Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mixed Ecclesial Thoughts

1. There is a certain Canadian bishop who never ceases to irk me with his "After prayerful discernment, I have decided..."

I always find it just so interesting that this discernment always results in the very course of action predicted for this person.

"After prayerful discernment I have decided to do exactly what I wanted to do all along. I have called upon God's authority to back up my willfulness, and, thus, my decisions can not be legitimately questioned by anyone. I really have this 'church-speak' thing mastered, no? A perfect balance between my own respect for the office of bishop that I wield (the conservatives should appreciate that, and everybody should respect my willingness to exercise such bold leadership), spiritual sensitivity, and the appearance of a heart that listens to both God and man."

But I say, If you are going to be an autocrat, be honest enough to say it. We won't you respect you any less.

"I am a bossy know-it-all, I am smarter than you (obviously, because they made me a bishop), and I have every intention of doing everything precisely the way I want to. So there."

2. Which leads me to discuss pride in other places. In this case, the equally disgusting tendency of laypeople to do such things. There are many problems with lay apostolates. We know such apostolates are necessary and good, but the problem is, lay people are also infected with original sin. Religiousity tends to magnify the viciousness of pride.

One of the reasons why it is actually more common amongst lay than clerical apostolates is that lay people don't usually have the same historical awareness that the clergy do. The clergy, because of their superior grounding in Church History, better understand that God's call is supposed to fit within the continuum of that history. Lay people are far more apt to think of their work as singular, revolutionary, new, even millennial. (Lay people talk about 'the End Times,' clergy do not. When was the last time a priest 'received' a private revelation?) I have been repeatedly shocked by the ecclesiastical ignorance of lay people, even lay leaders of these fancy-smancy apostolates you hear so much about. Massive ignorance regarding the Church's history and governance (i.e. canon law and what it means for their institution.)

But you would think that with such ignorance would come humility. But often it does not. Why? Someone called by God has all the answers. If someone has been called by God to do X, then obviously he is fully equipped to do it, right? Never mind the responses of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Paul that we are meant to model.

I don't really want to toot my own horn here, but there is one thing I can't really be considered guilty of: spiritual presumption. I discerned the Review for years. I wanted to do something along these lines for years. I restrained myself out of the awareness that most things I do I mess up. And now, even being pretty sure that it is God's will that I move on it, I will still ask advice about it. Every day I have been asking - not only God, but people too.

I made a mistake when I decided to become principal of that school. I didn't enter into it, though, with the idea that I was God's gift to Catholic education. I felt very unworthy of such a big responsibility, but I guess I did not feel unworthy enough.

That's okay. The really devious problem lies with those who consider a call from God a license for willfulness, or as a special charism of infallibility or spiritual insight. There are too many Mohammeds running around, telling people what God wants. People who say "we have discerned such and such" when you question them, how do they know that your questioning is not an essential part of the discernment they are meant to undergo?

I want to say a lot more on this (and less cryptically), but this is not the time.


  1. "... Which leads me to discuss pride in other places. In this case, the equally disgusting tendency of laypeople to do such things. There are many problems with lay apostolates .... "

    I am in whole-hearted agreement with you Colin, on this matter. Sometimes, the lay-people do it in defiance of the Church while keeping one foot in it, to be able to spread whatever they deem "Catholic" when it's really tainted with such pride and disobedience. Others on the "traditionalist" or "right-wing" side can also use their "lay-apostolates" to spread condescending or spiritually-devoid, yet equally dark material online and in-person, usually concerning any one of the following: liturgical laws are being violated, so-and-so at X parish does this wrong, so-and-so is using altar girls, and any other garbage to spread calumny and detractions.

    What either side does, inflicts spiritual harm on other laity who innocently come to their apostolates for spiritual deepening or because they look like "they know what they are doing" when the institutional Church fails them. And both sides make either their respective side look bad, or Catholics in general.

  2. There's a fatwa coming your way!

    1. Is he going to shovel my driveway? You shouldn't make fun of people's weight, Elena. Not nice.