The Incomplete Jesus
A recent online news story discussing the supposed trouble and division that Pope Francis is causing the “Catholic Right” yielded some very interesting comments from the generally “progressive” Catholic readers of the site. The story was focused primarily on the Holy Father’s recent comments about homosexual clergy, and specifically his comment, “Who am I to judge?”
This post is not about that comment. However, I would like to offer a quick observation.
The coverage and interpretation of the Pope’s impromptu press conference has served as somewhat of a Rorschach test for both the media as well as the average Catholic in the pew. If your agenda includes more “inclusivity” for the “LGBT community”, then the Holy Father was signaling a reversal (albeit subtle) of tone, if not actual doctrine, concerning homosexuality.
If you are a conservative/traditional Catholic then you read the quote in its entirety and found the Holy Father reaffirming the teaching contained within the Catechism. While I would argue that Pope Francis may have been a bit careless using the mantra of modern, moral relativism (“Who am I to judge?”), he can hardly be accused of heterodoxy.
What interested me most was not so much this story and the left-leaning spin of the author and the site, but instead it was a readers comment following the piece. In challenging another more conservative comment, this particular person seemed to present a Jesus who does not differentiate between the sin or the sinner, condemning neither. She wrote:
Perhaps you should go back and reread the Gospels. Again and again, Jesus chooses the marginalized, the women, the lepers, the tax collectors (read this: “sinners”), the Samaritans (non-Jews who Jew’s didn’t associate with). It seems he was a paramount social-worker (welfare organization type), deeply concerned with the needs of the poor and the sinner. Jesus himself asked the woman being stoned “has no one condemned you? Then neither do I” I think you are confusing dogma with Christ-centered behavior…
The Incomplete Jesus
The story from St. John’s Gospel is familiar and a beautiful example of our Lord’s mercy. As it begins it seems to possibly lend some credence to the “non-judgmental” Jesus the author of the above comment was portraying:
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:3-7)
For many, particularly those advocating for the Church to seek “inclusivity” for practicing, unrepentant homosexuals, this is the entire story. They hear our Lord condemning the scribes and the Pharisees (insert traditional/conservative Catholics here), while embracing the “marginalized” of contemporary society (i.e. homosexuals). This is the Gospel of Love and Mercy only. A gospel lacking in justice, which is an often forgotten attribute of God.
This is the incomplete Jesus that many Catholics are presented with today under the banner of Mercy.
Now, here is the remainder of this passage. When read in totality we can better understand the teaching of the Church and the context for our Holy Father’s comments during that press conference:
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” (Jn 8:8-11)
“Go and from now on do not sin any more.” It is obvious when the passage is read in its full context that our Lord is requiring repentance and conversion from the woman. If we replace the sin of adultery with that of the homosexual lifestyle, then we can see that the gospel of tolerance espoused by so many today in the Church is simply yet another heretical gospel.
We can look to St. Augustine to confirm that this is indeed the complete and correct interpretation of these verses. The great Doctor of the Church asks:
“Lord, can it be that you favor sinners? Assuredly not. See what follows: ‘Go and sin no more.’ Therefore, the Lord also condemned sin, but not the woman.” (In Ioann. Evang., 33, 5-6).
The Salvation of Souls
Ultimately evangelization is about the salvation of souls. Presenting believers with an incomplete Jesus, a savior who forgives sins without requiring repentance and conversion, is an injustice and is unmerciful. Those who are waiting for our Holy Father and the Church to reject Scripture, Tradition and Magisterial teaching by embracing mortal sin need to pray for humility, docility and obedience. True mercy and charity is demonstrated by lovingly presenting the full message of the gospel, with clarity and a desire to save souls. Sadly, as our Lord said, many will reject this message:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”(Mt 7:13-14).