Saturday, December 25, 2004

Fidelity is a virtue not a vice


Recently, I had occasion to meet with an old friend and to discuss matters pertaining to the Church in general, and the sex abuse crisis in particular. This woman is heavily involved in the Church and serves as the Director of Religious Education for a parish in Manchester, New Hampshire besides serving as a spiritual director for the Cursillo movement within the same diocese.

In the course of our conversation, this woman stunned me with a rather strange comment. I say strange because it has always been my impression that this woman was an orthodox Catholic who fully accepted everything revealed by God and taught by the Magisterium of the Church founded by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And what was this comment? It was her assertion that the young priests being ordained today are "ultra-orthodox" and believe that "they know everything." Such a comment is troubling for a couple of reasons. First of all, the word "orthodoxy" comes from the Greek word orthodoxia, meaning purity of faith or a right opinion. Orthodoxy is therefore belief in the true Faith founded by Jesus Christ. How then can a priest (or anyone else for that matter) be too orthodox? Can one be too faithful to the truths revealed by Christ?

And what of her charge that the young priests of today believe that they know "everything." What else is this but a cynical slur directed against those faithful young priests who actually possess a certainty regarding the truths of the Catholic Faith? After all, the teachings these faithful priests accept with certainty are revealed truths. If these priests accept fully everything revealed by Holy Mother Church, isn't this out of humility rather than arrogance? A failure to appreciate those young priests who are striving to remain faithful to the Depositum Fidei is disturbing enough. But to slander such priests by intimating that they are somehow arrogant because of their certainty, or by suggesting that they believe themselves to "know everything," is indicative of an attitude which fails to live up to the Gospel demand of charity.

It was Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand who reminded us that, "Modern man is a relativist who shuns the idea of objective truth, proud of his critical superiority over the naive dogmatists of former times; and in the same breath he most uncritically accepts everything to be accessible through learning and accepts everything taught by relativists as absolute truth. How can one account for this paradox? In reality, these attitudes stem from one and the same source. Contradictory as they are when professed by one and the same person, they both testify to the old truth that the man who turns away from God inevitably becomes the prey of an idol. The one who wants to shake off the sacred bond of absolute truth inevitably falls into the web of the most naive, uncritical (not to say superstitious) worship of unfounded opinions. He who shirks episteme (knowledge) inevitably becomes a disciple of doxa (opinion)...The egocentric sovereignty that modern man arrogates to himself bans everything that has the character of coming from above, of imposing bonds upon us, and of calling for an adequate response. Modern man also shuns all the factors in life which are gifts, which he cannot grant to himself: they remind him of his dependence upon something greater than himself and above himself. Thus truth in its implacable sovereignty - absolute truth that judges our reason instead of being judged by it - is denied." (The New Tower of Babel, pp.18-19).

What is our attitude toward absolute truth - revealed truth? Do we accept it with humility? Or do we believe ourselves to be wiser than God? What is our attitude toward those who do accept revealed truth? Do we castigate such people and slander them with accusations of arrogance because they possess a certainty regarding revealed truth? Or do we rejoice in seeing such fidelity to Christ and His Church?

Fidelity is a virtue, not a vice. We should be edified when we come across Catholics who are striving to remain faithful to the Church's authentic teaching. If we see fidelity to Christ as something negative, might that suggest something about us?

Until next time,
God love you
Paul Anthony Melanson

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