Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

If homosexuals aren't sinners, they're not like the rest of us

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 10, 2014

The old Christian injunction to “hate the sin, love the sinner” no longer cuts it, Mary McAleese has announced. The former Irish president explains: “If you are a so-called sinner, who likes to be called that?”

Since active homosexuals don’t want to be called sinners, McAleese concludes that the Church should change her perennial teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts. Are you convinced?

Bank robbers probably don’t enjoy being called sinners, either. Yet to date, to my knowledge, no visiting scholar at Jesuit-run Boston College, and no former canon-law student at the Pontifical Gregorian University (yes, McAleese fits in both categories) has suggested that the Church’s condemnation of bank robbery is out of date. So it’s safe to say that some other factors are at work here.

But setting aside the questionable logic of the McAleese argument, take another look at her rhetorical question. Are there people who like—or at least don’t mind—being called sinners? Are there people who voluntarily identify themselves as sinners? Yes, there are. They’re called Christians.

St. Paul described himself as a sinner. When Pope Francis was asked by an interviewer to identify himself, his first response was: “I am a sinner.” In the penitential rite at the beginning of every Mass, every Catholic proclaims aloud that “I have sinned.”

When we say that active homosexuals are sinners, we are not singling them out for condemnation. We are saying that they are like us: struggling people, wounded by our own misdeeds, in need of redemption.

What’s truly remarkable about that rhetorical question from McAleese is the implicit hint that no one should be considered a sinner. If there are no sinners, there is no need for redemption. And if there is no need for redemption, who cares what the Church teaches, on this or any other topic?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: shrink - Jan. 11, 2014 11:53 AM ET USA

    "...there is no need for redemption".... but there is a need for therapy to repair the damage inflicted by the Church. Therein is the core belief of the therapeutic mentality.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jan. 11, 2014 9:59 AM ET USA

    Catholics learn from their catechism that there are two types of sin. That which deprives the soul of God's sanctifying grace and puts one at risk of eternal death is called mortal. That which is not so severe (not so egregious and willful) but still offensive to God is called venial. Those who offend God by mortal sin deprive themselves of God's grace and find themselves among those claimed by the evil one- a murderer from the beginning. True love will never endure silence for sinners.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Jan. 10, 2014 8:27 PM ET USA

    I would think gays object not so much to being called sinners in the general sense,but specifically because it refers to their sexual behavior. That is galling to them,I believe. "Love the sinner,hate the sin" seems a bit glib and somehow dismissive.