|There are lots of neat paintings of St. Anthony of Egypt |
being tormented by demons.
We all sin. I bet all of us have at least one thing that we wish we could undue. I have many. But in the broad scheme I am not and have never been the world's greatest sinner.
Accordingly, I don't allow too much raking up of people's passed deeds on my blogs. I was thinking about this the other day when one of the blogs on the SCCB included a picture of Cardinal Schonborn at mass with balloons around him. I have seen that picture so many times. I even used it a few years ago. It's not a sin to have balloons at mass. It is liturgically questionable, but not a sin. I am not commenting on it per se, but using it as an example of how we use the past against people. That's not Christian.
It's one of the most unChristian things there is. If you pay any attention to exorcisms, it's what the demons do: they remind people of what they've done. But this just plays on more sin: pride. Demons what you to give up on God. That's what they did. If you give up on God you become useless.
Anyway, long story short, a commenter on this blog tried to do this to me yesterday (as I was laying in bed sick, boohoo). He wrote up a few things that he had heard I had done more than ten years ago. Not the worst stuff, pretty mild, but things that could hurt me professionally, especially at an uptight institution like OLSWA - and probably did hurt me there. Stuff that would seem outrageous to sheltered home-schooled children, away from mother's care for the first time in their lives. Yes, I should have been aware that such people exist, but I wasn't. I was immature, and that's life. You live, you learn. You get some of what your actions deserve, and hopefully live to do better next time, which I think I have. I am still not above sin, news flash. I don't care what people think about me. I admit that I am a few circumstances away from murder and theft. I think most of us are. Whoop-dee-doo. It's the people that don't realize this about themselves that frighten me. I met a lot of them at OLSWA - mostly young men, many of whom, I have no doubt, have outgrown this false notion of their indefectibility after another decade of living.
This was one of the worst things about OLSWA, the feeling that indefectibility was necessary and healthy. I don't know and don't care if the school is still like that. I know it's hard to strike a balance between 'clean' living and permissiveness. But a place that does not accept human beings as flawed and not-perfectly Catholic is not good. It can never be. Sin is always possible; there are no people for whom it is not possible. An institution run with that Donatistic notion does more harm than good. I found it very discouraging, an imputed unforgiveness for mistakes, and, of course, most often a mere straining of gnats.
On a Related Matter
I don't get people who read my blog who don't respect me. I don't read Huff Po, Upworthy, etc., because I don't respect them. I don't sign up for tweets from celebrities I don't respect. But that's just my kind of psychology. I have become aware, though, that there are is another kind of psychology out there. People who live to hate, and who can't do without fighting. About twenty years ago I had a friend who started to fight with me more and more. I got sick of it and ended the friendship. I did not understand how he could still want to be friends with me. A family member you fight with all the time - don't live in the same neighbourhood with them! I don't get stuff like that. I'm no psychologist, but I am sure there is a word for this. People who identify love with suffering (Dostoevsky syndrome, I could call it).
This trait - character defect - is at home with Catholics too. The problem with them is that they confuse their "love of truth" with their unsettled spirit. What do you care that other people do not see the world the way you do? Why do you take this as a personal affront? Work on that. It's important for your development.
Of course, I have the opposite temptation, to write people off too easily. That is something marriage and family life simply do not allow. Both are defects of character. I never excuse mine, and won't excuse that of my detractor.
So, I changed some of the protocols for commenting on my blog. Over the - what, seven, eight years? - of running these blogs I have only had issue with people advertising trips to Nepal, very rarely with trolls. This person yesterday definitely crossed the line of my patience, and so now I am not allowing anonymous comments anymore. If you want to comment on my posts - and I love when people do! - and experience trouble with this because of these changes, please let me know, and I will try and help out.
Evil people want others to feel just as miserable as they do. I won't allow that to happen, if I can help it, not even to myself. I have a right to happiness and spiritual growth too.
Lots of people know Augustine's story. A part of it they probably don't know, because it's not in Confessions, is that people used this past against Augustine to try to prevent him from becoming a bishop. As a result he was dragged before a whole council of bishops. And yes, he won them over, and, ultimately, gave to the Church a whole new perspective on grace and redemption, in the place of intolerant Donatism/Montanism which is all too much a part of human nature.
And, of course, I will pray for and forgive this person who is so bent out of shape at the idea of Colin Kerr - a person, mind you, he has never met. He obviously has a lot of personal issues. He doesn't feel loved, really loved, with that kind of accepting love that can even love someone who is not perfect. You are loved, my friend, by God, and He thinks you are pretty awesome! I hope you will learn to love yourself (and then others) that much too!
I know that I can come off as pretty self-righteous. I think close readers of this blog are also aware that I simply like to kick around ideas and provoke discussion. I am not really very insistent on all that much. I like people to dig deeper, and try to encourage that - no easy answers. But I hope that people get that I am not a hard ass, really. Love does not insist on itself. I am one of the most undoctrinal doctrinal experts out there. What I am saying is, I think I bring some of these kinds of attacks on myself for the way I present myself. Socrates bugged people too - but that was not his intention, nor is it mine. But I do not approve of self-righteousness. I do not like people who think that they are above reproach, who think that there is a level of attainment that they have reached that permits them to look down on others. There are lots of people like this. They are the most disappointing of people I have met in my Catholic life.
There is no level of attainment that permits a person to look down on others. Period.
Personal attacks come from a pretty sad place inside one's heart. It's not virtue and zeal. It's self-love.
I have been a Catholic now for over twenty years. I do not surround myself with the 'perfect.' I surround myself with easy-going people. One of the people I used to 'drink with' when he was a student at OLSWA, is still one of my best friends. We make fun of each other and yet respect each other. He has sinned, I have sinned. And yet we respect each other. By easy-going people I do not mean permissive people, but people who understand that no one is always at their best. My friends have to be people that I can be myself around. In the Catholic internet world there is a temptation to want to appear better than you really are. I try not to give in to that kind of falsity. I need to be warts and all Colin. And if you don't like that, go away!
And, btw, I like beer and find attractive girls attractive! And yet still think drunkenness is a sin and any kind of infidelity.