Friday, June 8, 2012
Careers of Dissent - On Those Who Join the Church to Dismantle It
It is absolutely mind-boggling to note the sheer amount of so-called "Catholics" who stand in open opposition to the Church that they allegedly profess obedience and fidelity to - something, they may have forgotten, that came along with baptism and in some cases, with the joining of holy orders.
I've said it before and I will say it again - it is easy to be a dissident. It is easy to found a career (and I truly mean, career in the case of these people) based on the singular notion of attacking and undermining the Church. And the question raises itself again and again and again, which I believe only the arch-dissident and pop theologian Hans Kung ever attempted a coherent answer to.
Of course, one could say with Tertullian, "Let the heretics invent something of the sort for themselves. Blasphemers already, they will have no scruples. But even if they do invent something, it will be useless to them. If their teaching is compared with the teaching of the apostles, the differences and contradictions between them will cry out that theirs is not the work of any apostle or apostolic man."1
But the problem is that it seems that dissidence and heresy in the Catholic Church is the "in thing", and has seemingly almost won, if not at the very least, presented an intimidating and omnipresent force against the orthodoxy of the Christian faith. It must be said too, that it is not just the Catholic Church that suffers, but the Protestant denominations are also battling fiercely with the same kinds of issues.
Dissidents wish to proclaim that it is simply the ideas that are being condemned, and that their pseudo-martyrs of "progressivism" such as "sister" Joan Chittister, "sister" Margaret Farley, Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx, Piet Schoonenberg, and all the rest are simply being condemned for "thinking differently". But this is certainly not the case. In fact, if we remember the wise words of Meister Eckhart, himself questioned for heresy, "For I am able to err, but I cannot be a heretic, since one has to do with the intellect and the other with the will."2
The will here is key - if I join the Catholic Church, it must mean that I believe its teachings to be true. But if I begin to go about and undermine the very Church I joined, then it must mean that I do not believe its teachings to be true. So then, why am I a Catholic.
There is a saying, which I would be amiss to repeat here verbatim; however, it goes something like this:
"Either go, or get off the pot."
Why would one base their entire lives belonging to a Church that they believe is inherently wrong? There are a thousand other schismatic groups that one could join if they prefer, all whom are probably busy rolling in the meadows and breaking bread with one another in celebration of Demeter and the harvest.
But I would be amiss to portray all current dissidents in the Church as somehow being only of "hippie"-ilk. The dissidents of today are not the Fraticelli, going about in poverty and rebellion whilst soaking in apocalyptic babble. These are folk who are in the world and loving it - I can only assume so because of their constant pandering to it.
I wonder what the "Magisterium of Nuns" would think of St. Catherine of Siena's words (another "poor woman persecuted by evil old misogynists in Rome" by being declared a Doctor of the Church and one of its greatest saints), when she writes:
"They are not religious but people in costume...if they should have to proclaim my word, they do it with polished rhetoric...when they find themselves denied what their perverse will would have they try to trick their superiors with flattery or sharp words, disrespect and reproach. They are intolerant of their fellow religious, nor can they endure the slightest reproachful word without at once bringing forth the poison fruit of impatience, anger, and hatred against them."3
I wonder what "sister" Margaret Farley would think of G.K. Chesterton's words, when he says that "all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself."4
I did not go through arduous scrutiny after scrutiny of my own conscience and life and beliefs in order to join a Church that I disagree with with every bone in my body. I joined it because I believe, despite its sinful and saintly faithful, that the teaching of Christianity is to be found fully and uncompromisedly in this Church. I believe it is founded by Christ Himself, and guided by the Holy Spirit. Not because I wish to sneak in behind enemy lines and sabotage it.
When the Church needs its laity to bolster their mother (for that is what the Church is in many ways), we get the barking of the National Catholic Reporter. When the Church needs saints to rally to its aid, we get the New Age post-Christian consciousness of the "Magisterium of Nuns". When the Church needs profound thinkers and theologians, we get Joan Chittister and Hans Kung. If priests attempt to restore the holiness of the Church, they are complained against and treated as inquisitors by laity who seem to prefer spiritual fluff rather than religious truth.
But I take comfort from the words of Origen, when he says that "Even now the new chief priests...crucify with false interpretations and kill with lies the WORD of truth which is in the scripture. But the WORD of truth, although it is killed by them lives on in its own nature; it is constantly finding and choosing vessels in which it is rising again and again and constantly putting its murderers to shame."5
Indeed, "Heresy covers up, in the bed of its brain, the statue of its own opinion in the clothes of Holy Scripture."6
It is my thought on the matter that if these modernist dissidents put all of the energy they expend on tearing the Church down, the Church herself would be helped tremendously. But such as it is, it seems that they think they are helping it.
1 - The Prescriptions Against Heretics, 32
2 - The Defense, I
3 - The Dialogue, 161
4 - Orthodoxy, ch. III, pg. 33
5 - Commentariorum Series, 129
6 - St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, Art. III, ch. I