Loving the Sinner, Hating the Sin

Baby steps.

That was my reaction to the Easter weekend comments of Cardinal Dolan, the affable Archbishop of New York, about gays and the Church. Responding to a question about how he would respond to a loving same-sex couple, Dolan replied,

Well, the first thing I'd say to them is, 'I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God's image and likeness. And -- and we -- we want your happiness. But -- and you're entitled to friendship. But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that -- especially when it comes to sexual love -- that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.

Dolan went on to say that the Church must "do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven't been too good at that."

He's got that one right.

I give the man credit for taking a more positive and welcoming tone, and sincerely hope that his fellow Christians take note. At the same time, it's a sign of how low the bar is set when comments like Dolan's inspire such interest and excitement. For example, Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of the gay Catholic group New Ways Ministry, called Dolan's remarks "nothing short of an Easter miracle."

Really? Rising from the dead is an Easter miracle. Marshmallow Peeps are an Easter miracle. (You can put them in your pantry for a decade, and they won't decay. It's true.) But a Christian leader saying "Hey, maybe we shouldn't attack gay people"? That's just common decency, not to mention good strategy -- especially in a world where a majority of American Catholics support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

What worries me is that Dolan's remarks seem to be a kinder, gentler face on the same old "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" line. It's hard to argue with the "Love" part, naturally. But the sharp distinction between who we are and what we do -- the "sinner" and the "sin" -- doesn't hold up when we're talking about the fundamental relationships around which we organize our lives: our "significant others," to use a tired but illuminating phrase. Dolan's assurance that we're "entitled to friendship" seems a rather tepid consolation prize.

I explain my problem with "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" in the first of a series of 11 new short videos that I'll be sharing here over the next couple of weeks. The videos grew out of my new book, What's Wrong with Homosexuality?, and they counter common arguments against same-sex relationships in a concise, accessible, and occasionally funny manner.

The videos and book appear at a time when the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are weighing arguments for and against marriage equality. Whatever happens at the Court, one thing is clear: Many Americans (including some justices and most archbishops) still believe that there's something wrong with being gay. In order to secure equality for all -- as well as to protect vulnerable LGBT youth -- it is important to counter such beliefs thoughtfully and forcefully.