As could be said for nearly every generation since the birth of Christ, we find ourselves living in rather tumultuous times as Christians. The world around us seems to be in a state of disarray as our collective understanding—or in some cases, misunderstanding—of morality and compassion seems to be rather foggy. Here in the United States, we seem to have embraced a very primal form of populist anger, opting to take a very narrow and harsh view of the world around us and this is leading us to behave in deeply concerning ways as a nation that happens to call itself Christian.
Though I am young, I have never before experienced the level of divisiveness and hostility that I see around me and this holds true in my daily experiences and encounters with colleagues and members of my work and home parishes. The degree of animosity shown toward particular groups of people, as well as Pope Francis is simply dumbfounding. The rather heated debate surrounding Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia exemplifies what I’m referring to. This beautiful piece of pastoral literature was meant to offer hope and solace to individuals who have, for far too long, been made to feel marginalized and forgotten by the global Christian community. “It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community…,” he writes. It is no secret that for as long as there has been a Christian church, specific demographics have found themselves on the outside looking in, particularly homosexuals, heterosexual couples who have “shacked up”—lived together prior to marriage—and divorced, remarried couples. “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”
At the age of 37, I find myself at a very interesting crossroads in my life. I have spent many years discerning what my purpose and role ought to be in terms of living out the vocation that God intended for me. I have always prided myself on being a man of the people because I love interacting with and understanding people. The world is in desperate need of a resurgence of dialogue, compassion and sincere advocacy; a return to the basics of Christianity where, as Martin Luther stated in his Treatise on Christian Liberty, Christians understand that it is their duty to be “free lords of all, subject to none…dutiful servants of all, subjects to all.”
I believe the most important thing that I can do to empower others is to make it clear, through my actions that our single greatest priority at every stage of the game is tending to the needs of God’s people. This is the apex of living the mission of God. We must always be open to answering the questions posed by our “sheep” and our answers should be abundantly evident in the examples set by our actions and our lives. I feel it is imperative to always be mindful of Pope Francis’ desire to “encourage Christian communities to recognize the great benefit that they themselves receive from supporting…couples as they grow in love.” Yet I also feel that this support must be taken to further lengths than the global Christian community is currently willing to go. While it is encouraging that Amoris Laetitia “reminds everyone to be nice to gay people—‘Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration,’” I feel that right now is not the time for nitpicky and nuanced theology; from a very brass tacks perspective, we need to be shepherds and as such, we need to embrace people as they are; as they feel God has created them. This means that we need to strongly consider shelving what might eventually very well prove to be antiquated notions of sexual morality in lieu of a more inclusive and accepting approach to the changing sexual and relational mores in our society. Pope Francis seems to be subtly hinting that he is attempting to move the Church in this direction; “For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain ‘irregular’ situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”
This is promising, especially as it pertains to the divorced and for the intimate lives of married couples who find themselves unable to conceive. Interestingly enough, as William Saletan states, “This double standard, between homosexuality and other forms of infertility, is the cracked pillar at the foundation of the church’s policy against same-sex unions. It’s how Catholic teaching on homosexuality will eventually collapse.”
The most commonly cited reason for opposing same sex marriage by Christians is their adherence to upholding the values of so-called “traditional marriage.” Pope Francis states that “Families should…go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others. In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into society…married couples should have a clear awareness of their social obligations.” Yet Saletan appropriately responds to this by saying, “Same-sex couples can do all of these things. They can sustain lifetime commitments, build virtuous communities, and give children loving homes.” As Paulo Friere suggests, humanization is the only legitimate part of our vocation as humans; what better way to embrace the humanity of our fellow man than to embrace his or her freedom to love as he or she sees fit?
I must admit that there have been times in my life when my daily toils were driven by things other than a true sense of Christian charity. At times, pride, careerism and the pursuit of money clouded my abilities to see the world clearly—and at times they still do. I am no more or less apt than the next man to engage in the act of dehumanization, which in my opinion is the most heinous sin against God and our fellow man, not only because it causes harm to the other person or group, but also because it serves to cause great psychological and spiritual harm to the person who is engaging in the act of dehumanizing others. I am often very quick to harshly judge those who seek to deprive people of rights, which is a manifestation of the old adage, two wrongs don’t make a right. The act of helping people to see the error in their ways must include a humanizing spirit of humility and charity; in the same way that we who advocate on behalf of the marginalized want the Church to empower us to follow our consciences, we must also empower our opponents to change their thinking and better form their consciences; after all, as pastors and teachers, “we have been called to form consciences, not replace them.”
 Pope Francis. The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family. Paulist Press, 2016. p 213.
 Ibid, p 213.
 George W. Forell. Christian Social Teachings: A Reader in Christian Social Ethics from the Bible to the Present. Fortress Press, 2012. p 105.
 Francis, p 146
 William Saletan. Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” Is a Closeted Argument for Gay Marriage. April 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/faithbased/2016/04/pope_francis_amoris_laetitia_is_a_closeted_argument_for_gay_marriage.html. p 1.
 Francis, p 217.
 Saletan, p 1.
 Ibid, p 1.
 Ibid, p 1.
 Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, 1970. p 28.
 Freire, p 28
 Francis, p 23