BY DR. DONALD ASCI
In addition to raising some interesting questions about the American legal system and American culture, Josh Merlo’s recent column on the sanctity of marriage touched upon a hallmark of Catholic doctrine on marriage, especially as it was proclaimed by St. John Paul II. However, the conclusion Josh draws at the end of his column seems to make the wrong point or at least give the wrong emphasis.
Catholic teaching on God’s plan for sex, love and marriage has always been attentive to the need to proclaim and defend all the essential truths about human sexuality rather than being selective in which truths to hold dear. Catholic teaching is known to be both unwavering and uncompromising.
Likewise, Catholics today, as Josh suggests, need to be comprehensive, unwavering and uncompromising in our proclamation and defense of God’s plan for marriage in order to evangelize effectively those among us and those around us. Consequently, we need to speak out against all degradations of human sexuality.
Otherwise, our proclamation of the Gospel risks becoming as incoherent (hypocritical) as the arguments of those who oppose the death penalty and human trafficking while promoting access to abortion and fostering the acceptance of euthanasia. By being selective in its defense of human dignity, such an approach contradicts itself and ultimately undermines human dignity in all spheres of life. Such a compromised approach fails both in theory and in practice.
To avoid this type of failure in the sexual sphere we need to follow the example of St. John Paul II by being comprehensive, unwavering and uncompromising in our defense of the sanctity of marriage and the dignity of human sexuality.
Josh’s column also echoes the teachings of St. John Paul II in another way because his column rightly points out the need to speak with our actions.
Since St. John Paul II knew that a serious divergence between life and doctrine creates a fundamental problem, he taught that conversion – conforming life to doctrine – must be a central component of evangelization.
However, here is where Josh’s column moves in a different and unfortunate direction.
Rather than energetically calling for conversion, Josh allows the emphasis to rest on the apparent hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of proclaiming God’s plan for sex, love and marriage without fully living that plan in one’s own life.
Instead, we should emphasize that the solution to this dilemma is close at hand and found in the process of conversion.
Rather than fearing that the sin in our own lives renders us unfit to proclaim the truth, we should simply proclaim the truth while committing ourselves to the renunciation of sin.
Let us not be afraid that our sinfulness renders us unable to help those around us.
Let us follow the example set by our many saints and call others to conversion while acknowledging our own need for conversion.
All hypocrisy aside, I have literally made a career out of doing just that, and I know that you can do it, too.
Dr. Donald P. Asci