My title selection may be a bit shocking, but it is not far from the truth. No I am not talking about some form of violent pornography. I want to talk about our culture’s addiction to rage. Keep in mind that anything I write about is a reflection of my own struggles. You can see the first two posts in a series I am working on about anger here and here.
Social media is a great tool. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and people we have not seen or spoken to in decades. This is really great for people like me who are Veterans and who know people literally all over the world. It’s nice to see how people have changed, raised families, and continue on their journey. This is all good stuff. What I am concerned with is the focus on presumed righteous anger within the Church, which is actually sinful anger.
I seldom use Twitter. To be honest, it overwhelms me with information. I find it is a place where people can share their outrage in 140 characters. It’s a constant flow of bad news and information. Look at what the rad-trads did today and look at what the proggies are up to. Pope Francis is a heretic. Pope Francis is not a heretic. Change is coming to the Church. Obama is the anti-Christ. The world is ending, stock up on canned goods. The onslaught is unrelenting. To see the polarization that is occurring in our country and within the Church, take a moment to read a comments section on a news article or blog. Then look away and stay away. It is startling.
We are turning the Interwebs into a place of “us vs them” and I can tell you historically that never ends well. We begin turning the people next to us in the pews or on the streets into enemies. There are genuine heretics (not our Pope) and people who are disobedient, but it really is up to a priest or bishop to correct them in private and in public, unless they are a friend who needs our guidance. Admonishment of sinners is not something that needs to be done whenever we see someone sinning in a manner different from our own. I like to share my love of the Sacrament of Penance as a way to help people find healing and strength against sin. I get the struggle. I have done it. I have a strong sense of justice and it is troubling to see people flout Church teaching and then proceed to the Eucharist line, but in reality, you and I are not the enforcers of canon law. We do, however, have an obligation to balance justice and charity. We do not overlook sin, but we discern where Christ wants to use us. There are moments we will be used for admonishment, but we should be clear beforehand.
There is little you or I can do about people who choose to be Catholics in name only, except pray for them and try to live by our example. Let’s show people that things like NFP require sacrifice, but they are doable. Let’s show love and respect for the gay community without accepting their behavior. Let’s minister to the person embroiled in divorce and try to guide them through the love of Christ. Let’s try not to make assumptions because of someone’s political leanings. Human beings are complex. We are a sum total of a variety of talents, experiences, and above all we derive our dignity from being created in the image and likeness of God. I am not my politics, sexual orientation, or liturgical preference. What a limiting world that would be!
My point is that social media can be a train-wreck if we make it one. I have shifted dramatically since joining Facebook in 2008. My posts were almost entirely political. I supported things that I never would support now, but I was sure through my presumption that I was right. The Republican Party was the party of the Catholic Church. I feel absolutely stupid for this now. No political party is the party of God. The immorality is on all sides and politics are inherently corrupted by human sin. The Republican Party will eventually fold on marriage. It is inevitable. So then what? That is a very good question and it will put us in a difficult situation. But, I gave up politics for a while, so I will come up with in answer in a couple of years.
What should concern us, however, is when this toxicity spills over into the Church. Our primary mission to evangelize is greatly harmed by our inability to separate our ideology from Christ. Our political or even “theological” ideology is not a reflection of the authentic Jesus Christ who beckons us to communion with the Blessed Trinity. In fact, my constant focus on click-bait, rage porn drives a wedge between that communion and me. It takes my focus off of Christ and drives me to dwell on things outside of my control, but in a controlling manner. I am not arguing that we should not keep track of the world. We need to be aware of the landscape, but we should not constantly dwell on it. When we see bad news or conflict, the first thing that we should do is pray. Yes, while you are looking at your Twitter or Facebook feed, bow your head and pray. Pray for them and for yourself.
When I see the anger of the Catholic blogosphere, the first thing I see is a lack of trust. I know this, because I have, and still see that in myself. Somehow the Church will perish in flames if I don’t tell Pope Francis how to get things done. If the progressive get their way then the Church will crumble because of changes in sexual morality. Folks, the Church’s teaching on faith and morals will never change. It is irreformable. The Church will never change her teachings on divorce, homosexual acts, birth control, etc. She can’t because Christ is the head, not men. So stop worrying that she will. She can find pastoral approaches to those who have been deeply hurt by the Sexual Revolution, but her mission is to heal and bring sinners to Christ. To help them see why those sins tore them apart. So stop screaming in fear. Trust. Instead of writing hostile blogs and articles, how about we focus on fixing the brokenness? St. John Paul II left us a wealth of knowledge and tools to help us heal this pain and these sins. Thanks be to God. Let’s use Theology of the Body rather than ranting that the Church is going to change. The only one who will triumph in all of these things we worry about is Jesus Christ who reigns as our King, Priest, and Prophet.
And let’s stop being so hostile about the Liturgy. Full disclosure I veil in the Novus Ordo. I have never been to an Extraordinary Form Mass, although I would love the experience it. I want a reverent and beautiful Liturgy. We are working our way back to that. Christ did not say, in his Aramaic, that all Masses must be in Latin. Yes, I am aware this argument is poor in the face of tradition. How about this? Latin is a discipline, not a doctrine. Yes, Latin has a long tradition and it is still the language of the Church. I love Latin and chant. They send my soul soaring to Heaven, but the yelling and screaming is doing absolutely no good. The issue is not the use of the vernacular, the issue is a breakdown in understanding of the Liturgy and the Real Presence. That is where our focus should be. In fact the nastiness should be sending a lot of people to Confession, just like the sexual sins, because of sinful anger.
None of us wants to get pigeon-holed into the idea that we are better because we are not “them”. Christ dealt directly with this problem. Remember Luke 18:9-14? If we want to change the world, then we must start with the primary mission of our Baptism: Our individual sanctification. If we work on our own personal holiness, then we can change the world around us. Can you imagine how the Catholic landscape in social media would change if we were focused on helping others achieve holiness? That is the goal: Sainthood. We cannot help others to holiness, if we ourselves are strangled by our own denial of sin. It is not that we aren’t supposed to help sinners, it just happens that we must work on our own personal holiness before Christ will use us.
I know this is hard. Ask my husband about me! You and I have been given a desire to write and share our faith. That is a stewardship that God has given us. We should respect it and use it for good. That does not mean that we cannot wade into political discussions, ethical debates, or the Liturgy. What it does mean is that we need to go into those posts remembering that we are a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. We are a communion, not a community. We are members (as in limbs) within that Body and that means what we do profoundly impacts the other members. So do we want to lift up the Body or do we want to tear it down? Do we want to bring people to Christ or drive them away?