Adultery, Not Hypocrisy

Gov. Mark Sanford
Gov. Mark Sanford (photo: Reuters)

USA Today has posted this entry at its Faith & Reason blog, noting that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s press conference at which he made a public confession of an adulterous relationship was rife with references to Sanford’s Christian faith and to his failure to live up to it.

At the conclusion of her post, USA Today’s Anne Godlasky asks several questions, including this one: “Does professing his Christianity make him more of a hypocrite or positively impact your view of him?”

Few people would dispute that Sanford’s conduct has been shameful and scandalous, not to mention bizarre. But a recent post by Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online suggests it might not be accurate to characterize Sanford’s comments at the press conference as hypocrisy.

Writing about another highly public recent admission of adultery by another prominent Republican politician, Nevada Sen. John Enright, Lopez quotes this passage from an interview she conducted with Legionary Father Thomas Williams:

“We modern men and women hate hypocrisy, but we have a mistaken idea of what this means,” Fr. Thomas D. Williams, author of Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience (Hachette, 2009), recently said. “Some say that a hypocrite doesn’t practice what he preaches, but this isn’t hypocrisy. None of us perfectly practices what he preaches. We all fall short. The solution of lowering our moral bar to match our imperfect behavior doesn’t make us less hypocritical; it just makes us more mediocre. Keeping the bar high and maintaining our moral ideals helps us to strive for moral greatness rather than settling for moral poverty.”