James Martin Is Wrong (Again): We Should Hate the Sin and Love the Sinner
To Catholics, the month of June has long been known as the month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. His heart stands as a physical symbol of His sacrificial love for mankind. In the 17th century, Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary, the young Visitation nun. He showed her His Sacred Heart, telling her, “behold the heart which has loved men so much.”
The secular world , however, has come to know June as something else: pride month. Celebrating one of the capital sins, pride, would be bad enough, a sign of a world that has indeed forgotten the Heart that had so loved men. Unfortunately, the world celebrates not pride alone, but specifically, pride in identifying and living as a same-sex attracted person or a person with gender dysphoria, symbolized by the acronym, LGBTQ(etc).
Unfortunately, it is not only the secular world that has come to celebrate “pride month,” but even many in the Catholic world, in particular, the celebrity Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin. James Martin has long been known as a dissenter from Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality, as Janet Smith, among many others, has made clear. He has expressed a belief that same-sex relationships should be recognized as marriages and has rejected the teaching in the catechism that same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered.
More recently, he has asked if it is even possible to “hate the sin and love the sinner.” He begins by admitting that the principle “makes a good deal of sense” and that it “promotes a healthy demarcation between the person and the act.” It quickly becomes apparent, however, that James Martin ultimately rejects the idea that one can hate the sin but love the sinner, or at least, that one can hate a particular sin while still loving the sinner.
In brief, Fr. Martin seems to deny that a man can hate the sinfulness of homosexual acts, while still loving the person who commits them. He raises several complaints. First, he laments that the principle seems to be applied exclusively to persons in same sex relationships:
The problem with this seemingly compassionate dictum is that today it is applied almost exclusively to one group: L.G.B.T.Q. people. The thinking is that we can love L.G.B.T.Q. people so long as we condemn their actions—including same-sex relations and same-sex marriage—and label them all as “sinners.”
But the complaint is disingenuous nonsense on several grounds. First, the point is not that we can love such persons as long as we label them sinners, but that we can love them despite condemning a particular action of theirs as sinful. What many such persons had claimed (and continue to claim) is that loving them must entail loving their lifestyle choices and the particular actions they take. “If you loved me,” the claim goes, “you would accept me as I am”, and accepting me means accepting every action I take. The fact that you don’t support my actions means you must hate me.
To this, of course, Catholics faithful to the Bible, Church teaching, and Our Lord Himself, are forced to reply that we can love a person despite recognizing that an action such a person commits is morally wrong. We reject the emotional blackmail that holds, “if you love me, you’ll…” Instead, we must hold, in fidelity to the Gospel, that we do not identify a man with his sin and that loving him actually entails rejecting his sin. A woman must still love her alcoholic husband. Yet, he would plead in vain, “if you loved me, you would support my drinking.” On the contrary, because she loves him, she will not support his drinking. A parent loves a wayward child, but hates the waywardness. The father in the parable loved his younger prodigal son as much as the older, but he had to hate his wicked actions.
If it seems to Martin that persons identifying as LGBTQetc are singled out today as persons we must love while hating the sins they commit, there are two obvious reasons for this. The first is found in pride month itself. We do not live in a society where large groups are insisting that, if one loves a drug addict or alcoholic, that one must celebrate his choices. We do not have a drug dealer pride month where drug dealers insist their lifestyle choices be celebrated. But we do have a gay pride month that veritably demands we celebrate the lifestyle choices that faith and reason declare to be wrong.
Second, the principle “hate the sin, love the sinner,” is not, as Martin would have us think, an offensive weapon used against persons identifying as LGBTQ. Rather, it is a defensive response to a specific charge made by such people against faithful Catholics: “if you loved me, you would affirm and celebrate my lifestyle choices.” Against this, the faithful Catholic is forced to insist that such a claim is nonsense. We can disapprove (yes, and even hate) a particular action a person takes, while loving that person. Indeed, our love for such a person will necessitate hatred for that person’s sinful action.
Ultimately, however, the real problem for James Martin, is that he doesn’t seem to think the LGBTQ lifestyle or such actions are sinful at all. He writes,
…The “sin” that people focus on is the way that they love one another. … this is especially damaging, because the way we love influences almost every aspect of our emotional, mental and spiritual lives. Saying “Your love is a sin” is an attack on part of a person’s deepest self. Our selves are a mixture of mind, body and heart. Saying “Your love is a sin” strikes at each part of the human person.
Martin’ message is clear: we should not see same sex romantic relationships as morally wrong or sinful. Unfortunately, however, he is typically disingenuous in his wording. The moral objection is not that love between two men is sinful, but that the form that love takes can be disordered, or, that one person’s desire for another can be wrong. That desire can be disordered should not be controversial. We must love everyone, but the form that love takes must be appropriate to the person who is the object of that love. Romantic sexual love between a man and his wife is an appropriate form for marital love to take. Romantic love would be an inappropriate form of love between an adult male and an 8 year old, or between a man and his sister, or between two men. A man may licitly have romantic desire for his own wife, but not for another man’s wife, or his sister, or a child. Such desires are disordered and, if they are either willed, consented to, or acted upon, they become sinful. This position does not entail hatred for anyone, but something more terrible: it entails love for them.
For Fr. Martin is wrong. Rejecting same-sex romantic relationships does not mean claiming love is a sin, but that same-sex romantic desire for one another is not a proper form for love to take between two people. It is only when that attraction passes into willed action that we must hold the action to be sinful.
And this is not because we hate such persons, but because we love them and love the full truth of Christ, which we must share with them. This is why we cannot celebrate pride month, cannot fly the rainbow flag, and cannot use preferred pronouns. We cannot call evil good, not even to please the whole world of men, protect anyone’s feelings, or build bridges. And it is why we must still, contrary to Fr. Martin, continue to hate the sin and love the sinner.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us.