So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Secular Sainting. Universalist canonization.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est.
Of the dead nothing but good is to be said.

It is wrong to speak ill of the dead, or so we are told. How dare we acknowledge behaviour which led to misery and death?

A common observance among glitterati and non-celebrities alike in our societies evermore sanitized of decency is the practice of offering syrupy universalist eulogies at the demise of a well known public figure. There is often a "grace" period—a misuse of the word grace if there ever was one!—after which time the gloves come off and the sharks, thirsty for blood, get fed when the trash-talking media, having paid their last (lost) respects at the temple of political correctness, start chopping off limbs and toss the remains of someone's character in the water for said predators to feast upon.

A chatty cathy seated around a table in a local coffee shop pronounces sentence on the dead, as if he himself is the the Judge of souls, boldly sending friends to heaven and enemies to hell. They fail to realize, however, that
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.—Romans 3:23
and, therefore, all will submit to the just judgement of Almighty God.

Universalist ditties such as "She was such a trooper, such a nice person... we'll see her in the afterlife!" are so self congratulatory and so indiscriminately flaccid toward justice that such an attitude, while arrogant, is atrociously and egregiously ignorant. The values by which citizens of the movie and music industries measure the merit of their deceased peers are, for example, so tragically bland they are offensive to anyone who values honesty and the truth about the human condition. Surely death, or its approach, is not merely an opportunity to be nice nor to draw attention to one's own asinine Tweets—George Takei's, for one—and thereby draw attention to oneself.

The entertainment industry coughs up nervous testimonies preoccupied with blessing their members' misbehaviour and tragic lives. Such is the nature of the confused community of Grammy, Emmy and Oscar hugging human beings who, if they just stopped trying so hard to please themselves, might just find true solidarity with others and find much needed healing.

He should have stopped at "eternal peace".

Hinting at inappropriateness of the image attached to Carrie Fisher's obit, one commenter asked, "Of all the photos you (i.e., NYT Obits) could use, you chose this one(?)" Do not look for respect nor fitting tributes from the New York Times.
The Gray Lady, once proud herald of true news, is dead. The New York Times will be remember for a long slow decline into irrelevance as its editorials became little more than cheap tabloid repeats of trite pieces by even cheaper tabloids. "What will I line by rabbit cage with now?"—11 year old Missy Takyn.
Among universalists there is a wariness of criticizing the disordered behaviour of one's peers, for to do so would risk attracting attention to one's own disordered behaviours. Commenting that a life was not well lived tends to draw a hateful response from Hollywood's elite. Aware of the risks to the health of others who idolize the lifestyles of the disordered rich and famous, those critics of licentious and other destructive behaviours want to warn fans and followers of a departed celeb that, in life, there are no multiple takes. A bad performance, so-to-speak, merely ends up on the cutting room floor. End of story.
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.—Matthew 3:12
Father Longenecker identifies the virus of universalism, a heresy and faux-mercy used to obscure honest reflection and weaken appropriate personal accountability that is plaguing Western thinking.
What is universalism? The belief that "everyone will eventually be saved no matter what." Semi-universalism is "we hope and believe that everyone will be saved no matter what." In other words, semi- universalism is universalism for those who don't have the guts to be universalists.
Universalism is a heresy because it is a half truth. Christ did die for all, but the universalist only holds on to that part of the truth. He denies the other half of the full truth, that not everyone will accept that grace and therefore some will go to hell.
It is a sentimentalist heresy because it is based not on clear thinking or logic or the authority of Church teaching or the catechism or the Sacred Scriptures, for there is no support anywhere for universalism in the Catholic faith. Instead it is based on people's longing to be nice and 'not hurt anyone's feelings' and the syrupy sentiment that, "God is too loving to send anyone to hell."
The effects of universalism on the church are catastrophic. It's not real hard to understand. People aren't dumb. If everyone is going to be saved, then why bother to go to church? If everyone is going to be saved there is no such thing as mortal sin. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need for evangelism. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need to feed the hungry, become a priest, build the church and become a saint.
Of all the various Hydra heads of modernism, universalism is probably the most insidious and diabolical and destructive of them all. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's sweetness and light and sentimentality and underneath it's poison.—Fr. D. Longenecker.
When we appear before the judgement seat of God, the Lord's "ear" will not be swayed by the gushing Tweets of those who think they can canonize a peer and demand that the universe, the Force or some Hollywood deity will bless him or her because (s)he did a few nice things while otherwise living as a reprobate and fornicator indifferent to the commandments of Jesus Christ.

Niceness is not a ticket to a front row seat in heaven.

No matter how "nice" one may now be or may have seemed to have been, to remain unrepentant and comfortable in one's sins by dismissing prior bad acts as the result of youthful immaturity, for example, without actually confronting the eternal consequences of those bad actions is to risk cementing in one's heart and soul an attitude that makes one resistant to the purifying mercy of God.

To speak honestly about the kind of lives the deceased formerly lived is to witness to the need for mercy. Carrie Fisher, Prince (Nelson), George Michael, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Rene Angelil, Anton Yelchin, Florence Henderson, Christina Grimmie—they all need the mercy of God. Mercy begins with us being honest about ourselves and each other. That honesty disposes the soul to God's grace.

If we believe that we are "in this life together" to help each other, if we believe that solidarity with our fellow human beings matters, we had best be real with each other this side of eternity lest we fabricate an illusion which traps us in endless misery, a hell of our own making.
In charity, Catholics are obliged to propose to others that, if they value their eternal souls, they should be wary of falling under the sway of the same or similar forces which dragged down a celebrity into a pit of despair. A truly caring person would propose to the weak the remedy to help them avoid being ensnared by the temptations which can cause someone to spiral even further downward and to seek false comforts.
In death, the behaviour of the rich and famous can serve to illustrate what should have been avoided in life. The biographies of even the worst behaved star or starlet can serve as warnings to help others avoid falling into a trap, to avoid becoming enslaved to drugs, illicit sex and/or enmeshed in soul destroying narcissism, and to help others become less dependent on cheap affirmations meant to prop up illusions about themselves. Thus, even a life badly lived can be a mercy to others, a deterrent or sobering reminder to the living and thus the possibility of hope to overcome sin and sadness. In a sense, a voice from beyond the grave speaks words of caution to the living to help guide them away from temptation and sin toward real love and life in Jesus Christ.

Readers might recall the ghost of Jacob Marley, the character in A Christmas Carol who visited Ebenezer Scrooge. When he visited Scrooge, the chain that Marley wore was heavy, and his torment unbearable because of it. Marley was permitted to visit Scrooge to help Ebenezer overcome his own chain which, according to the howling Marley, "was as full and as long as (his) seven Christmas eves ago... . Ah, it is a ponderous chain!"

Hollywood forges ponderous chains.

Let us pray that God will grant those who are in most need of His mercy a merciful judgement. May those who, still dwelling upon this earth who are living dissolute lives—celebrity and non-celebrity alike—be drawn by grace into the loving care of the Church where they will find authentic love and mercy according to the mind of Jesus Christ.

Supplementary Reading
  1. Ross Douthat: Speaking of the Dead
  2. Steven D. Greydanus: How should we speak of the dead?

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"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.

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