Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Taking Up *Causes* Can Be Dangerous to Your Spiritual Health

We live in a world with many wrongs that need to be righted.  That is another way of saying, we are fallen human beings living in a fallen world.  Many people will devote a large part of their lives, or even their entire lives, in working for a cause,

An amazing example of someone who gave his life for a cause was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King lived in a world in which people of color were treated, at best, as second class citizens.  They were denied simple human rights, such as housing, voting, education, etc. that white people took for granted.  Dr. King knew he was going to more than likely have to die for his cause, but he was still willing to do so in order to stop the oppression and hate that he witnessed and experienced as a black man in America.

However, Dr. King was an anomaly when it comes to those fighting for a cause. He had real enemies who wanted him dead. Yet, he always preached non violence and love towards those who opposed him. After his house was bombed in 1956, Martin Luther King made this statement: "Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky. Don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love."

Malcolm X, who was involved in the same cause for civil rights, thought Dr. King was a fool. His motto was "by any means necessary."  Malcolm X saw violence as a necessary part of his struggle:  "Be peaceful, obey the law; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery."

Sadly, it is not the peaceful, love-your-enemy beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr. that prevail today but the confrontational by-any-means-necessary philosophy of Malcolm X which seems to drive our contemporary world. This is as true for those who claim to follow Jesus Christ as for those involved in more secular causes.

This is what I am seeing even in the Catholic Church, and it is disturbing to say the least. I have recently written about Father James Martin and his attempts to bridge the divide between the gay community and the Catholic Church. That is a very noble cause, and as I have written, I think Father Martin is right. However, Father Martin has recently made comments that make me fear he is going too far.

Crisis Magazine is a Catholic website with which I generally disagree. The writers on this website are very right wing, traditionalist Catholics who basically view the current Catholic hierarchy as their enemy. For the most part, the writers on this website want to get rid of everything in the Church that is post Vatican II. But it is a recent article on this site by Deacon Jim Russell that seems to undeniably indicate that Father Martin is losing perspective and taking his cause too far.

The article is entitled, "Fr. Jim Martin 'Canonizes' Sr. Jeannine Gramick."  According to the article, Father Martin was asked who he would like to "canonize."  His response:
Oh, this is great… I’m going to canonize Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who was the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and let me tell you, you may be too young to remember all this but, uh, you know in the 80s, they were really under a microscope, and then in the 90s, Cardinal George in Chicago said they couldn’t call themselves Catholic, um, it was really severe, um, and, you know, she persisted…. here’s this woman who has really struggled, um, and has really fought, and has really advocated, at great cost, you know, within her own church. And, so, yeah, I’d put her up, uh … you know I haven’t read every single thing that she wrote, but, um, I’d put her up for canonization, and at least, servant of God, or beatification.
Oy vey.  Sister Jeannine Gramick is opposed to many different teachings of the Church from birth control to same sex marriage and even papal infallibility.  I certainly understand and agree with Father Martin if he wants to reach out to her and New Ways Ministry, but to actually support her positions against Church teaching is definitely a "bridge too far."  And to call for her "canonization"?! My head spins.  

The great St. Paul actually warned of the dangers in becoming a follower of anyone but Jesus Christ.  From I Corinthians:
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
This is a problem among both those on the right and those on the left. We become so committed to our causes and to those whom we see as our leaders that we forget what, as Christians, our real goal should be. Our job is to spread the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is not just to make people comfortable with where they are in life. Yes, we must definitely accept people where they are, and always treat them with respect and dignity. 

But the ultimate goal is to open people up to the Holy Spirit so that they can become a new creation (II Cor. 5:17), leaving their old way of life. We can't do that if we demonize people, but we also can't do it if we deny our own beliefs and start to see anyone, including the Church, who disagrees with us as the enemy. I won't accept hate from the Right, but I won't accept it from the Left either. Sister Jeannine Gramick, in her rejection of basic Catholic Church doctrine, represents the hate on the Left, and Father James Martin is wrong to support her.

I still believe that Father Martin's approach is the correct one, because it is definitely the way in which Our Lord would reach out to the gay community.  A good example of this is a statement he made after one of his Facebook posts was hit with hundreds of hateful homophobic comments:
“Today I received dozens of messages from LGBT Catholics expressing their pain, after having read some of the comments on this page. It’s not surprising that they feel so much pain. I’m sad to say that too many Catholics, in almost every corner of our church, from chanceries to sacristies to homes, still harbor hatred and fear of gays and lesbians. It’s not only scandalous but sinful.

“But there are other reasons for their pain. Some people may not know that over 20 percent of hate crimes are violence against people based on their sexual orientation (the vast majority being LGBT people). Or that LGBT youth are in this country four times more likely to commit suicide. Worldwide, in five countries and in parts of two others, homosexuality is still punishable with the death penalty, while a further 70 countries imprison citizens because of their sexual orientation.

“Today’s Gospel, in which Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan, may also speak to us about LGBT persons. For the parable is not only about being compassionate to someone in need, but how the carrier of grace is often the one who has been rejected, despised and marginalized.

“So tonight, perhaps we could pray for our LGBT brothers and sisters. Let us pray for an end to violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, as well as an end to the kind of language, especially within our church, that may lead to hatred for, rejection of, or violence against gays. And let us work so that every gay person feels as welcome as everyone else does in the church into which they were called at their baptism–by God.”
The above statement is a beautiful example of Christian love.  It is statements like this which have led me to support Father Martin.  But I have learned my lesson about knowing when to draw the line. St. Paul wrote in I Cor. 11:1 - "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."  Sister Jeannine Gramick is involved in a very good cause in fighting for respect and dignity for the gay community, but her passion has caused her to go off the rails, and she is no longer following Jesus Christ because she has separated herself from Church teachings.  I don't know that Father Martin has actually gone against Church teaching, but he is most definitely wrong in supporting Sister Gramick. 

It is a good thing to oppose the wrongs in this world, but the big pitfall is that it can make us very unbalanced and even hateful. Will we follow Martin Luther King or Malcolm X?  Ultimately the question is, will we follow Jesus Christ?  


  1. Catholic in Brooklyn, hold your nose and check out the following link:

    1. Voris really doesn't know why the Catholic bishops don't want him around? Voris, the same man who has condemned them all to hell over and over, and called for violence against Cardinal Dolan and others? Voris, the man who preaches that the bishops are actually trying to destroy the Catholic Church? Why wouldn't the bishops just invite Voris right in? Can't imagine.

      As Voris would say, gimme a break.


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