We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

Bishop Lopes: A Pledged Troth. A pastoral letter on Amoris Laetitia.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Some people stretch us back toward God and Church

Some people—saints in disguise?—by little reminders help us stretch away from sin and complacency back toward God.

Stretching can be painful. Ask anyone who has ever been in the martial arts or yoga. Stretching can be gruelling, at first. Done correctly, stretching helps us gain freedom and authentic flexibility. Spiritual exercises and the counsel of the saints help us to respond more deeply to God's invitation to holiness.

The call to "stretch" is sometimes sudden, and seemingly harsh. A parent doesn't have time to explain why placing one's hand on a hot stove element will result in a serious burn to a child who, for whatever reason, must touch that hot surface. So, the parent's loving call is simply 'STOP!' Mom or dad can then (moments?) later explain why she or he had to raise his or her voice and why touching the top of the stove would have been harmful.

As we grow up and gain a wider perspective, we understand what motivated our parents to discipline us in ways that, though such methods may have not seemed pleasant to us, were necessary for our health and well being at the time.

For all the saints.

Some bloggers are like the parents who must issue a seemingly stern reminder to stop people from burning themselves by doing something that puts their souls at risk. Other bloggers gently nudge people along. Why use a hammer when a feather will do?

That some folk, even excellent archbishops, cannot appreciate the methods of others, e.g., so called "divisive" bloggers, is a sad reminder that a lack of appreciation for multiple approaches all founded on truth tends to indicate a habit of faith that can, at times, reveal or refer to a god of our own making instead of the God of revelation, the Lord Who asked His prophets to both nudge and firmly prod people toward conversion when necessary. Necessary, for example, when people put their souls (and a nation) at serious risk and an intervention requires the exercise of correction in a timely manner that leaves little room for mollycoddling.

Lesser gods attempt to dictate to us ungodly ways of behaving. Lesser gods comfort us in our cozy, self assured man-you-factured religion. These same lesser gods in the pantheon of nice are attractive, but they are not the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those popular deities or sprites often pretend to be or in someway imitate Jesus Christ Who is the way, the truth and the life. Even good Catholics get caught up in the snare or allure of a seemingly noble endeavour that results in compromise, which is another god in the pantheon of modern virtue along with tolerance. Remember, the tolerance of which we are speaking here is the tolerance of the powerful for things, people and agendas that accord with their warped sense of justice. The justice of the powerful is merely an enactment of a sense of entitlement born of the marriage of envy and the need for approval of their immoral or amoral behaviour or lifestyle(s).

These gods—tolerance, niceness and compromise—are attractive, indeed. They are perfectly acceptable mannerisms if properly understood as speaking to the way we might engage the world, not the content we promote nor the exceptions that certain well intentioned folk might attempt to levy against prudent judgement. Those gods can be little different from demons insofar as they often seduce Catholics and other Christians into embracing unredeemed and unredeemable elements of the culture or society. When associations or certain projects require the children of light to enter into partnerships of one kind or another with individuals and groups representing worldly priorities—priorities that include abortion, euthanasia, quasi-marriage—one would have to be incredibly naive to think that proponents of the same various anti-human ideologies will not try to marginalize the Church and co-opt the message and activity to which the Church lends her resources.

When certain Catholics catch wind of such misguided alliances between the hierarchy and certain secular organizations that have some of the same but also some very different priorities than those of the Church, they naturally come to the defence of Holy Mother Church as any faithful child would do. When people and prelates alike disparage the critics of their agendas by resorting to dismissive name calling, it is difficult not to conclude that said people and prelates are merely putting their insecurities ahead of addressing concerns raised by faithful Catholics who are rightly suspicious, given the misadventures of many contemporary prelates, of any associations with secular organizations.

When certain bloggers employ forthright language that exposes potential hazards or liabilities accompanying an association between the Church and a secular group, language that is unpalatable to others because it exposes aspects or potential consequences of agendas which church-men have not really thought through, for example, said bloggers are merely exercising their role as conscientious laymen and laywomen who have had enough of the sophistry and lazy Catholicism preached from the pulpits for the last four decades.

Matt C. Abbot captures something of the (unnecessary?) dichotomy between different and equal approaches: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/150827. Let's eavesdrop on the conversation at RenewAmerica:
When the Archdiocese of Philadelphia originally got wind of this report, its communications office issued the following statement: 
The Lepanto Institute and Church Militant have proven once again that they are not interested in presenting information in any useful way. Neither the World Meeting of Families-Philadelphia 2015 nor any of its leadership supports Planned Parenthood. The sole desire of both Lepanto and Church Militant is to create division, confusion, and conflict within the Church. Actions of that nature run contrary to Christian tradition. Their reports are not to be taken seriously.
Anyone who has read or watched Voris' work knows that his sole desire is not to create division for the sake of division, confusion and conflict. Voris, as the comments attributed to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia minutely reflect, is sincere in his desire to provide a counterweight to the massive dissent and unholy behaviour of those within the Church who should know and act better.

Commentary that confronts obstinate or entrenched misbheaviour can and frequently does require an upsetting of the apple cart. Those driving the apple cart might take offence at Voris' methods, but being offended by a critic's methods does not mean the content of one's critics' criticism is necessarily wrong. The soft approach has been tried for decades. Has it helped overcome dissent and confusion? Not so much.

With regards to orthodoxy, discourse and publication, the Church rightly distinguishes between content and tone.
An imprimatur is not an endorsement by the bishop of the contents of a book, not even of the religious opinions expressed in it, being merely a declaration about what is not in the book. In the published work, the imprimatur is sometimes accompanied by a declaration of the following tenor: 
The nihil obstat and imprimatur are declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat or imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.
Provided the intent of the delivery is one of charity and regard for the truth, you cannot fault a member of the Church for simply speaking in a manner that does not agree with one's own particular or peculiar sensitivities.

No one can control how people will respond to even the best crafted criticism. People bring along a lot of personal baggage when they encounter criticism. Attempting to rid criticism of offence is a fool's errand. What matters foremost is content, i.e., orthodoxy, delivered with clarity and charity.

No serious apologist tries to be offensive for the sake of being offensive. One is prone to being defined by one's critics who perhaps are, by their response to hard hitting criticism, revealing more about themselves and their own insecurities than the character of the criticism with which they disagree.

It is not surprising, since many in the Church have lost the vocabulary of fraternal correction, that many priests and bishops reject or attack the faithful  or other prelates (such as the formidable Bishop Athanasius Schnieder or Raymond Cardinal Burke) when they speak plainly and demand the Church be the Church of love AND truth.

Mr. Abbot relates Archbishop Chaput's comment that 
(b)oth Lepanto and Church Militant sow division wherever they tread. They do not seem to acknowledge the need to work with civic society and its representatives on a project like the World Meeting of Families. And we are not going to spend/waste time arguing with them. They are sincere, but also destructive. No one on our leadership team supports abortion or Planned Parenthood.
Mr. Abbot then conveys a response from Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute
The last time I wrote an article about the World Meeting of Families, Ken Gavin [communications director for the archdiocese] read me the riot act for not contacting the archdiocese first. This time, I wrote and called several times since last Thursday, sending them all the information I had written in the article, including additional information on the executive cabinet of the WMOF, which I will be publishing either later this week or next week. In addition to writing the archdiocese, I wrote to Ciaruffoli himself, but didn't receive a response from him, either. 
So for the archdiocese to say that I am 'not interested in presenting information in any useful way,' is not only disingenuous, it makes them guilty of the very things they accuse me of. This could very easily have been discussed before publication, and if there was any reasonable explanation to be given, I would have been willing to even kill the story. But instead, they chose to ignore me and the concerns I sent them for whatever reason.
Barring cruelty, such as attacking a person's fundamental human dignity, people should attempt to better understand how different approaches are not always contradictory but complementary. No two biblical prophets were the same. No two Apostles in the company of Christ were the same. Compare the fiery Sons of Thunder to the contemplative John.

Evangelization can be messy. Humans are messy. At times, they need ten reminders just to tie their shoelaces. Read the Old Testament—the people of Israel needed a lot of reminders, and the reminders were not always gentle. At times, the call to repentance involved banishment and exile, wandering in a desert for a very long time, invasion by a foreign power, etc. Let's not confine God to nice Canadian pleasantries. Let's not limit fraternal correction to the stroke of a feather. Unless, that is, the feather becomes a quill used to issue a letter of censure intended to inhibit behaviour that puts souls at risk.

Counter Point

Christ objected to St. Peter's use of a sword to defend his master. He rebuked Peter and healed the soldier. We can and should reserve our swords (of truth spoken with conviction in charity) for those moments when a feather simply won't do. Peaceful resistance or protest, fasting, silent witness on a sidewalk outside an abortuary—these are not everyone's cup of tea, but they are necessary forms of witness to challenge injustice.

Not that this blogger is the authority to which constituents must conform, but Archbishop Chaput and Michael Voris are both right on many issues. Both have, if it isn't too generalizing to say so, much more in common when it comes to defending Holy Mother Church in the public square than what divides them. Both have their distinct and complementary ways of approaching dialogue with the world. Chaput promotes informed engagement. Voris supplies a voice of caution. Chaput has certainly sounded caution and has rejected certain civic enterprises in a way that could be labelled divisive, inflammatory and destructive, at least from the perspective of those who reject Church teaching.

Archbishop Chaput and Michael Voris are both wrong, however, when they turn on each other and use energy that really should be employed to dismantle the superstructure of an aggressive unredeemed and unredeemable secular society.

Both Archbishop Chaput and Michael Voris are voices in the desert. Like Saint John the Baptist, they speak truth to power. Chaput to society and Voris to the hierarchy.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great post, i find it very interesting and very well thought out and put together. I look forward to reading your work in the future.
    www.mmaliverpool.com

    ReplyDelete

"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.