De officiis

12 05 2009

hijoProdigo

I have never thought that sin is the problem. It is, but it is often a problem we can’t do much about. My defeatist attitude (bordering on quietism) stems from my readings of the Desert Fathers and the Ladder of Divine Ascent. It is not so much the Lutheran position as it is the position of someone who knows that we often exchange some sins for other sins. If we think we can solve the problem, more often than not we are deceiving ourselves. And above all, sometimes we are meant to have some bad sins before our eyes to keep us humble.

The problem, then, is not sin, but the self-absolution and self-justification of our sins… and also a total lack of honor and responsibility when it comes to sin’s consequences. Modern people like to make beds, large beds, but they don’t like to sleep in them. That is the difference between the bad Catholics of yesteryear, and even the “good Catholics” of today. Bad Catholics back then knew they were bad. They had a sense of shame. They would go to Mass, stay in the back, and slink off before anyone could see them as they went back to live with a significant other who wasn’t their spouse, or to continue living their sinful lifestyle. It wasn’t ideal, and it wasn’t edifying, but at least they had a modicum of dignity about it. People were content to live in that ambiguous state, latching on to any spiritual consolation that they could get, hoping for some faint chance of redemption.

I was reading the plight of Fr. Alberto Cutié recently, and my thought was not so much, “how could he?”, but rather, “how could he do it like that?” In Catholic cultures, people almost expect their clergy to be less than perfect, especially in sexual matters. It is just the “dirty little secret” of the Catholic world. But to then go to the national media and talk about what you did… I am sorry, I like the “old school” approach: whisked off to the monastery in the middle of the night, etc. And I have seen it happen myself. I don’t see how the wayward cleric’s half-hearted, on-air mea culpa will help matters at all. He does seem to want to uphold the “policy”, but he doesn’t seem to want to walk the walk. The bed has been made, and he has gotten up from it. But he says that he still wants people to sleep in it. Just not him.

I was never in a position to make any real committments in my years of religious life. I left seminary a seminarian, and the monastery a novice. Of course, I will say a few extra prayers for Fr. Cutié. But I have known people who have stuck to their guns no matter what, and have slept in the beds that they have made. I know married people who have separated from their spouse and live their life alone because they will not go to some ecclesiastical kangaroo court to have their marriage invalidated because of some very shaky casuistry. I have suspected priests I have known of being fundamentally unhappy with their priesthood, but they keep on in their tasks because they made a promise, and they feel that they cannot break it. I know of “bad Catholics” who have shacked up with someone who is not their spouse because they love that person, but who do not protest that they are being treated unjustly by the Church because they can’t marry again. Not everyone is going to be a saint, and God forbid I condemn someone lest I fall into the same tragic situation. But one thing that I would like to think is that I am man enough to own up to the messes I have made. I don’t think redemption is possible without that.


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5 responses

13 05 2009
e.

“I am sorry, I like the “old school” approach: whisked off to the monastery in the middle of the night, etc. And I have seen it happen myself. I don’t see how the wayward cleric’s half-hearted, on-air mea culpa will help matters at all. He does seem to want to uphold the “policy”, but he doesn’t seem to want to walk the walk. The bed has been made, and he has gotten up from it. But he says that he still wants people to sleep in it. Just not him.”

Hate to concur, but the above just makes incredible sense.

“Not everyone is going to be a saint, and God forbid I condemn someone lest I fall into the same tragic situation.”

Now this is the kind of wisdom that ever so often Arturo magnificently demonstrates. It’s been quite awhile. Well done.

However, just one question:

Granted, not everybody is going to be a saint; however, does that mean they’ll not be allowed in the company of saints? That is, isn’t this actually a pre-requisite of being granted entrance into the Kingdom?

Unless, of course, there is some green visa into the Heavenly Estate for certain foreign nationals, which I am not immediately aware.

13 05 2009
Lucian

Ah, yes… The Sin of Father Amaro Alberto. 😀

13 05 2009
David

Thank you for this post.

13 05 2009
Visibilium

Very Spanish. “Take what you want, but pay for it.”

12 05 2009
Death Bredon

Spot on.

Walker Percy was a model “bad” Catholic. And, were he still here, I think he would have no problems with my comment. He might even pour me a bourbon — straight, of course.

Would that more “good” Catholics realized that they worse than they think. Indeed, I am a Christian becomes Christ did not come to save the righteous!

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