me think that the thing deserved a second look – because I’ve always held that one of the offices of the Church is to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable.Then came the final straw, and my final mistake – a mistake, that is, regarding my project to be upset about what the Pope had said. And that mistake was that I went and read what the Pope had actually said. He said that Christians – not the Church, he clarified, because the Church is holy, but Christians, who make up the Church but are ourselves sinners – owed apologies not just to gays but to all those whom we’ve made to feel marginalized and whom we haven’t invited to walk on a journey to holiness. He said that those who have the “condition” of being gay – a turn of phrase, which had any of the liberal media noticed, would’ve made heads explode – needed to be guided in dealing with that condition rather than to be shunned or shamed and left to their own choices and devices.
Now, as someone who has worked in fighting to preserve the traditional value of marriage in law and in culture for several years, I have frequently repeated – and meant it when I said it – that I was motivated not by any animus or bigotry against anyone, but out of love and concern for individuals and for the social order. Why, then, one might ask, should I owe anyone an apology? Why if I haven’t done anything wrong?
Because we turn the other cheek. We give our shirt as well as our cloak. We walk the extra mile after the one we are pressed to walk. Because reconciliation isn’t just about being forgiven for wrongs done – it’s about trying to restore right relationship when offense is given or offense is taken, even if no harm was intended or actual. Because the meek, the poor in spirit, the ones that hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers, shall find blessing and inherit the kingdom.
I don’t apologize for standing for the truth of marriage and of God’s plan for human families and for the human family as a whole. But I do ask forgiveness – and it costs me nothing to do so – from any whom I have ever hurt, made to feel unloved, offended or affronted, and served as a stumbling block to in their journey to the truth. I apologize, and I mean it; and I’m not upset by the Pope’s encouragement to do so.
You must repent the sins of faith, hope, and love and redouble your efforts at skepticism, despair and bitterness. Only by these can Real Catholics save the Church from the incompetent work that Savior Emeritus Jesus has been doing since the Council. Not a moment too soon did the the Greatest Catholics of All Time in comboxes across the world take the reins of the Church and begin the great work of Making Catholicism Great Again.