Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Love vs. Expediency

Msgr. Pope has written a terrific piece on Love, Anger and the "Miserable Truce of the Modern Age".

In it, he quotes my buddy Chesterton, my buddy Ahlquist, and gets a few zingers in himself.  Most notably ...

Lovers fight, lovers get angry, and well they should, for when love is in the mix, things matter, truth matters, error and harm matter. Lovers want what is best, not merely expedient or convenient.

It is this "miserable truce" with expediency and convenience which marks the modern Christian.  Look no further than Cardinal Dolan, who although in many ways passionate and forthright for Christ, is busy excusing a "miserable truce" his archdiocese has made, a "miserable truce" which he is supporting, a truce which utterly discredits the cardinal as moral leader of the fight against the HHS Mandate.

I say this whether the "miserable truce" is a sin or not - for Janet Smith (who in recent years has made herself noteworthy as an apologist for Lying and a fan of the strange sexual psychology of Christopher West) has now busied herself defending Cardinal Dolan in this instance.  In fact, I think Dr. Smith may be correct that this situation is not technically a question of sin - but it is certainly nothing to be proud of.

As I said in my last post ...

According to Mr. Zwilling [Dolan's mouthpiece] the Archdiocese faced the "dilemma" of "choosing between providing health care to employees or violating its sincere religious beliefs". They have chosen evidently to violate their sincere religious beliefs.  And the Cardinal himself seems to be saying, "We willingly compromised in the past.  We will be forced to compromise in the future!"

Because in the end, in our fleshy selves, it's not about Christ.  It's about compromise.  It's about expediency. It's about convenience.

But God shows us love and the anger of love, not the anger of selfishness, but the anger that refuses to compromise with anything less that what is pure and holy - an anger that sacrifices Himself and transforms us.  Msgr. Pope says ...

 Yes, lovers fight, lovers get angry. And the anger of the Greatest Lover of them all, God, is evident in the downward thrust of the cross into the soil of this world and its manifold lies and half truths. The cross is the downward thrust, like a sword, of God’s non placet to the rebellion and error this world holds so arrogantly.





11 comments:

jvc said...

True story: I recently started attending the local Latin Mass after hearing that Janet Smith hates it. My thinking is that it can't have a better enemy, so I should start looking into it.

David said...

This seems to be a diversionary tactic to deflect the real issue here. The scandal is not necessarily whether Dolan personally commited a sin, and I haven't seen the media making this out to be the issue. And even if they were "mandated", then the response should be to refuse to comply- just as Dolan and others are rightfully pointing out for the HHS mandate and similar proposals. And ignorance and inertia are no excuse either.

It is also noteworthy that the insurance and union reps. have publically stated that in recent meetings regarding renewal of the policy that the Archidocese did not bring this up as an issue. It seems the usual crowd is out to circle the wagons and at great pains to explain this away. The fact that Smith insists that there is no possible problem and tries to forestall all objections is revealing; that only means all the more there is something and we are being told to look away.

Brian Sullivan said...

Kevin,

There is something about this series on Cardinal Dolan that doesn't sit right with me. Perhaps it is just that I am a New Yorker and you are attacking my bishop.

What I think I am hearing is not just a call to be perfect, an invitation to imitate Christ, but a demand for absolute perfection--now!

You may be right that this is a conflicted situation at best. I think that there is a difference between the Federal Government forcing you to comply with the HHS mandate as opposed to continuing to adhere to a agreement made with a union, even it that agreement is morally problematic.

Certainly Cardinal Dolan was right to oppose the administration's ruling as he did. If, as you say, he is wrong not to as strongly oppose this union insurance coverage, should he tear up the contract already in place and refuse the coverage? Shouldn't Christians honor agreements they've made, even if unwisely?

I hope that Cardinal Dolan will find a way to change or renegotiate said contract to correct this insurance issue. But please do not discredit the good work he has done in opposing the HHS mandate.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome to him in New York. I'm done worrying about it.

Jon said...

Kevin,

First, I haven't had a chance to say that I agree with you on the lying issue -- to the point that I've made sure my wife knows to expect the truth (however tactfully delivered) if she asks my opinion about the proverbial dress.

That said, in the same section of the catechism that you've quoted a million times on the subject of lying, there is this:

"To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way" (CCC 2478)

Since it is probably wise to give Cardinal Dolan the benefit of the doubt as concerns sin -- as far as we know he has not committed any sin in this -- should we not also give him the benefit of the doubt as to whether this is an expression of Christian Minimalism or not? I know that the defenses given for him can sound like lame excuses, but they could also be a legitimate exercise of prudence in a matter which is properly Cardinal Dolan's, and not ours. It is entirely possible for his action here to be a tactical mistake and not at all a lack of moral courage (or even "sleeping with the enemy").

If his action is not inherently sinful, then we should extend to him the freedom to make that choice in good faith, because it may very well be the best choice to make.

Suppose for a moment that his action is the right thing to do. Doing otherwise to avoid scandal would be the shameful thing, just as the cover-ups of pedophile priests to protect the reputation of the Church was the wrong thing to do. Just as "lying for a good cause" is the wrong thing to do.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Jon, you may be right that I'm being too harsh - but it's not just his decision to make. There are unborn babies being killed because of his complicity - remote though it might be. And he has drawn us all into this battle. He can't say, "Get up from your chairs! Tell Obama you're mad as hell and you're not gonna pay for premiums that cover abortion and contraception" - and then quietly go and pay for premiums that finance abortion and contraception himself.

He might not be sinning, but he's taught us a few things. See http://www.thwordinc.blogspot.com/2013/05/you-think-im-tough-on-dolan.html

Kevin O'Brien said...

Brian, good points. Let me address each as I see them.

You write, "You may be right that this is a conflicted situation at best. I think that there is a difference between the Federal Government forcing you to comply with the HHS mandate as opposed to continuing to adhere to a agreement made with a union, even it that agreement is morally problematic."

I reply: Yes, there is a difference, but in this situation, with the whole world watching, that difference is necessarily less important than the moral leadership that's clearly lacking. If he were not at the head of the USCCB's push against HHS, this would be far less of an issue. We don't need "perfection now!" but we do need simple consistency.

You write: "Certainly Cardinal Dolan was right to oppose the administration's ruling as he did. If, as you say, he is wrong not to as strongly oppose this union insurance coverage, should he tear up the contract already in place and refuse the coverage? Shouldn't Christians honor agreements they've made, even if unwisely?"

I reply: he should refuse to honor the contract. We cannot be held to an agreement to perform grave evil, so the contract is not binding - and if paying premiums that cover abortion and contraception is not "grave evil", then accept Obama's HHS Compromise offer and be done with it.

You write, "I hope that Cardinal Dolan will find a way to change or renegotiate said contract to correct this insurance issue. But please do not discredit the good work he has done in opposing the HHS mandate."

Brian, he's done some excellent work on HHS. You're right, and we should all be grateful for that. But he's blowing it all on this issue, and he doesn't seem to realize it.

The fact is that contract must have been up for renegotiation many times since it was agreed to, and not a thing was done then, and not a thing will be done now. So even if the cardinal opts to honor the contract, he apparently will do nothing to negotiate out of it next time it's up for discussion.

Jon said...

Kevin,

Full disclosure: I probably have an excessive tendency to "giving the benefit of the doubt". In general this is a strength, but as is often the case, such strengths turn into weaknesses at times.

You said: ". . .it's not just his decision to make." Again, assuming that this is a morally permissible decision (however "minimalist" it may be), is it not precisely within his competence as the Ordinary of that diocese? I dare say exclusive competence. Who else has any proximate responsibility or authority (except those whom the Cardinal may have delegated for that purpose)?

In your response to Brian you said, "But he's blowing it all on this issue, and he doesn't seem to realize it." Is it possible that he does realize it, but has decided on his present course of action anyway, because he thinks it is the right thing to do? There may also be other factors he has deemed imprudent to discuss in public. In my limited work in a parish setting, I have discovered that seemingly cut-and-dried issues are often horribly not so, causing great anguish on the part of the pastor.

I probably won't respond any further, not because I want to avoid the issue (I'll keep reading) but because I'm under a self-imposed restriction on internet writing.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Jon, I understand the self-imposed restriction idea! I avoid the internet on Fridays, for example - but this is the Visitation, so I'm "celebrating".

Actually, you're right. It's his decision and it might be "complicated". But he has given all Americans a claim on this issue by making it the number one political issue in the Catholic Church, and a major issue in the U.S.A. outside of the Church. Yes, it's still his decision to make - but if I had spent donated money and my time and energy campaigning against the color green and telling everyone it was evil, when it comes time to paint my private bathroom, is it my decision alone if I paint it green? Technically, yes; but by being vocal and public about such a thing, I have given others a stake in it.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Dolan doesn't think "he's blowing it all on this issue," and it shows. He knows that because he's a cardinal, some Catholics will regard him as divine, and he may be right. I see that in comboxes in several places this has actually devolved into a "would Jesus lie" thing, and pretty quickly.

For Cardinal Dolan to believe that "he's blowing it all on this issue," two things have to occur in his head:
1. He has to realize that this is a contradiction.
2. He has to realize himself that he is a man, and not God. And that in fact, he doesn't even directly act in God's stead because he's a man. God cannot be captured and put in a bottle like that, forced to serve the political exigencies of one country, or one group of men. This is always the danger of being in religion. If you want real power, become a politician, not a churchman.

An aside: I'm Catholic, but I have a problem with all this for another reason. If you ask most Catholics what they believe in they're very quick to tell you that they believe in the Church, and somewhat less likely to tell you that they believe in a person, Jesus. That's why his name comes up so seldom in Catholic conversations. Catholics are also quite likely to say they "love God" but that they don't want a relationship with him. The question is: How do you love someone you refuse to have a relationship with?? You don't. Bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong. I'm saying that there's a difference between two things:
1. Serving Christianity in obedience and fellowship to Christ, and doing the work of the Gospel so that Christ shows through you for the good of the Church, or
2. Laying personal claim to the power of the Gospel and attempting to make it fit your ideas of what it ought to be, while enjoying the benefits.

You provide your own examples. I can think of examples of both statements from people I've seen and have read about.