Sunday, February 22, 2015

Making a mess and medicinal rebuke

"We invite you to criticize our institutions without reserve. One is not insulted by being informed of something amiss, but rather gets an opportunity for amendment, if the information is taken in good part, without resentment.” – Plato, Laws, Bk. 1, 635a

In a post which may be found here, Terry McDermott writes, "We live in a litigious society. People sue for every and any reason: finding something gross in their fast food, slipping on an ice-covered driveway, getting one’s feelings  hurt.

In media, lawsuits abound: copyright infringement and stealing someone else’s work is illegal. When we post an image on this website we have to be 100% certain that it is copyright-free and we have permission to use it.

Sometimes, readers take offense at what we write. My article on NFP resulted in a strongly worded letter to my editor. Someone else called me a member of the 'communion police' when I wrote an article that was critical of a supposedly Catholic funeral that really wasn’t. An atheist website threatened to 'expose' me (whatever that means).  As Catholic bloggers and writers who strive to be true to Holy Mother Church and uphold the teachings of the Magisterium, at times what we write doesn’t sit well with other people. As long as there is a mutual respect for differences of opinion, we can live with criticism and opposing views.

Now it seems that Catholic bloggers can be sued simply for questioning, calling out, and exposing erroneous statements and actions of priests in high places who really should know better. The style in which a few of us write may be somewhat abrasive (therefore feelings may get hurt) or too traditional or orthodox for others; but as long as we stick to the facts, especially publicly acknowledged facts, we have the freedom to publish our work: freedom of the press, freedom of the law, freedom of our conscience.

On that beach in Rio, Pope Francis exhorted the Catholic world to 'make a mess!'  As someone who has spent years cleaning up after my eight kids and my husband, I know that often in the process of cleaning my home, things get worse before they get better. Making a mess in order to clean my house includes shaking out the rugs and uncovering what is hidden underneath, piling mounds of dust and dirt while sweeping out what is lurking in the corners, overturning stones and rocks to expose new growth.

Making a mess with our blogging and writing is much the same. Sometimes, you have to shake things up to expose the facts. Sometimes you have to make some noise and rattle people out of their complacency. Sometimes you have to expose that pile of garbage.

And sometimes making a mess with our words means shining a light on the cracks and crevices that threaten the foundation so that it can be fixed and the cracks eliminated.

So go ahead, faithful Catholic bloggers. Make a mess! Keep it factual. Keep it real. Do it out of love for Holy Mother Church and in defense of authentic Catholic teaching."

In our saccharin society, too few have any tolerance for medicinal rebuke or fraternal correction. Such people view fraternal correction or constructive criticism as being opposed to an abstract idol of peace.  But Pope John XXIII, who was an extremely good-natured Pontiff and lover of peace, explained that authentic peace, "is not completely untroubled and serene; it is active, not calm and motionless. In short, this is a peace that is ever at war. It wars with every sort of error, including that which falsely wears the face of truth; it struggles against the enticements of vice, against those enemies of the soul, of whatever description, who can weaken, blemish, or destroy our innocence or Catholic faith." (Ad Petri cathedram, AAS, 51 (1959) 517, PE, 263.93).

In her own day, St. Catherine of Sienna found much corruption within the Holy Church. Homosexuality and many other deeply rooted problems were found among the clergy and Our Lord spoke to this Doctor of the Church about these problems (pride, loss of sacred identity, loss of faith, worldliness, and sensuality). These conversations were laid out in St. Catherine's book entitled "Dialogue," and most especially in that portion of the book labelled "The Mystical Body of Holy Church."

While St. Catherine cautions her readers not to engage in blanket condemnations aimed at the clergy in general (using scandals as an excuse to denigrate priests in general), and refers to such people as "irreverent persecutors" of the clergy, still, she was told by Our Lord that those who will not receive correction and those who will not give it are like the limbs of a body beginning to rot.

Medicinal rebuke is often mistaken for a "lack of charity" when in actuality such constructive criticism aids in healing. In his excellent work entitled "Liberalism is a sin," Fr. Felix Sarda Y Salvany writes:

"If the propagation of good and the necessity of combating evil require the employment of terms somewhat harsh against error and its supporters, this usage is certainly not against charity. This is a corollary or consequence of the principle we have just demonstrated. We must render evil odious and detestable. We cannot attain this result without pointing out the dangers of evil, without showing how and why it is odious, detestable and contemptible. Christian oratory of all ages has ever employed the most vigorous and emphatic rhetoric in the arsenal of human speech against impiety. In the writings of the great athletes of Christianity the usage of irony, imprecation, execration and of the most crushing epithets is continual. Hence the only law is the opportunity and the truth.

But there is another justification for such an usage. Popular propagation and apologetics cannot preserve elegant and constrained academic forms. In order to convince the people we must speak to their heart and their imagination which can only be touched by ardent, brilliant, and impassioned language. To be impassioned is not to be reprehensible----when our heat is the holy ardor of truth.

The supposed violence of modern Ultramontane journalism not only falls short of Liberal journalism, but is amply justified by every page of the works of our great Catholic polemicists of other epochs. This is easily verified. St. John the Baptist calls the Pharisees "race of vipers," Jesus Christ, our Divine Savior, hurls at them the epithets "hypocrites, whitened sepulchers, a perverse and adulterous generation" without thinking for this reason that He sullies the sanctity of His benevolent speech. St. Paul criticizes the schismatic Cretins as "always liars, evil beasts, slothful bellies." The same apostle calls Elymas the magician a "seducer, full of guile and deceit, child of the Devil, enemy of all justice."

If we open the Fathers we find the same vigorous castigation of heresy and heretics. St. Jerome arguing against Vigilantius casts in his face his former occupation of saloonkeeper: "From your infancy," he says to him, "you have learned other things than theology and betaken yourself to other pursuits. To verify at the same time the value of your money accounts and the value of Scriptural texts, to sample wines and grasp the meaning of the prophets and apostles are certainly not occupations which the same man can accomplish with credit." On another occasion attacking the same Vigilantius, who denied the excellence of virginity and of fasting, St. Jerome, with his usual sprightliness, asks him if he spoke thus "in order not to diminish the receipts of his saloon?" Heavens! What an outcry would be raised if one of our Ultramontane controversialists were to write against a Liberal critic or heretic of our own day in this fashion!

What shall we say of St. John Chrysostom? His famous invective against Eutropius is not comparable, in its personal and aggressive character, to the cruel invectives of Cicero against Catiline and against Verres! The gentle St. Bernard did not honey his words when he attacked the enemies of the faith. Addressing Arnold of Brescia, the great Liberal agitator of his times, he calls him in all his letters "seducer, vase of injuries, scorpion, cruel wolf."

The pacific St. Thomas of Acquinas forgets the calm of his cold syllogisms when he hurls his violent apostrophe against William of St. Amour and his disciples: "Enemies of God," he cries out, "ministers of the Devil, members of antiChrist, ignorami, perverts, reprobates!" Never did the illustrious Louis Veuillot speak so boldly. The seraphic St. Bonaventure, so full of sweetness, overwhelms his adversary Gerard with such epithets as "impudent, calumniator, spirit of malice, impious, shameless, ignorant, impostor, malefactor, perfidious, ingrate!" Did St. Francis de Sales, so delicately exquisite and tender, ever purr softly over the heretics of his age and country? He pardoned their injuries, heaped benefits on them even to the point of saving the lives of those who sought to take his, but with the enemies of the faith he preserved neither moderation nor consideration. Asked by a Catholic, who desired to know if it were permissible to speak evil of a heretic who propagated false doctrines, he replied: "Yes, you can, on the condition that you adhere to the exact truth, to what you know of his bad conduct, presenting that which is doubtful as doubtful according to the degree of doubt which you may have in this regard." In his Introduction to a Devout Life, that precious and popular work, he expresses himself again: "If the declared enemies of God and of the Church ought to be blamed and censured with all possible vigor, charity obliges us to cry 'wolf' when the wolf slips into the midst of the flock, and in every way and place we may meet him."

This is real meat for real Catholics. It was Sir Edmund Burke who said that, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is for good people to do nothing." When we witness another Catholic (and yes, even a priest) promoting homosexuality, abortion, contraception, New Age, witchcraft, or dissent in general, we have an obligation (in charity) to speak the truth and to show others how that individual's words, ideas or actions fail to hold up when placed in the Lumen Christi - when held up to the Magisterial teaching of the Church.

If someone wants to accuse us of "having an axe to grind," simply because we speak the truth, that's their affair. But such people should recall what St. Catherine had to say about medicinal rebuke and should meditate upon these passages from Sacred Scripture:

"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8).

"Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark SHALL BE HEARD IN THE LIGHT, and what you have whispered in private rooms SHALL BE PROCLAIMED FROM THE HOUSETOPS." (Luke 12:2-3).


David said...

The persecution is ramping up. I don't think most Americans understand this.....or even care.

Jeanette O'Toole said...

Great article! And we care, David!

During Lent (these last three years) I had attended Eucharistic Adoration one hour a day. This year, however, because of car problems, I needed to rework the hours (which would include nocturnal adoration) to 7 a week. My first 3.5 hours went toward the struggles of Mr. Domet of Vox Cantoris. At 3 a.m., on Friday morning, when I entered the chapel, there were seven faithful adoring. And most of them had been there since 11 p.m. Thursday. Can you imagine? For four straight hours? And they do this every week. If only, if only, this was a constant for a few more. God help us, sweet Jesus, be with us forever.

BaldwinvilleCatholic said...

Things are really dire here Jeanette. Orthodox vocations are thrown into the trash while homosexual men are welcomed. And our local "Catholic" paper - the Catholic Free Press," isn't trusted because of its history promoting dissent.

TLM said...

There is a 'rainbow' in the midst of this storm. The Catholic bloggers (and even a few secular ones) are standing behind Mr. Domet of Vox Cantoris in a very public way. The list of bloggers in support is endless and can be viewed on a couple of different sites.

Not wanting to sound to 'conspiracyish' (any such word?:)but the thought came to me that maybe the clerics wanting a 'change' to occur in the upcoming Synod are interested in finding out just how much opposition they have. No better way to do it than rile everyone up with a stunt like this, eh? Could be it's a crazy thought but??

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