I was just reading a Pastoral Letter that I got this weekend, and it seems appropriate as we’re discussing loving the sinner, not the sin, so I’m going to tell you briefly what was written.
In it the Cardinal says that central to the work of the Synod was the desire to strengthen and reinvigorate the pastoral practice of the Church. He says that while individuals may not be keeping to the pattern the Lord asks of us, their lives are often marked by real goodness. He says that two things were very clear. The first is that we should never identify people by their sexual orientation. Every person is endowed with unique dignity, both as an individual and as a Christian. This dignity is always, always to be respected. Secondly, it is the teaching of the Church that they are not only to be respected but also always accepted, with compassion and with sensitivity (Catechism 2358). This teaching has to be translated into loving care, in our daily life in the Church, in our parishes, and indeed in society.
He says that Pope Francis went a little further. He spoke of ‘the Church composed of sinners… that has doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent and not only the just.’ He spoke about the duty of the pastors always to welcome into the Church those in difficult situations or in trouble. He said that pastors were not simply to welcome them but to go out and find them, just as the Good Shepherd did for those who had drifted away. This is essentially what he said though I’ve condensed it.
I don’t like the word empathy too much… I prefer love. Loving our neighbour as ourselves… including our enemies, which can be tough.
The problem with the non-religious isn’t that the people aren’t good people in themselves, it’s that there’s something missing. Jesus tells us to love God first and foremost, and to love neighbour as ourselves. Good people outside of faith can only achieve the second. Some people inside the Church only achieve the first… but ultimately we need to do both.