When I get letters like this…

…I am always reminded of this passage from the gospels:

Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodi-ans, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. (Mt 22:15–17).

Anyway, a reader whose email handle is “syllabus.errorum” writes coyly in that “just wondering” way:

Mr Shea, Recently Pope Francis bowed and received a blessing from The Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal O’Malley received a blessing from a Female minister at a Methodist Temple. What’s going on? Thanks!

Don’t know anything about either story, but Jesus had his feet washed by a prostitute–and she wasn’t ordained at all. Bottom line: They are humble men. That’s the problem?

I’d love to believe that was a sincere question, but experience tells me that my answer has been recorded in the Bill of Indictment Against Neo-Catholic Novus Ordo Scum that is being drawn up against all those guilty of failure to panic about this pope somewhere in the Star Chamber of the Greatest Catholics of All Time. Come the Revolution, people like me will be the first up against the wall in the Great Cleansing Fire.

Oh! And look! Sure enough, the “questioner” then writes back:

“We must remember that if all the manifestly good men were on one side and all the manifestly bad men on the other, there would be no danger of anyone, least of all the elect, being deceived by lying wonders. It is the good men, good once, we must hope good still, who are to do the work of Anti-Christ and so sadly to crucify the Lord afresh…. Bear in mind this feature of the last days, that this deceitfulness arises from good men being on the wrong side.”

Fr. Frederick Faber, Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, 1861

Golly.  What a surprise.  Another one  of the Greatest Catholics of All Time, anointed by God to defend the Church from the pope, wasn’t really asking a question at all.  Just looking for a chance to act as Accuser of the Brethren.  The job is already taken, pal.  You should consider finding something else to do with your time.

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  • capaxdei

    On the one hand, the possibility of “good men being on the wrong side” ought to make us all humble and meek — and by “us all,” I mean me, since it’s entirely possible I’m no better at being on the right side than I am at being good.

    On the other hand, in the particular instances of Catholic bishops receiving blessings from non-Catholics, I have to ask, “The wrong side of what, exactly?”

    • “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side.” –Treebeard

  • orual’s kindred

    I had to read up on Fr. Frederick Faber, as I am not familiar with him. I would suppose that the reader knows that he is a convert; and I wonder then at how the reader can be certain that Fr. Faber was not a wolf in sheep’s clothing trying to lure cradle Catholics from the Faith 😀

    • AquinasMan

      Meh. Pope Saint John XXIII was a huge fan of his work. Must count for something.

      • orula’s kindred

        Is there anything he can’t do? 😀

  • Andy

    From Webster’s a blessing is , “The utterance of a wish, request or direction that good should follow, pronounced over a person or an object, or the benefit which follows such utterances.” So only Catholics can offer a prayer – that is communicate with God and want good to follow? When did that happen – the only Catholic part? I really wish people would cease to look for scandal in everything – scandal happens all to often and to find it in a warm wish is beyond scandalous.
    I would add that when my father died, he served in WW II with several men who were still alive – one of then was a retired Baptist minister who came to dad’s funeral and he and the priest did a marvelous joint service of remembrance at the funeral home. He blessed my mom and my family as did the priest. Is that scandal?

    • I think people get confused since there is a blessing that only a priest or deacon can give, and they assume that means all blessing. Therefore, whenever a priest or bishop accepts a blessing from a layperson, these people assume that blessee is according the blesser ministerial-priestly-sacramental authority.

    • She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

      ^^^^ Yes, to all of this. It is no more scandal than it is for someone to say, “God bless you!” if I sneeze and for me to gratefully reply, “Thank you!” even if it is abundantly clear that the one who blessed me does not share my beliefs. I wonder how many people amongst the laity who have had the opportunity to meet the Pope have said something to him like, “God bless you, Holy Father!” That, too, is a blessing. I have no doubt that when that happens, the Holy Father probably gratefully receives that blessing and uses the opportunity to impart one of his own. I bless my children before tucking them in bed at night and often through the day. You know what? They have begun to mirror my blessing (which is tracing the sign of the cross on their foreheads) and bless me right back. Bringing food to others, just being present, and praying for others can be ways of blessing. I have been blessed many times over by the prayers offered on my behalf by my friend Mark Shea and those offered by his readers too. All of these things are blessings of different kinds and are given/offered by different people and there is nothing wrong with any of these things.

  • Julie Peitz Nickell

    I hope that Catholics who contact you don’t leave the church because of your snarkiness and arrogance. Why can’t you answer them in kindness, like Jesus would? I don’t see the question as far-fetched. What IS going on? Are these men lending legitimacy to erroneous Christian traditions, or being kind Christians? It looks like they are better Christians than I am. I wouldn’t take a blessing from a protestant minister. Why would I? But that is me, and Pope Francis has a bigger heart than I do. But why take a chance at turning someone away from the church? Perhaps that person has an intense interest in church matters. I have contacted you in years past with probably stupid stuff and got very snarky replies. I was beginning to dip my toe back in the Catholicism. I could very well have turned away, believing that the church caters to that type of arrogance and my questions and feedback are not welcome there. Just as they weren’t when I went to Catholic school. But I was going elsewhere on St. Blogs, finding kindness and encouragement in other spots.

    • Dawn Breidenbach

      Snarkiness and arrogance??? No, it’s more like he’s revealing the truth. If someone’s faith is that weak that Mark is able to drive them out of the Church, then they need many prayers. The question posed was one to try and “correct” Mark’s position on the subject by already having an answer in ready. I would be willing to take a blessing from anyone who is willing to give me one. We can bless each other, why is the blessing from a Protestant any different from us blessing ourselves with holy water.

    • orual’s kindred

      I find it remarkably flattering to Mark Shea that people would view the Church as catering to such and such because of something he said 😀 As to the legitimacy of the question, I’m afraid the second email would rather call that question into question.

      I would think that someone who will believe that “the church caters to that type of arrogance” because of one person’s reply to an email (in this case a layman) is in a way elevating that person to the status of Ultimate Catholic. (Dare I say Pope? Commendations to Mark Shea on being somebody’s Pope! :-D) It is certainly not an active engagement with the actual teachings of the Church, heeding the call of Our Lord, or pondering the examples of the Saints (who, while on earth, were not perfect either). I don’t see how (nearly) rejecting Christ’s Church because of the perceived arrogance of a Catholic blog writer could be taken as an intelligent, principled decision. Neither do I see why said Catholic writer should be held responsible for it.

      • Julie Peitz Nickell

        You never know what spurs someone to leave the church. I’ve heard worse excuses. Sorry for the rant. I guess I just don’t understand the holding a fellow Catholic up to ridicule. It bothers me to see Catholics attacking each other so much. We should unite, IMHO, because we get enough attacks from other churches and agencies particularly the Associated Press. I just know that I felt discouraged and hurt being on the receiving end of that type of attitude.

        • Bill

          It’s because it’s a bullshit gotcha point the guy is doing, just like what the Pharisees did. It’s like asking which brother gets to claim the widow in Heaven. It’s smugly triumphalistic, prideful, and presented in a disingenuous way.

          Mark’s right in telling him to sell crazy somewhere else.

          • Bill

            In that case the Sadducees

        • orual’s kindred

          As Bill mentioned in his comment, the question was not made in pursuit of intelligent discussion. It was an underhand attempt to score polemical points, and people are well within reason to properly call out such things when they occur. I’m not sure how this is the same thing as ‘holding someone up to ridicule’. If Mark Shea had wanted to do that, leaving out the person’s name rather defeats the purpose, don’t you think?

          You say that it bothers you ‘to see Catholics attacking each other so much’, and that you ‘just know that I felt discouraged and hurt being on the receiving end of that type of attitude.’ Again, I don’t think that what happened with Mark Shea and his reader can be described that way. The reader wanted to land an easy punch, and Mark Shea responded in such a way as to prevent that reader from making any more. If this must be viewed in a context of attacking, it would rather seem that the reader was attempting an attack, and he made a defensive move. It’s not at all pleasant, but it’s not the same as what ‘Catholics attacking each other so much’ may imply. (I also don’t see why you should feel as if either of these is being done to you.)

          As for reasons people give for leaving the Church, they are indeed not always easy to guess. Some people may leave because of a quarrel between Catholics; others give different reasons. I’m not sure, however, that leaving because of what another Catholic may or may not do is any more compelling than, say, disagreeing with Church teaching. While we all must strive to be witnesses to Christ’s love, we must also keep our faith centered on Him, and not on our fellow Catholics. We worship Christ, and not blog writers, popes, saints or angels. Our Lord is the one who said, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. It’s difficult to believe that at times, but that’s what He said, and we’re invited to take Him at His Word 🙂

  • Gary Keith Chesterton

    “The job is already taken, pal. You should consider finding something else to do with your time.”

    That was priceless.

  • cececole

    Julie Peitz Nickell I would have thought that anyone who would bother to contact Mark Shea with such a question was aware of who Mark Shea is…..Does snarkiness and arrogance come in that package? Sometimes. To me, that is the Shea chosen persona in the Catholic blogosphere, his “shtick”. I could say things about how typed communication doesn’t portray tone of voice, facial expression, etc to fully communicate….but Mark Shea is not a member of “The Church of Nice”

    We don’t know what Mark Shea gave as a first reply to the questioner. He could have answered in kindness. We don’t see that response. We do get that the questioner “then writes back:” with the excerpt from Fr.Faber. The Faber excerpt rather well confirming that the question was not asked in inquiry. (When ANYONE rolls out the “antichrist” card = BOOM). I am sure the Shea comm box is filled daily with questions. Based on experience, some like this he assumes to be a ruse and they are. But I am sorry to hear that his previous interactions with you disheatened you as you were returning to the Catholic faith.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    “The elect.” Sounds Calvinist to me. Out with him!

  • Sam Schmitt

    I have the same question as “syllabus.errorum,” but I’m not being coy. Anyone care to offer any answers?

  • jeanvaljean24601

    Shucks, I’d welcome a blessing from the Dalai Lama.
    Something about, the Spirit listeth where it will…

    • Elmwood

      ahhh the Dali Lama, The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. ….