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.
In our sacharrin society, 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.
Just a few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI insisted that the role of the laity in the Church is essential. In other words, he reminded us that the laity are not "second-class" citizens within the Church.The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: "Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity in ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it." (CCC , 900).
In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People), Pope John Paul II reminded us that, "The voice of the Lord clearly resounds in the depths of each of Christ's followers who, through faith and the sacraments of Christian initiation is made like to Jesus Christ, is incorporated as a living member in the Church and has an active part in her mission of salvation." (No. 3).Sadly, there are all too many clerics who haven't really embraced this authentic teaching of the Magisterium. For such clerics, the laity are second-class citizens who are tolerated but not really embraced fully as collaborators in the life and mission of the Church. This is most unfortunate, for, as Pope Pius XII said, "The Faithful, more precisely the lay faithful, find themselves on the front lines of the Church's life; for them the Church is the animating principle for human society. Therefore, they in particular, ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the head of all, and of the Bishops in communion with him. These are the Church..." (Pius XII, Discourse to the New Cardinals, February 20, 1946: AAS 38 (1946), 149).
The truth of lay participation in the priesthood of Christ follows logically from the doctrine of the Mystical Body. Everyone who is incorporated into the Mystical Body participates in the dignities, honors, and offices of the Mystical Head (Jesus). "Because Christ is our head," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "that which was conferred upon him, was also in him conferred upon us" (Summa Theologica, III, q. 58, a.4, ad 1). Or, as Pope John Paul II put it: "Referring to the baptized as 'new born babes', the apostle Peter writes: 'Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light' (1 Pt 2:4-5, 9).
A new aspect to the grace and dignity coming from Baptism is here introduced: the lay faithful participate, for their part, in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. This aspect has never been forgotten in the living tradition of the Church, as exemplified in the explanation which St. Augustine offers for Psalm 26: 'David was anointed king. In those days only a king and a priest were anointed. These two persons prefigured the one and only priest and king who was to come, Christ (the name "Christ" means "anointed"). Not only has our head been anointed but we, his body, have also been anointed ... therefore anointing comes to all Christians, even though in Old Testament times it belonged only to two persons. Clearly we are the Body of Christ because we are all "anointed" and in him are "christs", that is, "anointed ones", as well as Christ himself, "The Anointed One". In a certain way, then, it thus happens that with head and body the whole Christ is formed..'
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, at the beginning of my pastoral ministry, my aim was to emphasize forcefully the priestly, prophetic and kingly dignity of the entire People of God..." (Christifideles Laici, No. 14).
How quickly some have forgotten this threefold dignity of the laity!