Loving the Person, Not the Error

In the wake of the shocking murder of 49 of our brothers and sisters in Orlando last weekend, many expressions of sympathy and calls to prayer were issued by people of all faiths, including, of course, Catholics. Given how divided our nation has become, it was not surprising that ideologues started using the tragedy to advance their own causes, even while many of the dead still lay where they were killed. In a fairly new twist, many activists have taken to mocking and attacking those whose first impulse is to pray for the victims, insisting that prayer is disingenuous or worse in the absence of the political actions that these critics demand we all support.

It’s almost as if no event, no matter how terrible, can unite us, even for a few minutes, even in mourning, even in prayer. Those who pray anyway are doing exactly what they are supposed to do, and are to be commended. Yes, pray anyway. If you are in a position to provide material or other support in a way that is consistent with Catholic teaching, you should also do this.
I would prefer to leave it there, but since another new line of attack has also emerged following this tragedy – one from within the Church – I’m afraid an additional response is called for. A prominent Jesuit priest has posted a video online that has sparked discussion. While I believe he is sincere in his grief I have to say that what he calls for in his statement is morally confused and intellectually incoherent. I will not link to the video as it is easy enough to find for those who are interested and I am more concerned with calling out the error than the person.

Setting Some Apart

First, after a genuine and heartfelt call for solidarity with those who mourn, the priest makes a very strange turn. He criticizes Catholic bishops who, like him, expressed solidarity and who called Catholics and others to prayer, but who failed to explicitly name the victimized community as “LGBT.” This is strange enough, but he then proceeded to complain that by not naming the “LGBT community” as victims, the bishops—whose statements carefully avoided labeling anyone and differentiating between groups—were promoting an “us versus them” attitude.

You don’t need to be a philosopher to see the problem in the argument here. He simultaneously complains about the bishops’ failure to label the victimized community, while complaining that the community has essentially been labeled as “them,” which he also finds unacceptable.

This isn’t only intellectually incoherent, it’s morally incoherent. Written into this unjust complaint is the assumption that the self-identified “LGBT community” is in effect a new metaphysical category, upon which one can claim rights above and beyond rights based on our shared humanity. It is a premise of the dark and corrupt gender ideology that Pope Francis has condemned many times, and it is a clear declaration of “otherness” that one would think would not be used to argue for solidarity.

As many pointed out during the Synod on the Family when this incoherent combination of complaints was used to argue for “more inclusive language” for persons attracted to the same sex, this is basically a rejection of Catholic anthropology, or the Church’s fundamental understanding of the human person, our eternal destiny, and how we are to live in accordance with these realities. How so?

Made in His Image

Regardless of who you are attracted to sexually, you and I are both made in the image and likeness of our Creator. It is this identity that is the basis of your rights—rights which you share with every person on Earth, regardless of your race, ethnicity, religion, etc. When basic human rights and dignity are denied based on one’s race, ethnicity, sex or other innate personal feature it is an injustice that must be rejected by all.

But when a new identity is invented and claimed as the basis of “human rights” – false rights that are used to silence, shame, and marginalize others – the error becomes more clear and more destructive. The LGBT identity is not based on biology – science has not found a “gay gene,” regardless of what you’ve heard. The identity also is not based merely on whom one is attracted to, since many who are attracted to the same sex reject the LGBT label. One does not choose to be attracted to a person of the same sex, much less to feel at odds with one’s biological sexuality, but one most certainly reinforces desires by acting on them, and one does choose how he identifies himself. The LGBT identity is chosen by those who reject the Church’s teaching and define themselves by their lust:

Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. (CCC 2351)

What is important to note is that the identity has become indistinguishable from a political movement that demands rights based on one’s evolving “sexual identity”, and which now runs roughshod over the rights of others, especially Christians. It has become fascistic: there are many in this movement who think I should be shunned and put in jail just for writing these words, since they believe they have a “right” to brand all criticism as “hatred” and “bigotry”, and therefore to banish or jail anyone who does not celebrate their identity.

Yes, celebrate. Tolerance is no longer their objective.

Never Let a Tragedy Go to Waste

You know something is a false right when it demands that others’ basic rights be denied. That’s where we are with the LGBT movement, and why so many are afraid to utter the slightest criticism in what used to be known as the land of free speech.

To hear this label defended within the Church is alarming, and is especially when justified with a rationale based on a very recent tragedy. I won’t judge the motives of the Jesuit making the argument, as he may be ignorant of basic Catholic teaching on the nature of the human person and human sexuality, and he is genuinely grieving the violent destruction of so many.
Sadly, even some bishops have echoed this call, inserting the ideology of the sexual revolution into the just call for all to pray.

Love Only in Truth

The contradictory, emotional arguments in favor of the LGBT identity are intended to keep the genuinely compassionate person off balance, confused about how to respond to a person with love without giving up on the truth. This is why even many young Catholics in the pro-life movement support the redefinition of marriage–they don’t want to be seen as bigots, and they are also uncatechized on such basic questions. But love without truth isn’t truly love, as Pope Benedict XVI put so well in Caritas in veritate 3:

Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in the God of the Bible, who is both Agápe and Lógos: Charity and Truth, Love and Word.

So, yes, pray for all affected by this tragedy without prejudice, because we do share their humanity and it is ours to love them without judging them. But do so without endorsing what we can’t endorse. Pray even if you are mocked. Denounce the error that says we must elevate the political identity of a group that is fighting to remove our rights and take away our ability to preach the love of Our Lord, Jesus Christ in public. Do this without becoming the caricature of the bigot that has been crafted for us.

And don’t be afraid.

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing hli@hli.org.

1 Comment

  1. dagbat on June 20, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    Outstanding. Thank you for bringing clarity, truth and proper Catholic conduct to a sad event that has been hijacked, twisted and morally perverted by falsehoods, twisted logic, and emotionalism.

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