Catholic Church: October 2005 Archives

It has long been a protestant slander that to be a Catholic one must check one's mind at the door. Obviously any protestant who repeats this calumny hasn't paid much attention to the Church I am accustomed to attend.

If the climate at St. Blog's is any indication at all, one is far more likely to be requested to check one's heart at the door. Reading in some of the reaches of St. Blogs, one gets the impression that if you haven't spent your entire life arguing yourself into full conformity with Catholic Doctrine on the basis on Natural Law and revelation, then you've been wasting your time and your life. If I wished to live a logically consistent life with everything exactly placed and exactly reasoned, I would have requested a Skinner Box in the early stages of my childhood.

I am far more often annoyed by the rigid intellectualists who admit of no part of the emotional life in the life of the Church. Everything done is to be done on the basis of sheer intellect alone. Our assent to doctrine is intellectual. Our reception of the Eucharist is the reification of a reality that the reason has already checked out and verified. Our very emotions are to be under the complete governance of reason.

Sorry, but the intellect does not dominate most people. There are quite a few who would like to think that it does, but the emotions have a life and a will of their own. How often have you actually talked yourself out of an irrational fear? For me, I don't think I ever have. However, I have prayed my way out many a times. I have relied upon the strength and the love of our Blessed Mother, not upon her intellect, to obtain for me the graces necessary.

No, I'm afraid one of my biggest objections since joining the Catholic Church has been the virulent strain of anti-emotionalism that circulates in some corners. Any hint of religion in emotion is seen as syrupy pietism, or devotional excess. Any questioning of the strict line of reason on the basis of any other than rigid Aristotelian lines seems to be looked down upon. The Charismatic Renewal is regarded askance both for their emotionalism and for certain pockets of questionable doctrine that can sometimes arise from the origins of the Renewal in the Pentecostal movement.

The reason is a good and powerful gatekeeper. It is necessary, right, just, and required that we cultivate it to the best of our ability. At the same time the reason uncut by the love (not merely the intellectual assent of will) demanded by one Christian for another, is the recipe for a horror. By all means, we must correct the errors of our brethren. I have been thankful time and again for course corrections offered by loving, concerned, informed friends. I have had very, very infrequent occasion to thank any polemical apologist for their unwarranted intrusion into my thoughts or life.

It is about balance. The reason must rule, but lest it is a tyrant, it must be kept in check by the heart. I absolutely must assent to the truth revealed by the Catholic Church, but it is the use of that truth that becomes a sticking point. Homosexual acts are defined as gravely sinful. If I follow the Bible and the strict rule of reason, I must therefore eschew any contacts with unrepentant homosexuals. And where, may I ask, does that leave them? Isn't my first duty to love my neighbor as myself and to conduct myself in that love. Isn't the first rule to pull the beam out of my own eye before I try to remove the mote in my neighbor's?

Sometimes when I hear some of the arguments and disagreements expressed among very good Catholics, it seems to me that we have abandoned the cardinal rule of love for the tyranny of reason guided by law. Not all of the time--but I find this problem far more pervasive than I find a problem of rampant emotionalism. (Though I must admit, I have found pockets of that as well, and it is no better--though, I suppose arguably, it might be a good deal less harmful to an outsider. Rather smother them in kisses than hand them a docket, a notebook, and a slide-rule.)

Just some half-formed thoughts upon looking into certain darker corners of the world of Catholic disagreement.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Catholic Church category from October 2005.

Catholic Church: August 2005 is the previous archive.

Catholic Church: November 2005 is the next archive.

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