GUEST COLUMN
Are You Compassionate?

September 2005By Abbot Joseph

Abbot Joseph, a monk for 22 years, has for the past five years been the Abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, a Byzantine-rite monastery in the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

I have nothing but compassion for people who misuse the term "compassion." This does not mean that I tolerate such misuse in the least, as you will see. One of the most beautiful divine qualities, in which we are invited to share -- "Be compassionate as my Father is compassionate" (Lk. 6:36) -- is all too often twisted into something that is tantamount to offering people a license to sin. "Compassion," in modern parlance, means something like universal tolerance with a dose of sentimentality, which turns a blind eye to evil. In the Byzantine tradition, Christ is often called "The Lover of Mankind" and "The Compassionate One." But He is never referred to as "The Tolerant One," and with good reason.

There are different ways to express compassion, based on the need of those to whom we show mercy. To show compassion to the hungry is to give them food; to show compassion to the homeless and unemployed is to help them find housing and work. If you wish to be compassionate to the sick or elderly, comfort and assist them. But if you want to be like Jesus in showing compassion to sinners, invite them to repent.

Christ came into the world to save sinners. He didn't come to make sinners feel good about themselves or to instruct us on how to blur the distinction between good and evil, based on current trends or personal preference. Some people attempt to justify their (or society's) wrongdoing by saying, for example, that Jesus refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery and that He spent much of His time eating and drinking with sinners. They don't seem to be willing or able to understand why He did that.

Jesus' words to the adulterous woman, "Neither do I condemn you" (Jn. 8:11), are filled with forgiveness, not tolerance. She knew her own sin, and He knew that she did, whereas the would-be stone-throwers weren't reflecting upon theirs. So Jesus had to deal with them first. But after He forgave the woman, notice that Jesus did not say, "Go, follow your feelings, celebrate diversity, and try not to hurt anyone." He said, "Go, and sin no more." To the paralytic, He added a further warning: "Sin no more, lest something worse befall you" (Jn. 5:14). Compassion does not equal tolerance, especially where sin is concerned. If compassion, like genuine love, is not rooted in truth, it is at best misguided emotion, and at worst a refusal to enlighten a soul in danger of damnation.


You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.



Back to September 2005 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
I will pray a rosary for your brother and all good priests who face temptation. God bless you for loving your brother so much and for NOR for reprinting this article at such a critical time. Posted by: tomoxford
October 08, 2007 12:59 PM EDT
Whomever is responsible for reprinting this article did not reprint it of their own volition. No, I can guarantee that the person who decided to reprint this article to appear today was moved by the Holy Spirit to do so, for it was critical that this article appear today.

Yesterday, my brother, a Roman Catholic priest, who is struggling with same sex attractions, sent me an email entitled, "Keep a look out for this film ~ "For the Bible Tells Me So"."

I clicked on the link and was horrified to see that this film is about reconciling homosexuality with the Bible and maligning orthodox Roman Catholic teaching and tradition regarding the disorder of homosexuality.

I realized at once that my brother was at such a level of desperation that he was wavering in the fight against the devil and was at the point of capitulation. That he was ready to reconcile with his disorder and start believing in lies in order to feel better about himself. I did not know what to do or what to say to him. Obgviously, I can not stand by and let him deceive himself into damnation, but what do I say!? What do I do!? This has been the center of my thoughts ever since I read that email. Then, this morning, I open my email and get to my NOR online subscription, and find this article, which is most definitely the answer to my need and to my brothers need. It is incredible...how the Holy Spirit works....how the Love of God gives us what we need when we need it.

Thank you to the person who decided to rewrite this article today!
Posted by: gespin3549
October 08, 2007 10:25 AM EDT
Most excellent, Abbot Joseph! Would that this piece be required reading in priesthood and diaconate training programs in the US---NO, in the world! Posted by: Pozzi
February 20, 2008 09:03 AM EST
I have a brother, who at 65 after many years as a priest, left the priesthood. He joined the order right after High School and spent most of his life in missionary work. Fortunately, he was laitizised (spell) and lives as a lay Catholic in good standing with the church. However, one of the major reasons for leaving the order was because of the prevalence of homosexuality.

Today, I read about the comments of the newly appointed head of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany regarding celebacy in the priesthood. He feels it is not theologically necessary for the priesthood. It is confusing enough in this materialistic world to get liberal ideas of how to change the church from professors and theologians. The Bishop's role, in my view, is to teach and lead, not pipe dream about changes contrary to Church teaching. If the Bishops did their job, maybe priests would have less trouble dealing with their afflictions and would more easily find solace and help.
Posted by: wunsch
February 20, 2008 02:22 PM EST
Add a comment