The Marxification of the Situation

The devil always sends sins into the world in pairs in the hope that, avoiding one, we shall embrace its opposite. In class warfare, the old game has been to oppose greed to envy and force us to choose. Similarly, when things get particularly lousy, as they did today with Bp. O’Brien, there’s always a certain percentage of Catholics who will, quite sensibly, say things like “All I can say right now is that we pray and accept this trial as discipline from our Heavenly Father.”

The devil hates such a self-sacrificial Christ-like response, so much in imitation of St. Paul who rejoiced in his sufferings for your sake, and in his flesh completed what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Colossians 1:24). So, when good Catholics do this, there is also always a certain percentage of people who will interpret this to mean “Never say a bishop is wrong about anything, no matter what.” Those people are getting harder and harder to find. However, they are being rapidly replaced by those who embrace the opposite evil and erupt in rage at sacrificial prayer by, basically, going Marxist. That is, they will analyze the Situation strictly and solely from the perspective of earthly power and see (in their limited way) that this trial is due, not to anything the people of Phoenix have done, but to the cowardice and sin of, in this case, Bp. O’Brien. The more Marxified they are, they more they are likely to view such calls to prayer as a form of false consciousness: the opiate of the people keeping them oppressed by a hierarchy that is the total locus of the problem. They may come, in time, to view the entire Catholic tradition of sacrificial prayer for such sins as a vast system of oppression.

The problem with this outlook is that it inevitably clashes with the teaching of Christ, which does indeed, after all, call us to acts of sacrificial love on behalf of the sinful members of the body of Christ. Reject that, and you’ve gutted the gospel, since the whole thing is founded on one vast sacrificial act of the innocent on behalf of the guilty, and upon our participation in it. If we are to be “like Christ” at all, we must be like him in that. If we reject that and hanker after winning, earthly power, and all the rest of it, we might, it is true, get what we want, for a while. But we shall lose Christ.

Does that mean that shell-shocked people in Phoenix have no right to feel angry or hurt by this latest display of cowardice from their bishop? Not at all. People are entitled to their feelings and they have to be dealt with, not suppressed. But it does mean that the suffering people are enduring now is one of two things: a) meaningless pain that happens to them and about which they are powerless or b) suffering they can join to the sufferings of Christ and so be made participants in the redemption of the world. Amazingly, some people think that the latter view of things is a craven counsel of weakness. In reality, it is the most powerful force in the world.