For there is really only one concept that ties everything we see together into a coherent whole. Look around you. What do you see?
You see that Uncle Jack is an alcoholic. You see Bob cheating on his wife. You see Nancy constantly nagging at her husband. You see Fred ignoring his family. You see Joe on the internet day and night. You see Amy sleeping around all the time. You see Bruce claiming to be "gay" but seeming quite morose. You see Bill angry at everybody, always. You see Cindy betraying her friends.
And so on.
Is there any one thing that explains all of this - all of this persistent bad behavior, which causes suffering and is born of suffering? Yes, it can all be explained by a single word, a word that only one voice uses consistently. The voice is the Catholic Church and the single word is SIN.
The plain fact of the matter is that even if you refuse to look at the question of how we came to be, of why we have a desire in our hearts to worship, of the mystery of the man named Christ - even if you close your eyes to all of these things, you cannot get through life without SIN. You cannot ignore the fact that no psychology explains things the way this little word does; no philosophy can take a shot at morals or ethics without grappling with this tiny word; no self-improvement scheme or social engineering can come close to matching the plain and ugly truth of this most simple of concepts.
"The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). When we sin we spread a kind of death, in our own hearts and in the world. Abuse victims abuse others. Co-dependents enable sin and are enabled in sin. Liars enjoy the benefits of their lies, but are forced to live in a world of their own making, a world without truth.
God tells us, early on in Salvation History, what is and is not SIN. Ever since then we find ways of ignoring Him, of denying Him, of explaining away this little word, which is our "precious".
Take the examples above. No one thinks he's sinning, and yet everyone is a slave to sin. Uncle Jack crawls into the bottle for relief. Bob's mistress understands him better than his wife does. Nancy's husband is lazy, so she has to nag. Fred is working 100 hours a week to buy nice gadgets for the family he is ignoring in the process. Joe is a hero in virtual reality, but a goat in actual reality. Amy just wants somebody to care. Bruce wants to die and blame you for it. Bill is selfish. Cindy is bored and scared of what might happen if she lets her guard down.
No one is sinning, but everyone sins. No one is guilty, but everyone is hurting everyone else. It's always the other guy's fault, and nobody ever seems to be the other guy.
This is exactly what the world would look like if the message of Scripture and the infallible teaching of the Body of Christ were true; if man were fallen and in need of a redeemer, this is what the world around us would look like. And this is what it looks like. The key that we get from Divine Revelation is a key that - much to our surprise - unlocks every lock. It is all explained by SIN, and if it all explained by SIN, then the rest of it falls into place: for sin makes sense only if we were made for something better than this, for a kind of beatitude. Sin only makes sense if man is designed and if life has meaning; sin only makes sense if we are blinding ourselves to our innate purpose and refusing to accept the point of life that's been handed to us. Sin is only comprehensible as a silhouette of God, the blank space in our lives that we embrace when we leave God out.
Let us take one very common example. Let's say you point out to a friend that sodomy is wrong, and that when a man gives his entire life and most of his energy to sticking his penis into another man's anus or mouth or orifice of choosing - or having another man do that to him - said man will be miserable. He will "spread a kind of death, in his own heart and in the world" - for this is not why he was made; this is not where joy or even happiness lie. And a moment's honest reflection will reveal this.
Dare to say that and you will be de-friended as a bigot. "The Catholic Church may be right on everything else, but it is clearly wrong on this!" you will be told.
As my wife said to me many years ago, "I will be anything but Catholic!" Why? "Because the Catholic Church hates and persecutes homosexuals," she said.
I simply read to her three of the most profound paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I read ...
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.***
A few hundred words at most, and yet the most straight-forward and caring assessment not only of the "gay" thing, but of all sin, really.
For we all sin thinking we'll be "gay", in the original sense of that word. And yet we all become "gay" in the current sense of that word - self-serving, narcissistic, twisted - we all become Gollum when we sin. But Gollum thinks of himself as "gay" - as do we all think of our own miserable selves.
And yet, in the quiet of the night and in the turbulence of our hearts, we know the truth. We know how shallow our "gay old times" really are. We know how miserable we make ourselves. We don't want to give up, we want to keep pushing, we want to keep insisting that sex, drugs and rock-n-roll are the key to everything, and that if we could just have our way all the way all the time, everything would work out fine.
And we live and die as slaves to sin.