For the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, Fr. James Martin reflected on the Church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community. He said, “In my almost 30 years as a Jesuit, I have heard the most appalling stories of LGBTQ people being ignored, excluded and insulted by the church.” And that Catholics should love and accept LGBTQ people.
He cited the biblical account of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, in which Jesus welcomes the most marginalized of the Jewish society and gains a convert.
Curiously, Fr. Martin didn’t mention a more appropriate story of the woman caught in adultery. In John 8, Jesus comes to a group of Pharisees ready to stone a woman caught in adultery according to Mosaic law. They challenge Jesus to see what he would do. He starts writing on the ground and when they press him, he says, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” After everyone left, Jesus asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” To which the answer was no one. “Neither do I condemn you,” He said.
Fr. Martin’s point is that if Jesus engaged with tax collectors and adulterers, surely it is unchristian to shun and ostracize gays and transgender people and he’s right. We are called to welcome everyone, especially the most marginalized by society. Fr. Martin is right that we are to welcome and love our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
But we aren’t called to accept them.
Acceptance implies that you’re cool with whatever someone is doing. As in the words of our pontiff, yeah, the Church may not technically support your lifestyle, but “who am I to judge?”
Many talk about how open and loving Jesus was but forget that He simultaneously rejected their evil lifestyles. At the stoning of the woman, after Jesus said He didn’t condemn the lady, he didn’t say, “See ya later. Keep on doin’ whatcha doin’!” Rather, He said, “Go and sin no more.” We are absolutely called to love gay and transgender people but we are by no means required to accept their identity. Quite the contrary. We’re supposed to tell them it’s not right. Loving someone doesn’t mean unconditionally accepting their sins. It means the direct opposite of that.
After all, if you are the parent of a child who is confused about the biology of food–she is anorexic for instance–you wouldn’t cheer her on in her resistance of food, would you? No! You would lovingly seek help so she would eat again. Similarly, there’s a psychological condition called body integrity identity disorder in which the patient feels like one of his limbs isn’t really his and he has a strong urge to amputate the limb. If your child suffered from this disorder, would the loving thing be to encourage the child by saying, “You’re right, that limb isn’t yours” and facilitate the amputation? Of course not–that would be barbaric child abuse! Why is it any different with gender or sexual disorders?
Nearly daily, we hear of another case of a tortured gay or transgender soul succumbing to despair and committing suicide. LGB youth report attempting suicide 4 times as often as non-LGB youth and 92 percent of transgender individuals report attempting suicide before the age of 25. One might say that their high rate of attempted suicide is because they aren’t accepted, but even LGBT teens in accepting environments attempt suicide twice as much as their straight counterparts. Transgender suicide rates are even worse. Even in the extremely affirming country of Sweden, rates of suicide are nearly twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery.
Promoting these identities is clearly a risky business, whether in an affirming environment or not. That’s why the American College of Pediatricians has discouraged the promotion of homosexual lifestyle by schools and called out enabling transgender ideology for what it is, child abuse:
The College maintains it is abusive to promote this ideology, first and foremost for the well-being of the gender dysphoric children themselves, and secondly, for all of their non-gender-discordant peers, many of whom will subsequently question their own gender identity, and face violations of their right to bodily privacy and safety.
It may be a difficult balance to hate the sin and love the sinner, but it is what we are called to do and being an open and welcoming Church doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our moral standards. We are called to love, and that means not accepting sinfulness.