Saturday, June 1, 2013

What to Do when the Mask Comes Down

Of all the issues that have come up since I've been blogging, nothing has been more serious than the current scandal involving Cardinal Dolan and the reaction to it by a very small segment of the Catholic community.

Let me try to explain.


The Author Comes Home and Finds It Ransacked 

I came into the Catholic Church in 2000 after a long and circuitous journey.  I had "been there" and "done that" when it came to New Age-ism, atheism, sexual promiscuity, artistic bohemianism, and just about any wrong philosophy and world-view you can imagine.  And before becoming Catholic, after my conversion from atheism, my wife and I attended a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod church (which is on the far right of the spectrum) and an Episcopalian church (which is on the far left of the spectrum).  I really had experienced it all and I was tired of the sham and the self-deception that you find in any way of life or way of thinking that rejects Christ and his cross.

Right away, though, upon our reception, I noticed some surprising things about the Catholic Church.  Our local parish bore little resemblance to the ideal Church Chesterton and Belloc had been praising in their writings.  For one thing, the music was bad.  I mean really really bad.  Horrible songs and inept performances of the horrible songs.  For another, the homilies made no sense.  Our pastor, who had been at the parish for fifteen years, simply could not put two sentences together coherently.  He would mumble and ramble and I would sit there in utter confusion, not so much at what he said but at why people sat there and pretended to listen to him.  Worst of all, the parish school was clueless as to what the Catholic Church was and what they should be teaching our children about the faith.  "Diversity" and "Tolerance" were at the top of the list of virtues, as was the general principle that you should Never Love Anything Enough to Fight for It.  

Finally, after a few years, it occurred to me.  "These people don't really believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  And even if they might suspect that He was, they certainly don't believe that Christ is the head of the Church or that the Catholic Church is anything other than a misguided human institution that we can co-opt at will for our own purposes and agendas."

In other words, the vast majority of Catholics that I met were liberalists (a word I use to mean a combination of  "liberal" and "literalists" - in other words "liberal to the letter" - you might say fundamentalist-liberals).  They were good people and fun at a party, but they most certainly didn't care for the Church of Christ - beyond a kind of fond regard for things like fish fries and bake sales.

The Author Defends Himself Against "You're so Judgmental!"

A quick aside is in order here - I am not judging the souls of these Catholics, nor am I judging their hearts.  I'm just trying to be objectively honest about the state of the Church as it stood then and as it stands now.  When it comes to our fellow disciples, "Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Mat. 7:16), and the fruits of the disciples I knew in my first suburban parish were indistinguishable from those produced by the anti-christian secular world around us.  Or a bit worse.  The St. Somewhere Catholics apparently use contraception and practice fornication, adultery and abortion at the same rate that everyone else does in our society - studies have shown that, and getting to know Typical Catholics one-on-one confirms what the studies tell us.

And don't worry.  Much as some of you conservatives may say, "Be as judgmental as you want!  The liberals deserve it!" - well, sit tight.  I'll get to you in a minute.  If I'm a judgmental jerk, I'm an equal opportunity judgmental jerk.

Indeed, the ultimate solution here, as I pointed out when the Dolan scandal broke, is not fixing others but fixing ourselves.  Keep that in mind, because I'll end with that.  But first ...

The Author Places His Hopes on Orthdox Catholics (who ain't so orthodox)

So in a moment of reckless abandon, my wife and I started the Theater of the Word Incorporated.  

"I'll show those liberalists!" I said to myself.  "I'll do reparations for their contempt for the Eucharist! their devotion to perversion! their celebration of abortion and contraception!  And I'll team up with others who are doing the same.  The Second Spring has begun!  The New Evangelization will move the world!"

And then I found that if I WERE to be judgmental, and if I had to take bets on who would make it to hell the quickest, right wing Catholics (generally speaking) have got it all over the lefties in a heartbeat.

"Wait a minute!" I said to them on this blog and silently in anguish, "You're the ones who could change this.  You know solid doctrine.  You've got the Catechism.  You pray devotions.  You watch EWTN and read encyclicals.  You're serious about Jesus Christ and His Church - aren't you???"

No.  No they're not.

Again, I'm talking generally and broadly and stereotyping.  I'm not condemning all "conservatives" (I'm one myself), but I am saying, ye shall know them by their fruits.  And look at their fruits - just on the internet.

On this blog alone, so-called conservative, orthodox or "devout" Catholics have said (in so many words)

  1. Screw Church Teaching - we want to win.
  2. Lying can be a virtue.
  3. Torture is a good thing.
  4. There's nothing wrong with our economic system and by the way To Hell with the Poor.
  5. My guy renounces his priesthood or shores up the Culture of Death by his acts of cowardice?  Well, he's MY GUY, so the problem is with you.
  6. Shut up.
  7. You need to go to confession!  I'll pray for you!  You're uncharitable!
  8. Shhh.  Listen: the problem is with the Jews - but I don't hate the Jews, I only strongly dislike them.
  9. How dare you!  I'll RUIN YOUR CAREER!
  10. Nothing is more important than the pro-life movement, except when we have to betray the pro-life movement to protect OUR GUY.

... I could go on.  If you don't believe me, well, when you find six months with nothing to do, just read the archives of this blog and the comment boxes therein.

But It Can't Be That Bad!  (No, it's Far Worse)

And yet, in the midst of everything, our fallen human nature has God's grace, and even the worst of us can at any moment act on the grace of God within us.

An example from the left - one day my daughter and I found ourselves in a beautiful inner city church that had been co-opted (as the urban churches are) by the far left.  I was getting madder and madder at the liturgical abuse and outright improvising of the priest who was celebrating Mass.

But suddenly, at the Our Father, my hand was grabbed by a large black man from behind, and the whole congregation gathered in a circle around the priest, holding hands and saying the Our Father.  A shameful liturgical abuse!  Yes.

But there was warmth there - and a genuine welcoming.  These people didn't know us - we didn't share the skin color of most of them - and I was a crabby old man getting crabbier by the minute - but there was a true charity there; a charity that didn't want to follow the rules, but a charity nonetheless.

An example from the right - As frustrated as the Lying Debate has made me, and as nasty as the Lying Apologists have been to me, one thing stood out that redeemed them, in my eyes.  They were pro-lifers.  They loved the family, loved babies and wanted to save them.  If they were using sophistries and mental gymnastics to rationalize their bad means to a good end - they had, in fact, a good end.  They may want to Lie for a Good Cause, but they had a Good Cause.  They wanted to save the unborn and their mothers from the horrific industry of death and darkness that takes such advantage of them.

... however ...

As the Author Said, It Gets Far Worse

Cardinal Dolan, a prince of the Church.

A man who seemed to transcend the liberal / conservative split.  An orthodox Catholic with a love for G. K. Chesterton and the St. Louis Cardinals.  An affable, good natured man, who delivered a strong invocation at the Democratic Convention and who bravely led the heretofore useless United States Council of Catholic Bishops into a showdown with the Obama administration over the HHS Mandate, which would force self-insurers to pay for contraception directly, and for all employers to pay for contraception indirectly, through premiums.

Yes, I had heard his critics, and I dismissed them.  Some said he was leading with the wrong foot - focusing on "religious liberty" instead of the immorality of contraception.  I could understand the politics of that - for, even though contraception is the root cause of all modern social evils (speaking from a natural and sociological point of view), nobody believes that contraception is a big deal, not even the vast majority of Catholics.  The bishops had abandoned all attempt to teach the evils of contraception since Humanae Vitae and so it would be odd that they'd be roused to do just that when the political crisis hit.

And the far right were angry at him for not being Catholic enough.  And, it seems, for being too joyful - not sour enough or somber enough.  But these were the people who originally thought Pope Benedict XVI was not Catholic enough.  So I considered the source and disregarded the cardinal's critics.

Then, in the past few days, the worst case scenario played itself out and the mask came down entirely, the mask that had been covering the Catholic Church in the United States and the truly ugly visage underneath.

Why This is the Worst

The New York Times revealed that the archdiocese of New York has, for nearly twenty years, been doing exactly what Cardinal Dolan says we all should refuse to do.  The archdiocese has been paying for insurance premiums that cover not only contraception BUT ALSO ABORTION.  Not even the HHS Mandate is mandating that.

We had a pause last week - Memorial Day weekend - when the news first hit.  We had the leisure to take a day or two to guess what the official response of the archdiocese would be.  

And it was worse than we could have imagined.

The official response was 

  • We had to choose between violating our religious beliefs and providing health insurance.  We chose to violate our religious beliefs.  (Realize that this is a false choice to begin with - the archdiocese could have paid the employees more, so that they could purchase their own insurance; or self-insured to cover these employees so that such grave evils could be avoided).
  • We must not allow the Federal Government to force us to do what we've been willingly doing all along!

But we could have expected both these responses.

And we could have expected the true-believers to Circle the Wagons, as they did.  After all, he's MY GUY and to hell with Christ and His principles if He or they get between me and MY GUY.

But what we could not have predicted was the depravity to which the defenders would descend.

Janet Smith made some of the most outrageous comments to Al Kresta about this - which A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics rightly cuts to shreds.  In the past, Smith has jettisoned good theology to defend Lying and Christopher West - but, as I say, the Lying was for the sake of Saving Babies and West (though goofy) is titillating enough to be entertaining, so the harm that's been done by Smith and her supporters is understandable.

But what she has now said is truly shocking and really beyond belief.  She said ...

  • New York was forced to pay these premiums. They weren't
  • The Church could not have been expected to consider the condemnation of contraception a settled doctrinal issue. What???!  It's one thing to say there are "two traditions" on Lying - but are conservatives now saying there are "two traditions" on contraception?!?  Or that the Church should wait for a "clearer teaching" in the indefinite future before doing the right thing?
  • New York should not be expected to have known what they were doing. Uh-huh, but if that's true, why, now that they know, have they shown no intent to put an end to it?
  • Doing an evil to achieve a good is just fine - paying for abortion and contraception so that your employees can pay for CAT scans and surgeries is excusable. You wonder why I've been making such a big deal about the evils of consequentialism?  If you can Lie for a Good Cause, or Torture for a Good Cause, you can support contraception and abortion for a Good Casue, that's why.
  • God made everything anyway, so how can we do evil with things that share in God's goodness?  Wow.  Dr. Alice von Hildebrand was right when she said these people confuse ontological value with moral value.  But ... but ... Wow.
  • And she recaps with: New York was forced to pay these premiums. ... which they weren't.  And still aren't.  For one thing, no one is under obligation - contractual or otherwise - to participate in grave evil.  For another thing, the contract can be re-negotiated when it next expires, and other solutions - moral solutions - can be found.

My comments are in red, and I'm putting into a brief synopsis the things Janet Smith said.  So before some of you nitwits start saying, "That's not what she said at all!" - no, this is exactly what she's saying, though I'm paraphrasing, and if you want her exact words go here.  (I've tried to find the original transcript that Kresta has posted - but it seems to have been taken down.  Interesting.)

At any rate, we can't sink lower than this.  

Dolan has lost the moral authority to lead the HHS battle and the true believers have sold out on unborn babies for thirty pieces of silver.  Or less, as nobody gets paid to comment on the internet.  At least I don't.

By the way, Janet Smith is no more a moral theologian than I am (despite what the Dallas blog mistakenly says).  She is a scholar of Classics.  I'm an actor.  Neither one of us is a Moral Theologian.

But we're both Catholics.  We're both Christians.  And we both should be ashamed of the archdiocese of New York, not busy making excuses for them.

At least most pro-lifers (God bless them) are rightly up in arms.

The Author Ain't so Hot Himself

So the liberals are destroying the Church.

The conservatives are destroying the Church.

The middle-of-the-roaders are too lazy to destroy the Church, but their lack of concern and leadership is doing plenty.

And we all seem to hold one another and the teachings of Jesus in contempt.

What then?  Maybe I can fill in the gaps that they miss.  But ... they're right, you know.  I'm uncharitable.  I'm not a very good Christian myself.  I get mad and use profanity.  I am way too interested in women who are not my wife.  I'm an applause hog.  I've got "issues" and I work them out on stage and in this blog.  In fact (speaking of profanity) I am indeed, in the words of one of my readers, an "asshole".

So what can I do about this?  Blog!?  Ha!

That's right - Ha!

The Truth Sets the Author Free.  And his Readers.

I say Ha! because fat lot of good this blogging does.

But I might be wrong there.

The purpose of this blog has been for me to try to work out spiritual insights and frustrations.  (Yeah, lots of frustrations!)

And if there's one things I've written about, one thing that trumps all the others, it's this.

The life of God is within us.  Eternal life has already begun.  God's grace is the Spirit; our selfish pride and fear is the sarx, "the flesh".  It's all over the Gospels, it's all over St. Paul, and it's the last thing you'll hear from the pulpit.

God is in us, by virtue of our Baptism and the other sacraments.  So is the old man, who must be resisted.  We have a pragmatic plan before us now - cooperate with God's grace.

Mortify your flesh.  Live to the Spirit.  Reject sin.  Repent.  Sow not to the flesh, but to the spirit.  Lose your life so that you may find it.  Eternal life has already begun - as a mustard seed - within you.

We can all become holy - you, me, Janet Smith, even a the Most Annoying Man on the Internet.  God made us to be holy, to live His life, not to live out our death.

Because without him, we will do anything - even rationalize paying money to kill babies - anything - to shore up our flesh, the selfish and narrow spoiled brat in each of us.  We will care for MY GUY more than the Son of Man.  We will sin, and the wages of sin is death

but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Rom. 6:23)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sex outside the covenant and contraception are both distortions of something, but abortion hints at an absence -- a denial of the divine energies.

Its good to remember that all contain within themselves, the undistorted image of God.