Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Classical Education
Gosh! The very moment I foreswear blogging, this comes along! Classical Education. Now I REALLY will stop posting...unless something comes up.
Because of the pressures of beginning the school year at home and at the seminary I'm going cease posting for a few days. I'll miss you, too!
On a more personal note...
We academics actually have our own version of the "substitute x for personal holiness" trick mentioned in the previous post. We tend to substitute the generation of "great" ideas (or blog entries) for the performance of acts of love. We get wrapped up in our projects and act like beasts to those closest to us. I know of people, for instance, who have paid for their Ph.D. programs in theology with a divorce. This is a clear example of disordered priorities. I think those warnings in The Imitation of Christ against intellectual pride are right on. What good does it do to be able to define a virtue if you aren't living a virtuous life?

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Diamond in the Rough
Forrest Gump is not a consistently great movie and I’m not sure what it really stands for, but one scene stands out as a true analysis of the relationship between personal holiness and the struggle for justice. I’m thinking of that scene at the Vietnam rally on the Mall in which the radical boyfriend of Gump’s childhood friend smacks her and blames it on anger at the poverty, violence and injustice in the world. The wisdom of the Church, and the best argument against the worst of liberation theology, is that the promotion of justice cannot be accomplished by those who are not pursuing personal holiness.

Walker Percy points out in Lost in the Cosmos, that in Nietzchean America, when all commitment to the truth is jettisoned, all that is left is the power of violence and lust. If we are under the sway of violence or lust, our efforts at improving society will ultimately lead to an equally unjust, if not more unjust replacement. That is one of the reasons it is an act of social justice to fight pornography, premarital sex, adultery, and other abuses of human sexuality.

The other reasons it is an act of social justice to fight sexual misconduct is that an act of sexual impropriety itself is a social sin as well as personal one. When I was in college (1977-81) I had a couple of friends who conceived a child out of wedlock. They were told by a priest that, considering all the poverty, violence and injustice in the world, what they did wasn’t so bad.

In once sense, this is true. Even the Church Fathers considered Anger to be a greater sin than Lust, primarily because of their anthropology. Lust issued from a lower part of the body, Anger from the middle part, and Pride from the mind. So Pride was the worse sin. Still, Lust is one of the Capital Sins.

At any rate, at the time my faith was completely unformed, after umpteen years of CCD and religion in Catholic high school, so I didn’t know how to respond. I have come to believe, however, that every abuse of our sexual powers is not only a personal sin, but a time bomb that explodes in the fabric of society. Adultery, for instance, is an act of social injustice.

As a result, the government, in its efforts at promoting the common good, has a vested interest in regulating sexual activity (even if sexual sins can never be eliminated). That is why, for instance, divorce should be made difficult. Society has an interest in all but truly abusive or fictitious marriages staying together.

Note: I am not simply equating divorce with adultery. Obviously some divorces are justified on a civil level. Adultery never is. But I do believe that divorce is a blight on American society and should be inoculated against at every opportunity. The best way, of course, is to promote truly holy marriages through adequate preparation, not only just prior to the marriage, but throughout the education of the young by home and school.

Of course, anger and the resulting violence are equally, if not more inimical to the pursuit of justice than lust and sexual sin. If we fall easily into anger and violence, we not only put our friends and neighbors in danger, but run the risk of ruining our efforts at promoting justice.
What ties your guts in a knot?
One thing reading about the patristic period is how seriously they took Trinitarian theology. All that business about processions and homoousion was not just an academic exercise, but seemed to be a matter of life and death, something which occupied their whole hearts, not just their minds.

Also noteworthy is the prominence that bishops played in the development of doctrine. They didn't just hang out in the wings and wait for professional theologians to duke it out, then "approve" of the winner after the fact.

In our day what seems to exercise people the most are liturgical questions, esp. those having to do with "inclusive" language. Grrrr. See? My stomach is in a knot already? There is a connect, however: the language used in the liturgy has to do not only with theological anthropology (What is man?) but, as Hans Urs Von Balthasar has pointed out, with the doctrine of God. What does it mean to call God Father? Mother? Parent?

Will future generations look at the liturgical battles of our era and thank God for the doctrinal developments that come from them? Will they see bishops taking the lead and actually courageously teaching the true faith in the name of Christ? Inquiring minds want to know.