Love the Sinner. Really. 22:46 12-08-2010

Love the Sinner. Really.

National Catholyc Reporter has published yet another column by Kate Childs Graham (pictured at right, in the white suit), entitled “Love the Sinner. Period.“ 

Graham, one of NCR’s “Young Voices” (which tells you what demographic represents the other NCR authors) has written previously for NCR about her committed same-sex relationship, serves on the Women’s Ordination Conference board of directors, and is the communications director for Choice USA, a pro-abortion activist unit.

This week Graham decided to tackle the phrase commonly used by Catholics to describe their attitude towards active homosexuals (”Love the sinner, hate the sin”):

“On homosexuality, the hierarchy of the Catholic church has espoused a “love the sinner, hate the sin” stance. To some, this stance may seem benevolent. To me, a member of the queer community, it isn’t compassionate in the least. When someone says, “I love you as a lesbian, just not your sin of ‘homosexual activity,’” all I can hear is “I don’t love who you are, and I hate what you do.” And, whether or not I believe that my relationship with my partner is a sin (I don’t), it hurts. My sexuality, though it doesn’t define me as a person, is an integral part of who I am. You can’t separate it from me. The hate for my so-called sin leads to hatred for me. Because that so-called sin is me.”

Graham presents a good encapsulation of what many Catholics feel about homosexuality and how homosexuals are talked about in the Church, so I think it’s useful to respond to what Graham has to say.

First of all, I can’t argue with Graham on one level, because she dissents from the teachings of the Church (she is of course, incorrect when she says just the “hierarchy of the Catholic Church” espouse this principle – all faithful Catholics do). I believe that being Catholic means believing and striving to live according to all of Christ’s teachings. She doesn’t believe in the Church that Christ intended the Church to be. She believes, instead, in the Church she wants it to become. She believes the Church (as it is) is wrong when it says that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. I don’t. Graham therefore attacks the saying “Love the sinner, hate the sin” because she doesn’t believe homosexual acts are sinful. In doing so, she misses the point that the saying has real value. But here’s why it does.

Let’s take for an example a male rapist. As a Christian, Graham should agree with me that we must love the man as a person (”Love the sinner”), but I’d be truly shocked to find out that Graham loves his sin of raping. I’d also be shocked if she says we should simply tolerate this man’s propensity to rape people. Therefore she does not “love” his sin. She, in fact, must hate it, because it is evil. Rape hurts the victim, and the rapist is also guilty of a grave sin. No one wins (even if the rapist thinks he loves raping).

So the principle “love the sin, hate the sinner” is a sound one. If something is truly sinful, we should hate it, because it hurts the person we love. We should hate the heroin addict’s use of heroin, we should hate the murder’s act of murder, etc. And yet, for all these individuals, we should still love them. We should attempt to help the heroin addict overcome his addiction. We should remove the murderer from society where he may murder again (or be killed by someone avenging his victim’s death), and punish him in justice for his taking of another innocent human life, to allow him a chance for reparation and expiation. In other words, we should love the sinner, and hate the sin.

What Graham really doesn’t like is that people think her homosexual acts are wrong. No one likes hearing they are doing something wrong. And Graham, like most people who refuse to hear a hard word, has chosen instead to attack the very concept that what she is doing, is wrong. But instead of having the courage and clarity of mind to do so, she has chosen instead to attack a very sound principle, that all of us (Graham included) should love the sinner, and hate the sin.

Graham is correct that one cannot separate what people do from who they are, on one level. If I murder someone, that makes me a murderer. But my action to murder, we know as Christians, is not the last word in my life. There is forgiveness, even of murder, and certainly of homosexual acts. The tens of thousands of chaste people with homosexual inclinations is proof of this. We are all sinners who have sinned, but some of us have sought forgiveness. And those who have been forgiven of sins always realize that they have, in fact, sinned. Graham does not seek forgiveness for her sin, again, because she does not believe (or does not admit) it is sinful. 

That’s why she should leave the principle “Love the sinner, hate the sin” in peace. And she is right to encourage those who apply this principle to homosexuals and homosexual acts to live up to the calling to truly love the sinner, even as they hate their sin. 

What Graham misses, I believe, is that people who tell her they love her and hate her sin, in telling her they hate her sin, are in that very moment loving her. As we all know, there is no friendship among those who allow their friends to hurt themselves. A heroin addict’s drug buddies are not his friends. A murderer’s accomplice is not his friend. Only the friend that cannot tolerate standing by as a friend hurts themselves further, and attempts to stop them, is a true friend.

Love is a two-way street. Graham’s response to those friends who use this phrase about her should not be to hate their phrase, but to love and attempt to understand the reason they are applying it to her. In other words, she should attempt to understand why they think her acts are sinful. 

Throughout all of this, may Graham have true friends. Really.

[It should go without saying that I am not comparing homosexual acts to murder or heroin addiction. I'm simply trying to use widely-accepted examples of sinful behavior to make my points clearly.]

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