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AUCKLAND, New Zealand, April 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― A Catholic Church spokeswoman has expressed regret for a rugby player’s presentation on Instagram of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

Dame Lyndsay Freer, spokeswoman for New Zealand’s Catholic Diocese of Auckland, told the New Zealand Herald she was sorry about a recent social posting made by Christian Australian rugby star Israel Folau. Dame Lyndsay declared that “Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. There’s very little hate speech in anything he ever said.”

Folau, who belongs to the Pentecostal tradition, published a poster on Instagram last week reading, “Warning: Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolators, Hell Awaits You. Repent! Only Jesus Saves.” Beside the image, he added “Those that are living in Sin will end up in hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”

The Tongan-Australian athlete then quoted Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, 5:19–21, writing, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

This was not an unusual message for Folau, who has used social media many times before to share his Christian faith. However, St. Paul’s strictures against homosexual relations have landed the athlete in hot water before and this time may have ended his career. Both his team, NSW Warratahs, and Rugby Australia have indicated that they intend “to terminate his contract.”

Questioned by the New Zealand Herald, Dame Lyndsay distanced Christianity from Folau’s interpretation of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

“I feel very sorry for what Israel Folau has done. I don’t think he’s done himself and I don’t think he’s done our Christian faith any great service by saying what he’s said and putting it the way he did,” she told the Herald.

“Because that’s presenting God as a God of punishment and a God of vengeance, not a God of love, and mercy and compassion,” she added.

“It’s dangerous territory when you lump everyone together as sinners and damned because at the end of the day it’s God that makes that judgement, not us, and not Israel Folau.”

Dame Lyndsay did acknowledge that sinners exist.

“There is such a thing as sin, we’re all sinners in some way,” she admitted. “But at the end of the day it’s not for me or anyone else to condemn a person, we don’t know what goes in their life and what has bought [sic] them to where they are.”

“That’s really what God’s forgiveness and compassion is all about. God is a God of love and compassion and that’s the God Jesus always points out,” Freer continued.

“Pope Francis is big on God being a God of love, not a God of judgement.”

According to the Herald, the spokeswoman for the Auckland Diocese believes that the message of the Bible is determined by one’s interpretation.

“A lot of it is to do with one’s interpretation of the scripture. Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. There’s very little hate speech in anything he ever said,” she told the paper.

“When he came to the question of homophobia, which is what people have accused Israel Folau of, Pope Francis was asked a question about homosexuality and he said ‘if a person seeks the Lord with a sincere heart, who am I to judge them?’.”

Last April, Folau posted a humorous cartoon illustrating the difference between life as one plans it and life as God plans it. When a commentator asked him what was God’s plan for gay people, Folau replied “HELL … Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”

In the furor that ensued, Folau wrote a blog post entitled “I’m a Sinner Too” that explained his Christian beliefs.

On September 12, 2017, in the run-up to the Australian referendum on the redefinition of marriage, Folau angered many when he tweeted his vote to legally retain the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman for life.

“I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage,” he wrote.

Now freedom of speech advocates say Folau is being punished for his Christian faith. Spiked magazine’s Jay Birch, an atheist, wrote, “Since when did governing bodies in rugby become the present-day equivalent of Orwell’s Thought Police? Probably around the same time that the liberal elite and many mainstream media outlets appointed themselves judges of what is and isn’t acceptable to say.”

LifeSiteNews reached out to Dame Lyndsay Freer by email but had not received a response by the time of publication.


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