Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sin and Character

I am glad to say that the combox discussion in my post about Fr. Jiang has been civil and intelligent.

Fr. Jiang's defenders are defending him, it seems, not just because of his Catholic orthodoxy, but because of his character.  And I don't know Fr. Jiang, so I can't comment on his character.

But I can say something about character in general.

It is quite possible for the most reverent of men to harbor the most sinful of thoughts and desires, and even to conceal some of the most heinous of acts.  We have lost sight of sin.  As I'm often saying, we hear very little about sin from the pulpit, even the most common (and deadly) sins that surround us in our parishes - adultery, greed, fornication, the use of pornography, lying, contraception, etc.  And when have we ever heard any Catholic echo St. Paul, "How can we who have died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:2)

Our baptism was a death to sin and a rebirth to Christ.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  (Rom. 6:6-7)

Indeed, our only way to be free from sin is to die to the old self and to be born again to the new nature Christ gives us.  This is a lifelong process, it would seem - but it is the center of our lives as Christians.  Sanctification is nothing less than a death and a rebirth; and without sanctification, we are but hypocrites.

And I say that as a hypocrite.  I say that as one of those reverent men who harbor the most sinful of thoughts and desires.

Perhaps that is why the more I get to know the Catholic Church, the more confused I become.  Is it not obvious to Fr. Jiang's defenders and to the good Catholics who stood tall for Fr. Corapi, Fr. Maciel, Fr. Euteneur and others, and who were let down and disappointed by the Old Adam in even the best of us, that anyone can do anything at any time - and that given the right environment, the culture that grows is not a culture of the Spirit but a deadly and virulent culture of the flesh?

I mean, let's get real for a minute.  This is a Church whose recently appointed head of the Vatican Bank led a notorious life as a flaming sodomite, cruising for male prostitutes and living with his male lovers - a man who is a monsignor.  This is a Church that was hit hard by a sexual scandal of abuse, but that still enables and covers up abuse.  This is a Church that has allowed and encouraged a different kind of abuse - liturgical abuse - and that has allowed 90% of  its members to be poorly catechized and to stray from the Faith de facto if not de jure.  This is a Church that is not only made of sinful men (as always), but of sinful men who have, from the bishops to the laity, pretty much abandoned Jesus Christ for a cheap Barabbas who plays weak pop tunes and who rationalizes the indulgence of our desires.  This is a Church whose Catholic Education is neither Catholic nor Education and whose school principals are feminist bullies and whose pastors are typically emasculated weirdos - as a rule.

And yet, knowing all this about Human Nature, about the current state of the Church, and even in the face of what appears to be a good deal of evidence that substantiates the allegations against him, Fr. Jiang's defenders feel the need systematically to post on comboxes in an attempt to gain a PR victory before the trials.

Do they have a right to do this?  Certainly.  Especially if they're convinced of his innocence.

But that conviction does not seem to take into account the pattern that we've seen over the past decade, nor does it seem to account for the fact that men still "prefer darkness to light" because our "deeds are dark".

In other words, Fr. Jiang may not be guilty, but he's certainly not innocent.  None of us is.  And if we're honest with ourselves, we see the horrid corruption we nurture and water daily.

In this case, either Fr. Jiang and Archbishop Carlson are lying, or the alleged victim and her family are lying. I'm saying any one of us is capable of what Fr. Jiang and Archbishop Carlson are accused of; and any one of us is capable of making false accusations, given the right circumstances and given our own daily rejection of God's grace.

So it's not character but the evidence that will decide this - for our characters are at best rather shoddy and unreliable things.

But now that Archbishop Carlson has been subpoenaed for a deposition in the criminal case and sued in the civil case, I can't imagine either of these cases getting to trial, and I can't imagine the actual evidence coming to light.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. (Luke 8:17)

Our Lord told us this, but He was not speaking of this life.

And certainly not of Church politics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These comments are right on the mark. Every saint was a sinner; the difference between the saints and everyone else is that the saints constantly fought against their own sinful tendencies, using the grace of God. Our society, including faithful Christians, has somehow equated the sins we commit (or don't) with who we are.

The fallacy is clearest when some homosexuals say that their identity is somehow created or fixed by the tendencies they feel, so the acts they do have to be protected in law because the acts merely present (or represent) their identities. Hence, criticizing their acts means hating them. This is very foolish--it means that they are slaves to their appetites and desires. But how many of us are nodding when we hear this rhetoric? It is frustrating to read it because it is easy to refute it. Just substitute "alcoholic" (or some other bad tendency) for "homosexual," and run the argument again. (Let me credit our friend "St. Louis Catholic" for this when he suggested holding an "alcoholics pride" parade along with a "gay pride" parade.)

Those who claim to be slaves to their desires will end up with such a habitual surrender to the desires that the claim may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But our Lord taught us that never do we lose our free will, and never does He ever give up on helping us to turn toward Him to be freed of such slavery.

There is no such thing as a person too good and pure to commit any sin--at least, not since our Savior and his mother walked in Palestine 2000 years ago. At the same time, there is no one so wedded to his or her sins, no one whose "identity" is so fixed in sinful conduct, that the Lord cannot save if he will but turn to Him.

Thank you for writing about this seemingly forgotten point.

Jim Cole