Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Criticizing the critics, going to bat for the Pope, and citing Nietzsche

I kid you not (I know usually that is an introduction for a big lie- I am trying to buck the trend), yesterday I saw an article that was a critique of a critique someone wrote about Catholics who criticize Pope Francis (here it is: "10 things Michael Cook gets wrong in his criticism of papal critics"). I will say up-front, I have not read either the "10 things" article or the article it sought to criticize. It could be spot on, woefully wrong, or anywhere in between. Seeing the headline prompted this thought: "People criticize Pope Francis - people criticize the people who criticize Pope Francis - people criticize the people who criticize those who criticize Pope Francis." Can't we see where this leads? Besides, how does that square with, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35)?

This reflection prompted yet another thought: Do you read, watch, and listen only to have your preconceptions confirmed? If so, what is the point? It's not a rhetorical question. It seems to me a shame when Catholics publicly proceed to teach sound doctrine, set everyone straight, with the smug assurance that they possess all truth and the proper point-of-view. How is that catholic? Do I mean that the Church doesn't teach truth and speak clearly on certain matters? Not at all. But how you perceive the truth depends a lot on where you're standing. I see a lot of attempts by Catholics convinced of their own infallible grasp and application of the truth, argue like what they believe, which purports to be the totality of what the Church teaches on many matters, is self-evidently true and that the truth is obvious to the disinterested casual observer.

In my view, the best medium for truth is beauty. Encountering true beauty can only make you better, which is the path to becoming good. It's like discerning who to marry: marry the person who makes you want to be a better, whose companionship gracefully commands you to be a better person, which is very different from the person demanding that you change (run far away from a person like that!).

In his memoir of faith, Lapsed Agnostic, John Waters asked the Church hierarchs of Ireland what comes after don't? I think that's a question we need to ask ourselves often, especially if you're intent on engaging publicly from the standpoint of our Christian faith.

What comes after don't is not a discourse. It is a witness. A witness that is not joyful, joy-filled, is not a Christian witness. As Nietzesche, who was very devout as a young man, wrote in "Zarathustra's Prologue" in his magnum opus Thus Spake Zarathustra:
They called God that which opposed and afflicted them: and verily, there was much hero-spirit in their worship!

And they knew not how to love their God otherwise than by nailing men to the cross!

As corpses they thought to live; in black draped they their corpses; even in their talk do I still feel the evil flavour of charnel-houses.

And he who liveth nigh unto them liveth nigh unto black pools, wherein the toad singeth his song with sweet gravity.

Better songs would they have to sing, for me to believe in their Saviour: more! like saved ones would his disciples have to appear unto me!


  1. It's good to see good sense.

    As you said, John 13:34-35 is a useful reality check for attitude. My opinion.

    What you discussed in the second paragraph is one reason that I cite my sources - quite often the Catechism.

    It helps, I suspect, that I'm an adult convert: and well aware that I am still learning what the Church has been saying for the last two millennia.

  2. Exactly, Brian. One of things Pope Francis is challenging us all on is the necessity of speaking and living the truth manifesting great love and with joy. Otherwise, what is the attraction?


Depression and hope through faith

I don't want to go on and on about depression. One reason is that I don't want to wallow in my affliction. Another reason is I don&#...