I find that [use of the expression "distasteful fundamentalism"] rather odd. St. Paul says [emphasis added]:I suspect that Mike is just playing coy here, because with his education and, indeed, pastoral background, he is surely aware of the difference between the sort of language that St. Paul is using (which, though not strictly technical in nature is certainly very different from the sorts of terms one finds in, say, Aristophanes, who refers to homosexuals with terms that could well be translated into English with phrases like "wide-ass" or "fudge-packer") and that deployed by the aforementioned placard-bearers.Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.Is this a "particularly distasteful" form of "fundamentalism," no better than that exhibited by people "wearing placards that read God hates fags?" Is it really incompatible with Jesus' message of love?
We may begin by noting that the two contexts are very different. St. Paul is addressing his own converts, people who, one assumes, were confident of his love and concern for them, even when they happened to stumble, and even in that context he uses language that is simply descriptive, not abusive. The placard-bearers are addressing strangers who are the very people against whom they are carrying their placards, and they are addressing them in the vilest of terms, expressing thoughts that no civilized person ought to express (God does not "hate fags", even if he does hate homosexual activity). It will do no good to say, But the sin of which they are guilty is more vile than the terms used to describe it, for that is just a sophistic excuse for heaping abuse on someone whom one doesn't like or approve of. Our Lord did not say to the adulterous woman, "You whore, don't you know God hates people like you?" Indeed, of all the sinners with whom he had dealings, the only ones he treated roughly were those selling items in the Temple, and the only ones to whom he addressed deliberately abusive words were the hypocrites who deemed themselves holier than the common faithful Jew by virtue of their adherence to the letter of the Law. I think it's fair to say that your average homosexual person who is just on his way to school or work can hardly be assumed to fit into either one of those categories.
Basically, there are two ways to tell a person who engages in homosexual sex that what he is doing is wrong. You can say to him, Look, God wants what's best for you, and by virtue of the way he established the created order, what's best for you is to live your life in this way, the way described by Our Lord, and the way you're living now is not consistent with that sort of life, so whether you realize it or not you are turning away from God, almost as if a heliotropic flower were to turn away from the sun and die. Or you can say, You despicable fornicating fag, God hates you and you're going to burn in hell forever.
Perhaps there is an underlying commonality to these two messages, but I doubt it. Doctrinally, perhaps, they have a common point of reference in the moral wrongness of homosexual activity. But Mike asks whether these two ways of talking to the homosexual are really all that different. I ask the same question, but I will leave it to my reader to discern what I think the answer is.
It has become trite, perhaps, to engage in such sloganeering as "Hate the sin, love the sinner." Probably a lot of the folks at the receiving end of such dicta find them tiresome, condescending, or both. But there is a certain amount of truth to it nonetheless. It seems as plain to me as a Quaker on his day off that St. Paul does not hate homosexuals, he hates their sin, but the placard carriers give every reason to think that they hate the sinners themselves at least as much, if not more than, the sin. Given what I am about to say just below I will bracket that and admit that it is just an assumption, not something I know for sure; but my work in the philosophy of language has, perhaps, predisposed me to think of speech acts as meaningful at more than just one level. BTAIM, for all the language of wailing and gnashing of teeth one finds in the more alarmist Gospels of Mark and Matthew it is hard to escape the conclusion that the overall message is supposed to be one of good news, not bad, and that talk of being cast outside into the never ending fire is not intended to frighten or convey God's hatred of you but is merely a description of what happens when a heliotrope fails to trope towards the helios.
Someone might object at this point, Whoah there, cowboy, what are you doing? You know perfectly well that you agree with what Mike says about just about everything, this included, so why the hand-wringing bleeding heart stuff all of a sudden? In particular, you're going to make me ROTFLMAO if you try to say that you don't agree 100% with Mike about Catholics who knowingly and obstinately refuse to assent to DMT!
Well of course I agree with him about that. But again there is a tension between what he and I both assent to regarding DMT--the talking the talk part--and the pastoral side of how we go about walking the walk. On the one hand, Mike seems to have in mind especially those educated Catholics who, in some sense, "ought to know" what the teachings of the Church are, to what degree they are authoritative, and what all the ramifications are of assenting to them:
One kind [of dissenting Catholic] is the sophisticated cleric or theologian who produces finely wrought rationalizations for rejecting DMT despite having been given every tool and reason for knowing better. Such a person sets themselves up as part of a magisterium opposed to the Magisterium. It is just such people for whom the classic formula "let him be anathema" (Galatians 1:9) is meant. They are heretics; if unrepentant, they will be severely judged. And they need to hear that in one way or another.I'm not all that sure what's supposed to happen to the other 99.999999% of dissenting Catholics, but even regarding this 0.0000001% it seems somewhat tendentious to assert, in such a broad fashion, that their reasons for rejecting DMT "despite having been given every tool and reason for knowing better" are mere rationalizations. This presupposes that they are not in earnest in their beliefs, which strikes me as a particularly hubristic presupposition to make about anyone, but especially about someone who's brain one does not personally inhabit. Granted, it is fair to assume that an intelligent person, given p and if p then q, will infer q, but it is a well known fact that plenty of really smart people fail to make even the most obvious of logical inferences for perfectly benign reasons that have nothing to do with rationalization. While it is true that such persons are duty bound to submit themselves to the teaching authority of the authentic Magisterium, I doubt very much that they see themselves as setting up the para-magisterium that Mike is talking about, even if that is, de facto, what they are doing. But the canonical definition of "mortal sin" posits three conditions that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient (CCC 1857):
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."This is usually interpreted to mean that the sinner must know that his act is sinful and at the same time will said sinful act. I doubt very much that the clerics and theologians Mike has in mind see their actions in that light, hence their sin is probably only venial.
As for the remaining vast majority of folks who reject DMT for whatever reason, usually ignorance but sometimes weakness of will, all I can say is that Mike Liccione of all people ought to know that he treads on thin ice here. He has written at length and with great knowledge and insight about the Church's teaching nulla salus extra ecclesiam, and he knows better than most of us that mere ignorance of the truth of any particular DMT is not a sufficient condition for exclusion from heaven. Can ignorance explain ("explain" is different from "excuse" but in the present case it is fair to say that if genuine ignorance is the correct explanation then it is also the beginning of an excuse) the behavior of those homosexuals who steadfastly refuse to accept the Church's teaching about homosexual sex? According to Plato it can. In fact, according to Plato ignorance explains every moral failing. One can, of course, refuse to be a Platonist about morality, but to do so here would be to beg the question against the Platonist who wants to assert something about the eschaton. I don't see how a defender of the Church's position regarding sin, free will, and all the rest is automatically committed to anti-Platonism, but perhaps he is. I'll wait to see what Mike has to say on this--perhaps he will convince me to chuck the Republic and all it's lies and empty promises.
To my mind, much of the present discussion is actually a tempest in a teapot. I don't disagree with Mike that folks who openly flout DMT are irritating, but I really doubt that the central point of the narrow gate passage for the present day Church, whatever the authorial intent may have been, has much to do with such issues--which is really why I wrote as I did in the first place. Of course, writing that way from a perspective like mine is bound to let you in for some heavy teasing. John Farrell has already remarked in a comment that he suspects me of crypto-Balthasarian universalism, and I don't doubt that some of my other regular readers are snickering up their sleeves at me. But I guess where Mike and I finally part company is not so much in the doctrinal or even methodological areas, but in the pastoral. He seems to think that it's a good idea to tell people that they might burn in hell if they don't change their ways, and perhaps, in a utilitarian sense, he's right. If someone dies in a state of mortal sin, they will not attain the Beatific Vision, and for them that would be a Very Bad Thing. Personally, I wonder to what extent such a person is going to be affected by threats of burning in hell, but who knows--if that's the only way to reach them, then maybe it couldn't hurt to try it. What worries me more, however, than the prospects of saving some very tiny percentage of the sinful population by scaring the bejesus out of them with medieval stories of the torments of the various Circles of Hell, is the pastoral damage that could be done to those more thoughtful souls who will rightly see this kind of talk for what it is: coercion. Coercion is in itself immoral, and I doubt very much that Our Lord had coercion in mind when he told the parable of the narrow gate, though it is possible that some of his earliest followers (including the redactors of Mark and Matthew) were not above that sort of thing, so it is, perhaps, not wrong to say that the text can be so interpreted. Whether it ought to be so interpreted, however, is another matter.
So I'm not a crypto-Balthasarian universalist: for all I know, Hell is very crowded. But I'm not going to go around telling people that it is as a matter of pastoral policy and, quite frankly, the question of how many souls are in hell, who's going there, and why, strike me as questions that ought to be the furthest thing from the mind of a Christian. It's far better, I think, to tell them the story of the narrow gate in the context of the story of the prodigal son. The gate is narrow because it is difficult to walk the walk, not because a lot of people have failed to go through it or are in imminent danger of going through the wide gate. It is possible, after all, for an entire population to get through a gate that is only wide enough for one person, it's just a matter of time, and the forgiving father is waiting on the other side, looking for each one of us. But however many persons wind up going through the narrow gate, that is the one that we must point at, not the other one, and I really wonder what the interest in the other one is for some people. If we're allowed to speculate about the motives of certain doubting clerics and theologians, after all, why not speculate about the motives of the gate pointers, too? Justice is one thing, but it's in the hands of Our Lord, in the end, and we must trust his judgment, not our own. As a practical matter, it just seems more sensible to talk about salvation rather than damnation, hope rather than fear, love rather than hate. As Aristotle was fond of remarking, there are many ways to act viciously, but only one way to act virtuously--virtuous behavior, he said, is like the bulls-eye on a target in that it is what one ought to aim at, though it is easy to miss. Still, when the archery instructor is telling you what to do, he says "aim for the bulls-eye", he does not say "don't hit any of those circular rings, whatever you do!" A golf instructor will tell you to "get it in the hole", not "keep it from going anywhere but in the hole!" It's a matter of focus, emphasis, and direction. If the Good News is to be news about what is Good, then the "utility" of accentuating the negative is highly questionable, in my view.