Well, that should seem obvious, shouldn't it? If we lived in a sane world, it would be. But we don't live in a sane world.
I've been thinking about this because of what happened last week in Miami with Fr Alberto Cutie. Unless you've been on a fishing trip with no outside communication, you know that this priest who had been photographed frolicking on the beach with his girlfriend left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopal Church. Last Sunday--the feast of Pentecost--he gave his first sermon in the Episcopal Church. According to one news report he said something to the effect that the Church is all about forgiveness. I guess he forgot that repentance and conversion are supposed to come before forgiveness. Otherwise it's what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace."
If we lived in a sane world, Cutie would be off in a monastery somewhere doing penance after the revelation of his 2-year affair with this woman. Instead, he got himself a pulpit and a church full of supporters who applauded him. He could have asked to be laicized in order to be married. The Church allows for these cases. Instead, he renounced his Catholic faith. There is something wrong with this picture!
I'm not blogging about this to criticize him, but because scandals like this can disturb the faithful people who live their baptism by striving to avoid sin and practice virtue. They do this even when it costs them a lot in terms of sacrifice and self-denial. Then they see a priest do what Cutie did, and they can be tempted to think "what's the point?" of trying to live a Christian life.
These scandals can make us go back to Christian Life 101: avoid sin. Jesus started his ministry by preaching to people that they give up sin and be converted. Nothing keeps us from God except sin. We can fool ourselves that we can lead spiritual lives and keep up some habit of sin that we like. Today, with relativism all around us, it's easy to find a justification for anything. But that doesn't change the reality that sin keeps us from God. To grow in the spiritual life, we need to give up deliberate sin. It's a struggle and it doesn't happen all at once. As long as we never give up and live in a continual conversion, we're on our way to God.