The old expression “tilting at windmills” derives its origin from the seventeenth century Cervantes classic “Don Quixote”. Tilting is simply another word for jousting, and the expression means to “attack imaginary enemies”, such as the “giants” encountered by Don Quixote:
Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”
“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.
“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”
“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”
Following the recently concluded Synod on the Family, it seems that a good many prelates in the Church have been busy tilting at windmills. And who is the imaginary foe they are attacking? It is the Church herself, or to be more precise, a caricature of the Church. This caricature portrays the Church as unaccepting of those struggling with same-sex attraction, and even lacking compassion for them.
The most recent bishop joining in the attack against this imaginary foe is Cardinal Vincent Nichols. The Archbishop of Westminster released a pastoral letter to his diocese this past week in which he said:
“There has been much talk about how the Synod reflected on the situation of people of a same sex attraction. There was no suggestion that the teaching of the Church might somehow give approval to the notion of ‘same-sex marriage’ or that its teaching on sexual morality is to change. However two things were very clear. The first is that we should never identify people by their sexual orientation.
A question for His Emminence: when in the Church does this happen? To my knowledge, the Church has been rather consistent in clearly separating the sin from the sinner, and recognizing the dignity of the person, regardless of which particular sin they struggle with.
Ironically, as most are aware, it is the LGBT movement itself and many homosexual activists who proudly choose to identify themselves by their sexual orientation. This includes many openly “Gay Friendly” parishes that offer any number of LGBT ministries, but nowhere promote the apostolate Courage which seeks to help those struggling with same-sex attraction.
Cardinal Nichols continues:
Every person is endowed with unique dignity, both as an individual and as a Christian. This dignity is always, always to be respected.
Isn’t the Catholic Church already doing this? Does anyone fight harder than the Church to profess the dignity of the individual in our contemporary Culture of Death? From natural conception to natural death Holy Mother Church often stands alone, even among Christians, in the effort to defend life and demonstrate dignity for all. Rather, it is the secular left and homosexual activists who unjustly accuse the Church of condemning them for the simple reason that she can never condone sin. Ever. Do we really need prelates lending credence to the left’s erroneous arguments?
Secondly, it is the teaching of the Church that they are not only to be respected but also always accepted, with compassion and with sensitivity (CCC 2358). This teaching has to be translated into loving care, in our daily life in the Church, in our parishes, and indeed in society.
Cardinal Nichols states that respect and acceptance, always with compassion and sensitivity “has to be translated into loving care…in our parishes, and indeed in society”. Here I would respectfully ask Cardinal Nichols for specifics in lieu of generalizations. How specifically is the Church inadequate in her current handling of same-sex oriented Catholics? Additionally, how is this loving care to be demonstrated in an increasingly hostile and post-christian culture which already promotes LGBT acceptance, at the expense of traditional marriage and the family?
Further, how is this loving care manifested at the parish level? Is it by charitably sharing the truth, the heroic sacrifice of self-denial, and the merciful love of God? Or is it by earning recognition from websites that identify and promote “gay friendly” parishes around the country, while advocating “Marriage Equality” for LGBT Catholics?
One has to wonder how this “loving care”, as envisioned by Cardinal Nichols, would actually look. Unfortunately, bishops tilting at windmills does little to instill confidence that this will end well.