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).

Monday, February 6, 2017

Love persons; question behaviours.

Catholics should not expect the Church's detractors to act with a sense of nuance when far too many Catholics themselves misunderstand, misapply or misrepresent Catholic teaching, especially the Catholic position on various hot button issues.

The Catholic Church rejects no one. She, the Church, rejects what she considers to be disordered behaviours while mediating the support (grace, wisdom, wholesome fraternal solidarity, etc.) to help people resist giving in to the inclinations which lead to unacceptable behaviours and spiritual death.

Excommunication

The Church can and does identify a loss of communion when individuals or groups place themselves outside the Church. She does so to protect her other children from contamination with error and she does so to present certain healthy boundaries which, by virtue of the necessary distinctions between charity and sin (and its consequences), might awaken in the self-exiled Catholic's mind that the Church's teachings are just and true and merciful and, thus, life giving.

If the Church's errant sons and daughters willfully disregard Christ's teachings, teachings which distinguish between the way to heaven and the path to perdition, whose fault is that?

Who doesn't experience disordered inclinations?
Rage at the ignorant driver during a traffic jam.
Envy of a friend's wealth and status.
Lusting over a co-worker.
Harbouring a grudge because of wrongs committed against oneself.
Sin begins in the heart. We should not deceive ourselves into accepting that merely looking at someone lustfully is not problematic. We cannot entertain sin in our hearts and hope to contain it therein. The body follows the will if, together with the will, it is not disciplined. If the will is not mastered, life can and will get unexpectedly complicated more quickly and deeply than one can imagine.

Our Lord and Saviour reminds us that the activity of the heart can indict us:
St. Matthew 5:28
But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Yikes! We had better put some effort into embracing those words we frequently pray at Mass: "... And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We can and do overcome even entrenched behaviours if we choose to enlist various resources that help us mature psychologically and spiritually. The path to holiness begins with trust in God.
  • Frequent prayer: morning, noon and night; constant prayer throughout the day.
  • Examination of conscience at the end of the day before bed.
  • Regular confession of sins (Sacrament of Penance).
  • Sunday and daily Mass.
Dialogue rooted in humility.

There are necessary distinctions that must be emphasized as often as necessary in order for authentic dialogue to take place between people possessing different (not necessarily equal) opinions. From a Catholic perspective:
  1. Intentions, inclinations and actions can be disordered, even gravely disordered.
  2. Actions are judged, not persons.
  3. Actions are judged in order to provide insight for the person so that he or she may be liberated from the bondage of sin.
  4. Judging the person as a/n [insert label here] keeps the person imprisoned. To identify a person with an addiction is different than saying a person is an addict. 
  5. Judging another person, i.e., convicting them as a/n [insert label here] and damning them to be known as such merely imprisons the human judge in a trap that can just as easily land the accuser in the hell that he or she has prepared for the one they accuse.
  6. God alone knows the true condition of a person's very human heart.
Catholics are called to love each and every person, for each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God. That love and respect for the person does not mean we must be compelled to condone, bless or approve of certain behaviours.

Catholics are routinely lambasted for rejecting certain behaviours that imperil bodies and damn souls. Failing to accept the Catholic distinction between persons and acts, those who are threatened in some way by Catholic teaching about human sexuality conclude that failing to approve of certain behaviours amounts to hatred of the person. Such a conclusion could not be farther from the truth. One can only speculate that feelings are clouding rational judgement and leading those who object to Catholic teaching to not appreciate the nuances of the Church's vast treasury of wisdom.

Regrettably, many people are unable to appreciate that
persons are more than the sum of their actions.
persons are not reducible to their actions.
persons can be habituated to certain behaviours, good or bad.
persons can identify with behaviours to the point of addiction.
behaviours can and do change.
persons can and do change their behaviour (because they can have a change of heart).
the grace of God enables people to change their hearts (and behaviour).
God gives grace to those who seek His help.

Regrettably, some so-called Christian sects and other religions do confuse rejection of behaviour with rejection of persons. In other words, those sects are judging people, not merely their actions. A sure sign that someone is way off track in their thinking is when they attempt to consign someone to hell because of who they are, not what they do.

There is no room for mercy in the thinking of people who deny others a distinction between their fundamental dignity and their actions which do not reflect their human dignity. In that instant when judgement of persons replaces judgement of actions, those sects or individuals act and teach against the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Similarly, those who teach that objectionable behaviours are acceptable (to Christians) are also acting and teaching against the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His Church.

Catholics propose certain behaviours as consonant with human dignity while discouraging certain behaviours because they are undignified. Divorce and subsequent "remarriage" are rejected by the Church, for example, because the Church understands that persons are creatures of:
  • covenant, thus lifelong indissoluble marriage;
  • complementarity, thus marriage can only occur between one man and one woman;
  • communion, thus all relationships find true and lasting fulfilment only when united in an intimate loving communion with Jesus Christ and His Church.
Catholics reject the unjust and unwise policies others demand that we approve. 

We are not defined by what others who view reality through distorted glasses attempt to impose upon us. Catholics are defined by our relationship with Christ and His Church.

Catholics understand that having a conscience properly formed in the Truth of Jesus Christ will necessarily place Catholics in tension with non-believers and dissidents who reject the teaching of the Church even while insisting they, the dissidents, must be accepted under the Catholic umbrella.

While it is entirely understandable that non-believers might disagree with Catholic positions, it is reprehensible that anyone who calls himself Christian would deny the received teaching of the Church regarding, for example, marriage and the family.

The mainstream media has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to appreciate the distinctions summarized here, distinctions which summarize but hardly do justice to the highly nuanced and compassionate teaching of the Catholic Church as found, say, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The media has, for whatever reason, chosen to perpetuate a fog of inaccuracy regarding the Church's teaching by citing (c)atholics themselves—priests and lay people—who are poorly formed or willfully ignorant of the Church's teaching. The media shares in the responsibility for perpetuating stereotypes rather than factual representations of Church teaching because the media bears the privilege, as a vital element of any democracy, to report the facts, not mere opinions.

To state that the Church's doctrine has been marginalized by a lack of journalistic skill is, unfortunately, a massive understatement. Media stereotyping has, undoubtedly, led to workplace pressure on Catholics to abandon the Faith in trade for job security. In other words, the media has played a dangerous role in fostering hostility toward Catholics who must contend with threats of loss of employment and damage to reputation because the criteria by which the Church's adversaries are judging Catholic teaching are unjust and therefore can only be applied unjustly.

If Catholics are subject to bullying, intimidation, harassment, violence and calumny simply because they are faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, then the bullies responsible must realize that their irrational behaviour merely confirms the weakness of their own argument(s). No rational argument, if it be truly rational and true, requires violence (personal, social, judicial, political, etc.) to defend it.

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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.