Radical inclusion leads to moral confusion

Cardinal McElroy appears to believe that the Church for 2,000 years has exaggerated the importance of her sexual moral teaching, and that radical inclusion supersedes doctrinal fidelity. In my opinion, this is a most serious and dangerous error.

(Images: Hand: Nadine Shaabana; rainbow graphic: Jasmin Sessler | Unsplash.com)

I came of age in the 1960s. It was an era of civil unrest, race riots, anti-war protests, and the sexual revolution. One of the popular bumper stickers at the time stated: Question Everything.

These societal events coincided with the sessions of the Second Vatican Council and its early implementation. The Council brought beautiful and much needed renewal to many aspects of Catholic life. Sadly, there was also a serious misinterpretation of the Council that fostered moral confusion. The poisonous ideas of the sexual revolution crept into the Church.

A great cultural myth was propagated that one could not be happy or fulfilled unless you were sexually active. The rate of divorce rose dramatically within the society and the Church. Traditional sexual morals were considered antiquated. The virtue of chastity was mocked. Influential voices within the Church sought to use the “Spirit of the Council” to change Catholic sexual moral teaching and practice.

With the availability and cultural embrace of oral contraceptives, Pope Paul VI warned that sexual intimacy outside of the marriage covenant would become commonplace, and the harm inflicted on children, women, men, and society would be catastrophic. The Holy Father was prophetic. Out-of-wedlock births, abortion, and pornography became common. Sexually transmitted diseases reached epidemic levels. Contrary to the predictions of advocates for contraception and abortion, child abuse and child trafficking hit record levels.

The unparalleled happiness that proponents of so-called sexual freedom promised never materialized. Instead, we find among young adults alarmingly high levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Pornography and other forms of sexual addiction have become rampant and enslave many at a young age.

The unravelling of sexual morals has continued for decades. Among the cultural fallacies is a prevalent notion that homosexual activity is healthy and normal, just another lifestyle choice.

In recent years, our cultural confusion has now spawned gender ideology, asserting that human beings can deny their biological gender. Tragically, many young people have been pressured to undergo gender transitioning hormonal regimens and to mutilate their bodies by “gender re-assignment” surgeries.

Gratefully, Pope St. John Paul II, with his landmark teaching on the Theology of the Body, gave us new language to articulate the beauty of human sexuality and to help restore moral sanity. Pope Benedict also provided clear teaching in these important areas. Pope Francis has spoken plainly and strongly about the evil of abortion and the danger of gender theory.

I have been saddened that in the preparation for the Synod on Synodality there has been a renewed effort by some in Church leadership to resuscitate moral confusion on human sexuality. The German Synodal Way is a striking example. The leadership of the German Bishops’ Conference has rejected correction from Pope Francis.

Most troubling have been statements by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, who asserts that Church teaching related to homosexuality is false because he believes the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct. Cardinal Hollerich’s statements are particularly concerning because of the leadership role that he has been assigned as Relator General for the Synod on Synodality.

Most recently, Cardinal Robert McElroy’s article in the Jesuit Journal, America Magazine, has charged that the Catholic Church “contains structures and cultures of exclusion that alienate all too many from the Church or make their journey in the Catholic faith tremendously burdensome.” Cardinal McElroy champions what he terms radical inclusion that embraces everyone into full communion with the Church on their terms. The mandate of Jesus given to the Apostles to make disciples of all nations is construed to mean to enlarge the tent of the Church by accommodating behaviors contrary to Our Lord’s own teaching.

Cardinal McElroy appears to believe that the Church for 2,000 years has exaggerated the importance of her sexual moral teaching, and that radical inclusion supersedes doctrinal fidelity, especially in the area of the Church’s moral teaching regarding human sexuality.

In my opinion, this is a most serious and dangerous error. Our understanding of sexual morals significantly impacts marriage and family life. The importance of marriage and family to society, culture, the nation and the Church cannot be overestimated.

Proponents of radical inclusion cite Our Lord’s association with sinners. In the face of harsh criticism of religious leaders, it is true that Jesus manifested great concern, compassion, and mercy to sinners. In every instance, Jesus also calls those who wish to become His disciples to repentance and conversion.

Are we to understand Our Lord’s call for repentance to be fostering a culture of exclusion? Was the clear and challenging teaching of Jesus regarding marriage or the consequences of lust intended to alienate, or was it an invitation to liberation and freedom? Was radical inclusion Our Lord’s highest priority when many disciples walked away after His Bread of Life discourse?

Should any of us be surprised that when we listen to those on the peripheries—those not in our Churches, those who are not Catholic and even those who do not believe in Jesus—that many will disagree with our counter-cultural moral teaching? Does this mean that we should repent for creating structures of exclusion and embrace the spirit of the secular culture? Pope Francis has said clearly that synodality is not voting on doctrine and moral teaching. The Holy Father has also reminded us that synodality is an effort to listen to the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of the age.

If we are striving to be true disciples of Jesus, does this not require us to be counter-cultural? At the Church’s beginning, what drew people to Christianity? Was it radical inclusion? Certainly, the Gospel of Jesus was offered to everyone, male and female, Jew and Gentile. However, included in Our Lord’s invitation was always a call to repentance, not that all are welcome on their own terms. Were Paul’s epistles or Peter’s sermon on Pentecost about radical inclusion, or were they a call to conversion?

What evangelized the culture at the beginning of Christianity, in part, was the radical love that characterized Christian marriages and families. What drew many to Christianity was the witness of the virgin martyrs! Women particularly found attractive the Christian teaching that husbands should be willing to lay down their lives for their spouses as Jesus laid down His life for His Bride, the Church.

In February, the Archdiocese of Kansas City will host a Life-Giving Wounds Retreat for Adult Children of Divorce or Separation. Adult children of divorce represent a massive group of casualties of the sexual revolution.

In listening to those on the peripheries, we should include hearing the pain suffered by adult children of divorce, young people raised without the presence of a loving father, those addicted at a tender age to pornography, and those emotionally scarred by the hook-up culture.

The Gospel compels us to look at each human being as one made in the Divine image. We gaze upon each person with the expectation that God is attempting to reveal Himself to us through them. We revere every human being to be of such immense worth that Jesus gave His life on Calvary for each one of us. For this reason, we treat every human being with the highest reverence and respect, no matter age, race, ethnicity, gender, physical strength, intellectual capabilities, or sexual orientation. This is not to say that we respect and reverence every choice made.

We acknowledge ourselves as sinners in need of God’s mercy, and thus we seek to receive warmly fellow sinners. We respect others enough to invite them to become free from enslavements to sin. Living the virtue of chastity in this over-sexualized culture is a challenge for all of us. We are prepared and eager to walk with others in striving for virtue and accompanying each other along the pathway of on-going conversion.

I pray that the Synod on Synodality will not unintentionally resurrect and breathe new life into moral confusion. If we truly listen to the Holy Spirit, I am confident that it will not lead us to abandon our moral teaching in order to embrace the toxic spirit of an age oppressed by the dictatorship of relativism.

(Editor’s note: This column was written originally for the February 10, 2023 edition of The Leaven, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and is posted here with kind permission of Archbishop Naumann.)

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About Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann 1 Article
The Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann is the 4th Archbishop and the 11th Bishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, where he was installed on January 15, 2005.


  1. There are plain implications for the Church’s broader teaching on Mass and the Blessed Sacrament if ‘inclusiveness’ is interpreted so as to allow people to receive Communion when they are not in a state of grace.’Inclusiveness’ might very well be allowed to prevail if the Mass were no more than a commemorative meal, and the Host no more than a piece of blessed bread. But since this is not the case, Cardinal McElroy’s remarks are puzzling.

  2. The points made by Archbishop Naumann are valid and of great concern. It is disappointing to me, an active and practicing Catholic, that the Church leadership chases a philosophy at odds with Catholic Tradition. That is, the gnostic tradition of segregation of the soul, or who I really am, and the body, what I may do. Aquinas’ hylomorphism has been the philosophical underpinning of Catholic teaching. The call to conversion is based on the fact that what you do is equally important with what you believe in faith and who you say you are. It appears, the Church leadership has convinced themselves, these premises are invalid and so really don’t exist. We are who we say we are, period. I think they would better spend their time calling (un)faithful back to full participation by preaching the dire need for reconciliation for what we have done and continue to do contrary to God’s will and Jesus’ teaching. But it appears their thinking is, it really doesn’t matter too much what you do, as long as you love Jesus in your heart. Unfortunately for them, that is not Catholic. It is the reward of GROUPTHINK which we are witnessing. It is a capitulation to gnostic spiritualism after two millennia resisting its corruption.

  3. Many thanks for this succinct response to the utterly irresponsible utterances of Cardinal McElroy and the untold damage they are doing to our Church, especially our young!
    What has happened to our Jesuits? When I consider the magnificent and sure footedness of Fr John Hardon (RIP) and all the other fine Jesuits of a now bygone era, how horrified they would be to see the bunch of heretics that occupy the Order these days?
    Have these highflying clerics never read the messages of Fatima? Do they not know that Our Lady identified “sins against the flesh” as being the sins most likely to send a soul to hell?
    The compassion and Mercy of Jesus is enough to crush all of our sins and return us to purity through the Sacrament of Confession, but contrition and absolution are required.
    The institutional church abandoned religious education fifty years ago and this, together with the abuse of distribution of the Holy Eucharist in the hand is what has us where we are today!
    There was a time, not long ago, when Jesuits didn’t take up senior positions in the Church. Perhaps it’s time to put back the clock in his regard as the radical liberalism and resulting heresies they have bought with them are fast destroying our church.

  4. Thank you, Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, for noticing the “trail of tears”, as it were, from the West’s culture of death, divorce, perversion and mutilation.
    I am hopeful that more Archbishops will embrace a tenor that un-doctrinates the children involved in this perverse culture and highlights for them where leaders, politicians, consortiums and LGBTQ lobbies have given lies from hell to the generations since the 1960s “sexual revolution”.
    Christ’s Word is unchanging.
    And what the children born after that revolution of abomination need to hear is
    the stability of unchanging Scripture, Church tradition and the hope of Salvation.

  5. Archbishop Naumann, one of the bright lights on a twilight landscape. Especially his actions to support the victims, on the real “periphery” of moral confusion. Thank you, from the textually abused laity far and wide.

    But, is the synodal momentum now to simply fold the archbishop’s contribution into the crockpot of inclusive “theology”? And, to simply call it a day in October 2023, or 2024, or whenever on the “endless journey”? As in, the process IS the message: “Enlarge the tent!”

    In the less maneuverable secular world, a world less anesthetized by “fraternal collegiality,” there’s a quite different perspective on tents….The moment to beware and act is when “the camel first gets its nose under the tent!” Synodally, the moment of the camel’s nose was when the scribes of the vademecum (synodal “walking together”) maneuvered past a critical part of the guidance issued by the International Theological Commission: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2021/10/02/opinion-making-sense-of-synodal-steps-during-precarious-times/

    Now, the hour is very late…may all and each of the reliable bishops from around the world–as more than “facilitators,” after all–provide coherent apostolic presence and witness together, before October 2023 when the harmonizing “experts” and the “Synod on Synodality’s” (say what?) self-compromised head-cardinal from Luxembourg might, you know, behave too much like a secular corporate boardroom to “just move things along…”

    A fully listening Church which, therefore, is also attentive to the voice of the living Magisterium, and to Jesus Christ as its real head.

  6. Our bishops who remain steadfast in their faith, Apostolic defenders of that faith, Naumann among them, are well aware of the dangerous Synodal journey driven by His Holiness’ hand picked Synod leaders Cardinals Hollerich and Grech. Yes, danger and alarm of adapting the Church to the “toxic spirit of an age oppressed by the dictatorship of relativism”.
    Although, there is a charm [as usual whatever Satan suggests has a certain charm] in the increasingly evident end of this journey. Pope Francis, by word and actions apparently envisions an all inclusive embrace of fallen, stricken Mankind. Afflicted, perceived hopelessly as such, confused, wandering astray. What if Our Lord at long last takes pity on his wayward children, many who would fall at Christ’s feet in thankfulness if he were to absolve their sinfulness and accept them as they are. The Church to become the grand field hospital taking in the wounded, the dying. A kind of New Age paradigmatic amnesty. Except, not to require conditions such as leave the hills, surrender your guns and reenter as ordinary citizens. Rather enter, reenter, exactly as you are because God loves you as you are.
    Who that has a heart would not want all to be saved? Reprieve for the countless sinful nomads born into a world of confused ideas anomaly rampant sensuality psychotropic remedy the last straw of life. Would von Balthasar rejoice? Sartre convert?
    If we are to weigh the matter on the scale of justice the answer is no. What if love? Forced against the wall by so mighty an issue who then should make that choice? I, thou, or Christ?

  7. Dear Cdl McElroy,
    Thank you for enlightening us that we must include homosexuality in our Christian community. Shall we next include bestiality for there is no difference. And unless we are ageists let us drop our moral pretentious against peeophelia as well. Love is love.. man, dog or child.
    Or perhaps we might defer to Paul Romans 1;26-32. … but… that’s so old fashioned… what did he know?
    May The Almighty stroke you down from your high horse.

  8. Archbishop Naumann!

    Thank you for standing strong against the faux Catholic faith that the evil one is trying to substitute for the Church that Jesus founded on St. Peter.

    They’re very easy to tell apart, of course.

    Jesus’ Church is all about sacrificial love, families, and new life.

    The evil one’s ersatz church is all about following one’s own inclinations, being one’s own master, and orgasms.

    I marvel that more Church leaders cannot seem to tell them apart.

    But I’m very glad you can.

  9. The reason Jesus calls our first Pope, St. Peter, ‘Satan’, is because Peter is talking and thinking like the secular world talks and thinks. Matthew 16:23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Pope Francis and his Synod on Synodality, talks and thinks like the secular world talks and thinks.

    Jesus prophetic sign for His Second Coming is that we will see: Matthew 24 The Great Tribulation, (after the gospel has been proclaimed around the world), ‘The Desolating Abomination’ ‘Standing in the Holy Place’

    Matthew 24:3 The Great Tribulation
    the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?”…
    …“When you see the desolating abomination spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, a person on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house, a person in the field must not return to get his cloak. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days. Pray that your flight not be in winter or on the sabbath, for at that time there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will be.

    Through locutions to St. Faustina, Jesus and the Blessed Mother have confirmed that Jesus’ Second Coming, and the Great Tribulation which comes with Him, is now imminent. Please take refuge in Jesus’, year 2000, gifts of Divine Mercy Sunday, this coming April 16!

    Divine Mercy in My Soul, 429
    I heard these words spoken distinctly and forcefully within my soul, You will prepare the world for My final coming.

    Divine Mercy in My Soul, 965
    Jesus looked at me and said, Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.

    Divine Mercy in My Soul, 1146,
    Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice.

    Divine Mercy in My Soul, 635 The Blessed Virgin Mary :
    “you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh, how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for [granting] mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answering for a great number of souls on that terrible day”

    Divine Mercy in My Soul, 299-300
    I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy. Ask of my faithful servant [Father Sopocko] that, on this day, he tell the whole world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.

    Jesus is Getting Married!

    • Don’t know if they’re working his agenda but they’re his appointments.

      Wonderful article by Archbishop Naumann in almost every respect and I particularly appreciated his inclusion of the Pope’s quotes that seek to correct the German mess. But the fact remains that these apostate clerics have been empowered by Francis, a fact which for some reason Archbishop Naumann chose not to acknowledge.

  10. “Cardinal McElroy champions what he terms radical inclusion that embraces everyone into full communion with the Church on their terms.”

    Coming to Christ on my own terms means that I will never meet Christ. Coming to the church on my own terms means I will never authentically be part of the Body. The more “me” involved in the process, the less likely I will meet the One who can free me from myself. Repent and believe Cardinal.

    • Your words remind me of Bishop Sheen’s comment, “A soul that is bursting with its own ego can never be filled with God … The more empty the soul is of self, the greater the room in it for God.” Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love. Also, Augustine, “Unless humility precede, accompany, and follow up all the good we accomplish, unless we keep our eyes fixed on it, pride will snatch everything right out of our hands.” St. Augustine, Letter 118, 22

  11. Much of Archbishop Naumann’s article cites evidence about what sexual “liberty” and “justice” have delivered since the 1960s. Ugly outcomes that innovating bishops and cardinals ignore or gloss over. As a Catholic engineer/scientist, I was deeply appreciative of St John Paul II’s “Faith and Reason.” Reason means evidence. Archbishop Naumann, show them the evidence at this synod.

  12. ‘Most troubling have been statements by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, who asserts that Church teaching related to homosexuality is false because he believes the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct.’
    Moral absolutes are out, the dictatorship of relativism is in, as is sociological science and 2 +2 = 5 (Fr Spadaro’s inspired computation).
    Two thousand years of Church teaching on sexual morality has been binned. Truth is fluid even Hollerich’s (a logic that seems to escape him) but the ecclesiastical progressives have possession of the Petrine keys and his ‘truth’ that human nature changes over time and between cultures will prevail for the moment.
    Natural Law and Divine Moral Law vanish, and we are no longer made in the image of God but in the image of the gods of the belly.

    A decree from the First Vatican Council gives this cleric and others a warning.
    ‘If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.’
    Understood by those who fear the Lord but not by the foolish who don’t.

  13. “Among the cultural fallacies is a prevalent notion that homosexual activity is healthy and normal, just another lifestyle choice.”

    The Catholic Church knows and has taught that the sin of sodomy is one of the worst sins against the Sixth Commandment. However, the acceptance of the same wasn’t an accident. It was pushed for by TPTB.

    That said, there was a “natural” progression. After it became immorally acceptable to fornicate, then it wasn’t much further to immorally deny that there is anything wrong with “harmless” carnal activity between “consenting adults.”

    Of course, the fallacy behind this reasoning becomes apparent when one considers the fact that – despite consent – neither adultery or “assisted suicide” (i.e. murder) are moral.

    “In recent years, our cultural confusion has now spawned gender ideology, asserting that human beings can deny their biological gender.”

    I don’t think that I am looking down, but the tendency to assume the (intellectual) honesty and dialectical materialism (i.e. it “just somehow developed”) of ideologies is not a sign of intellectual virtue(s).

    Nothing where humans are involved in the realm of ideas happens by accident. Those who control the major levers of power behind the scenes – and Satan – have their reasons. And it would be possible to investigate and punish the perpetrators for spreading their heresies.

    A lack of “speech police” is largely how the world has managed to sink to the abysmal moral state that it is currently in. One ought not to be permitted to spread falsehoods with regards to faith and/or morals. That is the point of the Index of Forbidden Books.

    And I should mention that “The Second Sex” is on the Index. How would history have been different if the author had been executed for her heresies and the book never published?

    How and by what criteria has it been determined that “our culture is confused?”

    There are some people that actually believe that the earth is flat. Do such beliefs among maybe thousands of people mean that “our culture is confused?”

    And any biologist would strongly disagree with referring to the differences between male and females as anything but “sex.” “Biological gender” isn’t the phrase to use.

    “In February, the Archdiocese of Kansas City will host a Life-Giving Wounds Retreat for Adult Children of Divorce or Separation.”

    What should happen is that “divorce” that has resulted in “remarriage” before the death of one’s spouse should be repudiated by the state. And any who have separated should be strongly encouraged to reconcile and informed that they can’t divorce or remarry before the death of their spouse. The fact is the psychological trauma is highly questionable and even if it exists, any healing revolves around resolving the issue(s) that caused it.

  14. Thanks so much Archbishop Naumann, as well as most of the reader replys! We need nore priests, bishops(including my own), cardinals, and the USCCB to speak/write in opposition to this heretical madness being pushed by very influential Pope Francis “friens/appointees”. I pray the Holy Spirit descends again QUICKLY🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

  15. I was taught as a child that sex was permissible only between a man and woman in a marriage. That belief has served me well.

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