Last week, Crisis Magazine published a critical profile of my writings by Austin Ruse.
Over the last few days, I’ve spent some time thinking about Ruse’s article and following the comments on his Crisis articles. I’ve also been reading some of his other writings about homosexuality and the reactions he’s triggered in the gay press. (I would not recommend this as a way of spending your Christmas holidays.)
In the midst of all of this, I’ve tried to figure out what to say in response that is charitable and likely to move the conversation forward.
Ruse presents himself as deeply committed to Church teaching on this question. And if we limit the message of the Church to “gay sex is an abomination,” there is no question that Ruse communicates this teaching clearly, with emphasis, and with a certain joie de combat.
However, in an interview published in America Magazine last summer, Pope Francis said:
A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.
It seems to me that Ruse has a very solid grip on the sinfulness of the homosexual act. On this, he and I are agreed.
He hasn’t convinced me, however, that he has grasped the need to consider the person, or the need to accompany them, starting from their situation. And it is painfully clear that he has not effectively communicated that necessity to many of the readers who show up in the comment boxes on his articles at Crisis.
(The preceding paragraph could easily have been worded much more strongly—see, for example, Matthew 23:1-4, where you find some of the most violent language Jesus ever uses—but I am trying to give Ruse the benefit of the doubt.)
I will say more about the specifics of Ruse’s argument soon. But for now, I want to point back to the Apostle Paul’s great hymn to love, with its message which is sorely needed, I think, when confronting this kind of conflict.
After addressing himself to the problems raised by an astonishing variety of sin and dysfunction in the Church at Corinth, including homosexual acts, the Apostle Paul suddenly shifts gears, and says, “I will show you a still more excellent way”:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
That seems like the right place to start thinking about these questions, the place where Pope Francis has directed us to start.
I will address the specifics of Ruse’s criticisms in more depth in the near future.