Speaking the truth with love

I was very moved by a post on America's "In All Things" blog this morning. Valerie Schultz wrote about a homily she heard on California's Prop 8, in which the priest jokingly compared gay people seeking marriage to monkeys dressed up in wedding clothes for a gag photo.I suppose I should be happy this priest at least made an effort to relate his politicking to the day's Scripture readings. But it shocks me that there are still priests and preachers who don't know the pain they cause with remarks like that. I know so many families with stories just like Valerie's. How is it possible that this priest doesn't? Worse, I know there are people who praise this kind of preaching, who would call this priest a fearless truthteller, a brave defender of the faith. But there is nothing brave about denying the dignity of any person. There is nothing pastoral about mocking people's pain. No matter how committed you are to this particular "truth," it ought to be possible to defend it without resorting to ugly jokes and insults, or ignoring the struggles of your neighbors -- and if that's not possible, I have to wonder whether truth and charity is really your motivation.I am reminded again of Bishop Martino's suggestion that Catholics whose votes are determined by abortion politics alone are walking with Christ, faithfully carrying the cross, while those who dissent are denying their Lord and refusing to shoulder his burden. As Valerie attests, coming to a position of dissent on an article (or a political application) of Church teaching is hardly an easy decision for most Catholics. People who struggle with Church teachings on sexuality may not be carrying the cross you would have them take up, but it is a mistake to assume they don't have burdens of their own -- burdens they come by honestly and carry faithfully. The very least a pastor can do is not go out of his way to make that burden heavier. I know a number of people who could have written this. I'm so glad Valerie Schultz did:

As uncomfortable as we are in this position - alienating old friends and voting against pastoral guidelines - we believe that the Church needs its dissenters, as unlikely as they may be. We are not by nature confrontational people: we rarely even argue with each other. It is another divine irony that we are dissenters at all: we who have long been a couple who practiced Natural Family Planning because it was Church teaching, who supported every Church ministry and encyclical and fundraiser, who went to Mass faithfully every Sunday and brought up our daughters in the arms of Mother Church. People used to think we were really good Catholics. And we liked it that way. We liked being pillars of the community much more than we like being crazy voices in the wilderness. But here we are, protesting, questioning, being accused of blasphemy and of malformed consciences. Here we are, defending the marriages of those considered monkeys. Here we are, timid and miserable, but witnessing in one small way to a God who is love.

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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