Pope Francis Preaches on Sin and Shame

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 9, 2017   

Says shame for sin "opens the doors to healing"

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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a homily at Mass on Friday, Pope Francis exhorted the faithful to remember their sins and be ashamed.

He declared, "No one can say, 'I'm right' or 'I'm not like him or her.' I'm a sinner, I'd say it's almost the first name we all have – sinners." 

The Holy Father also spoke about shame as a necessary and God-given tool for overcoming our sinfulness. He noted that shame, properly understood, is a wonderful gift, which "opens the door to healing" by showing us our faults and impelling us to implore God's mercy and amend our lives.

Friday's sermon echoed things he has said in the past. In March this year, Pope Francis condemned those who lack remorse for sins and called a proper sense of shame "a grace which we cannot attain by ourselves."

The pope was also careful on Friday to distinguish a healthy, helpful sense of shame, which can lead to sincere contrition and firm purpose of amendment, from mere depression or poor mental health, which often leads to a sense of loneliness and despair. 

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This distinction, between healthy shame for sin and shame as psychological complex, is as big as the difference between the repentance of St. Peter and the suicide of Judas Iscariot.

The distinction is one which Fr. James Martin and his supporters do not seem to grasp. One recent article in defense of Fr. Martin accused us at Church Militant of "Toxic Shame and Sin-Talk."

The post on the Catholic Moral Theology blog conflates condemnation of sin with rejection of the person. It presupposes that someone with same-sex attraction is repressing his true self unless he acts out on his urges, thus wrapping his sense of identity and self-worth around his emotional wounds and sexual attractions. 

The piece claims that there is evidence against reparative therapy for those with unwanted same-sex desires but the linked study only shows that children whose parents reject them for being gay are more likely to experience depression and attempt suicide. It brings up no concrete evidence, regarding reparative therapy itself.

Supporters of gay reparative therapy argue that the therapy is not a way of shaming or rejecting people with same-sex attraction, as it actually helps them confront the psychologically disordered sense of shame which is often closely intertwined with their homosexual desires.

The now-deceased reparative therapy expert, Joseph Nicolosi, discussed this in a 2010 talk entitled "The Shame-Based Self-Statement." He began the talk by saying, "We tell the client on the very first session, 'Your problem is not your homosexuality, your problem is your shame. If you can get your shame out of the way, you will move on to heterosexuality.'"


Nicolosi said later on in the lecture, "Your enemy is not your homosexuality. Your enemy is your shame."

This type of shame that Nicolosi is referring to is a low self-esteem or feeling unloved, clearly distinct from the shame for sin which Pope Francis praises as the means to repentance and conversion.


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