In my opinion, this is a most serious and dangerous error. Our understanding of sexual morals significantly impacts marriage and family life. The importance of marriage and family to society, culture, the nation, and the Church cannot be overestimated.
Proponents of radical inclusion cite Our Lord’s association with sinners. In the face of harsh criticism of religious leaders, it is true that Jesus manifested great concern, compassion, and mercy to sinners. In every instance, Jesus also calls those who wish to become his disciples to repentance and conversion.
Are we to understand Our Lord’s call for repentance to be fostering a culture of exclusion? Was the clear and challenging teaching of Jesus regarding marriage or the consequences of lust intended to alienate, or was it an invitation to liberation and freedom? Was radical inclusion Our Lord’s highest priority, when many disciples walked away after his Bread of Life discourse?
Should any of us be surprised that when we listen to those on the peripheries, those not in our churches, those who are not Catholic and even those who do not believe in Jesus, that many will disagree with our countercultural moral teaching? Does this mean that we should repent for creating structures of exclusion and embrace the spirit of the secular culture?
Pope Francis has said clearly that synodality is not voting on doctrine and moral teaching. The Holy Father has also reminded us that synodality is an effort to listen to the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of the age.
If we are striving to be true disciples of Jesus, does this not require us to be countercultural? At the Church’s beginning, what drew people to Christianity? Was it radical inclusion? Certainly, the Gospel of Jesus was offered to everyone, male and female, Jew and Gentile. However, included in Our Lord’s invitation was always a call to repentance, not that all are welcome on their own terms. Were Paul’s epistles or Peter’s sermon on Pentecost about radical inclusion, or were they a call to conversion?
What evangelized the culture at the beginning of Christianity in part was the radical love that characterized Christian marriages and families. What drew many to Christianity was the witness of the virgin martyrs! Women particularly found attractive the Christian teaching that husbands should be willing to lay down their lives for their spouses as Jesus laid down his life for his bride, the Church.
In February, the Archdiocese of Kansas City will host a Life-Giving Wounds retreat for adult children of divorce or separation. Adult children of divorce represent a massive group of casualties of the sexual revolution.
In listening to those on the peripheries, we should include hearing the pain suffered by adult children of divorce, young people raised without the presence of a loving father, those addicted at a tender age to pornography and those emotionally scarred by the hookup culture.
The Gospel compels us to look at each human being as one made in the divine image. We gaze upon each person with the expectation that God is attempting to reveal himself to us through them. We revere every human being to be of such immense worth that Jesus gave his life on Calvary for each one of us. For this reason, we treat every human being with the highest reverence and respect — no matter age, race, ethnicity, gender, physical strength, intellectual capabilities, or sexual orientation. This is not to say that we respect and reverence every choice made.
We acknowledge ourselves as sinners in need of God’s mercy, and thus we seek to receive warmly fellow sinners. We respect others enough to invite them to become free from enslavements to sin. Living the virtue of chastity in this oversexualized culture is a challenge for all of us. We are prepared and eager to walk with others in striving for virtue and accompanying each other along the pathway of ongoing conversion.
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I pray that the Synod on Synodality will not unintentionally resurrect and breathe new life into moral confusion. If we truly listen to the Holy Spirit, I am confident that it will not lead us to abandon our moral teaching in order to embrace the toxic spirit of an age oppressed by the dictatorship of relativism.