Sorry this blog post is so late tonight; migraine day. Enough said.
I wanted to post this because over at Rod Dreher's blog we have a terrific example of what that common phrase, "Love the sinner, hate the sin," is all about. Pope Francis called a divorced woman who became pregnant by a married lover to give her hope and encouragement. Nowhere in the conversation is the pope reported to have said that divorce or adultery are fine; presumably the woman, who wrote to the pope for advice, already knows that neither one is okay with God or the Church. But the question here for her is, what now? How does she try to go back and walk with the Lord, with her children, in the face of so much pain and so many bad decisions? It is at that point that the soul most needs forgiveness in the sacrament of penance as well as open arms from her fellow Catholics, and the pope's example here is a powerful reminder of what we are to do when someone cries out for help--even if they are in trouble because of their own sins. Has that not been true for us as well? Have we never known this? If we truly have never sinned seriously enough to need that love, help, and forgiveness from God and from our fellow men, then we should be praising God on our knees daily for sparing us from temptation and rising to put our gifts at the service of others, because to be shielded in this way is a rare and precious favor from God.
Sometimes when I talk about gay "marriage" and what I fear will happen to religious believers in its aftermath, I get comments along the lines that I just don't know enough gay couples, that if I knew them and heard their stories and got to know them better I would let go of my deeply held religious beliefs which are nothing but bigotry anyway. That this itself is a hateful thing to say to a cradle Catholic who comes from generations of Catholics never seems to occur to them--but I digress. The truth is I have known gay people and gay couples both online and in real life. So what? Sin is still sin, and the most hateful thing I could possibly do would be to shrug, turn away, and think, "So they're going to Hell--what does it matter to me? Am I my brother's keeper?" The part about "Love the sinner, hate the sin," that modern secularists reject is the notion that our sins do not define us. To the modern secularist, we must accept adultery or else we hate adulterers; we must accept fornication or else we hate fornicators; we must accept contraception or else we hate those who purposely render their sex acts sterile; and we must accept people who commit homosexual sex acts with each other, or else we hate homosexuals. The reason they see it this way is because they think that adultery, fornication, contraception, or homosexual acts are a really important part of who a person is, not a merely sinful thing that a person does. They divorce morality from behavior, and think that everything a person does (short of murder, perhaps) is intrinsic to his or her identity such that saying, "You really shouldn't do that sort of thing," is an act of hatred.
But it's not. Christians call each other out for behavior unbecoming to a follower of Christ all the time. It's something we do for each other in love, and something we accept from our brothers and sisters also in love. To love the sinner--and we are all sinners--is by definition to hate the sin, because the sin is what mars the image of Christ in them, and makes it harder for them to follow Him. But to love the sinner calls us to a patience, a generosity, a kindness and a true spirit of charity like the one Pope Francis showed to the woman he called, and it's helpful to remember that too.