Friday, September 04, 2009

"He who is not angry, whereas he has cause to be, sins.."

In my previous post, I noted how it is possible to "be angry and sin not" (Ephesians 4: 26), something which Cardinal Sean O'Malley obviously does not understand. And he is not alone. Writing for Touchstone Magazine, Dr. Leon J. Podles explains that, "..many Christians have a false understanding of the nature and role of anger. It is seen as something negative, something that a Christian should not feel.

In the sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church, those who dealt with the bishops have consistently remarked that the bishops never expressed outrage or righteous anger, even at the most horrendous cases of abuse and sacrilege. Bishops seem to think that anger at sin is un-Christian. Gilbert Kilman, a child psychiatrist, commented, 'What amazes me is the lack of outrage the church feels when its good work is being harmed. So, if there is anything the church needs to know, it needs to know how to be outraged.'

Mark Serrano confronted Bishop Frank Rodimer, asking why he had let his priest-friend Peter Osinski sleep with boys at Rodimer’s beach house while Rodimer was in the next bedroom: 'Where is your moral indignation?' Rodimer’s answer was, 'Then I don’t get it. What do you want?' What Serrano wanted Rodimer to do was to behave like a man with a heart, a heart that is outraged by evil. But Rodimer couldn’t; his inability to feel outrage was a quality that had helped make him a bishop. He would never get into fights, never rock the boat, never 'divide' but only 'unify.' Rodimer could not understand why he should feel deep anger at evil, at the violation of the innocent, at the oppression of the weak.

Emotional Deformation

The emotions that are now suppressed are hatred and anger. Christians think that they ought not to feel these emotions, that it is un-Christian to feel them. They secretly suspect that Jesus was being un-Christian in his attitude to the scribes and Pharisees when he was angry at them, that he was un-Christian when he drove the moneychangers out of the temple or declared that millstones (not vacations in treatment centers) were the way to treat child abusers.

Conrad Baars noticed this emotional deformation in the clergy in the mid-twentieth century. He recognized that there had been distortions in 'traditional' Catholic spirituality. It had become too focused upon individual acts rather than on growth in virtue; it had emphasized sheer naked strength of will. In forgetting that growth in virtue was the goal of the Christian’s moral life, it forgot that the emotions, all emotions, including anger and hate, are part of human nature and must be integrated into a virtuous life.

Baars had been imprisoned by the Nazis. He knew iniquity firsthand and that there was something wrong with those who did not hate it:

A little reflection will make it clear that there is a big difference between the person who knows solely that something is evil and ought to be opposed, and the one who in addition also feels hate for that evil, is angry that it is corrupting or harming his fellow-men, and feels aroused to combat it courageously and vigorously.

Just Wrath

Wrath is a necessary and positive part of human nature: 'Wrath is the strength to attack the repugnant; the power of anger is actually the power of resistance in the soul,' wrote Josef Pieper. The lack of wrath against injustice, he continued, is a deficiency: 'One who does good with passion is more praiseworthy than one who is ‘not entirely’ afire for the good, even to the forces of the sensual realm.'

Aquinas, too, says that 'lack of the passion of anger is also a vice' because a man who truly and forcefully rejects evil will be angry at it. The lack of anger makes the movement of the will against evil 'lacking or weak.' He quotes John Chrysostom: 'He who is not angry, whereas he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices, it fosters negligence, and incites not only the wicked but the good to do wrong'..." (Full article here).

The spiritually mature Christian understands that not all anger is unjust. That there is such a thing as just or righteous anger. Such a Christian strives to control anger through prayer and by considering the example of Christ. Let's all pray for those in leadership positions in the Church. That they may come to a mature faith which is able to discern between just and unjust anger.
One shepherd [and he is that in every sense of the word] who possesses such a mature faith is The Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. His Excellency has been quoted as having said, "No words that are printable, or even conceivable, are adequate to express my outrage, fury, and depression upon learning that anyone, much less a priest, would sexually molest any children. Such a thing is an unspeakable abomination. Upon hearing such things, I must confess that I am tempted to look for my shotgun and baseball bat, much sooner that I am tempted to give any consideration to a possible 'sickness' in a perpetrator. Molestation victims and their families are certainly entitled to anger. Sometimes their excessive anger and demands, while often becoming unacceptable and unreasonable, are still understandable to me." Read full statement here.
How much more just anger should a shepherd demonstrate against those who would spiritually molest faithful Catholics.


Stewart said...

The lukewarm don't get angry because they don't care. But what will Jesus do to such people? Revelation 3:16.

Michelle said...

I don't sense any outrage whatsoever from Cardinal O'Malley with regard to Senator Kennedy's pro-abortion legacy. There is no outrage as he refuses to deny Holy Communion to other pro-abortion politicians. There is no outrage because he does not have a love for souls. Jesus cleansed the Temple which was being defiled by the money-changers, St. Peter told Elymas the magician he could go to Hell for thinking that he could buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit. ames and John were so angry that they begged Our Lord to rain fire down from Heaven on a town which would not accept Him. He honored them with the name Boanerges: Sons of Thunder.

Cardinal O'Malley is not a pastor of souls. He's a diplomat.

Jessica W said...

New Advent Encyclopedia says that anger "is rather a praiseworthy thing and justifiable with a proper zeal. It becomes sinful when it is sought to wreak vengeance upon one who has not deserved it, or to a greater extent than it has been deserved, or in conflict with the dispositions of law, or from an improper motive."

I honestly don't understand where the Archbishop of Boston is coming from. I don't understand him at all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul, I think you are right about anger and about the need for us to reconnect with it and with its proper and holy purposes -- but I think another reason that the bishops could have responded as they did has to do with unconscious collusion with the perpetrators -- and I mean this in a very subtle sense, and in a way that (to them) would perhaps have been/be completely unconscious.

I read a book, a while back, written by the Jungian analyst, Peter Rutter, entitled Sex in the Forbidden Zone: When Men in Power -- Therapists, Doctors, Clergy, Teachers, and Others -- Betray Women's Trust. It's a very powerful and honest/insightful book, and in the first section, the author mentions that at one point in his career, one of his male colleagues (down the hall from him, I think) was having sex with his female patients -- and that he and the rest of his male peers knew about this, but they all said nothing. When he reflected on the meaning of this later, he realized that the reason they all said nothing was that they were all secretly hoping that they could trade places with him. They were all (unconsciously) envious.

And I have a feeling that its the same thing, here -- not in every case, of course, but I think in many instances. Sex is a very powerful force. It can be transmuted, integrated, and made holy by conscious effort -- by continually opening it up to God and asking him to help sublimate it and transform it for a higher good, since the priests/bishops are all supposed to be celibate (and/but this kind of effort at conscious integration is also necessary in marriage so that sex becomes holy, reverent -- a loving communion with the other and with the Transcendent God (see Book of Tobias... also Von Hildebrand, Josef Pieper, Valentin Tomberg)) -- but if, instead of this kind of steady organic effort and growth through prayer, self-knowledge, and dependence on Grace, these energies are simply shoved down and repressed and repeatedly forced below the surface of consciousness, they become destructive. Even if they are not literally "acted out" in violent and/or sinful ways, they express themselves through unconscious envy, lust, collusion, or a calcification of the heart and a crippling of the affective nature.

Of course, another reason the bishops could be lacking a sense of outrage is that they are irritated that this deep shadow material has come into view and they wish it could have stayed hidden so that their power would not be threatened -- that's, of course, another reason...

I really enjoy reading your posts, Paul! I think you are doing very important work.



Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Catherine, some really insightful comments. Thank you for that. I especially like this: "another reason the bishops could be lacking a sense of outrage is that they are irritated that this deep shadow material has come into view and they wish it could have stayed hidden so that their power would not be threatened.."

Well said. Well said.

John Ansley said...

Good devout Catholics like Father Thomas Euteneuer, the President of Human Life International, have expressed concerns over the scandalous funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy. Fr. Euteneuer said, "We must as a matter of precept, pray for the salvation of heretical Catholics like Senator Edward Kennedy, but we do not have to praise him let alone extol him with the full honors of a public Catholic funeral and all the adulation that attends such an event. There was very little about Ted Kennedy's life that deserves admiration from a spiritual or moral point of view."

And, as you have mentioned Paul, the Senator tried to rationalize his pro-abortion stance in a letter to Pope Benedict XVI. In other words, it would appear that he was unrepentant on the subject of his promotion of abortion.

Now Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., has written: "Leading up to the Kennedy funeral last weekend, and in its aftermath, many so-called lovers of life and activists in the pro-life movement, as well as well-known colleagues in Catholic television broadcasting and media in North America, have revealed themselves to be not agents of life, but of division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence. Their words and actions vitiate their efforts in favor of life."

This is nothing short of hate speech and should be denounced by the Bishops. For Fr. Rosica to equate opposition to a scandalous public funeral of a heretical Catholic with 'hatred, judgment and violence" is gravely sinful.

Catholics like Fr. Euteneuer are not the ones who have engaged in hate and division. Rather, the hatred and division are coming from Catholics like Fr. Rosica who have more esteem for a powerful political family than they do for Christ or the teachings of His Church.

I can just imagine Fr. Rosica accusing John the Baptist of "hatred and violence" for insisting to Herod that he was committing sin or Jesus for having the audacity to cleanse the Temple or St. Peter for rebuking Elymas the magician and so on.

Fr. Rosica's hate speech is inexcusable.

ACatholicinClinton said...

"So-called lovers of life and activists in the pro-life movement"? "Agents of division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence." Looks like the only one engaging in hate-filled judgments is Father Rosica. A classic example of unjust or unholy anger. Whereas Father Euteneuer has provided us with a classic example of just or righteous anger.

Pray for Father Rosica. Pray that he refrains from issuing inappropriate accusations against faithful Catholics - people whom he should consider brothers and sisters in the faith.

Ellen Wironken said...

In an article for LifeSiteNews, John-Henry Westen wrote, "..the root of Fr. Rosica's concerns seems to be the fact that lay persons are daring to publicly question the actions of clergy. Fr. Rosica wrote: 'Their open and public attacks against Cardinal Séan O'Malley, OFM, Cap, Archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C.; the priests involved in the funeral liturgy in Boston's historic Mission Basilica, (be they Redemptorist, Jesuit or Diocesan) indicate that something is terribly wrong in the pro-life movement.'

While Catholic tradition is that Catholics must not publicly criticize clergy in most cases, saints of the Church and Popes have fought against the clericalism that would suggest faithful lay persons may never express public concern about clergy regardless of the circumstances. In recent years there have been many very serious circumstances involving Catholic clergy that have called for strong lay comment, without which some of those situations would still not have been addressed by the Church.

Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) defended the hierarchy in the Church, but also declared 'when circumstances make it necessary, it is not prelates alone who have to watch over the integrity of the faith.'

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his most famous work Summa Theologica (II, II, q. 33, a. 4) wrote: 'When there is an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects.'

The 1983 Code of Canon Law speaks of the role of the laity and states in Canon 212 (3): 'According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.'

Is this a serious and necessary occasion? One of the most senior Catholic pro-life activists in the United States, American Life League President Judie Brown thinks so. Brown, appointed by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy for Life, said of the Kennedy funeral affair: 'The entire travesty, from the television cameras to spectacle itself, goes beyond anything I have witnessed in my more than 65 years of life. In fact, while we all thought the appearance of President Barack Obama at the University of Notre Dame was a scandal, the very idea that he offered a eulogy in a basilica, while the real presence of Christ was in the tabernacle, is perhaps the most dastardly thing I have ever seen.'"

Jonathan said...

I agree with Dr. Podles when he says, "If the feminization of the Church continues, men will continue to seek their spiritual sustenance outside the churches, in false or inadequate religions, with highly damaging consequences for the Church and society. Neither fascism nor criminal anarchy is conducive to Christian life. The inner life of the Church will also be weakened. The Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers will become more and more incomprehensible, and will be rewritten or ignored. Central Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity and the Atonement, are under severe attack, and may vanish from the popular consciousness of Christians, to be replaced by a self-worship that cloaks itself in Christian language."

And, today "The preferred model of church life is irenic, or conciliatory, or waffling; clarity is declasse."

We need a return to "strong meat." We need shepherds who are not afraid to defend the faith with firmness and courage. What we do not need is more effeminate clergy who prefer endless dialogue and waffling to the strong demands of the Gospel.

George said...

Canon 1184 mentions three cases where a Catholic funeral should be denied: a notorious apostate, heretic or schismatic; those who requested cremation for motives contrary to the Christian faith; and manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral cannot be granted without causing public scandal to the faithful. These restrictions apply only if there has been no sign of repentance before death.

Did Senator Kennedy repent? His letter to Pope Benedict XVI seemed like an attempt to justify his record.

Scandal has been given to the faithful.

Marie Tremblay said...

I left the link to this article at Salt & Light as part of a response to Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. - because of his criticism of those who had a problem with the scandalous Kennedy funeral. My comment was not published even though it was very respectful. Must be something about your post which Salt & Light doesn't want people to see the light of day...haha

Great work Paul.

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