The assault on doctrine continues as Rome disintegrates.
"It is not 'cold doctrine' that brings joy, but faith, and the hope of meeting Jesus. He who cannot rejoice is an unhappy believer: that’s what Pope Francis said in his homily at Thursday morning’s Mass in Santa Marta in the Vatican:
Abraham’s joy upon hearing that as God promised, he may become a father inspired Pope Francis’ reflection Thursday. Commenting on the day’s readings, Pope Francis remarked that Abraham is old, as well as his wife Sara, but he believes and opens 'his heart to hope' and is 'full of consolation.' Jesus reminds the doctors of the law that Abraham 'rejoiced' to see his day 'and was full of joy':
"And that's what these doctors of the law did not understand. They did not understand the joy of promise; they did not understand the joy of hope; they did not understand the joy of the alliance. They did not understand! They did not know how to rejoice, because they had lost the sense of joy that only comes from faith. Our father Abraham was able to rejoice because he had faith; he was justified in the faith. These others had lost faith. They were doctors of the law, but without faith! But what’s more: they had lost the law! Because the center of the law is love, love for God and neighbor. "
The Pope then continued:
"It’s only that they had a system of precise doctrines and that they clarified each and every day that no one touch them. Men without faith, without law, attached to doctrines that also become an attitude of casuistry: you can pay the tax to Caesar, can you not? This woman, who has been married seven times: when she goes to Heaven will she be the bride of those seven men? This casuistry… This was their world, an abstract world, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God. And for this, they could not rejoice!"
Perhaps, the doctors of the law - the Pope observes ironically - could also have fun, "but without joy," indeed "with fear." "This is life without faith in God, without trust in God, without hope in God." And "their heart was petrified." It's sad, the Pope stressed, to be a believer without joy - and joy is not there when there is no faith, when there is no hope, when there is no law - but only the regulations, cold doctrine":
"The joy of faith, the joy of the Gospel is the touchstone of the faith of a person. Without joy that person is not a true believer. Let's go home, but before that, we celebrate here with these words of Jesus: 'Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.' And ask the Lord for the grace to be rejoicing in hope, for the grace to see the day of Jesus when we will be with Him and for the grace of joy."
So, according to Pope Francis, the believer is hindered by dogma. Dogma is portrayed by the Pontiff as a danger to faith, as something which leads to coldness and the death of faith, hope and love- the Theological Virtues.
Where is Francis going with this? Is there really any doubt? Where does a religion without dogma lead? Archbishop Fulton John Sheen, in an Essay which may be found in his book The Electronic Christian, tells us:
"The modern man must decide for himself whether he is going to have a religion with thought or a religion without it. He already knows that thoughtless policies lead to the ruin of society, and he may begin to suspect that thoughtless religion ends in confusion worse confounded.
The problem is simple. The modern man has two maps before him: one the map of sentimental religion, the other the map of dogmatic religion. The first is very simple. It has been constructed only in the last few years by a topographer who has just gone into the business of map making and is extremely adverse to explicit directions. He believes that each man should find his own way and not have his liberty taken away by dogmatic directions. The other map is much more complicated and full of dogmatic detail. It has been made by topographers who have been over every inch of the road for centuries and know each detour and each pitfall. It has explicit directions and dogmas such as, 'Do not take this road - it is swampy,' or 'Follow this road; although rough and rocky at first, it leads to a smooth road on a mountaintop.'
The simple map is very easy to read, but those who are guided by it are generally lost in a swamp of mushy sentimentalism. The other map takes a little more scrutiny, but it is simpler in the end, for it takes you up through the rocky road of the world's scorn to the everlasting hills where is seated the original Map Maker, the only One who ever has associated rest with learning: 'Learn of Me...and you shall find rest for your souls.'
Every new coherent doctrine and dogma add to the pabulum for thought; it is an extra bit of garden upon which we can intellectually browse; it is new food into which we can put our teeth and thence absorb nourishment; it is the discovery of a new intellectual planet that adds fullness and spaciousness to our mental world. And simply because it is solid and weighty, because it is dogmatic and not gaseous and foggy like a sentiment, it is intellectually invigorating, for it is with weights that the best drill is done, and not with feathers.
It is the very nature of a man to generate children of his brain in the shape of thoughts, and as he piles up thought on thought, truth on truth, doctrine on doctrine, conviction on conviction, and dogma on dogma, a very coherent and orderly fashion, so as to produce a system complex as a body and yet one and harmonious, the more and more human he becomes. When, however, in response to false cries for progress, he lops off dogmas, breaks with the memory of his forefathers, denies intellectual parentage, pleads for a religion without dogmas, substitutes mistiness for mystery, mistakes sentiment for sediment, he is sinking back slowly, surely, and inevitably into the senselessness of stones and into the irresponsible unconsciousness of weeds. Grass is broad-minded. Cabbages have heads - but no dogmas. (pp. 74-74).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that, "The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these." (CCC, 88).
How critical is dogma to one's faith life? Again the Catechism explains, "There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith." (CCC, 89).
Pope Francis would have us believe that dogma leads us away from compassion and to a cold Pharisaism. But as far as compassion is concerned, we must define our terms.
Because of human frailty, every sinner deserves both pity and compassion. However, vice and sin must be excluded from this compassion. This because sin can never be the proper object of compassion. (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.1, ad 1).
It is a false compassion which supplies the sinner with the means to remain attached to sin. Such "compassion" provides an assistance (whether material or moral) which actually enables the sinner to remain firmly attached to his evil ways. By contrast, true compassion leads the sinner away from vice and back to virtue. As Thomas Aquinas explains:
"We love sinners out of charity, not so as to will what they will, or to rejoice in what gives them joy, but so as to make them will what we will, and rejoice in what rejoices us. Hence it is written: 'They shall be turned to thee, and thou shalt not be turned to them.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 25, a.6, ad 4, citing Jeremiah 15:19).
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that the sentiment of compassion only becomes a virtue when it is guided by reason, since "it is essential to human virtue that the movements of the soul should be regulated by reason." (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, c.3). Without such regulation, compassion is merely a passion. A false compassion is a compassion not regulated and tempered by reason and is, therefore, a potentially dangerous inclination. This because it is subject to favoring not only that which is good but also that which is evil (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.1, ad 3).
An authentic compassion always stems from charity. True compassion is an effect of charity (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.3, ad 3). But it must be remembered that the object of this virtue is God, whose love extends to His creatures. (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 25, a.3). Therefore, the virtue of compassion seeks to bring God to the one who suffers so that he may thereby participate in the infinite love of God. As St. Augustine explains:
"'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' Now, you love yourself suitably when you love God better than yourself. What, then, you aim at in yourself you must aim at in your neighbor, namely, that he may love God with a perfect affection." (St. Augustine, Of the Morals of the Catholic Church, No. 49).
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