Sunday, May 26, 2013

We are Called to Heroic Virtue

I began this series of posts by noting how we're all compromised.  Then I talked about how our compromises show through, whether we think they do or not.  And most recently I talked about how the antidote to this is to cultivate the life of grace within us.

But there's one more thing, and it became crystal clear to me in this latest round of the Lying Debate.


I have written before of how the actresses I've known tend to settle, to compromise their aspirations in love and marry the first guy who breathes - even if it's through his mouth.

I've also written a bit about the forgotten virtue of magnanimity, and its matching vice pusillinimity.

In both cases, one can see how compromise can damage our lives in the world.  We can aim low in love, or aim low in our careers - though most commonly we aim high in both and settle for something in the middle.

And, really the world is all about compromise.

But the Spirit isn't.


Of course we must all compromise in worldly matters, but in the same way that we can never compromise on matters of principle, we must never compromise on matters of the Spirit.

One of the reasons I'm holding firm, along with Mark Shea and others, on insisting that the Teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium that Lying is Intrinsically Evil is exactly that: the Teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium that Lying is Intrinsically Evil  - one of the reasons I won't budge on this Truth is that giving in on this would be giving in on something that is a matter of principle and a matter of Faith.  It would be compromising the Law that is written in our hearts, the Law of Christ.

But that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

I'm not just talking about the temptation to budge on principles or even on Church Teaching.

I'm talking about that persistent desire to settle, to settle spiritually - to find a comfortable spot in our Christian life where we just kind of "veg out".  Oh, sure, we may pray devotions and go to Mass a lot and we may hit all the right pro-life notes, but come on - we ain't gonna give back the Ring.  We won't stop hoarding that secret thing.  Mortification, after all, is for people with serious sins, not for you and me.


If the Lying Debate has taught me anything, it's taught me that ordinary virtue won't do.  I have been as patient and charitable in this debate as human nature can bear - and yet I'm still accused of uncharity.  And while this charge is somewhat spurious (the last defense to an argument that can't be countered - "You're mean and I don't like you!" - in Catholic-speak: "You're uncharitable!") - and while this charge is ironically often made by people who have done their best to treat me like dirt, the fact is they're right: I am called to be patient and charitable beyond what human nature can bear.

For charity is not natural.  It is, strictly speaking, a gift of God - supernatural.  It is, like all grace, the germ of Eternal Life within us.

If our charity has a limit - we are less than fully Christian.  If our patience has a limit - we are less than fully Christian.  If our service to Christ has a limit - we are less than fully Christian.


This is one of the reasons so many people are so divided on the Morality of Lying for a Good Cause.  Not to lie when every fiber of your "moral common sense" tells you it would be the right thing to do, runs against our human nature, our human nature that is so comfortable with compromise.

But we are called to more than that.  We are called not just to natural virtue - which even the pagans and atheists can attain - we are called to super-human virtue, to heroic virtue, to the virtue of Christ.

Hilaire Belloc sums it up, speaking of the un-compromised quality of the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ.

The Catholic Church will have no philosophies. She will permit no comforts; the cry of the martyrs is in her far voice ; her eyes that see beyond the world present us heaven and hell to the confusion of our human reconciliations, our happy blending of good and evil things.
By the Lord! I begin to think this intimate religion as tragic as a great love ... Yes, certainly religion is as tragic as first love, and drags us out into the void away from our dear homes. 

Our dear homes are filled with "human reconciliations", with "our happy blending of good and evil things".

But beyond is the deep, the waters to which Christ calls his fishermen, the waters of the great catch. (Luke 5:1-11)


You are right, Defenders of Lying!  You are right - not to lie in certain situations would require heroic virtue.

But that is exactly what Christ requires of us.

1 comment:

Joey Higgins said...

One of the reoccurring themes of your blog is horribly useful and challenging... and difficult: if you aren't challenged by the gospel, you probably aren't actually "doing" the gospel.

Thank you.

And while people "calling you out" for the lying debate is probably extremely hurtful - I haven't seen an argument that contradicts anything you have argued.