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By Fr. Richard Heilman, Roman Catholic Man, September 3, 2018
In 2016, Fr. James Martin, who was appointed by Pope Francis to Vatican department for communications, posted a video on Facebook about the Orlando massacre. Fr. Martin objects to the bishops not making an explicit reference to the LGBT community, as they expressed their condolences. Fr. Martin advocates changing Church teaching to say that homosexuals are not intrinsically disordered, but “differently ordered” (See Fr. Gerald Murray’s analysis HERE). Fr. Martin’s view of mercy and the role of the Catholic Church is not only flawed … it is dangerous. Here’s why …
Our relationship with God is best understood by the story of the Prodigal Son. The son chooses (free will) to leave the love, protection and tranquility of being home with the father, in order to indulge in his sensual pleasures. This is the same choice, for example, a person makes when they click on a porn site and engage in masterbation. They are, quite literally, choosing to exchange being home in a state of grace – divine friendship – for that moment of self-gratification. It is not God’s choice to be separated, it is their choice.
If you look closely at the story of the Prodigal Son, you’ll notice, first, the father neither goes off to find the son and drag him home, nor does the father tell the son he is free to bring the prostitutes home with him. To love God or not is our choice. Without free will, we are only robots controlled by another … it is not the free “choice”of love. And, Jesus tells us of the “evidence” of our love: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
And so, we see the “unprotected” (devil fodder) and “empty” (living outside his destiny) son come to his senses and realize home is where he needs to be. But, his distorted understanding of love, that he projects onto his father, believes he is forever doomed to be an “outsider,” unworthy to ever be called his son again.
The most powerful part of the story is when the father catches sight of the son from far off, and runs out to the son, embraces him and kisses him. It is easy to see that the father was watching the horizon every moment of every day, hoping THIS day, THIS hour would be the moment the son “decided” (free will) to return home. AND, we’ll have no talk of ANY diminished dignity. NO!! Get the robe and the ring and the sandals – all signs of being the prince of the king – Then the party begins! (A feast fit for royalty). The father wondered if his son, whom he loves SO MUCH, was lost forever … now he has him home, safe and sound.
THIS is my Catholic Church!! This is what REAL mercy is all about. My Church has its loving arms WIDE OPEN at ALL TIMES, always ready to welcome those who want to be home. But, like the father, we are not saying, “Bring the prostitutes home with you.”
This is where Fr. Martin’s – and far too many in the leadership of our church – skewed understanding of mercy is so dangerous. You see, by justifying, condoning or even ignoring the sinful acts of homosexuality, we are, in essence, saying, “Come home and bring the prostitutes with you.”
What are you saying, Fr. Martin? In opposition with very clear biblical and Church teachings that homosexual acts are gravely sinful (separating us from God), are you saying that is no longer true? Are you implying that God is now saying, “Come home and bring the prostitutes with you”? Maybe the whole idea of being separated from God when we engage in mortal sin is a “hateful concept” for you? Could it be that, in God’s plan for redemption, it is an act of love and mercy to allow the sinner to feel the horrible effects of separation, until they come to their senses? Of course it is.
Fr. Martin’s view (and far too many others in Church leadership) is called “false mercy.” Instead of offering a Church with perpetual, loving open arms for the “repentant” sinner … a way out of their prison of sinfulness, Fr. Martin is offering a false notion of mercy that says, “Go ahead and remain in your dark and destructive sinful life … God is perfectly okay with that. Just come home, and bring the prostitutes with you.” He is offering a home that is actually a prison.
Our Church is truly a Field Hospital. It is a place to be healed and restored to spiritual health. It is not a place for people to come and bleed to death while we withhold the only real healing medicine – a state of grace.
Yes!! We are a Church of sinners; sinners who seek God’s redemption. We are not a Church that condones and sanctions sin, as though we are incapable of ever avoiding sin. All are truly welcomed home to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to be forgiven, healed and set free, but leave the prostitutes behind.