Letter to the Editor (WCR): The Joy of Love
I recently read a wonderful Editorial in the May 16, 2016 edition of the Western Catholic Reporter. Here is my response to Mr. Argan’s editorial which I sent him today:
Dear Mr. Argan,
I wanted to write to you to express my deep gratitude for your editorial in the WCR May 16, 2016 “Pope Francis: Open hearts will lead the brokenhearted to fullness of life”. I commend you for capturing so well the spirit of Pope Francis’ comments on mercy in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). In paraphrasing Pope Francis you say:
“The Church ought to be like a mother who trusts in people’s efforts to live by their consciences and do good, rather than a stern taskmaster who has rules for every conceivable situation.
People are more likely to be led to sanctity and, ultimately, to heaven by a mother who seeks to understand the painful situations of their lives.
Wasn’t that Jesus’ way? It was Jesus who ate with Zacchaeus before the tax collector expressed any hint of sorrow for exploiting people. Look at the result. Only after he felt Jesus’ warmth and acceptance was Zacchaeus liberated enough to pledge half his possessions to the poor and to pay back those he had defrauded four times the amount he had taken.
Jesus also told the woman caught in the very act of adultery that he would not condemn her. Yes, he told her to sin no more, but his primary message was not one of law, but of mercy.”
These are the very things we need to be saying to our Catholic LGBTQ students: we need to offer them mercy not the law, a mother not a taskmaster, in order to welcome them into a relationship with Jesus who has mercy on them. I would like to share with you why I believe this.
I attended a presentation by the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the U of A about Camp Fyrefly, a summer camp for LGBTQ youth. The researcher – presenter said that the majority of camp participants even if raised in religious homes, identified themselves as atheists. I was very saddened to hear this but was not at all surprised. Many of these young people may have heard their pastor “apply moral laws…as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives”. They must have encountered many religious people with the closed hearts of “one used to hiding behind Church teaching”. I believe that we as religious people have done a great disservice to these young people by being so hostile toward them that they have distanced themselves from their faith — a faith that could have brought them much peace in their daily lives. As you write in your editorial, we need to keep open the pathways of grace: “Jesus’ way was not the way of judgment and exclusion. The ones he judged harshly were those who piled up laws and duties on the weakened backs of the sorrowful.”
You express so well in your editorial that the Church must help form consciences with God given moral law, “but refrain from judging people for how they live out that law in [the] mixed up circumstances of daily life”. Can we as Christians and Catholics refrain from judging LGBTQ members of our society who are following their well formed consciences?
Would that the mercy expressed by the Pope toward divorced Catholics be extended to LGBTQ members of our Catholic community whose experience of our judgement and exclusion leads to high levels of suicide. We can mediate God’s mercy for them by accepting them as they are today — just as Jesus accepted Zacchaeus: unconditionally. Bathed in God’s mercy, all of us, including the LGBTQ members of our society, are much more inclined to journey toward Jesus than bathed in the crippling judgments of others.