The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


“I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace…”

posted by jmcgee

Could those familiar words of the Act of Contrition help the Church to heal itself?

Over at the Huffington Post, Fr. James Martin goes on at great length on the subject of penance, finally concluding:

What would a real penance look like? What kind of penance would “correspond,” to use the Catechism’s language, with these sins? Priests convicted of sexual abuse are laicized (that is, returned to the lay state) and spend time in jail. Those are grave penances (that’s why jails were formerly called “penitentiaries”) but are undertaken involuntarily. After serving time for their crimes, these offenders, no longer priests, should perform additional penances and spend the rest of their lives praying for their victims. Decades ago, some bishops considered cases of abuse primarily moral offenses and relied overly on the advice of those psychiatrists and psychologists who recommended placing the offenders back in active ministry. But that misguided trust in the advice of psychologists may explain placing a man back in ministry once. Those who moved repeat offenders from parish to parish cannot blame this on psychologists.

Thus, if those who have sinned expect real forgiveness from those against whom they have sinned, a real penance is “necessary,” as Benedict said — resigning from their posts, caring for the sick in hospitals in the inner city, working in a remote refugee camp, serving in a homeless shelter in a slum, or retiring to a monastery to pray for victims.

My point is not to proscribe individual penances. I don’t know who has sinned and who hasn’t; I cannot look into someone’s soul. (And I’m sure victims would have ideas for even stronger penances.) The point is that the hierarchy, seeking a way toward healing, has a spiritual resource that it overlooks at its peril. And that is the sacrament of reconciliation, instituted at the behest of Jesus Christ himself, and which lies at the heart of Catholic theology. And penance, part of that sacramental model, will help to begin to heal the serious rupture in the church.

But there is a difference in this case: the one who forgives. In the confessional the priest grants absolution in the name of God to the layperson. When it comes to these sins, it is the layperson who must grant absolution to those clergy who are seeking forgiveness.

You’ll want to read it all.



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Holy Cannoli

posted April 19, 2010 at 8:14 am


Although this article appears to be good, I don’t click on links from the Huffington Post.
Having read Fr. Martin’s hit piece from a few weeks ago “Glenn Beck to Jesus: Drop Dead” I can understand why the far left Huff post would host him.



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Panthera

posted April 19, 2010 at 9:05 am


Let’s see, Holy Cannoli –
You don’t – by your own admission – read the NY-Times, The Huffington Post nor listen to MSNBC.
You don’t read anything written by women. You don’t trust anything our kind host here recommends when written by any member of the Catholic church to the left of Donohue.
You beat up potential converts, you vilify Masons and Jews.
Did I miss anything?
Oh, right – we all know the Christian charity you feel in your heart for gays.
Many Catholics tell me that all the money invested in stripping me of my civil and human rights in America, in Uganda, in Poland is done to bring me back to God’s undying love for me and His one and only plan and path for my life.
They claim their motivation is “love the sinner, hate the sin”.
Hmm, I do have to contrast their words with people like you. Your motivation is clearly:
Hatred. Pure and unremitting hatred.
You present a face of the Catholic church which every gay, lesbian and transgender person knows far too well.
It is not a reflection of Christ’s face.



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Dana

posted April 19, 2010 at 10:17 am


Holy Cannolli: your life must be very small and very narrow, considering all the ways you close yourself off to it. You won’t read a good piece because it’s at Huffpo?
Panthera: Wait, didn’t Cannolli say he read the Anchoress? She’s kind of a woman, right?
You two, every day I peek in just to see the relentless fight.



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Tom

posted April 19, 2010 at 10:29 am


Hmmm. I’m not sure our humble blogger will go Jerry Springer on us (but then again, he doesn’t really have to; it happens naturally ;-). He was accused of JSing once simply for posting about a Latin Mass in the DC Basilica (didn’t see that one commin), but I guess those are the everday joys of blogging.



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Panthera

posted April 19, 2010 at 10:43 am


Dana,
You are right.
I was wrong.
I think Fr. Martin has raised some very valid points. One of the oldest concepts of Roman and Celtic law is echoed both in Jewish and (real) Catholic theology: You can only seek forgiveness from those whom you have wronged.
It’s really kind of sad that the primary focus of the Catholic church these last years has been on fighting human rights and trying to cover up the evil done by paedophiles. There is much good in the Catholic church, but there’s a tremendous amount of hatred and passionate desire to destroy all who raise even the mildest point of disagreement from within our mutual Christian body of faith.
Such reactions do not speak of a healthy conscience. Once the Vatican admitted that there is nothing inherently wrong with homosexual orientation qua orientation, the situation became akin to the rearguard action against those in the late 17th centuries who insisted the earth did orbit the sun.
Everyone knew the matter was settled, there just was no internal consensus on how to change church policy to reflect God’s natural world as we now knew it to be.
The nastiest fights arose in that era.
I don’t know whether you were on-board at beliefnet for the incredible revisionist history the “defenders of the faith” offered on that topic year before last…but the official conservative Catholic position today is, apparently, that the Catholic Church always embraced the sol-centric view and Galileo was up on totally different charges, the court documents got mixed up…and any other perspective is unchristian, heretical and an open attack on the eternally unchanging perfection of the Catholic church and her unbroken, unchanged positions on virtually everything for going on 2,000 years.
It’s the same now – this is why we see such enormous efforts to blame this all on VaticanII, to ignore the girls abused, to blame it all on teh gayz.
I think Fr. Martin is suggesting a direction which the Catholic church here in my neck of the woods really needs to go. We are still seeing victims come forward at an appalling pace (boys and, increasingly, girls) and the reaction has not exactly been to express contrition…



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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted April 19, 2010 at 10:49 am


What is there other than contrition to bring us to grace and reconciliation? Reconciliation and repentance, like all sacraments, are not isolated things that we do on our own. They happen in relationship with God and one another. Fr. Martin does a fine job in the linked piece.
Not to add to the fray, but all this “I won’t go to such-and-such” site etc is very non-Catholic. To be Catholic is be very much who we are in the world, not removed from it.



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Panthera

posted April 19, 2010 at 11:02 am


Well spoken, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.
That is why I also read blogs and newspapers from those with whom I disagree politically and religiously.
We have lost the ability to be notional.
How someone can pick and chose which OT sins they want to find “disordered” in God’s eyes is beyond me. Then again, I can afford to wear all-natural fibers yet also have no problem with mixing my silk and cashmere.
There is nothing especially Christian about the Latin language, I happen to have learned Latin and enjoy reading much written in the language, but there is nothing in her which needs must bring us closer to God.
The same applies to Elizabethan English.
It is ironic that the most conservative Catholics and the most fundamentalist Protestants both place such enormous value on two languages and very little value on loving each other. Oh, wait – that was just a commandment from that long-haired Jewish guy, good ole’ what’s-his-name – the one in the sandals who hung out with ho ars and sinners. Nobody relevant to us Christians.



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Holy Cannoli

posted April 19, 2010 at 11:48 am


Dana writes:
>>>Your life [speaking of Holy Cannoli] must be very small and very narrow, considering all the ways you close yourself off to it.
LOL
Have a Cannoli and unwind, Dana. I’ll be back later. I just remembered I’ve got to get my hair styled and have Javier splash a few highlights on top.



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Holy Cannoli

posted April 19, 2010 at 11:52 am


>>>Not to add to the fray, but all this “I won’t go to such-and-such” site etc is very non-Catholic.
How ya doing with that “women can NOT be ordained” deal, Fran? Has it sunk in yet or do you still want to “talk about it”?



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Panthera

posted April 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm


Wow.
Just – wow.
Remind me again, somebody, anybody why my loving, caring, faithful, monogamous, true partnership of over one-quarter century and legal marriage is a threat to anyone’s spiritual well being while this “defender of the faith” who, nominally, speaks the exact position of the Catholic church, represents God’s love?
Wow.



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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted April 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm


Frankly I’d like to talk about it Holy Cannoli, but it is basically a closed case, so therefore we better not.
And once again, I do blog and post comments under my own name. I don’t hide my positions as you do. It is your choice to use Holy Cannoli as comment name but how easy it is to be vitriolic from behind an anonymous screen with a name that is not your own.
Once again, I might posit that it is not a very Catholic way of being.



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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted April 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm


Coincidence or not, I encountered this Psalm as soon as I left this page… I really don’t want to fight in comment threads, I would rather like to see what we can learn from one another.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
– Psalm 58:9-10



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Chris

posted April 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm


What I would like to see is those who are currently leading the charge against the Holy Father to do penance as well…
To the MAINSTREAM MEDIA, who have been selectively reporting this latest round of stories, a proper penance is a return to the sense of journalistic ethics that used to enforce a discipline upon reporters. News stories based on fact, not speculation and bias; opinion reserved for columns and the op-ed pages — these would help restore the “morality” of the watchdogs.
I would also like to see those PRIESTS who use their pulpits and prestige to harangue and discredit the hierarchy stand up and confess what they knew about the actions of the priests who were abusing children. From an older priest, I gather many priests knew or surmised or heard stories about the abusers, but did nothing. What about the Lavendar Mafia operating in dioceses? So-called crusaders against abuse and supporters of VOTF — how many of those know of situations in which priests are breaking their vows with men or women (even with other priests!)Aren’t they called to penance too?



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Panthera

posted April 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm


Chris,
I agree that a break in the screaming would be good.
It might help to stop thinking of “The Lavender Mafia”.
First, there really is no such thing.
Second, it is extremely prejudicial towards the many gay and lesbian Catholics who support the church – despite being treated in anything but a spirit of Christian brotherhood.
Third, such quick pre-judgments cause people to loose sight of the real problem – which, as you very clearly point out is there.



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Holy Cannoli

posted April 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm


Fran writes:
>>> It is your choice to use Holy Cannoli as comment name but how easy it is to be vitriolic from behind an anonymous screen with a name that is not your own.
Fran, I treat others the way I would like to be treated. When a jerk is a jerk, to call them anything other than a jerk would be a lie and would delay their conversion.
>>> Frankly I’d like to talk about it (women priesthood) Holy Cannoli, but it is basically a closed case, so therefore we better not.
Yet, you were the one who brought the issue up less than one week ago wanting to “talk” about it. Maybe now you’re catching on.
>>> It is your choice to use Holy Cannoli as comment name..
Period. End of story.
Fran, I not sure what your issue with me is, but I think it flows from your own conscience speaking to you and possibly my agreement with Bill Donohue and his position on the major roll of homosexuality and the sexual scandal. I believe you are among the liberal (not fully heretical…yet) female members of the Catholic Church and you resent being called on it.
>>>Once again, I might posit that it is not a very Catholic way of being. (my using the nom de plume, Holy Cannoli)
You can posit whatever you like. But, you’d be one of the last people I would ever trust to tell me what is or is not “Catholic.”
A Catholic like you, Fran, who advocates “talking about” female ordination when the issue is closed and a Catholic who has a link to the public dissenter and supporter of Call to Action, Joan Chittister, on their page shouldn’t be giving advice on what may or may not be “a very Catholic way of being.” Get your own life in order before you tell me or anyone else what is “Catholic.”
Instead of the Huff post, try this, Fran.
http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/today.guest.html



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Chris

posted April 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm


Actually, Panthera, I know several priests who are disturbed and outraged by the behavior of a circle of priests in the area where I live. Several of the priests in that “circle” are living together in disordered relationships, going to Provincetown together, making a great show of their “tolerance” and sympathy — and defying the Cardinal’s wishes and church teachings in their parishes. When a priest casually comments to an elderly parishioner that two of his priest friends are “partners,” it is disheartening, to say the least. And I have heard that some of these men (who both attended and taught at a major seminary) have great influence in archdiocesan assignments. Praise God, they are in their 50s and 60s. But they have done a great deal of damage to the faith.



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Chris

posted April 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm


I’d like to add that I think a link to Rush Limbaugh is over the top. I don’t read him; I don’t have Catholic friends who read him. He is not a Catholic.
I would advise anyone interested in getting news with a faithful Catholic slant instead to tune in to EWTN’s newscasts and news/talk shows.



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Holy Cannoli

posted April 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm


Chris:
>>>He is not a Catholic.
Rush is a political commentator who is hated by the left especially the Hussein regime. I posted his link in response to those who get their news from the networks, CNN, MSNBC, the Huff Post and Daily Kos.
I wouldn’t go to a plumber when electrical work is needed. EWTN is a good Catholic website. But, it makes sense to go to other sources (Fox) who specialize in political news and other sources (Rush) who specialize in political commentary.
btw: Here’s a little piece of advice for you. If you keep feeding the sick puppy, he will keep throwing up on the carpet. It’s unwise to feed trolls.



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cathyf

posted April 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm


Odd, Chris, that you should try to link the lavender mafia with VOTF — my personal experience has been that they are at least “high church” if not all-out Lefebvre-ites. Other than the subset who joined the priesthood specifically to have a profession where they get to wear lacy petticoats in public, I’ve not observed that this represented any “true belief” in traditionalism on their part, though. More a matter of cynically manipulating the lay true believers in clericism to get access to their kids. Kids who had been well groomed by their parents already to do whatever Father wants without question. VOTF/CTA/etc. kids are way too likely to be hostile to priests by reflex to make for “good fishing.”



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Opinion

posted April 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm


“Remind me again, somebody, anybody why my loving, caring, faithful, monogamous, true partnership of over one-quarter century and legal marriage is a threat to anyone’s spiritual well being”
Doesn’t every sin diminish the Body of Christ? Doesn’t every public sin lead to the sin of bad example and scandal? Reminds me of the old canard I can do whatever I want as long as I am not hurting anyone. Wrong.



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Chris

posted April 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm


Here’s an article that may shed some light on the issue discussed above.
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cardinal_bertone_correct_in_linking_clerical_sex_abuse_and_homosexuality_says_psychiatrist/
In part, a psychiatrist who treats priest/abusers is quoted:
… AU.S. psychiatrist with experience in treating priests with pedophilia disagrees that there is no link between homosexuality and sexual abuse of children. “Cardinal Bertone’s comments are supported completely by the John Jay study report and by clinical experience,” Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons told CNA. “In fact, every priest whom I treated who was involved with children sexually had previously been involved in adult homosexual relationships.”
Fitzgibbons, who has been the director of Comprehensive Counseling Center in West Conshohocken, Penn. since 1988, has worked extensively with individuals suffering from same sex attraction (SSA) and priests accused of pedophilia. He also presently serves as a consultant to the Congregation for the Clergy at the Holy See.
In his 2002 “Letter to Catholic Bishops,” Fitzgibbons identified priests prone to sexual abuse as having suffered “profound emotional pain” during childhood due to loneliness, problems in their relationships with their fathers, rejection by their peers, lack of male confidence, and poor self image or body image. Fitzgibbons said that these experiences lead priests especially to direct their sadness and anger towards the Church, her teachings on sexual morality, and the Magisterium.
He also noted that priests who have engaged in sexual misconduct with minors suffer from a “denial of sin in their lives.” “They consistently refused to examine their consciences, to accept the Church’s teachings on moral issues as a guide for their personal actions, or regularly avail themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation. These priests either refused to seek spiritual direction or choose (sic) a spiritual director or confessor who openly rebelled against Church teachings on sexuality,” the letter said.



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Panthera

posted April 20, 2010 at 4:08 am


Opinion,
If our love were a sin, then, yes.
As it is not sinful, no.
This is the one and only reason I am not Catholic – the Catholic church is wrong on this. Just as she was on the geo-centric view.
I do appreciate you not screaming and shouting.
Chris,
Fitzgibbons is not acting as a scientist nor yet in accordance with any recognized medical board nor yet with the DSM (since revision II !).
Advancing his work as though it were that of the medical community is akin to my taking the statements of one of the many liberation Priests of the 1970s and early 80’s and pretending he spoke for B16.
If you want to argue that the Catholic church calls homosexuality a sin, then you are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Church.
If you want to argue that my loving relationship is considered a sin by the Catholic church, you may.
Doing so, however, places you on exactly the same grounds as were those Catholics who demanded Galileo recant the sol-centric view of the solar system.
God created our world. When the natural sciences bring us a small step further in understanding the wonder of this world He made for us, it is absurd to cling to false interpretations or viewpoints spoken by men who claim they speak for God.
There is no way for us to agree on this, and it doesn’t bother me in the least that you have these false views – I, personally, still believe that representative democracies and constitutional republics are the best form of government, so understand wishful thinking.
What does bother me is when you attempt to apply such false views to reality. This is when the human rights of gays, lesbians and transgender are violated. Worse, a thousand times worse, this is when the Catholic church fails to appreciate that simply removing gays from the clergy will do nothing to stop child abuse.
There is no connection between the crime of child abuse and sexual orientation.



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Your Name

posted April 20, 2010 at 7:20 am


Panthera wrote: If our love were a sin, then, yes.
As it is not sinful, no.
Well Panthera that is your opinion. In your eyes, homosexual behavior is not sinful. That is not the clear and consistent teaching of the Church. I can’t find any scriptural quote that would condone or approve it. I think most faith traditions would agree that homosexuals should be treated with dignity and respect as should all people.
Believing that something is not a sin does not make it so.



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Panthera

posted April 20, 2010 at 7:48 am


No, Your Name, it does not.
There is, however, the application of a healthy, educated conscience to the matter.
We have the clear, unequivocal statement of all certified psychiatrists, psychologists, medical boards, police unions, the FBI, and, not insignificantly both WHO and the NIH, all of which concur that homosexuality is neither a disorder nor a mental nor a physical illness. All concur that we are no threat to children (except for conservative Catholics, everybody, including the FBI states that the safest stranger to leave with your children in descending order of safety:
A dog. Any dog. Including pit bulls. (Safest by far)
A straight or lesbian woman. (safest human)
A gay man.
A straight man. (least safe human)
Those are the scientifically, medically established facts – even the American police organizations agree – not exactly a hoard of leftist-leaning-argula-munching liberal-fascist-Marxist-commie-lavender-mafiosi.
The Vatican itself states clearly that homosexual orientation qua orientation is not sinful. That is, for you Catholics, unbreakable, unarguable, settled for now and forever. I don’t understand why so many conservative Catholics who freak out totally about Vatican II relative to some minor sub-note on dead languages can turn around and be in open defiance of what JPII (also not exactly a progressive, liberationist Pope) has clearly established and B16 has not withdrawn.
Our one and only argument is and can be – assuming someone truly adheres to the Catholic church on this matter – whether my monogamous, faithful, committed, true marriage of many years (and partnership of more than one-quarter century) is sinful. If you really want to say yes, then you have to answer an enormous range of questions regarding your position on other “sins”.
Let’s begin with the question: Are all sins equally abhorrent to us as Christians? (I suppose, given the hatred of so many Catholics for gays, we should begin with the question, can a gay person be a Christian…except the JPII already said yes…but, never mind, let’s not let the facts get in our way.)
So, again – are all sins equally abhorrent? Or only those sins which we personally are not subject to.
Do I get to count my tithing 10% of my pre-tax income as good works or do I do it because my parents raised me that way? If I didn’t do it (and my brother, who fits the perfect Catholic definition of a non-sinful Christian 100%, does not) does that mean he is sinful or only splitting hairs? We are talking about tens of thousands of dollars here – does that matter?
Hmm, let’s go on. If all sins are equally abhorrent (and I believe they are, but am curious what you think) why, then all this insistence upon stripping me of my civil and human rights while still wearing mixed-fiber clothing? Why, when Jesus said nary a word about being gay, all these millions of dollars spent to strip me of my rights in California and Maine (and Washington, which also involves the Catholic church lying about their donations, but that is another matter)…and not one cent, not one penny spent on stripping the rights of those who divorce their spouses and then remarry? Jesus actually did have something to say about that and it wasn’t exactly: Marry till the fun (sex) gets stale or she gets terminal cancer (the Republican favorite) and then dump her and marry someone else.
At least, that is not in my Vulgate or KJ or Luther Bibles.
I have no problem with the position of the Catholic church on my marriage as long as she stays out of the political, secular world. The moment, however, she invests millions in stripping me of my rights – while knowingly shielding Priests who rape little boys and girls, enabling them to continue raping little boys and girls, then yup, you betcha, it is my good right to engage Catholics on the matter.
So – do all sins count, or only my monogamous marriage? And, if they do all count, then why the focus on stripping me of my rights while not saying a word about all these horrid cotton-poly blend lobster bibs?



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Greta

posted April 21, 2010 at 11:23 am


I note that Father goes to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is very good. What bothers me is how the left wants to use part of the Cathchism while ignoring other parts.
The Catechism has some very good teaching on homosexual acts and some solid teaching in the Catholic Church on who should be allowed to become a priest. After 40 years of error and the resulting grave abuse by allowing someone gravely disordered into the priesthood, seems like we should get back to following church teaching in all of the Catechism.
The fact that he posts on a site that supports abortion and homosexuality and doing so with such great acceptance shows that Father is not willing to stand up for all Church teaching, just those teaching that make the left comfortable.



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Dana MacKenzie

posted April 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Greta, are you serious? A priest should not write for/talk to people who support abortion and homosexuality?
They should only talk to “good Catholics” who are not sinners?
You got the whole message of Christ exactly backwards. He came to convert sinners, and that is what his priests are supposed to be doing, too. It’s what you and I are supposed to be doing.
Who have you converted, lately, with your outreach, your ability to see the human person God-created, before you, and look past his or her “category” to discuss the love of Christ?
Can’t think you’re winning any friends for Jesus if all you can do is look at Huffpo (admittedly not my favorite site) and see a bunch of sinners and heathens that should not be spoken to.
When you bring your thimble full of love to God, instead of a goblet full, I wonder what he will say?



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Panthera

posted April 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm


Dana,
You raise a very interesting point.
I have always felt it to be my duty as a Christian to try to bring others to experience the joy of Christ’s redemption for our sins.
Over the last years, actually since the 2000 elections, I have got the feeling that conservative Christians, while talking all about “saving souls” are doing all they can to drive gays away from our Lord.
Does it count for as much in our Lord’s eyes to say you succeeded in stripping gays of their few civil rights as to say you were able to bring someone to know the joy of Christ’s forgiveness, even though they remained (in your eyes) a sinner?



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