Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

No, not every lifestyle is sinful

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 14, 2017

“Pretty much everyone’s lifestyle is sinful,” Father James Martin told the New York Times.

That statement is outrageous. In a sane world, Father Martin’s Jesuit superiors would order him to apologize.

We are all sinners; we are all sinful. But we are not all engaged in sinful ways of life.

The awkward word “lifestyle” complicates things here. In his conversation with the New York Times, Father Martin was speaking—as he so frequently does—about the homosexual “lifestyle.” But how can one generalize about the “style” of the lives of homosexuals, except by reference to homosexual activities, which are sinful?

By contrast, a single person living a chaste life is not engaged in a sinful lifestyle. A cloistered nun, her daily activities structured by the rhythms of prayer, is not engaged in a sinful lifestyle. Nor are married people, devoted faithfully to their spouses and their children.

Are all these people sinners? Certainly. But it is not their way of life—their “lifestyle,” if we must use that term—that is sinful. Not every “lifestyle” is equal in the eyes of God. Marriage, the priesthood, and religious life are not neutral “lifestyle” choices. They are inherently good, blessed, even sacramental. That a Catholic priest would suggest otherwise is, again, outrageous.

It’s possible, I suppose, that the chaste single person could be selling illegal drugs, or the faithful spouse could be embezzling corporate funds. Then it would be fair and accurate to say that they were engaged in sinful lifestyles. And then it would be fair and just for pastors to confront them, to demand that they change their ways.

In the event described in the New York Times story, Cardinal Joseph Tobin welcomed homosexuals to the cathedral in Newark. The cardinal rejected as “backhanded” the notion that perhaps he should challenge the homosexual visitors to live in accordance with the teachings of Christ. “It was appropriate to welcome people to come and pray and call them who they were,” he said. “And later on, we can talk.”

But when will “later on” finally arrive, and what will be said if and when that talk finally takes place?

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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