Sorry, couldn't resist using everyone's favorite headline when criticizing the bishops on one of their critics.
Last night, after admitting the point I raise below, Sullivan writes:
And I dare say that most serious moral theologians (not to mention simple human beings) would regard the rape of a minor as a somewhat worse offense that a sincere attempt to re-marry after a failed first attempt. Not, apparently the Pope, in whom there is plenty else to admire.
No, the Pope never said that the sins in question are worse than the rape of a minor. He only said that it doesn't make sense to give absolution when the "penitent" plans to continue sinning. It has nothing to do with the relative severity of the sins.
It really bugs me that Sullivan, a man who professes to love the Church, twists the Pope's words around to make him look bad. Sullivan knows his criticism is unfair, yet he persists in making it anyway. A non-Catholic or ill-informed Catholic reader would leave Sullivan's page thinking that the Pope regards remarriage or consensual gay sex in a committed relationship as worse sins that molestation. And this just isn't the case, and I don't see how leaving people with this false impression helps anybody.
I also take issue with Sullivan's assignment of this doctrine to the Pope. John Paul II didn't invent this teaching -- it's been part of the Church tradition for centuries. To read Sullivan, you'd think the Pope created this new teaching in a special effort to punish gays and divorcees.
There's plenty to criticize about the Church's leadership, but let's play fair. JP II didn't even mention gay sex or remarriage in his letter, and Sullivan's efforts to use it to make him look bad don't help anyone.