I don’t really want to comment on Bruce Jenner

But I feel morally obligated to correct a grave injustice by some of my fellow Catholics on this subject.

One error, more generally, is the politicization of Catholicism. Certain Catholics are distorting the Faith, making it seem as if what is most important to the Faith is identical to the current political and social controversies. Sometimes, they distort or ignore the teaching of Jesus, in order to oppose more strongly the other side in such a controversy. Certainly, the Church and the faithful should speak out against errors and harm in modern society. But political and social commentary is not the main task of the Church or the faithful. We evangelize the world mainly by spreading the fundamental message of the Faith: the love of God above all else and the love of neighbor as self.

The specific errors I see on the topic of Bruce Jenner and his transition to the female gender are a lack of love of neighbor and the judging persons (as opposed to judging acts). Some Catholics are expressing contempt and making malicious remarks about Jenner, with no regard for the teaching of Christ. They are not merely opposing his choices and ideas. They are unjustly condemning him as a person.

Patrick Archbold wrote a post entitled: “Bruce Jenner Is A Monster“. Pat Archbold calls Jenner “a sick and twisted individual” and he presumes to know that the intentions of Jenner are “to shove his perversion in our faces with the goal and result of normalizing his monstrous and soul destroying immorality in the minds and hearts of our children.” Those are some hateful words, condemning the person, not the act. Archbold is ignoring and contradicting the teaching of Jesus:

[Luke]
{6:35} So truly, love your enemies. Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return. And then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and to the wicked.
{6:36} Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful.
{6:37} Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
{6:38} Give, and it will be given to you: a good measure, pressed down and shaken together and overflowing, they will place upon your lap. Certainly, the same measure that you use to measure out, will be used to measure back to you again.”

Yes, we can judge acts. If Alice robs a bank, I will say bank robbery is wrong. But I will not say hateful things about Alice, nor presume that her motives in bank robbery are to destroy society (or some other exaggerated claim).

I believe what the Church teaches on matters of faith, morals, and salvation. And I spread that teaching by my writings. But I don’t set myself up as judge of persons or souls.

Archbold goes to far as to imply that Jenner is not in a state of grace and will go to Hell if he does not repent. But I think that Jenner is a lost soul, who has his share of faults and failings, and who is under excessive influence by sinful secular society. He might be in a state of grace by invincible ignorance. Invincible ignorance occurs when a human person who strives to do good and avoid evil nevertheless commits an objectively sinful act without realizing it is sinful. I am not judging Jenner either way: neither to condemn, nor to justify his soul. For I do not presume to judge him.

A more subtle unfair attack on Jenner is found at Crisis Magazine, in the article Making Wise Medical Decisions is Not Bruce Jenner’s Forte. The author, Joseph Schaeffer, rightly criticizes the drug company Merck for waiting too long to warn people about their drug Vioxx’s side effects of increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke, and waiting too long to pull the drug from the market. Jenner was one of the celebrity spokespersons for the drug. Schaeffer tries to lay some of the responsibility for the deaths caused by Vioxx at the feet of Jenner: “one can see from this sordid affair that Jenner has prior experience being the face of a grotesque deception perpetrated on the American people.” But most of his long discussion on Vioxx only shows that the company Merck was responsible and that the FDA was slow to act. He fails to prove that Jenner is responsible.

And I have the impression from the article that this criticism of Jenner is a way to make a personal attack on him, due to his public promotion of transgenderism. Other celebrity spokespersons for Vioxx are only mentioned in passing, and without the same animosity. It is not reasonable to expect a celebrity spokesperson for an FDA-approved drug to know and weigh the side effects of the medication. The whole article has a nasty tone that shows no regard for the mercy and love taught by Christ Jesus. Why does Crisis Magazine publish this type of material? Do the editors really think that this type of article is fit for a Catholic publication?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a good section on homosexuality. And while transgenderism is not explicitly mentioned, the same principles apply:

“2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

Transgender persons have an objective disorder, which for most of them is a trial. They must be treated with respect, compassion, sensitivity, mercy, and the love of neighbor. We must be careful not to engage in unjust discrimination. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. We disagree with the morality and prudence of their choices. But the common saying applies to them as to all of us: hate the sin; love the sinner.

My fellow Catholics, remove the plank from your own eye, then you will see clearly to help remove the plank from your neighbor’s eye. Many Catholics commit objective mortal sins themselves, without repentance or confession.

I find it quite regrettable that discussions online among Catholics seem to revolve around whatever issues society and the media think are most important. We are in danger of losing sight of the highest values: love, faith, and hope. Certainly, all that is immoral is truly contrary to the love of God and neighbor. But an excess focus on a list of sins to be condemned is counter-productive. We must live by both the positive precepts and the negative precepts (You shall… and You shall not…). Love and Mercy are the preeminent precepts, far above the condemnation of any grave sin. For love endures forever, while all sins will pass away and be nearly forgotten.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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4 Responses to I don’t really want to comment on Bruce Jenner

  1. Terri (@didyouyarnthat) says:

    Amen!!!

  2. Michael says:

    That’s a very good post. I think it’s the message that Pope Francis has been trying to convey and it would do humanity good to listen.

  3. Michael says:

    I have a question on this situation. How should Catholics reference transgendered? In other words, if someone presents themselves as transgendered should we refer to them in their chosen gender or their biological one?

    • Ron Conte says:

      It’s not a problem to reference them the way that they wish to be referenced. For example, we can call Bruce Jenner “Caitlyn” and we can use the feminine pronouns. In theological articles, we have to be clear about the difference between the biological and chosen genders. But in common parlance, we can call them what they prefer to be called.

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