Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
This is the KJV translation of Romans 16:17&18. I have always liked the phrase "their own belly", which is often translated elsewhere as "their own appetites". The image is clear - avoid those who worship not Jesus but their bellies - or the region a few inches below their bellies.
And if we need to paraphrase Paul, which sometimes helps, here is what he's saying ...
Please take note of those who cause divisions and "put obstacles in your way" (NIV) that are contrary to the true doctrine you have learned. AVOID THEM. They don't worship Christ, but they worship their own appetites (their greed, their hunger, their lust) - and their slick talk can fool the naive and simple.
In other words, be aware when either liberals or conservatives deny Christ and come up with theologies that suit their own desires - whether those theologies are rationalizing sins of lust, abortion, torture, lying, greed or anything that we really really want to feel good doing because our bellies are growling.
But, you know, none of this is new - not even the fawning idolatry of Catholic celebrities, about which Mark Shea writes in his inimitable manner over at Catholic and Enjoying It.
Mark mentions Fr. Corapi and Michael Voris. I could mention others of the current day.
But take one example from long ago.
Felicite de Lamennais. He was the boy wonder of his day, and while a few were wary of his theology, which had a strong anti-rational streak, nevertheless Rome went so far as to give one of his books an imprimatur and
"Lamennais himself soon visited the Holy See; Leo XII received him very kindly and at one time even thought of making him a cardinal, despite his excitable character and exaggerated ideas." (from the Catholic Encyclopedia)
In fact, Lamennais went so far as to establish his own cult of personality.
"... he derived valuable assistance from a certain number of young men, ecclesiastics and laymen, who gradually formed a group of which he was the centre. Of these the best known are Gerbet, de Salinis, Lacordaire, Montalembert, Rohrbacher, Combalot,Maurice de Guérin, Charles de Sainte-Foy, Eugène and Léon Boré, de Hercé."
But not everybody went ga-ga over the rock star. One of my heroes, Bl. Dominic Barberi, sounded early alarms among his Passionist brothers about Lamennais and his work, and was soundly excoriated by his fellow priests. In fact, the General of the Passionists demanded that Barberi admit that his criticism of Lammenais was wrong and that he (Barberi) was prideful and arrogant (sound familiar? just look at any number of comboxes on this very blog). Barberi obeyed his General to this extent: he gladly admitted his pride and arrogance, but refused to back down from the theological position he took criticizing Lamennais.
I have not done wrong, neither can I unsay anything that I have written or said. To me, it is as clear as the noon-day sun that from the principles of De Lamennais flow conclusions pernicious both to the Church and to Society.
wrote Barberi. He took quite a bit of heat for this and his reputation among the Passionists "was reduced to zero".
But about a decade later, in 1833, Rome (which always moves slowly, carefully and deliberately) condemned the errors of de Lamennais.
How did Fr. Lamennais react to this fraternal correction? First, he renounced his priesthood. The he left the Catholic Church. Finally he renounced the Christian Faith entirely. He died a maverick and a crank in 1854.
Numerous attempts were made to bring him back to religion and to repentance, but in vain. He died rejecting all religious ministration, and after requesting that his body "be carried to the cemetery, without being presented at any church".
So just because someone claims to be a super-Catholic, do yourself a favor and discern the spirits a bit. His arguments may be very anti-Catholic indeed, and he may not reveal his true colors until much later.
To conclude, if your folk hero
- causes divisions among the Faithful
- puts up obstacles to Traditional teaching
- uses slick words and ambiguous speech
- is serving his own belly - his own appetite - by rationalizing sin or bad behavior
- reacts to criticism viciously and in a mean or petty spirit
do what St. Paul says and AVOID HIM.
And more than that, as Paul continues to admonish the Romans ...
be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (Rom. 16:19)
The more you know about the Faith, and the more you strive to become holy, the more the Holy Spirit will grant you the wisdom about what is good, and the more you will be able to tell a good bit of business from a bad.
For the point of our Faith is not the evil that the false teachers are spreading, but the good that our true teacher has given us.