Monday, August 23, 2010

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner?

One of the commenters on a post below mentioned the "hate the sin, love the sinner" approach. I'm not sure if I've addressed this directly before, so here we go:
I don't think that this is a good way to look at gay/Catholic relations, for the following reason. The word sinner has two meanings:
1. Any human being who is not the Blessed Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ.
2. A person who commits some conspicuous sin, and who is definitely more sinful than me.
The problem is that in the "hate the sin, love the sinner," distinction, the second meaning is almost invariably meant, or at least implied. Most Catholics don't go around saying "Hate the sin, love the sinner" about any other group -- and it leads to a kind of behaviour that singles out homosexuals. There's also the fact that the emphasis is generally on "hate the sin."
I think that there was a point when this was an important development in gay/Christian relations -- when it represented a sort of awakening of the Christian conscience, and was a positive move away from the "turn or burn" approach, but at this point it's largely receded into right-wing waters, where it's used to justify a pretty chilly attitude towards actual gay and lesbian people. The sort of "Oh yes, of course I love the sinner. But it's because I love the sinner that I hate the sin so much..." preamble to a diatribe against the evils of gay sex.
So I would say that "hate the sin, love the sinner" is probably not a great formula. Something more like, "Love your (homosexual) neighbour as yourself." Of course this includes the fact that self love, at least for a Catholic, includes trying to avoid sin and grow and in virtue -- but it also includes the fact that a gentle, realistic and understanding approach is usually the most helpful in overcoming sin, whether in ourselves or in others.

1 comment:

  1. Melinda-

    Peace be with you! I purchased your book "Sexual Authenticity" after seeing you on EWTN's "The Abundant Life." I admire your intellectual honesty and thus trust that you listen with an open mind and heart.

    I agree that most Christians need to remove the plank out their own eye before being lead to speak the truth in charity to those practicing and promoting homosexuality. By going through this process of humility, it may allow restoration of those with PPH rather than condemnation.

    You recently wrote an article in Faith and Family where you recommended attending the reception of a same-sex marriage. We must be careful when trying to create a spirit of communication with the PPH in our lives to not inadvertently betray the genuine love of truth, goodness and beauty found in ourselves, those we love, and our God. It is not love to acquiesce to the sins of the beloved just as it is not love to treat them as their sin.

    I do not know if you have heard of The Personalist Project. It is right down your alley:+) Check out the website...they even have free downloads of their talks (Von Hildebrand on Sexuality being one of them).
    http://www.thepersonalistproject.org/index.php/TPP/downloads/

    God bless you as you continue on this journey of faith, trust, healing, and love:+)

    M. M. Collins

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