Sunday, January 27, 2019

Heavier Than the Burden of Sand

Stone is heavy, and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both. Proverbs 27:3 (NABRE)

As the fallout continues from the “Excommunicate Cuomo” movement (discussed HERE , I’m seeing a deadly snare that the anticlerical movement has set. Having consistently preached a message of “cowardly and heretical” bishops, this movement has undermined trust in the Church to the point that if the bishops don’t do what they want, people are deceived into thinking the bishops are deliberately rejecting Church teaching.

In this case, the snare is telling everyone that the bishops must excommunicate Cuomo. When the bishops point out that canon law doesn’t include politicians in canon 1398, their statement of fact is portrayed as a “refusal” to carry out their task. It’s devious because it’s a “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition. Regardless of what the bishops do, it simply cannot include excommunication unless Canon Law is changed. But the Church doesn’t do ex post facto [@] laws, so this won’t affect Cuomo anyway [§]. 

But since the anticlerical faction has ramped everybody up to demand excommunication, anything the bishops do will be written off as sympathy or laxity. Their enemies will demand that the bishops be replaced by those who will “enforce Church teaching,” even though what they want has nothing to do with real Church teaching.

Authentic interpretation of the Church teaching in each age is determined by the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. This isn’t an ecclesial version of legal positivism [#]. This acknowledges the fact that this is where God bestows His authority (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). Canon law is human, so it can be amended for a good reason. But a mob of pissed off Catholics clamoring for vengeance is not a good reason.

I believe we need to start looking at the anger and bitterness that drives these movements. These are not the righteous anger of the prophets. These are wrathful responses to something hated. That something hated is the Church and those entrusted to lead her. The problem is, these attitudes are completely opposite to the Fruits of the Spirit: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” [Galatians 5:22–23 (NABRE)].

That doesn’t mean we’re to be indifferent to wrongdoing by Catholics. But it does mean that a reaction of wrath and hatred is a warning sign that we are not acting in a Christian way. We should remember God’s words to Cain: “Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.” [Genesis 4:6–7 (NABRE)]. 

It’s time to stop getting needlessly angry at the Church. In the course of the past week, Catholics have forgotten the abuse crisis, the March For Life, and World Youth Day in favor of Covington and New York. Not in a righteous anger, but in a screaming fit very much like the “snowflakes” they mock in the political arena. That’s not the behavior Catholics are called to.

Let’s all remember this: You won’t always like everything that happens in the Church. But our response should be seeking to understand, not assuming that the Church can and should meet our preferences. You won’t ever find a bishop (or anyone else in the Church) who’s not affected by sin. Remember even the Apostles cut and ran once upon a time. Our response should be to pray for them, so they might have the strength and grace needed for their task.

If we won’t do that, then we’re part of the problem by adding the weight of our needless wrath to the real troubles of the Church.


[@] “law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier.”

[§] It should be noted that Cuomo is already barred from Communion (canon 915) on account of his cohabitation relationship. So, unless he formally commits heresy or schism or another excommunicatable offense, there’s not much left the Church can do to him.

[#] The theory that whatever is law is right because it’s law.

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