The Catholic Church in America has a problem. How is it that a flamboyant gay guy who is known for his openness about his past promiscuity and wild lifestyle is better at defending the Church than some (highly visible) men of the cloth? Recently, Milo Yiannopoulos was interviewed by America magazine, a Jesuit publication, which chose not to print the interview. Fortunately for us all, Milo did.
“Amusingly, while the Jesuits struggled to decide if they could bear to publish my answers, one of the Church’s highest ranking Cardinals called out Fr. Martin by name as ‘one of the most outspoken critics of the Church’s message with regard to sexuality,'” he said. “That means my side in this dispute enjoys support from a black prince of the Church raised on a continent where martyrdom is common, while the other side’s champion is a white bourgeois man in whose life the worst threat is that the wine is a bit off this week. Ask yourself: Which of these men would you want to have your six?”
The cardinal in question is Cardinal Robert Sarah, who said the Church cannot back down from its teaching of chastity in regards to homosexuality as Father James Martin appears to be open to.
“Father Martin is correct to argue that there should not be any double standard with regard to the virtue of chastity, which, challenging as it may be, is part of the good news of Jesus Christ for all Christians. For the unmarried—no matter their attractions—faithful chastity requires abstention from sex. As a mother, the Church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity,” said Sarah.
Milo’s ribbing of Fr. Martin may be a tad harsh. Fr. Martin seems to be a person genuinely concerned about caring for the members of the faith who are LGBT and this is absolutely within the purview of an active Church that seeks to care for all people. Any man who dedicates his life to serving others deserves the benefit of being heard without being shouted down or screamed at. Fr. Martin was recently disinvited from speaking at several events over the controversy, which should not happen in America. Shutting down speech is something the left does that conservative people should shun. It is imperative to respond to any hotly debated topic with more reasoned arguments, not less.
The definition of “caring for” the LGBT community is what is controversial. People like Fr. Martin believe that caring for LGBT people includes affirming their decision to be sexually active while others like Cardinal Sarah believe that caring for LGBT people requires priestly council on abstinence. From what I’ve read from Fr. Martin, he does not appear to be any sort of monster who needs shutting up. On the contrary, a debate between him and Cardinal Sarah would be something I would pay to see. In the spirit of the intellectual history of the Church, this could be a way to get somewhere on this topic without the over-emotional responses on both sides. Who could argue with Fr. Martin that we are called to love all our neighbors? It is the definition of love that needs fleshing out.
I agree wholeheartedly with Fr. Martin that this topic needs much more reasoned discussion seasoned with truth and less hysteria. The bombastic and ultra-conservative “Church Militant” often calls Fr. Martin a “liar” and a “heretic,” but one wonders how effective this is at getting to the heart of what he is wrong about. This is one of those debates where sobriety and seriousness are needed in order to find common ground and refrain from alienating people you want to persuade.
Fr. Martin has received much criticism for his book, Building a Bridge, which some have said is “heretical” because they view it as not being clear on the Church’s accepted teaching that homosexuals should practice a chaste life. (Full disclosure: I have not read the book yet and as such won’t comment on it.) In a recent video, Fr. Martin talked about the snark and sarcasm flung around this issue that is disheartening to him and others. And while it might seriously put a dent in our fun, we could all do with less snark and sarcasm on many issues. When you want to convince someone of something, using sarcasm won’t work.
But Milo’s harsh truth-telling in this interview is the kind of discussion that Christians should be having. “Maybe you mean it’s shocking that I’m always joking about my lack of chastity and my fondness for black dudes, but I still call myself Catholic. And I don’t see what’s so shocking about that, either. One of the most famous saints of all time, sixteen centuries ago, prayed, ‘Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.'” And while Milo is unlikely to be singled out for sainthood, his observations are profound. “I think it was a visit to New Orleans that inspired Evelyn Waugh to make an observation I often quote: Protestants seem to think, I’m good, therefore I go to church, whereas Catholics think, I’m very bad, therefore I go to church…You have no idea how bad I’d be if I weren’t.”
It is not we who are good. We know we are spiritually wounded and wicked without Him. The most devout people I know are some of the most battered by sin. Those of us who lived according to the popular culture’s idea of happiness and freedom found nothing but shackles and despair. Some of us almost died in it.
And what brought us to a better place of peace and happiness? Abstinence. Restraint. No matter what the sin, the answer, according to the Church, is abstinence. If your sin is anger you are not told to go and be angry, but to refrain from harsh words and to pray harder. If your sin is gluttony, the answer is to stop eating and practice self-control. If your sin is addiction to pornography, the answer is to avert your eyes and abstain from the practice. There isn’t one sin I can name that Church teaching doesn’t recommend abstinence to combat. A single heterosexual person is given the exact same prescription for sexual purity as the gay single person. The prescription is “do not indulge.” Gays may feel that chastity is an imposition on them, but how is it more of an imposition than the call for chastity to single heterosexuals? Don’t we all feel imposed upon by restraint? Just ask anyone on a diet! That doesn’t mean that restraint isn’t good for us, like the pain that comes from building muscle or studying for exams. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we don’t fail at restraining our nature, but it does mean we get up and try again, acknowledging that the thing we fail at harms us in some way. Prayer and practice of self-denial help us have faith that God will free us from it or help us to suffer it. May God have mercy on us all.
Each person struggles with their own moral decay and disorder. Thank God the Church is there to tell us to stop harming ourselves! We don’t really want to be told there is no remedy, do we? Or that we do not need saving from ourselves? Isn’t that a foregone conclusion to anyone who professes to be a Christian? We are supposed to know how very bad we actually are, otherwise, why on earth would we be here?