Friday, July 01, 2016

Michael Brown: Those who insist on moral norms are pharisaical, judgmental, and lacking in love

Dr. Germain Grisez, in a talk entitled "Legalism, Moral Truth and Pastoral Practice" given at a 1990 symposium held in Philadelphia, had this to say:

"Theologians and pastors who dissent from received Catholic teaching think they are rejecting legalism because they set aside what they think are mere rules in favor of what they feel are more reasonable standards. Their views are thoroughly imbued with legalism, however. For dissenters think of valid moral norms as rules formulated to protect relevant values. Some even make their legalism explicit by denying that there is any necessary connection between moral goodness (which they restrict to the transcendental level of a love with no specific content) and right action (which they isolate at the categorical level of inner-worldly behavior). But whether their legalism is explicit or not, all the dissenters hold that specific moral norms admit exceptions whenever, all things considered, making an exception seems the best - or least bad - thing to do. Most dissenters also think that specific moral norms that were valid in times past can be inappropriate today, and so they regard the Church's contested moral teachings as outdated rules that the Church should change."

Dr. Grisez reminded his listeners at the Philadelphia symposium that, "During the twentieth century, pastoral treatment of repetitious sins through weakness - especially masturbation, homosexual behavior, premarital sex play and contraception within marriage - grew increasingly mild. Pastors correctly recognized that weakness and immaturity can lessen such sins’ malice. Thinking legalistically, they did not pay enough attention to the sins’ inherent badness and harmfulness, and they developed the idea that people can freely choose to do something that they regard as a grave matter without committing a mortal sin. This idea presupposes that in making choices people are not responsible precisely for choosing what they choose. That presupposition makes sense within a legalistic framework, because lawgivers can take into account mitigating factors and limit legal culpability. But it makes no sense for morality correctly understood, because moral responsibility in itself is not something attached to moral acts but simply is moral agents’ self-determination in making free choices. Repetitious sinners through weakness also were handicapped by their own legalism. Not seeing the inherent badness of their sins, they felt that they were only violating inscrutable rules. When temptation grew strong, they had little motive to resist, especially because they could easily go to confession and have the violation fixed. Beginning on Saturday they were holy; by Friday they were again sinners. This cyclic sanctity robbed many people’s lives of Christian dynamism and contributed to the dry rot in the Church that became manifest in the 1960s, when the waves of sexual permissiveness battered her."

Dr. Grisez then went on to explain that, "Pastors free of legalism will teach the faithful how sin makes moral requirements seem to be alien impositions, help them see through this illusion, and encourage them to look forward to and experience the freedom of God’s children, who rejoice in the fruit of the Spirit and no longer experience the constraint of law..They will explain that while one sometimes must choose contrary to positive laws and cannot always meet their requirements, one always can choose in truth and abide in love. They will acknowledge the paradox of freedom - that we seem unable to resist freely choosing to sin - the paradox that Saint Paul neatly formulates: ‘I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate’ (Romans 7:15). But they also will proclaim the liberating power of grace, and help the faithful learn by experience that when one comes to understand the inherent evil of sin and intrinsic beauty of goodness, enjoys the support of a community of faith whose members bear one another’s burdens, begs God for His help, and confidently expects it, then the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead raises him from his sins, and he discovers that with the Spirit’s grace one can consistently resist sin and choose life."

But in FrancisChurch, anyone who understands this, who accepts that moral norms are something more than "mere rules," is a "judgmental Pharisee."  It would appear that Michael Brown over at Spirit Daily is promoting this idea.  In an article which may be found here, Mr. Brown suggests that, "In religion, there can be a disconnection. When there is, it doesn't prepare us like it could for eternity. We go with less than we can.

We see this with those who suffer from a "spirit of religiosity," folks who are legalistic and follow the rules -- on the surface, a holy life -- but too often have been harsh on others, fixated on the parts, the mechanics, the codicil, the footnotes, instead of the spirit; not using the gifts of the Church to full effect and perhaps not at all. They genuflect correctly but have exhibited a wrong heart.

They can tell you the difference between blessed and chrism oils. They have the holy days memorized: all good things.

But if it doesn't lead to love (only to self-righteousness, even spiritual arrogance, which becomes judgmentalism), such people, in their zeal, and scrupulosity, are fooling themselves."

Actually it's Michael Brown who is fooling himself.  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).

Michael Brown would have us believe that dogma leads us away from compassion and to a cold Pharisaism and that insisting on moral norms leads to coldness and a lack of compassion. 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).

I an concerned for Michael Brown and the direction he has been taking recently.   With every bizarre statement issued by Francis, inevitably he issues a knee-jerk apologia.   Where others, including Raymond Arroyo over at EWTN, have expressed concern, Mr, Brown is seemingly in a state of denial.


TLM said...

Yes, Raymond Arroyo 'gets it'. He is carrying on Mother Angelica's fierce defending of the faith, albeit in his own way. In a television network 'gone wrong' Raymond is bringing at least the most egregious errors of Francis to the front and center. On a few occasions Mother took to the screen to give errant Bishops a tongue lashing not to be forgotten.....and she paid the price. Not sure I agreed with her on the 'beauty' of Vatican 11, but she made clear the fallout from it was not to be tolerated. The 'spirit' of Vatican ll she knew to be evil, and she let it be known, publicly.

And yes, Michael Brown is in La La Land.

David said...

I used to enjoy Spirit Daily. But it has become wishy washy.

TLM said...

Indeed it has David. I used to go there daily, but now only visit on occasion. So many faithful people are in denial about what's really happening in Rome. I must admit, at the beginning of Francis' Papacy, I gave him every benefit of the doubt, and along with others thought maybe the media was spinning as usual. It became quite clear over time, however, that Fr. Lombardi (nor anyone in the Vatican for that matter)would step up to 'clarify' his anti Catholic public ramblings. I thought maybe 'language barrier' etc. That fact plus his increasingly bold and CLEAR dissent from Church teaching began to erase my denial little by little. How ANYONE can at this point in time deny his break from Catholicism is really beyond me. I'm just an ordinary Catholic in the pew that grew up (from the time I was a teen) on the N.O. Mass. I'm no 'theologian' trust me, but his decent at this point is crystal clear to ANYONE that knows ANYTHING about the faith. Catholicism 101 is being destroyed by Francis. Heck, you even see non Catholics complaining about him!! What does THAT tell you???

How Michael Voris at Church Militant, or Michael Brown at Spirit Daily don't see this is beyond me. Church teaching REQUIRES us to speak out against error being proclaimed whether it be by a Priest, a Bishop, a Cardinal or even a Pope! I do think we will have to answer to the Dear Lord if we are SILENT in His defense!! These people don't KNOW THIS?? Of course they do! Again......Catholicism 101. Someone correct me please, if I am wrong. Pray for them.

James the Convert said...

Outstanding assessment. Archbishop Fulton Sheen gives us clarity. Many have fallen for the easy, sentimental religion that leads to destruction.

Unknown said...

Spirit Daily spiritual instruction: less rigid, less dogmatism, and less legalism ... more Medjugorje conferences, pilgrimages, and more ecumenical Pentecostalist charismatic emotionalism.
Problem solved.

Chrisiopher said...

Personally, I have the utmost respect for Michael Brown. Over the years we have had or disagreements however if anyone can find anyone that is right 100 percent of the time and doesn't get confused, please post their website details here.

Allan said...

Christopher, no one here is denigrating Michael Brown. He does much good. Truly. But, when it comes to Francis or what's happening in the Church, he seems to gave sided against Catholics faithful to Tradition while providing aid and comfort to liberals and modernists at times.

Barbara said...

And pride is only found in Traditional Catholic circles? All of the pride and judgmentalism I witness in the Church comes from liberal circles where dissent is enshrined.

I don't trust you anymore Michael Brown. You're not honest. You've taken sides against Traditional Catholics, those of us who accept Christ's teachings.

Athol/OrangeCatholic said...

I'm with you Barbara. Spirit Daily has more of a New Age feel lately. I don't feel comfortable reading it anymore.

Dymphna said...

I stopped reading Spirit Daily. It's all Medjugorje and charismatic stuff.

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