Circumstances led me to a parish I'd never been to before. It was the first time. If God helps me, there won't be another unless there's a nuclear winter or something of similarly cosmic proportions and I can't get to another Catholic Church within a 500 mile radius. The message of the day seemed to be seared into my synapses long after the mass was done. Seems you can't be Catholic or Christian unless you breathe, bleed, and sweat inclusivity.

I certainly had a response to that. Nay, Christ had an even better one. I was suprised today to find that Michael Novak had my thoughts all summed up. No doubt, he's been a victim of several nuclear winters.

"One of the greatest of recent seductions by that wily devil Screwtape -- perfectly fitted to the times -- is to puff a tiny sugar crystal of Christianity into sweetish airy cotton candy. "IN-clusiveness!" he will insist. "Christianity is about nothing if not IN-clusiveness."

That is how Screwtape sweet-talks you into affirming that some abomination (divorce, abortion, euthanasia, adultery, gay marriage) is, actually, included within the broad reach of Christian love. It would be positively un-Christian to think ill of that "abomination." You should be ashamed you ever thought it was wrong. Are you a bigot or something?

"Strange!" I would have thought, "Christianity is about EX-clusion." On the last day the Judge shall divide the world into sheep and goats, you over on the left, you over on the right. A few of you will be chosen to enter with me into Paradise. The rest will descend, as you have chosen, into everlasting punishment. I have come not to bring peace, but the sword. He who is not with me is against me. God sent His light into the darkness, and the darkness received it not. The gate is narrow, and the way is strait. Only a tiny remnant will be saved. There was much weeping, and tears, and gnashing of teeth.

You can look it up."

Certainly Christ doesn't deny ANYONE the chance to save themselves. That's what gives the Church it's Catholicity. Except...there's a devilish detail you can't forget: Christ calls us to include people, not their sins.

People fond of the inclusivity doctrine like to point out that Jesus associated with prostitutes and sinners. You have to ask though, does he do this because he wanted to start running with the dogs? Or did he associate with the pariahs of his time so he could teach them to stop running around on all fours, see the truth he was bringing and allow it to elevate them to a new level of dignity?

To the woman caught in adultery, Christ doesn't say, "I know you're a sinner, even someone involved in an "alternative" way of life. But I'll include you anyway and make accomodations within the truth to suit your sin." This would be a very strange reading of what Jesus really says. "Go and SIN NO MORE." Seeing the heart, Christ offers mercy but with a qualification. I call it the holiness clause. It a condition on forgiveness that's rooted in the truth about how God saves us. The love is still unconditional, but Christ can't lie to himself or to us and say that we're family when we're not. If sin remains, it will divide.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Rick says:

    In fact Church law automatically excommunicates certain sinners e.g.
    procuring a completed abortion (Can. 1389). The question though is how should members treat others in a state of sin? Suppose you have a divorced & remarried sibling who has not received annulment of a prior marriage. Although he has been corrected but thinks that he is just fine. Other churches practice shunning, but I have not heard that done in the Catholic Church.

  2. Son says:

    That's a difficult case. I think shunning, in the social sense, obviously doesn't match up with any Christian virtue. We should recognize everyone and their dignity while not necessarily condoning what they do.

    On the other hand, we sometimes need to practice sacramental exclusion. This isn't a matter of preference. It's a matter of truth since to participate in the sacraments signifies a participation in the body of Christ. A person who lives in manifest sin can't participate in this way. When people receive communion, for example, they're using their bodies and actions to say "I'm uniting myself to all of Christ's body and to all the truths that body teaches."
    How can an unrepentant sinner say this? It's not possible.

    As a wise priest once said, you can't build up the kingdom of God if, at the same time, you're tearing it down.

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