A Tragic Story of a Senator and His “Gay” Son

Senator Rob Portman, a Christian from Ohio, recently submitted an editorial announcing, “I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples”. He now supports it. This is shocking news from a Republican in the senate “who could be one of the most conservative members of that chamber” according to the Christian Coalition of America. What made him change his mind? “Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay.”

Such an announcement is excruciatingly painful for any parent but it is especially troublesome for Christian parents whose faith absolutely condemns homosexual behavior as gravely sinful. Senator Portman admits that he “wrestled with” reconciling his Christian faith with his decision to approve of homosexual behavior. His vague rationale has become all too cliché: “Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”

Such a simplified justification for flip-flopping on a moral doctrine is far too common today and Christians should know better. It is simply badtheology. It is true that Jesus taught his followers to love one another. In fact, loving one another is the second greatest commandment, second only to loving God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-39). Unfortunately, Christians like Senator Portman fail to understand what this love that Jesus commanded actually looks like.

The word “love” in the passage cited above is translated both times from the Greek word agapao which denotes love that is concerned primarily with our relationships with God as well as with each other’s relationships with God. When it comes to loving another person, this type of love desires the other’s salvation and takes effective steps to help ensure it. This type of love may be contrasted with philon, a type of love more concerned with friendship with one another than it is with each other’s friendship with God. (For a fuller treatment of the various types of love, see What is Authentic Christian Love?)

The so-called “love and compassion” that Senator Portman and others often accentuate is not the agapao type of love that Jesus commanded. Rather, it is the philon type of love about which Jesus said, “he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37). Senator Portman has apparently made his own friendly relationship with his son a priority ahead of what is truly good for Will.

Will Portman has now become a victim twice. First, he is a victim of Adam, as are we all, in that he suffers from attraction to sin, a consequence of original sin. But now he also is a victim of his own father who has chosen to coddle him in immoral behavior rather than to follow St. Paul’s teaching to “shun immorality” (1 Cor 6:18), a gesture that would be a truly loving action in the interest of Will’s salvation. This should be of great concern to Senator Portman for in Jesus’ words, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:6).

Let us pray for both father and son.

The Seven Signs

Seven Sacraments

A textbook used for confirmation preparation in a parish in California teaches students that the sacrament of confirmation “only came into existence in the third century” and that “there was no sacrament of penance in the early church”. I suppose such sacramental ignorance is not surprising given that a deacon who instructs catechists in the same diocese teaches that at one time there were only two sacraments and, at another time, twenty two.

The Church teaches very clearly that the seven sacraments administered by the Church today were instituted by Christ. Those seven “outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace” have been administered by the Church since the first century. There was never a time in Church history when there were twenty two sacraments nor was there ever a time when there were only two.

It could be that there was a time when the term sacrament was used so broadly that it referred to twenty two more generally defined signs, but only seven of those signs would have actually been sacraments as the term is used today. It could also be that there was a time when the term sacrament was used so narrowly that it referred to only two of the actual sacraments but that does not mean that the other five sacraments did not also exist referenced by different terminology.

The following quotations are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church(paragraph numbers in parentheses):

The Sacraments (1210):

Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life.

Baptism (1226):

From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans. Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative continues, the jailer “was baptized at once, with all his family.”

Confirmation (1288):

From [Pentecost] on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

Eucharist (1323):

At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet “in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”

Penance (1446):

Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as “the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.”

Anointing of the Sick (1510):

 However, the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments.

Holy Orders (1555):

Amongst those various offices which have been exercised in the Church from the earliest times the chief place, according to the witness of tradition, is held by the function of those who, through their appointment to the dignity and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue consequently of the unbroken succession going back to the beginning, are regarded as transmitters of the apostolic line.

Matrimony (1601):

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

The Jury is Out

I recently received a jury summons in the mail. As a citizen of the United States, serving on a jury is a civic duty. U.S. Code Title 28, Part V, Chapter 121 § 1861 states that all citizens have “an obligation to serve as jurors when summoned for that purpose”.

Commonly, the role of a juror is to decide whether or not a defendant’s conduct has been acceptable under the law. In other words, a juror must judge a defendant’s behavior. Every citizen has the obligation to do this. While many people may find excuses to get out of jury duty, everyone recognizes the necessity of jurors judging their peers’ behavior according to the law of the land.

Of course, there is a higher law than the civil law handed on by legislators: God’s law handed on by the Church. Civil law is primarily concerned with temporal matters, God’s law with the eternal. This being the case, since it is important to judge behavior under civil law, it must be immeasurably more important to judge behavior under God’s law. Why is it then, when it comes to the eternally significant laws of God, that so many Christians—even Catholics—shirk their responsibilities?

There is a nonsensical disconnect in this. People judge their peers’ behavior under civil law where a defendant’s temporal freedoms may be curtailed but when it comes to the potential loss of eternal life—what really matters most—they refuse to judge. (Actually, they unwittinglyjudge that the behavior of judging behavior is wrong!)

For example, during a recent exchange concerning homosexuality, I was berated by a Catholic woman who supported her cousin’s same-sex relationship. I judged, as the Church does, that her cousin’s behavior was immoral and that it should not be supported. I was labeled a bigot and a hater. She wrote, “I believe in God’s desire for us not to judge other people, but to accept them for what they are and love them all”. What a tragedy. Her cousin needed someone to tell her the truth, not coddle her in her destructive behavior! She needed fraternal correction; Christian love (i.e., charity) actually demanded it.


Now, I’m not suggesting that we judge another’sculpability in eternal matters as we do in temporal matters – that is God’s domain. But should we not judge the objective morality of our neighbor’s behavior for his own good and the good of others? I addressed this question from a biblical perspective in a magazine article I wrote some time ago. I invite you to read it and judge for yourself: Judge Not?