Tightening the thumbscrews of kindness
March 21, 2014 § 23 Comments
In my previous post I made the contention that Cardinal Kasper’s proposed ‘pastoral exception’ (hereafter “PE”) – the proposal that the Church, as a disciplinary matter, should endorse reception of Holy Communion by (some but not all) Catholics who are engaging in regular sexual relations with someone other than their valid spouse – is cruelty, not kindness.
(I’ll reiterate that what is proposed is that the Church should endorse some Catholics – those on a special list meeting certain criteria, I suppose – both engaging in regular sexual relations with someone other than their valid spouse and receiving Communion. Nobody is required to show ID and walk through a naked body scanner before reception of the Eucharist).
I might have left the impression that I think that adopting the PE would be cruel and vicious toward some people but merciful toward others, and I would like to correct that (possible) false impression. Adopting the PE would be cruel and vicious toward literally everyone.
It is obvious that the PE would be cruel and vicious toward Catholics who are in irregular situations and are putting forth the effort to try to do what is right. This is not merely theoretical. Implementing this proposal would kick the most vulnerable of penitents — those who are leaning heavily on the Sacraments and the unchanging doctrine of the Church to remain continent in the face of overwhelming pressure to do otherwise — right where it hurts. The PE would completely undermine all of the support that they have. These are real people we are talking about, not policy abstractions, and they are among the most spiritually vulnerable of the Christian faithful.
It is also obvious that this would be cruel and vicious toward any Catholics who are “on the fence” and depend on the steadfastness of the Church in order to choose what is right. This is true even of those on the fence who ‘break bad’, for many reasons. One reason is that it leaves them with the false impression that morality is a matter of arbitrary rules, as opposed to a calling to do what is good and loving for themselves and others. Another is that it leaves them with no concrete picture of the road home.
Another group of people toward whom this is cruel and vicious is those who are ignorant; and really, the whole spectrum from those who are invincibly ignorant to those who willfully reject sound doctrine. These fall into many subcategories. For example, Catholics who are ignorant and not yet married are presented, through praxis, with ideas about marriage (and in particular indissolubility) that are false and misleading — possibly to the point where, when they attempt “marriage,” it will be invalid.
It would be easy to get lost in the weeds of casuistry by looking at particular kinds of cases here, but one consideration overwhelms all others: that the only cure for ignorance is truth, and that the longer ignorance (or willful rejection of the truth) persists the deeper into the trap of sin people fall. Every ‘irregular’ union has a beginning and an ending (in death if not before); and the longer it goes on the more entangled and difficult it becomes for the persons involved. Even someone who stumbled into a difficult situation out of invincible ignorance is better off knowing the truth, and knowing it sooner rather than later; because only the truth can set you free. The Good, the True, and the Beautiful are a unity. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Objectively evil behaviors are chosen because of defects of knowledge and/or defects of will. But even in those cases where the defects are of knowledge, the person is better off coming to know the truth – the sooner the better, in every sense of the word “better” – rather than remaining enslaved to ignorance.
Then there are those Catholics who are not involved in irregular relationships themselves but are looking on and possibly adopting various ‘pastoral’ positions. The PE is cruel and vicious toward them too, again for a whole variety of reasons. Just one is that it encourages an egotism-of-kindness, the attitude that we are good people because we hide sometimes painful truths from “those people” who are so much lesser than we are and cannot handle the fullness of truth. It encourages the same sort of self-centered attitude of “kindness” that is involved in endorsing euthanasia: the idea that if I, hypothetically, were suffering or radically disabled I would desire the “kindness” of death for myself, administered by a “merciful” murderer at the cost of his own soul.
Finally, we come to non-Catholics. The PE is manifestly vicious and cruel toward them, because it encourages false ideas about the Faith through praxis. The ramifications of this deception are (like all deceptions) diverse. But the PE is perhaps most acutely cruel toward those who are drawn to the Faith, because it is a bait and switch. Evangelism and ecumenism are real goods, but it is not kind to deliberately cultivate false beliefs in people as a way of – supposedly – drawing them to Christ, as if Christ were Pepsi to mohammedan Coke.