While most liberal media outlets have been positively giddy about Pope Francis's off-the-cuff remarks to the media about gay Catholics, Tim Padgett is having none of it, complaining, accurately, that the media have misconstrued the pontiff's comments. But Padgett's beef is not with inaccurate secular media outlets but with the church itself. "Catholic doctrine still vilifies homosexuality, and no amount of priestly 'love' makes that okay," huffed the sanctimonious headline to Padgett's July 30 story, "Pope Francis and Gays: 'Loving the Sinner' Is Still Intolerance."
"As TIME’s Stephen Faris has noted, while the Pope’s remarks might be a welcome and humane sentiment, they hardly represent a break with Catholic church doctrine, which still condemns homosexuality. The Vatican’s catechismal stance regarding the LGBTs in our midst remains the same: The church may love the sinner, but it hates the sin," complained Padgett in a post on the Time Ideas blog. Visitors to the main Time.com page were greeted this morning with a huge teaser headline which prompted readers to check out the piece, tagged as a "viewpoint" entry, not an objective news story [see screen capture below]:
Padgett explained why loving the sinner but hating the sin offends, or should offend, modern sensibilities and worked in the obligatory comparison between the plight of gay Catholics with black Southerners during Jim Crow:
The love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin trope no longer carries much if any moral credibility. How—given our awareness today that homosexuality is as biological as heterosexuality, and that homosexual relationships have proven as valid and socially enriching as straight ones— can we take any religious leader seriously when he claims to love gay people but at the same time demonizes the consummation of their love for each other?
How, for example, can the Catholic church declare homosexuals “disordered” and their lifestyle an “intrinsic moral evil,” yet expect us to applaud its “love” for gays somewhere beneath all that homophobic bigotry? My mother was born in Mississippi and has often told me of Southern whites in the mid-20th century insisting they could love a black person even if they hated the black race. No, you can’t have it both ways. So it makes no more sense to me in the early 21st century to hear Pope Francis claim to love gays while I know that when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires he called Argentina’s legalization of gay marriage a “grave anthropological regression.” Or to hear celebrity evangelical pastor Rick Warren profess admiration for gay friends but then keep saying that it “might be a sin” for them to sleep with each other.
[T]he Pope’s remarks point up a dilemma for his and many other religious institutions today. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York admitted recently that “we haven’t been too good, we’ve got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.” And the best way to do that is by reforming the doctrine that attacks gay people.
Of course, historical orthodox Christian teaching is that human beings are stained with original sin and are bent on sinning from the very beginning. It is in our nature to exercise and feed our sinful appetites, be they sexual or not, but it is those very sinful appetites which destroy us from the inside-out and which rightly provoke God's judgment against us.
Christianity offers adherents the promise of salvation through Christ's sinless life and atoning death on the cross from sin and its bondage, not a justification to surrender to and be defined by exercise of sins for which Christ died. The church is called to love sinners by calling them to a life of repentance, of turning from sin of all sorts. So while the gay Catholic is called to a life where he doesn't act on or gratify his/her desires, the adulterous Catholic spouse is called to stop cheating on his bride or her groom, the porn-addicted Catholic is called to stop visiting dirty websites, the Catholic who gossips about coworkers or lies to her boss is called to refrain from gossip and to tell the truth.
A veteran Church-basher who promotes women's ordination and attacks priestly celibacy, Padgett takes his cues from the shifting moral sands of popular worldly sentiment, while Catholics and orthodox non-Catholic Christians take pretty seriously the rock-solid teachings of the Bible on sin, including sexual sin.
Padgett is entitled to his personal opinion, but it speaks volumes about TIME's priorities when it highlights Padgett's attack on orthodox Christian teaching on its front page. The magazine is doubtless doing that to provoke readers and discussion, but don't hold your breath for the publication to give the same front-page promotion to a rebuttal of Padgett by a faithful, conservative orthodox Catholic.