Love the Sinner, Not the Sin


Having reviewed last week the Church's condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, we now turn more specifically to the person. As the moral adage goes, "Condemn the sin, but not the sinner."

Having reviewed last week the Church's condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, we now turn more specifically to the person. As the moral adage goes, "Condemn the sin, but not the sinner."

While the Church continues to uphold the consistent condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, it has compassion for the homosexual person: "Pastoral care of such homosexuals should be considerate and kind" ("Declaration on Certain Problems of Sexual Ethics," No. 8). "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (Catechism, No. 2358). "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action" ("Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," No.9). All of these statements distinguish the sin from the sinner.

Nevertheless, compassion, consideration and sensitivity do not entail the approval of the practicing homosexual lifestyle. The Church does challenge homosexual persons to live a chaste life. Like any Christian, these persons must adhere to God's plan, strive to fulfill His will in their own lives and unite themselves in their interior suffering to Christ. They too must embrace the cross.

Here, though, is where Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick strayed. Together they founded New Ways Ministry in 1977 (located in the Archdiocese of Washington) to promote "Justice and reconciliation between lesbian and gay Catholics and the wider Catholic community." As stated in the decision pronounced by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (May 31, 1999), from its beginning, New Ways Ministry has questioned the orthodox teaching of the Church in this area, has been ambiguous in teaching that the practice of homosexuality is a sin, and has not been resolute in promoting a chaste lifestyle for homosexual persons.

In 1984, Cardinal Hickey forbade Father Nugent and Sister Gramick from undertaking activities in the Archdiocese of Washington after several attempts to clarify their positions had failed. At the same time, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life ordered them to discontinue completely their ties with New Ways Ministry. While they resigned their leadership positions, they continued to be involved actively in the organization, disobeying their superiors' orders.

They further published materials which did not fully reflect Catholic teachings. Therefore, after much dialogue but without much resolution, both Father Nugent and Sister Gramick were censured and barred from pastoral work with homosexual persons. Keep in mind a key point made by the Sacred Congregation: "...The promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion: Persons who are struggling with homosexuality, no less than any others, have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them."

Nevertheless, in this spiritual struggle, the Church does reach out to homosexuals and strives to help them lead a chaste life. In 1980, an organization called Courage was founded by a group of priests and psychologists for persons struggling with homosexuality. Courage sets five purposes before its members: (1) Live a chaste life in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality; (2) dedicate one's entire life to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, and frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and of the Holy Eucharist; (3) foster a spirit of fellowship in which they may share with one another their thoughts and experiences and so ensure that none of them will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone; (4) be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in celibate Christian life and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining them; and (5) live a life that may serve as a good example to other homosexuals. While these principles are directed to homosexuals, they also challenge each committed Christian. By the grace of God, each of us must strive to master ourselves, approach Christian perfection, and live in the freedom of God's children.

For more information about this group, please contact the following: Courage's national office is located at St. John the Baptist Church, 210 West 31st Street, New York, NY, 10001, tel: (212)268/1010; or the local office, Father Thomas Morrow, St. Catherine Labor Church, Wheaton, Maryland, tel: (301)962/9118.




Saunders, Rev. William. "Love the Sinner, Not the Sin." Arlington Catholic Herald.

This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.


Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.

Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald

Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.