Divine Grace Always Requires Honesty

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who is also the Relator General of the Synod on Synodality, recently said that the Church should change its teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual relations. He asserted that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is a mistake that needs to be changed, or at least updated. He basically rejected the scriptural basis of this age-old teaching by saying, “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation is no longer correct.”

Speaking on the clergy sexual abuse scandal, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich also said that the Church should end its discipline of clerical celibacy. According to him, “priestly celibacy is precarious …It is better for everyone to create the possibility of having both celibate and married priests.”

There is a common fallacy in these two statements from these successors of the Apostles. They think that changing Church teaching and disciplines would somehow lead to a more faithful and less scandalous Church. They erroneously imagine that we would be more joyful and faithful if only we were allowed to choose what is evil and then set the standards according to our taste.  Cardinal Hollerich is teaching that it is no longer enough for us to accept and love those who engage in homosexual activities but we must now change what we believe and accept homosexual relations and acts as something good, true, and beautiful.

Last I heard it was not Church teaching or discipline that molested young boys and seminarians, covered it up, protected the wicked perpetrators, and even ordained these homosexual predators to the episcopate. When such clergy and their likes posit a married priesthood as a remedy for the clergy sexual abuse scandal, are they inferring that the married state is exempt from its own sins and scandals? What about the hundreds of canonized saints who lived celibate priestly lives? Are their examples useless to us priests today? The truth that these clergy just cannot see is that authentic Church teaching and disciplines has never and will never be responsible for sin and scandal in the Church.

In truth, one reason why we have scandals in the Church is because we are not honest with God as God is honest with us. God always reveals Himself truthfully, including His love for us and how we are to respond to that love. One the other hand, we tend to hide the whole truth from Him in many ways, to the point that we eventually hide it from ourselves.  

God revealed His holiness and glory to Isaiah. Even the attendant seraphim cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord, all the earth is full of His glory.” The prophet receives this divine revelation and responds by revealing the truth about his sinfulness and those of his fellow compatriots, “Woe is me, I am doomed. For I am a man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips.”

Once he honestly reveals himself, God cleanses him from his sins, “See, now that this (ember) has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged.” God also empowers him to be faithful in his mission. When God asks whom to send, the prophet is now ready and available for God, “Here I am. Send me.”(See Is 6:1-2,3-8) The freedom from the bondage of sin, and the strength and availability for mission all come from this honesty before God.

Jesus freely chose to reveal Himself to Peter by entering into his boat and not the other boat, “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon.” Peter responds by revealing the truth about his past failures and frustrations in fishing, “Master, we have worked hard all night but caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” After the catch of fish, Peter also revealed the truth of his own sinfulness, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Jesus sees his honesty and confirms him, “From now on, you will be catching men.” From now on, i.e. from the moment that Peter chooses to be honest and transparent with Jesus, Jesus assures him that he will be faithful to his mission despite his sinfulness.

Peter will be faithful to his mission not because Jesus will change His demands or teachings but because of the reality of divine mercy and grace. When we too strive to be honest with God as He is honest with us, He forgives us, and cleanses our sins, and gives us graces to be faithful to Him. This is exactly what St. John assured us:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we (honestly) confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. If we say, we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”(1Jn 1:8-10)

We find in St. Paul a living example of the power of divine grace in an honest man. He accepts and communicates the fullness of divine revelation in the love of Jesus Christ, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” If we believe that He died for our sins, how then can we say that we do not have sins or that a particular sin is not a big deal anymore based on scientific and sociological advancements? If He died for our sins, how dare we presume that we can decide for ourselves what is sin and what is not sin?

St. Paul is also honest about his own sinful past, “For I am the least of the Apostles, not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” He also speaks of the power of grace in him to be faithful in his labors for God, “By the grace of God I am what I am and His grace to me has not been ineffective…I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.” (See 1Cor 15:1-11) This is the unwavering fidelity that we have when divine grace meets complete honesty and transparency in us and overcomes sin, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”(Rom 5:20)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all sinners. Let us be honest about that. We sinned in the past, we sin now and, without the aid of grace and divine mercy to uphold us, we will sin woefully in the future. Nevertheless, we are still being called by a holy and powerful God to belong to Him, to share in His holiness, to serve Him, and to be witnesses to Him before others. Jesus summarized it this way, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Lk 5:32)

We seem to have further degenerated from a Church that covers its sins and scandals to one that now tries to cover over the demanding words of divine revelation. We are buying into the subjective mentality that thinks that we can decide what is sinful and what is not and change what is uncomfortable and demanding to us. By trying to do so, we are only “making Jesus a liar and His truth is not in us.” When His truth is not in us, His grace will be ineffective in us. When His grace is ineffective in us, we are hopeless and depressed slaves of sin in all its deviant forms.

It is not the duty of the Church to change the contents of divine revelation because such teaching and disciplines do not agree with the latest advances in the sciences. The Church is to proclaim the truth of Christ and make present the graces of Christ that we all need to be faithful to what we proclaim. The Church is to help us live as children of God whose deepest identity is our status as God’s beloved children and not hopeless slaves of homosexual tendencies.

Let us strive to be honest with God as He is honest with us. Let us be honest with Him regarding His words without trying to change it or adapt it to our taste. Let us be honest with Him about our sinful past and present struggles with sinful thoughts, words, actions, desires, etc. Let us be honest about our attachment to our sinful habits and pleasures. Let us be honest about our past failures and frustrations. Let us be honest about our desire to change and to become more faithful to Him. Let us be honest about our inability to be faithful to Him on our own without His mercy and grace.

Our Eucharist is a communion with the Holy and powerful God who never ceases to reveal the truth about Himself to us. As we become more honest and transparent with Him as He is with us, His mercy will surely cleanse us and His grace will make us faithful and not scandalous, even as we struggle with sin in our lives.  

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

Photo by Fr. Daniel Ciucci on Unsplash

Avatar photo


Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage