Catholic Exchange: Don’t Let the Scandals of the Hierarchy Lead You to Despair

The Church in the United States is once more stunned to learn of scandal within our leadership as news of accusations of sexual abuse by Cardinal McCarrick continue to be reported. The news coming out of Chile has been bad enough, but now a high ranking member of the hierarchy is accused of multiple instances of sexual abuse. Those of us in the Church continue to feel anger, sadness, confusion, and, quite frankly, disgust, about a problem that just will not seem to go away.

People outside of the Church now have even more ammunition to lob our way, which makes it harder for us to evangelize in an ever more hostile culture like our own. Many are asking: When will this evil finally be purged from the Church? The truth is that evil will only be fully purged from the Church when Christ returns.

The dangers of despair

I read various threads in social media about this latest scandal and one of the greatest concerns I had was about those people who are struggling with despair and a loss of faith. Some people are even contemplating leaving the Church for some other denomination or leaving Christianity for good. This is one of the great evils of public scandal within the hierarchy of the Church. It harms the faithful directly and can lead people to the sin of despair. Sin always has communal dimensions, but when it is tied directly to our leadership its reach is far and wide.

When I was stationed in England, at the height of the American Church’s abuse scandal, I worked with a gentleman who had left the Church because of the scandal. He was angry, repulsed, hostile, and had become anti-Catholic. Underneath, I could see great pain and disappointment. He couldn’t stomach that some priests had abused children and this caused him to leave the Faith. There was little I could do to help change his mind. The damage was done.

The McCarrick situation seems to follow the more common issue of a man in power abusing other adults, but the media has made sure the majority of people think that the vast majority of victims were children, even though they were not. This in no way minimizes the seriousness of the situation or the crimes. Abuses of power and coercion for sexual gain, or any other type of gain, is gravely sinful and evil, even more so when children are involved. It is merely to clarify the situation because precision does matter. It also allows us to explain this terrible situation to our interlocutors.

 

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Confronting Hard Truths About Facebook and Myself

Anyone who has been reading my blog over the last couple of years knows that I battle being addicted to Facebook. Yes, addicted. I think a lot of people are addicted, but we don’t like to admit it, myself included. Social media is a part of the post-modern experience. At face value it is indeed a good. It allows us to connect worldwide in real-time and to reconnect with people from our past. It is a blessing to see how people we knew decades before are doing at this point in their lives. All of this is good, but I think we  need to be honest with ourselves about a few things.

We live in a lonely culture.

We are able to connect in real-time, and yet, we are more lonely now than ever before. We can spend hours engaged in discussions, arguments, or reading news feeds, but feel completely and utterly disconnected. A computer screen does not provide the needed interaction of authentic relationship with a person who is present to us fully. We can get a million “Likes” to something and it will not put a dent in that loneliness or sense of isolation. In reality, deep down, we realize that our Facebook friends are more of a type of acquaintance than true friendship. Our Facebook friends may offer us prayers and kind thoughts during difficult times, but only a few of them will walk into the darkness with us. This is, of course, human  nature. We avoid suffering at all costs. As painful as it is, we have to acknowledge that we are in a sort of shadow relationship with our Facebook friends. We are social beings by nature. We need community, but authentic community in which we interact with people in person and engage in relationships with those people.

We have stopped listening to one another.

Listening is something we all struggle to do in our interactions. In our pride, we want to have an immediate response at the ready before considering all of the information being presented. We already have our ideas, preconceived notions, and biases at the ready. We also desire to protect ourselves from any perceived attack, even if it is meant merely as a charitable reminder or correction. We all seem to do this in both social media and in our daily relationships.

The problem with this lack of listening in social media is that it is dividing us even more with each passing day. When we begin a discussion with someone–whether a friend or a stranger–we do not meet on even ground. There is no mutual understanding or defining of terms. I have discovered that discussions go much more smoothly if they are entered into with an understanding of mutual respect and a clear defining of terms to be used. If we enter into a conversation in social media with someone without these two principles in place, the conversation will devolve very quickly. It then turns into a group of people ganging up on one person or one person ranting and raving at the others or a whole host of other problematic situations will occur. Ad hominems, presumptions, misunderstandings, and irrationality inevitably take over the whole conversation.

Facebook and the like allow us to talk, and talk, and talk. We have a platform and we use it. It is hard to admit to ourselves that in reality, nobody cares, or if they do, it is not that much. A passing “Like”, emoji, or thumbs up does not equate to genuine concern or interest. Typically we “Like” and move on to “Like” a dozen more things before shutting off social media for a few minutes and then reaching for our phone again or laptop.

We do not appeal to prudence.

The Queen of the Virtues is prudence. She is the most important of the cardinal virtues for all of the other cardinal virtues flow from her. Prudence means truly discerning how to respond in a situation. Think of prudence in relation to wisdom. For a Catholic, this includes considering God’s will or proper responses in a given situation. We cannot be just if we are not prudent. True justice is founded on prudence and charity. We cannot be truly courageous if we are not prudent, because we may get ourselves killed in the process. We cannot be temperate if we do not first understand prudent choices, because the Passions would like nothing more than to have free run of our lives. Prudence is the crucial habit that needs to be learned in virtuous living and in going deeper into the spiritual life.

Social media is almost the anti-thesis of prudence. We say whatever comes to mind without any appeal to prudence. Yes, we are all works in progress, including myself. We are all sinners, but that is not a get out of jail free card or an excuse. We know better, so we acknowledge our weakness, but we don’t justify it. I often lack prudence and it always gets me into trouble. As Catholics, we do not have a right to do and say whatever we want. We are obliged–through the gift of the supernatural virtues–to learn the habit of prudence. Not every comment on Facebook we disagree with needs to be responded to. I am talking to myself here too. I am a work in progress, so please keep in mind this is not some kind of morally superior lecture. I am right there in the gutters with everyone else. These are merely insights I have gained from my own broken, and at times, sinful use of social media. Not every thought that comes to our heads needs to go out into cyberspace. We do have an obligation to consider how our thoughts and actions will impact the people around us.

Does social media help me on the path to holiness?

All of these insights come down to the main question that I must ask myself as someone who is clearly addicted to Facebook. This is the same question we must all ask ourselves in every moment of the day. Will this X, Y, or Z help me attain holiness? Some people are masters of properly ordering social media and they are able to use it for God’s purposes. I know that I am not one of those people. God has made it plain to me, and yet, in my shame and weakness I persist. Internet usage is a constant in my regular Confessions. Unequivocally Facebook does not help me on the path to holiness. It is a hindrance. It makes me think too much about myself and my own thoughts, which are not nearly as exciting as they seem in my head or in black letters glowing on my computer screen. Nobody cares! I am going to tell myself this again: NOBODY CARES! There I said it. What a relief!

I think that far too many Catholics do not understand that our mission is holiness. The meaning of our lives is to become a saint. That is not a goal reserved for a lofty few. It is the end for which all of us are created. If we approach our daily living from this standpoint we would begin, by God’s grace, to order our lives to that purpose. I know this truth, but there are times I fall into habits that take me away from that mission. Facebook takes me away from my vocation and the mission. I have asked God to make me a saint and that means relinquishing my will to His will. He has asked me to cease and desist Facebook. I will not progress, and I may back slip, if I do not take heed.

Facebook can become a near occasion of sin.

Facebook is a near occasion of sin for me because of the incessant outrage. The constant need to be angry or upset about something, anything. The onslaught of news and division can be downright overwhelming. This is a distraction aimed at keeping us from focusing on Christ and the mission of bringing the world to Him. The world has been a horrifying, bloodthirsty, and violent place since the Fall. The Bible and human history are filled with humanity’s evil, stupidity, arrogance, blindness, and depravity. We have been wounded by the Fall and we live in a world that struggles with sin. We still wait for the Second Coming of Our Lord at any moment. That is one of the main purposes of Advent. To remind us to wake up! Christ will come again and we do not know the hour, so be alert!

Spending hours upon hours dwelling on the Fallen world is not good for me and I would argue it is not good for anyone. I worry about some of my Facebook friends. I see their loneliness. I know their loneliness. I see their pain and struggles. They may not realize that I see them.We reach out for human interaction for someone to “see” us and our pain, but Facebook does not provide the needed compassion and charity. My Facebook friends cannot truly see my grief and pain. The tears I shed on a nearly daily basis as I grieve my lost babies and struggle to accept my infertility do not appear in my newsfeed. A crying emoji wouldn’t quite do justice to my struggles. They do not sense the ache I feel at all of their children and pregnancy announcements. Not because I am envious, although I have my moments, but because I am a mother who wants to love more children.

I know deep down most–not all–of my Facebook friends do not truly see me, understand me, or love me as a friend is meant to love. I think this is something we all need to acknowledge and accept. This is understandable. We are no longer in the same place in our lives or geographically. Facebook allows for facades and the pretense of everything is dandy and fine. Nobody wants a “downer” to share what it is really like in periods of intense grief. It is an illusion and that is precisely why so many people are lonely and feel empty in a world of immediate connection.

I struggle like a lot of people to use Facebook properly. I have not mastered prudence enough to be temperate in my Facebook usage. Another sign that I am stumbling up the path with everyone else. Have you considered your own social media interactions and usage? Is it a hindrance or a good for you on the path to deeper communion with Christ? I think we all need to pray for God to help us develop the habit of considering every element in our lives through our eschatological purpose, which is to be a saint, so that we can enter into full communion with the Blessed Trinity at the end of our lives.

Catholic Exchange: St. Benedict and the Benedict Option for Today

If it wasn’t clear before that the culture of the West is opposed to the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church, the recent decision to legalize “gay marriage” in the United States made it quite apparent. The decision was decades in the making and cannot solely be blamed on the homosexual agenda. It goes back to contraception and no fault divorce, both of which have eroded marriage in profound ways over the decades. For Catholics, much of it is due to dissent from Humanae Vitae by clergy and laity, as well as an abandonment of moral teaching. The question for Catholics today is: Where do we go from here? The reason we need to ask this question is because there is little doubt that we will be pushed to the fringes in the coming decades. Our moral understanding and focus on Christ means that we are in opposition to the world. Christ told us:

“I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword…” Matthew 10:34

The world has always been in opposition to the Good News. The world crucified God. The Church has been set against the world since her founding by Our Lord, and that was no different during the life of St. Benedict whose feast day we celebrate on Saturday, June 11.

St. Benedict is most widely known for his rule and as the “Father of Western Monasticism”. He lived circa 480-560 and his influence on the world was great. Even though his rule was not the first, it was the most widely used in the west for centuries. St. Benedict’s rule was comprised of several rules which could be applied to a variety of monasteries and locations. His rule’s primary emphasis was on: moderation, the integration of prayer and work, and the socialization of the monastic life.

Once monasticism was introduced to the west by St. Athanasius, it spread quickly. By the time St. Benedict composed his rule, monasteries were in Africa, France, and even Ireland. Monasticism preserved much of Europe during the Dark Ages when there was much tumult and chaos. It was through monasticism that manuscripts were preserved, as well as art, architecture, and music were developed. It was here that culture survived and lived for many years. St. Benedict could not have known how great of an impact his rule would be on the west. Blessed John Henry Newman said of him:

“St. Benedict found the world, physical and social, in ruins, and his mission was to restore it in the way not of science, but of nature, not as if setting about to do it, not professing to do it by any set time, or by any rare specific, or by any series of strokes, but so quietly, patiently, gradually, that often till the work was done, it was not known to be doing…Silent men were observed about the country, or discovered in the forest, digging, clearing and building; and other silent men, not seen, were sitting in the cold cloister, tiring their eyes and keeping their attention on the stretch, while they painfully copied and recopied the manuscripts which they could have saved. There was no one who contended or cried out, or drew attention to what was going on, but by degrees, the woody swamp became a hermitage, a religious house, a farm, and abbey, a village, a seminary, a school of learning and a city.”

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

Bringing Christ to the Walking Wounded of the West

Psychology Today
Psychology Today

Tonight I saw a comment (social media provides me with a lot of food for thought) that implied the issues of the West, transgenderism, homosexuality, divorce, adultery, etc. are not the same as the murder, rape, persecution, and poverty overseas or in Third World countries. This was, of course, in response to the Bruce Jenner situation. I do not wish to write on that topic because there are people who would do a much better job on it than me. I pray for him and discuss it with people who bring it up to me, but I do not feel called to that discussion.  This comment got me thinking. Have we forgotten about the unique dignity of every single human being? Have we forgotten that Jesus loves every single person? Yes, there are great horrors going on, but many of those are on our own street behind closed doors. The penalty for sin is death and destruction, so how can we think that our culture is somehow better off? How can we think that we don’t need to be concerned about the one lost soul we meet? What does Scripture say?

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable.  “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:1-7

We can easily fall into the mentality of the Pharisees. I know I do it at times. We can decide that certain evils are greater because we have a visceral reaction to them. Who among us is not appalled by the rape and murder of children overseas? Those are great evils to be sure, but they are not the only evils impacting souls. When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would come to the U.S., she would observe a great poverty in our country and in the rest of the West. It was a poverty of loneliness, the feeling of being unloved.

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Our country is being torn apart by broken homes, hedonism, materialism, and relativism. The by-products of these philosophies are everywhere. People are screaming out to be loved, but they don’t know where to go. They don’t know the answer. They have never been shown. Instead they have lived lives of abandonment, pain, anger, confusion, and frustration. This is exacerbated and deepened in a culture that lies to them. A culture that tells them that if they only do whatever they want, they will feel better. But, no. This is a quick fix and it leads ever deeper into the pit of destruction and despair. How many women are crying alone in their apartments tonight because they believed the lie that promiscuity would bring them love and acceptance? How many men are drowning out their desire for a deep and lasting love through sexual conquests only to return to their lonely lives afterwards? How many teenagers and adults are struggling with same sex attraction and hating themselves? How many of those live with that deep hate, not because people like me tell them that homosexual sex is a sin, but rather because they know that that sex has not filled the ache they feel within themselves? Homosexual or heterosexual, filling the void through sex doesn’t stop the deep hunger for Love. How many children sit home alone and never see their parents because they are working too many hours? How many parents are trying to buy their child’s affection to make up for their absence? How many children are crying tonight because they were told divorce was coming for their parents? How many inner city kids are craving the attention of a father they have never met or a mother they seldom get to see? How many husbands and wives are living with the pain of adultery? How many people are drowning out their sorrow in drugs and alcohol at this very minute? How many of us (me) use social media to dull the isolation they feel? THIS! This is the poverty of our country.

We tell ourselves that this poverty, pain, and immorality is nothing compared to ISIS, Boko Haram, China, or any country living in barbarism. We don’t equate the two because we don’t want to have to look in the mirror. We don’t want to have to examine our own sins. The sins of others are greater than our own. We don’t want to look at how we are preventing Christ from reaching the people near us. The shouting and yelling at others about their sins does nothing, but make people dig in their heals. Meanwhile, Christ is looking for every single lost sheep. He will leave the 99. He will leave the 6 billion for the one. Have we Christians forgotten that truth? A truth that is so profound, so big, so unbelievable, but somehow we have forgotten to share it with others? We are not Christ, so our yelling at others will accomplish nothing. Instead, we must offer an invitation in charity and truth.

No we cannot confirm people in their sins. We cannot lie to them in order to make them feel better about their choices. But we will never bring people to the pews if all they see is us screaming about their sins. Isn’t this the point Pope Francis is making? He’s not changing Church teaching. He’s pointing out that hurt, wounded, aching, unloved people, need to have a real encounter with the Risen Lord. We need to share our joy and not only reserve it for the people who we decide are worthy because it is quite clear that Christ is interested in each and every single person. We need to show them how Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church is the answer to the longing of their heart. That Christ is the answer to their loneliness, brokenness, and wounds. That the Holy Eucharist is the answer to the meaning of life. To be a saint is to be fully alive. WE need to be willing to enter into their brokenness and pain. We need to be willing to hurt with them because that is what the Mystical Body does. Can you imagine what it is like to have never known love? To only know how to use hedonism to fill up that deep void? They must ask themselves in confusion: Who is This? Love me?! It has to be blinding like it was for St. Paul. It has to be difficult to accept and completely foreign. These are the people we are called to reach out to, but we cannot do it on our own terms. I mean our own individual terms. We must use the greatness of Catholicism, but allow people to find their footing. We need to walk the journey with them in charity and truth. I have known these very people throughout my lifetime and I have failed them. I have failed them.

There are unspeakable horrors around the world. I sit back and watch the news in pain for people most days, but I have no control over what happens in Nigeria or the Middle East. I do weep with them. I do have control over my family, friends, community, parish, and social media interactions. All I can do is fast and pray for those parts of the world I cannot impact, but I do have the ability to share my faith with people who do not understand it at all. To patiently bear their burdens, questions, confusion, flight, and struggle. It is not easy to be converted. It is not easy to agree to conform one’s life to the Most Holy Trinity through Baptism. It is not easy to die to self. It is not easy to let go of greed, lust, envy, gluttony, pride, anger, avarice, and sloth. It’s a life long spiritual battle, but one that we engage in with Christ by our side. It is easier when we fall in love with Christ. Things that seemed impossible slowly get easier. We need to show people how to fall in love with Jesus Christ in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit by our own example. Christ leads us to the abandonment of sin. That is the only way they will abandon sin and begin the life long battle. They will want to die to self because they love God. Do we? Do we want to die to self because of our love of God? We have to ask ourselves that every single day too because we fall and sin and must return to Him in our weakness.

Let us remember in our daily dealings there are a lot of hurting people who need Christ. There is a lot of evil in our own neighborhoods that needs redemption. There is not a single soul who Christ does not desire. A lost soul is a horrific thing. The people in our country who are trapped in the lies of hedonism, materialism, and relativism are prisoners of the Evil One. They too need the Paschal Mystery to break loose their chains. Think about that the next time you call someone a “freak” or other ad hominem. These people are lost and we know the Way. Are we showing people the Way?

As I write this post, tears well up in my eyes for all of the times I have failed in this exact same call. In all of the ways that I fail to show love to the people around me and even the people I encounter on social media. I have a daughter who needs my complete and total love, but I get lost in selfishness some days and fail her. I do the same thing to my husband. These are the people Christ entrusted to me. How many other people have I encountered in my life and failed? Jesus wanted every single one of those people for His own and I failed to serve Him. All power rests in Him, but He uses each one of us to further the mission of bringing the world to Him. Let’s stop being afraid. Let’s stop ignoring His call. We need to trust in Him. He can bring about the conversion in even the most hardened of hearts and he can heal the sins of our age. . We have to be willing lives of courageous virtue and holiness. We cannot just use words to draw people in, our joy and way of life should point to Christ. We have to be willing to love as He loves and search for the one soul he puts in our tracks each day.

Society’s Disconnect from the Joy of Children

childrenjesus

For reasons that I am not going to discuss explicitly, I have been contemplating our culture’s hostility towards children. We live in a culture that views children largely as a nuisance or accessory. Unfortunately this view has pervaded the culture including within the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. My husband and I have been asked multiple times if we will try for a boy since we have a girl, after all, children are like salt and pepper shakers. The irony of that question is that those types of things are in no one’s control unless they use the horrific evil of sex selection abortion. In my mind, the perfect family is the one God gives us through our openness and discernment of His will.

My husband and I realized that we view the world differently and through a thoroughly faithful Catholic lens when we had our daughter. Our parish offers daycare during Mass, something which we are greatly opposed to. We used it a couple of times when my husband was recovering from a severe migraine, but our daughter does not miss Mass. She is a baptized member of the Mystical Body and she needs to learn how to sit still and pray the Liturgy. That also means she does not run around in the narthex if she starts acting up during Mass. Our daughter also accompanies us to church functions. I have had run-ins with people who didn’t like it and I made clear that our daughter comes with us unless it was a professional event that required babysitting. She’s a member of the Church and an equal member of our family. My husband and I will not relegate our child to the corner.

What disturbs me about this trend is there is a great desire to push children to the fringes. It is to view the outbursts or cries of a child with disdain, rather than as a reality that comes with the growing of a human being. It is to separate our children from our family unit within the Church. The Church should be the celebrator of life and support the Culture of Life. That means children whether a family has one or 12 is a great gift. It is more souls for Christ and we should be joyful to see children present. It is a sign of a living parish, not a dying one, and it is our sign to the world that human beings are a great gift who have been given a unique dignity by God.

I think the throw away culture is greatly hurting our children. They sense that we are pushing them to the side, using them as an accessory, or blaming them for some perceived loss of independence. They know when they are not welcome, trust me, they know. It is no wonder that children are lonely, depressed, hurting, and at times, violent. Our culture has taught them that they are a bother, not a great gift. They are repeatedly told, especially through the evil of abortion, that their lives were merely a matter of their mother’s choice, not out of love. Whether explicit or implicit, the children of our culture know that they missed death narrowly as 1/6th of their generation has been murdered. They also know when their parents spend little time with them due to their other engagements or they allow their children to be too busy for family time, or to be glued to their cell phones. They also know it when people complain about them.

Our culture is becoming disconnected from its children. Pope Francis has warned about the attacks on the young and the old alike. I see what it is doing and I have been the recipient of such ideals, whether intentional or not. It is deeply hurtful to watch and it is painful to experience in my own child. We are drifting more and more away from the real meaning of marriage and family. Marriage is no longer grounded in an understanding of children and sanctification of spouses. It is now about a disordered notion of love and often children are absent from the realm of possibility. It is about me and not living out God’s great call for marriage and family.

This view of the world is greatly anti-Catholic. Children and families are a great sign to the world of the love and beauty of the Blessed Trinity. As Catholics we cannot get sucked into this type of thinking and try to charitably (tough I know, but necessary), but with conviction, live out the Catholic worldview of the family. There are times when it will be counter-cultural and other people will not understand, but we view children as a treasure of the Church and there may be times that we have to remind others in the pews of that fact when our child talks a bit too much at Mass. We should also be encouraging others to bring their children to Mass instead of daycare. Daycare is actually a rarity in the Catholic Church for that very reason. Children are baptized members of the Church and they belong at Mass offering the Holy Sacrifice with Christ the High Priest. They are united with us in the one body that is in Christ by power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s encourage one another to be courageous even if people grumble about our children. Children are a joyful noise in the Church and it was Christ Himself who said for the little children to come to Him. Who are we to stop our children from being in His Presence? Who are we to separate them from our family unit when it truly matters?

Abandon Ideology for the Good News: The Test is Coming

o-ST-PETER-facebook

You will notice a trend on my blog that I am becoming increasingly anti-ideology. This is because I am observing a steep descent into ideology in our country and within the Church. Not the Church herself, but the people within it. This is largely destructive and causes division. Ideology is a type of heresy. It is to cling to a notion of something as ultimate truth, when ideology is typically our own blindness and proclivities. I had two experiences recently that continue to fortify my anti-ideological stance. First, I saw a National Review article recently that justified the killings of two civilians in a drone strike on the Afghan-Pakistani border in January. The moral gymnastics of the author made my stomach turn. The far Right has become a war-mongering machine and it is deeply disturbing. There are times when war is the final and just response, but not always. The killing of civilians is always deeply tragic and it is all the more tragic that no warning was given to these men or attempt at a rescue and the intelligence was bad. For both sides of the political spectrum in our country, “collateral damage” is a matter of statistics and numbers and matters little. This is a disturbing slide into a further dehumanization of others. I saw this from Congressional aides when I interned at The Heritage Foundation.

On the flip side we have the ideological Pacifists, notice I said ideological. The Church has a long history of rightly ordered Pacifism, just as she has a tradition of Just War. These two seeming opposites are united under a fully formed understanding of justice. The ideological Pacifists cannot comprehend that war is sometimes the only option. They also seek to vilify members of our military, of which I was one. They say heinous things about Veteran’s even to the point of denying the necessity of the Church’s presence in a war zone or within the military. They cannot separate the war from the soldiers and the individual consciences of each service member, which is precisely what our last couple of Popes have done. The Church has not agreed with the past two wars, but has left the choice to serve up to the soldier. While I am with the Church on war, I did serve under President Bush for the Global War on Terror. There were things that I supported at the time for which I have sought absolution through Confession, but the people who serve in our military are not psychopaths, sociopaths, or any other name that is given to them. They mean well and have a desire to protect our country. It is easy now to forget how tumultuous the time was following 9-11. I know, I worked as relief worker following the Pentagon attack. Fear and chaos does not always produce the best results. This mitigates circumstances a bit.

This is just two examples on opposing extremes that I have observed recently. This is also apparent in the “pelvic issues” as people try to do moral gymnastics around both Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Since ideology blinds us it hurts ourselves and the people around us. It inevitably puts us in a judgment seat, based not on our faith, but on our desire to conform others to our own beliefs. This is a great danger to the Church. As the secular culture encroaches more and more on our freedoms, it is essential that we make sure we are not a part of the problem. I am not trying to beat a dead horse. I am trying to warn people that we need to re-focus on what is important and that is bringing the world to Christ, not ourselves. I was an ideologue for a few years. I conformed my politics into my limited understanding of the Church. I could not see the whole. It created great tumult in my soul.

There will come a day very soon when we may be asked to give account for our faith and we will be mocked and derided for it. Our faith cannot depend on ideology, it must be centered on Jesus Christ. If our ideology wins out, then we cannot possibly survive the test that will come our way. The secular attacks on the Church will continue to grow and become more virulent. Now is the time to arm ourselves with holiness through prayer, Scripture, frequent reception of the Sacraments, and true study of the Faith. Those are what will help us should we have to undergo the test. While I have my own theories on how bad it will get, what is certain is that Catholics will become increasingly more marginalized. That will be difficult. It is not easy to say “no” to the prevailing culture. It is not easy to lose family and friends because we cannot agree to the sexual ethics of our culture. We cannot stay strong if our faith is an empty shell that is propped up by our own ideology.

I am not saying that we should not be involved in the public square, but we need to be prepared for our ability to participate to shrink greatly for a while. Honestly, we need to evangelize if we want to change the culture. This is the history of the Church. Our ability to operate in public waxes and wanes. There have been times of great persecution. There are times of great persecution upon the Church now. We are united to those Christians who are dying in the Middle East, Mexico, and in other places of the world. The Mystical Body is a communion that makes us a part of the same body as them. We suffer with them albeit not physically at present.

The most concerning aspect of ideology is that it cuts us off from one another. It causes alienation and anger. I lost my temper at a completely nasty comment made about service members and its implications. I later apologized, but ideology is hard to combat. It is irrational and it automatically invokes an irrational response in others. We have to learn to control our emotions because we will confront virulent strains of ideology in the coming years, much worse than the two examples that I listed above. The best way for us to control our emotions is to re-focus on Christ and to prepare ourselves for whatever may come. If we rest in Christ and His Church, rather than our own power, then we can calmly deal with the attacks that come. It won’t be easy, and like St. Peter and the other Apostles (except John), we may run for a bit, but if we continue to persevere and focus on Christ then we will make it to the end.

As Catholics we must ask ourselves what the purpose and goal of our lives is as revealed by Christ. Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? The answer should be to follow Christ even unto Calvary. This is the horrifying, yet freeing, truth of our faith. When we are baptized we agree to enter into the mysteries of His life, including His death. Most of us will not be asked to be martyred physically, but most of us will suffer some form of persecution, even if it is locally from family and friends. We all suffer within the Mystical Body when others around the world are persecuted. There is no isolation within the Church. No one suffers in isolation.

Ideology may be fascinating and create arguments, but it causes more division than peace and conversion. I have never been a Pacifist precisely because of the vilification of Veteran’s of which I am one. I am no longer a war-mongerer because I could see the horror of war up close through friends and family during my own service. I know from a few years of sexual relativism that the lies of the libertines do nothing but hurt and kill the soul. I know the joy and beauty of the Theology of the Body. The more I learn, the more I come to the center and desire to walk the tight-rope of the Church. She is the answer to the extremes of the world. She has the whole truth, not just the part we latch on to.

I am sure that this topic will come up again on my blog because it is so important for the coming times. There is such freedom in abandoning our preferred ideologies. We are less angry. We don’t make other people as angry. We grow deeper in our understanding of the Church and Christ and we are able to focus on the life of holiness. I encourage each of you and myself, to look into our beliefs and make sure they are properly ordered to the Church. Let’s make sure that we are not vilifying other groups of people. This even means our enemies. Yes, they do evil and we must confront evil, but if we dehumanize others we very quickly run the risk of becoming like our enemies. Ideology is the quickest way to dehumanize another group of people by making them the “other”. Even in times of battle we must live as Christians. We pray for our enemies, pray for peace, and most especially, pray for the conversion of the world.

Social Media and Illusions of Granduer

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Social media is a great tool. We can connect with old friends and meet new people. It’s a place to interact and it’s nice for moms like me who are a bit isolated as they raise their children. I have observed and experienced a rather disturbing trend, however. That is, because we have our own social media pages and interactions, our opinions and feelings on a specific matter either must be voiced or must be submitted to without discussion.

When I read an article by someone who is formally trained or who works in a specific field, I take into account their expertise. It does not mean that I agree with them, but it is something I consider. Whenever I read an article or blog, I always read about the author so that I can get a feel for their background and knowledge. If I am going to disagree about something, I want to consider the source of the first argument.  This is not how most people see it, though.

I have tried to discuss articles or issues with various people and it always devolves into ad hominem attacks. I try to get people to stay on topic and they won’t or can’t. This is a universal problem. It is not just “liberal” or just “conservative” it is also throughout the Church. There is a very strong anti-intellectualism that has crept into our culture and into the Church. Instead of being knowledgeable on any given subject, we believe that we can make uneducated opinions at will based on our emotions. The evidence or arguments, no matter how sound, do not matter.

This is a break down in an understanding of how truth is conveyed to the senses and in its essence. Once mind-object agreement is no longer the norm, it becomes perfectly acceptable to live in a dictatorship of self. What I mean is that when we become the ultimate source of truth and not reality, things become incoherent and irrational. Unfortunately, what this has turned into is an inability to discuss things rationally and logically. It also creates an environment that is suspect or hostile to intellectual pursuits and within the Church creates a breeding ground for either clericalism or relativism depending on the situation.

First, we need to accept and know our own limitations. There is a vast array of subjects that I do not know enough about in order to form an opinion or share any insight. There are certain subjects, even theological subjects, in which I struggle with emotionalism. Once again that is a limitation within myself that I must accept. If I cannot control my emotions on a specific topic, then I need to avoid a discussions on it until I can. I have improved a lot in this area, but I still do it every now and then.

Feelings are not a sound reason for forming an opinion. Feelings are tied to the passions and can result in automatic, not rational, responses to specific items. When confronted with, let’s say, a theological argument that is formed by reason and that is based on acceptable theological tradition, we cannot respond with I don’t agree because I “feel” this way. No. Feelings are not a valid response to reason. In order to disagree with say, St. Thomas Aquinas (which is perfectly acceptable on certain matters, but I would do so with humility), we need to be able to provide another theological school of thought in response. Your feelings and my feelings do not change reality or a sound argument.

When feelings become the deciding factor in policy decisions, theological decisions, or other areas of our lives, things get ugly. When we are no longer ruled by reason and correct thinking, our feelings become a force of power that subverts those who do not agree with our particular emotional state. This is happening at an alarming rate in our culture. Decisions are being made that have nothing to do with sound or right judgment, but have everything to do with how people feel. This is not just a problem in our culture, it is an issue within the Church.

In the past couple of years, I have encountered a very destructive form of anti-intellectualism within the Church. People say we should move towards Protestants, well yes and no, but anti-intellectualism is something that we cannot borrow from certain (not all) Protestant sects. The Catholic Church is where faith and reason are united on their journey to God. A Catholic told me yesterday that theological study was pharasaical. I was flabbergasted, but not surprised because I left a group recently that focused on a false sense of piety in place of sound intellectual understanding within the Church’s tradition.

The problem with anti-intellectualism is that it works hard to control those who have intellectual strengths. A strange power struggle erupts. Not everyone is called to study theology or philosophy; however, we are called to respect and understand the gifts of other people. Anti-intellectualism comes with an overinflated pride and sense of self that is based on emotion and not study. It is the opposite of the person who has vast knowledge, but uses it in the service of self. Both are inherently wrong.

The individual who referred to me and another friend as Pharisees because of our theological knowledge had no business being on a thread that was discussing Thomistic thought. Rather than accept their own limitations they decided to engage in emotionalism that devolved, as it always does, into ad hominem attacks. They could not respond theologically, so they attacked the people who could. Once again, we need to know and accept our own limitations. If we do not know Thomistic theological and philosophical arguments, then we shouldn’t respond until we do. This is common on other threads as well. I see it often in comment sections.

Here’s the reality, just because we have an opinion does not meant that we should or need to offer it to people. If we, myself included, cannot add to a discussion with insight then it is better that we stay quiet. The Internet is not the place for us to share our ignorance with the world under the guise that we have a right to share our opinion. The Internet is not where I go to have my feelings validated.

I got myself into a discussion last week that I knew I should stay out of. I could not argue the position with sound reason, because of my own personal experiences that still have an emotional hold on me. I also have little patience for presumption. When we are discussing issues with people, we need to stay on topic. I do not know many of the people who I discuss ideas with on social media and that means that I cannot assume anything about them as persons. That is why it is crucial for discussions to keep to the topic at hand. The minute they go off track, I leave.

There is an amazing amount vitriol and venom that we spew at one another on a daily basis in social media. A lot of it could be avoided if we accepted our own limitations, control our emotions, and work on humility. The world does not need to know all of my opinions, especially the ones that are not properly formed by reason. This goes for me, as well. I need to accept that there are certain topics I need to stay away from at the present.  Can you imagine how our interactions would change if we focused on humility, intelligent discussion, and charity? Social media does not make us gods of our own domain. Rather, it is an opportunity to connect with people all over the world and to share sound ideas. Not everyone is expected to engage in discourse at the doctoral level, however, any person should know the difference between the topic at hand and personal attacks. Let’s all consider how we interact in social media as we go through this Holy Week. God bless.