Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Let's think this through, shall we?


A while back, during one of the regularly-scheduled furors in the Blogosphere's Catholic division, someone wrote in a combox somewhere (I shan't out the blog, as I haven't been given permission to do so) the following morsel:

So pleased that [someone] is finally letting the self-proclaimed 'friends' of the Jesuits have it, but in a nice way, of course. Every Jesuit I've shown the other blogs say, 'why do you read this trash?' The only answer I can come up with is it reminds me why I'm NOT an orthodox Catholic and won't strive to become one anymore. Seems the more orthodox you get the less compassionate you become.


As you may imagine, such a statement is a veritable goldmine, begging on bended knee for a thorough examination.

I will assume, for the sake of discussion, that our dear friend Anonymous (if that's her real name) was including this among "the other blogs." Naturally, I won't speak for the other other blogs, as they are big, grown-up blogs and can best defend themselves. But I believe a point of honor has been raised and I should make as stout a defense of it as I can manage.

The first thing which drives me up a wall is the oft-slung harangue of "self-proclaimed friend" of the Jesuits. Like much which animates the rhetoric of our more benighted friends this is one of those things that, like sausage, oughtn't be examined too closely. The implication, emphasized by the "scare quotes," is one of delusion at best and malevolent hypocrisy at worst. The statement could be reinterpreted as being "Yeah, well, if you're such a grand pal of the Jesuits, why are you always trying to destroy them or say mean things about them? Answer me THAT, Mr. Orthodox J. Traditionalist!"

This is the sort of question which is made with the full expectation it will be answered by the contrite silence of a rhetorical forfeit.

But the fact remains that the ideological underpinnings of the question are grievously flawed and thus the question cannot withstand any rigorous analysis. Those who might bring up a concern or notice a discrepancy or express a viewpoint counter to the current fashion "are patently neither ill-willed nor ignorant, and to pretend otherwise only deepens the suspicion that the Society has lost its capacity for candid self-assessment." The correct response is, as usual, to be found in Scripture: "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if [I have spoken] well, why strikest thou me?"

You will also notice, kind reader, those who generally espouse that accusatory outlook do not generally explain how a certain writing (Oh, say, an explanation that Fr. Heterodox Q. Lunatic, SJ's exegesis on the desirability of polygamous clergy runs counter to Catholic doctrine) is mean or wrong or runs counter to all that is good and noble. (The cynical person would say "Duh, 'cause they can't.")

From that the assessment, that a blog in which such analysis and examination and concern plays an important part, it naturally springs that it must be trash. Without any redeeming feature, vapid, witless, jejune, feckless and jaundiced. O-o-o-o-o-okay.

But here's the line that really hits me where I live -- follow me here, for there is much to sift -- is when "Anonymous" explains why she reads such blogs as these, because "it reminds me why I'm NOT an orthodox Catholic and won't strive to become one anymore. Seems the more orthodox you get the less compassionate you become."

By orthodox, we mean no more and no less than someone who adheres steadfastly to Catholic doctrine. "Anonymous" has declared herself glad, then, that she does not steadfastly adhere to Catholic doctrine because -- watch this, now -- it seems the more steadfastly you adhere to Catholic doctrine, the less compassionate you become.

Stop and ponder that for a moment.

What does it say, then, for Anonymous and her assessment of Catholic teaching? If she is correct, then it must mean that Catholic doctrine, at its core, demands an utter lack of compassion. Given that as a Catholic, I believe the Holy Spirit guides Christ's Bride, Holy Mother Church, what does this say about Anonymous' understanding of these things? And what IS this lack of compassion of which Anonymous speaks?

From the look of it, no more than not accepting the notion (and expressing so) that it's all sunshine and lollipops over at the Society of Jesus, that Frs. Haight & Sobrino's theological writings* aren't crucially flawed or that the search for justice doesn't frequently devolve into "social advocacy" with a notable list to port. Or thinking and expressing that bongos-and-kumbaya liturgy is banal and dulling, or that settled matters of doctrine are, well, settled. Or that the the Catechism doesn't say what it plainly says. You get the idea.

Sadly, Anonymous' opinion is widespread among those whose list of virtues gives pride of place to "being nice." Which is not the same as being merciful. When the time comes for my particular judgment, I have enough to answer for without having to scramble for an answer for "So, um, Joe...why DIDN'T you instruct the ignorant or admonish sinners? Those being y'know, works of mercy."

I trust this settles the matter.



* I'm all for the "frontiers of theology" thing, it's the theological frontiersman gone native that worries me.


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