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One of the things which sometimes crops up here is the notion that the Churches no longer speak of ‘sin’ as they did. This is true, but no one seems to stop to ask why. I suppose if you have a pat answer such as ‘it is all the fault of Vatican II’ it prevents actual thinking; since other churches had no such thing and it is true of them, Vatican II is, at worst, an effect and not a cause; unless one subscribes to the view that somehow every other Church has been affected by it.

There is, in that, another question which I have seen asked less often. If the pre-Vatican II Church was so effective, and if hell-fire sermon so effective, why then did things not continue as they were? It is easy enough to caricature the priority given by the churches to ‘love’ as soppy ‘care bear’ stuff, which is no doubt why it gets done so often; but the truth is that the old ways were abandoned because they were not effective – and standing on them now as though they will be, is to put oneself in a position to witness only to man’s infinite capacity to fail to react to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Has there been, in some quarters, an over reaction? No doubt, it is the way of our fallen nature to swing from one extreme to another. There is, for certain temperaments, the need to cling to the letter of the law as they seek to interpret it; there is a fear of the very word ‘love’, as though somehow it means collusion with sinners. It was the charge the Pharisees levelled at Jesus often enough. That terrible man went and ate with tax collectors and publicans, and some of his followers were women who seem to have had a ‘reputation’. How was it, the woman at the well wondered, that this Jewish Rabbi would even open a conversation with her? How dare Jesus, the Pharisees thought, heal someone on the Sabbath? There were rules about that sort of thing, and unless one stuck rigidly to the rules … .

Telling people they are going to hell may once have been effective, but it seems as though, in the longer term, which we can now see, it has simply ceased to have any effect. One can see easily why this should be.  If you begin by telling other faithful Christians who know they believe in Jesus and are trying to live a Christian life that they are going to hell because they are not in your Church, they are not going to be terribly interested if you add that they are going to hell if they don’t behave themselves; as you’ve already consigned them to hell and called them damnable heretics, they stopped listening. Pastorally it may be possible to imagine a worse way of proceeding, but one does not immediately spring to mind.

And that is the problem with the attitude of our friend quiavideruntoculi. Committed to a view that non Catholics are hell-bound, and that Catholics who do not agree with him are heretics, he rants like Lear on the blasted heath – and no one listens. Why should they? As a form of witness this is the equivalent to the Westboro Baptists – and about as useful.

The idea that one witnesses to a God who is love by radiating hatred and contempt for sinners is to commit the sin of confusing the sinner with the sin. QV needs to brush up on which his own Church teaches about the pastoral care of homosexual people. If he finds in it a section that says you should shun such people and tell them nothing but that they are sinners going to hell, he is welcome to quote it. I have read it, and would say that his attitude contravenes it, whilst mine is in line with it. No doubt that will simply allow him to go off on one about the Pope not being the Pope and the Bishops not being the Bishops – which no doubt is firmly in line with Roman Catholic obedience.

The Roman Catholic Church is wiser than many of those who self-elect to speak for it. My advice to a new Catholic is that he should get to know more about his new Church before telling it what to do and what is and is not allowable by way of Christian witness. But, as he says:

It is you who wish to depart from that tradition; everyone, even the Protestants, has enough basic decency to grasp what should be done here. You do not, because you are a filthy sow, polluted and blinded by your complicity in your ‘friend’s’ sin.

Just, of course, what Jesus would have said. Or is it what those who accused Him said when he was ‘complicit’ with the tax collectors by extending table fellowship to them, and what the ‘men from James’ said to Peter? We bear no witness when we refuse to engage with other sinners, whose sin is no worse than our own. Had Jesus extended that view to us, we should all have been lost. By caring, we show we are not careless of the feelings of others. There is no virtue in telling those who don’t know what sin is that they are sinners. There is in engaging with them so they can begin to understand what it means to love the sinner and hate the sin. That is harder than refusing fellowship with them – but then Christian love is not an easy option. The sinners will often not understand, and the self-righteous certainly won’t – well I guess when all men speak ill of you, you are in the right way if you are doing it for Christ.