25 April 2016

Why do we need to be concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms?

The State Journal-Register printed a story two days ago titled "Local Catholics encouraged by pope's document" about area reactions to the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

From a journalistic standpoint, Steven Spearie does a good job in providing quotations expressing both support and disapproval of what Pope Francis has written and of the Church's constant teaching and has given sufficient time for people to have actually read Amoris Laetitia.

The article isn't by any means earth-shattering, but several of the quotations used provides a glimpse into a certain mindset that seeks to "pigeon hole" Jesus, if you will, especially this one:
"The church is never going to equate same-sex marriage with sacramental marriage," cautioned [Jerry] Bauman. "But as long as people are clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and visiting prisoners, like Jesus said, why do we need to be concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms?"
While Bauman is quite right that the Church will not - indeed, cannot - equate same-sex relationships with marriage and is right to emphasize the corporal works of mercy, he ignores another important aspect of Jesus' ministry. Bauman implies that Jesus is only concerned about our public actions and not what we do in the privacy of our homes and bedrooms. However, if one reads all of the Gospels, this claim is seen to be quite false. Why is the Church concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms? Because Jesus is concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms?

Consider the account of the woman caught in adultery:
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:3-11).
Two things should be noted here. First, adultery normally happens in someone's bedroom and, second, Jesus clearly calls adultery a sin. Clearly, then, Jesus is concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms he wouldn't have called adultery a sin and because Jesus is concerned about it, so is the Church.

Jesus also said, "But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). He also said, "whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32).

It cannot be denied that Jesus condemns the sin and calls the sinner to repentance. This is precisely what the Church - and Pope Francis - does, but not every sinner wants to repent.

Must the Church call saints and sinners alike to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to the visit prisoners? Yes, of course. But the Church must also call saints and sinners to instruct the ignorant, to admonish the sinner, and to forgive injuries.

In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis calls those living in objectively adulterous relationships because of the bond of a prior marriage to meet with "a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him" who can help "the responsible and tactful person" better understand their present relationship in light of the truth of Jesus Christ (300).

In this discussion, the man or woman in an irregular relationship must be reminded of the truth of marriage. Namely, that
Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society (292).
The capable pastor will help them see how their present relationship relates to this reflection of the love of Christ for his Church and will call them to realize this reflection insofar as it is possible through a call to conversion. This is why Pope Francis says,
I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth (312).
In the midst of his discussion of all of this in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetita, Pope Francis reminds us something that is of great importance, which most people seem to simply skipped over in the reading and discussion of Amoris Laetitia:
Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Matthew 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion (297).

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