Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Christian's Dilemma

The Christian’s Dilemma
“A man of uncompromising faith and overflowing charity” – A description of Louis Martin, the father of The Little Flower
          The Supreme Court made its “landmark” decision on same-sex “marriage” this morning (or, in the Proposition 8 case, chose not to make a decision).  There’s plenty I could say about it, but I suspect people will have no shortage of commentary if they’re looking for some.
          I would like to focus on another aspect of the controversy.  And one thing the Supreme Court decided this morning is that the controversy will continue.  By essentially ducking the issue, they have determined that the future of marriage will be fought out on 50 separate battlegrounds for the foreseeable future.
          If the battle rages, then Christians will continue to be in the fray, and will all too often continue to be punching bags for liberal commentators.  This provides quite a challenge for us.
          The quote at the beginning of this post, about Louis Martin, is one I try to personally keep in mind.  By consistently defending the definition of marriage, we are being people of unwavering faith in a culture that tries very hard to bully us into silence.
          But what about the second part: being people of overflowing charity?  This can be very difficult.  For example, many of us know and love people on the opposite side of this issue, oftentimes people in same-sex relationships.  Denying Truth is never an act of charity, but considering how sensitive this topic is, people on both sides can be very easily hurt.
          How do we stand up for what we believe in while being charitable to those who oppose us, or who are vulnerable to being hurt?  Oftentimes our actions may be objectively appropriate, but subjectively hurtful.  How much responsibility do we have?
          I’ll give an example.  When I speak about same-sex “marriage,” I always put the word “marriage” in quotes.  We have learned the lesson from the abortion battle that the use of language is central to the strategy of each side.  However, some people may take offense at my simple action, even though it is appropriate and not done with any malice or intent to harm.
          I know there is no Commandment against offending people, and sometimes it is even our duty.  Admonishing the sinner is a Spiritual Work of Mercy after all, and yet it is almost always offensive.  Still, we shouldn’t seek to offend people as an end.  This is where prudence comes in.
          We can’t be afraid to speak for fear of hurting someone; if Catholics always took that approach it would leave only anti-Catholic voices speaking.  And yet, we have to speak the truth in love, seeking always to win souls to Christ rather than to alienate them from Him.
          The simple answer would seem to be that we always act with charity, knowing that sometimes we will be misinterpreted, or even willfully misrepresented.  When we can, we clarify our motives.  But this is not always easy.  Because we are fallen people engaged in difficult times, our pride or anger or indignation can encroach on our charity.  I have certainly failed many times in this regard.
          Then there is always the temptation to simply be silent and avoid the conflict.  That may be the easy way out, occasionally even prudent, but too often it is cowardly.
          May God bless us with His Spirit of Charity so that we can, with courage, stand up for what we believe as people of uncompromising faith, and at the same time be people of overflowing charity, so that we can be worthy of the name – Christian – we have been given at our baptism.