instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, August 16, 2004

The measure that you measure

To me, one of the least appealing features of St. Blogs (and Catholicism on the Internet in general) is the game of Musical Judgment Seats played when a new story about an imperfect Roman Catholic comes up. The music stops the moment you've read the linked 800-word article. Quick! Make a judgment on the background, ethics, hidden agenda, and current state of grace of the principal figures! Don't wait, or you'll be out of the game until the next story.

What puzzles me about this game isn't how it's played -- the human mind is, after all, a pattern-making machine, and someone whose mind is set to "those lousy modernists" will encounter a lot of lousy modernists -- so much as why it's played.

What end is both desirable and achievable by condemning people you've never heard of living in dioceses you've never been to based on a brief newspaper article?

Whether the condemnation is accurate is a secondary matter. The person condemned may well be the self-centered relativist out to destroy Church tradition that the Musical Judgment Seat player pegs him as. What desirable end is achieved by saying so?

And yes, I do know that Jesus called people whited sepulchers and said we should treat people who won't listen to the Church as pagans and tax collectors. I don't think that explains the gratuitous vilification so often indulged in.

Last week, Karen Marie Knapp quoted St. Isaac of Nineveh, who said a compassionate heart
is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for all that exists. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person's eyes overflow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips his heart....
That is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears, even for the irrational animals and for the enemies of truth, even for those who harm him, so that they may be protected and find mercy.
Among the grave injuries done to the Church in the United States through imprudence in the years following the Second Vatican Council is the distrust, among those reacting against that imprudence, of compassion and love as motives. As someone commented below,
...I am also sick of charity being used as an excuse to cover up, if not ignore, the doctrines and dogmas of the church. This is the approach that has been used since the late 60s, it is time we see it has not worked, and has led millions upon millions of souls astray.
This seems to be where we are. One generation called ignoring the teachings of the Church "charity"; the next generation regards expressions of charity with suspicion.

If we don't pay attention to the doctrines and dogmas of the Church in order to produce compassionate hearts, though, why do we pay attention?