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February 25, 2013

A society that does not admit the existence of God will not, of course, recognize offences against God. It will not admit the existence of sin.

So, when the Church raises its voice against widespread evils – whether they be social injustices or personal sins – the Church is not seen as prophetic. It is viewed, rather, as a perpetrator of hate. For if there is no recognition of sin, any denunciation of moral evil can only be interpreted as a denunciation of the person who performs the action that is evil.

This denunciation of the Church as a perpetrator of hate is becoming most evident when it speaks against phenomena such as same-sex marriage. Such "marriages" have had the spectre of social disapproval completely removed. If society gives its nod of approval to such relationships, what can be said of those who continue to say these relationships are immoral and the legal sanction given to them distorts the true nature of marriage? Society will say that those traditionalists are promoting hatred.

In his 1984 statement on Reconciliation and Penance, Blessed John Paul II wrote at some length on the loss of the sense of sin in today's world. One major cause of that loss is secularism – "a humanism totally without God." In the secular view, sin is at most that which offends other people.

The human person, however, cannot be understood without seeing him or her in relation to God. We are God's creatures, made in the image and likeness of God. It is in Jesus Christ, God incarnate, that the mystery of the human person is fully revealed.

To proclaim that message is not to proclaim hatred, but rather to proclaim truth, the truth that sets us free. However, to acknowledge that there is one God and that he is made human in Jesus Christ is not something that is true only for me. It is an objective truth, one that has implications. Any offence against God ends up deforming the one who committed the offence.

So, when the Church points out the existence of such offences, it is performing an act of mercy, not hatred. It is calling people to leave behind half-truths about the human person and to walk in the fullness of truth.

When Pope John Paul wrote, "The restoration of a proper sense of sin is the first way of facing the grave spiritual crisis looming over man today" (RP 18), he was stating a simple truth. Before we can become free, we must acknowledge our sins.

Acknowledging one's sin is never easy. It is much easier to point the finger back at the one who names the sin and say that he or she is promoting hatred. Given the current trend to deny God, we can expect accusations that the Church is promoting hatred to increase. Such accusations are false. However, the accusers will not easily recognize the falsehood they promote.