At the beginning of Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross details a number of "spiritual sins" that can get in the way of progress toward intimacy with the Lord. The seven capital sins have their corresponding faults and sins in the spiritual world.
I had wondered about what spiritual anger might be. I happened to read the significant passages again yesterday and then today, I had an example served to me on a platter.
In our local area we have a tremendous opportunity for a retreat. It will last three days and the cost for staying over is less than two-hundred dollars. I have spoken to a number of people who live in a better part of town than I do, who spend a good deal of money to go on fairly extravagant vacations and who go on pilgrimages when the locations are right. Some of these people told me that the retreat is too expensive. A person I was speaking to was very upset over this wondering how they could spend the money on frivolity and pass up such a great opportunity.
That, in a nutshell, is the genesis of spiritual anger. I won't say that this person had it, but when we let that thought dwell on us and we begin to get truly angry about how people's priorities are all messed up, we have entered the realm of spiritual anger.
I thought about this and wondered how much of the conflict between different groups of Catholics was tainted with this sin. How often do I get angry at some petty transgression of the rubrics? Angry enough for it to throw me off-course during the mass? Turns out that it isn't very often, but once is too much. Spiritual anger takes concern over a very important matter and turns it into an opportunity to judge and exercise my own righteousness against others. It is entirely destructive because I can begin to convince myself that my anger is righteous because it is in a righteous cause and that those who are the subject of my anger are truly unregenerate sinners who wish to tear apart the fabric of the Church. That may be true, but I do not have the right to sit in the judgment seat--my anger in this matter separates me from God just as surely as my anger in more secular matters. When anger leads to judgment against a person, it separates us from the love of God.
Spiritual anger is a real danger. It seems more real in the world today because there are so many abuses. But being aware of its possibility renders it less of danger. When we are angry about a real abuse, we need simply steer away from judgment. We address the abuse, pray for the one committing the abuse, and leave the matter in God's hands otherwise, neither condoning nor condemning--rather commending to God's infinite mercy those who trespass against us.