Protest and Persecution

Call me paranoid, but I sometimes feel like it is not only Protestants who are in protest against Catholicism, but the whole world.

When I stop to analyze this feeling I realize that there is an argument to be made. If Catholicism embraces the whole truth wherever it appears, then it is going to offend everybody who can’t stand that particular truth. Consequently, if Catholicism embraces the whole truth everywhere, then it is bound to offend almost everybody everywhere who only hold to part of the truth or to a distorted part of the truth. (People who do this are called ‘heretics’)

This was hammered home to me in a most gentle manner by a Benedictine abbot. I was an Anglican priest at the time and I was debating in my own mind the issue of women’s ordination. I wanted to accept it because I always want to give everything the benefit of the doubt, affirm and not deny and all that good stuff. But Abbot Leo said, “Sometimes to affirm a greater truth you have to deny a lesser good.”

So, for example, to affirm the apostolic ministry you have to affirm the male only priesthood. To do this you have to exclude women from the priesthood. This raises the ire of all sorts of people who mean well and  also want  something good–they are in favor of equal rights, recognize women’s gifts, want an inclusive church etc. etc. It is the process, therefore, of discernment of the greater good and the higher truth which helps us to distinguish the hierarchy of truths and make decisions.

The Catholic Church is doing this all the time, and all the time making enemies. This is because the world sees truths as being mutually exclusive: “If you are in favor of marriage, you can’t be in favor of homosexual marriage, and if you are against homosexual marriage (says the worldling) you must be against homosexuality and therefore you must hate homosexuals.” Not really. We’re simply in favor of marriage and human life so we’re opposed to those things which destroy marriage and human life. We’re also in favor of people loving one another, treating everyone with respect, and we’re okay with same sex friendship and we’re also in favor of tolerance and fair treatment of all people–including homosexuals.

Along with the hierarchy of truth is the principle of loving all things according to their worth. The wise Catholic isn’t really against anything. He’s for everything–and loves all things according to their worth. Is it a piece of trash? I love it according to it’s worth. It’s true value is trash. Trash is for being thrown out. We’re for everything good and beautiful and true, and as a result we’re opposed to anything that destroys that which is beautiful, good and true. We’re not against it as such–we’re opposed to it as the equal and opposite reaction to being in favor of what is beautiful, good and true. So, for example, we’re pro-life. We’re in favor of marriage and men and women and babies and creativity and productivity and joy and happiness and family life. This positivity in itself means we’re opposed to abortion and promiscuity and prostitution and rape and everything which destroys those good things.

Because the worldlings do not have a hierarchy of truth they cannot discern the greater goods from the lesser goods, and have no tools to discern the evil distortions to the good which are sometimes permitted or endorsed in the search for some lesser good. So, for example, a person who is ‘pro choice’ ostensibly wants to help poor women in crisis pregnancies. They want to help women have a better chance to advance in life. They want to help poor women overcome a problem that will keep them in poverty. If they understood the hierarchy of truth they would see that the right to life is the most fundamental and basic truth, and that the noble desire to help the poor woman in a crisis pregnancy cannot supersede the infant’s right to life.

This is why Catholics must always brace themselves to be misunderstood, reviled and persecuted–because those who are serving lesser goods will always be at war against the greater good that puts their cause in the shadow. They will perceive that the Catholic Church’s natural opposition (because of the greater good they proclaim) as a negativity.

And quite naturally they will be angry and fight back.


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  • Richard E

    Father, thank you for adding these words: “If they understood the hierarchy of truth they would see that the right to life is the most fundamental and basic truth, and that the noble desire to help the poor woman in a crisis pregnancy cannot supersede the infant’s right to life.” Pro-choice is just one aspect of pro-life/right to life. There are many out there who love the pro-choice movement but work more in right to life, conception to natural death and work hard to combat capital punishment, assisted suicide and euthanasia. I always like to go back to Venerable Pope John II’s encyclical Gospel of Life as it covers all the issues.

  • Lynda

    Thank you, Father. That was very helpful.

  • Mr. Patton

    “And quite naturally they will be angry and fight back.”

    It reminds me of that lesson I learned long ago when I threw a rock into the hornet’s nest. I don’t think the hornets were trying to persecute me though…:)

  • Dana Whtite

    I think it is a problem when you start to label people as “homosexuals”. When you do this, you are buying into the whole “gay lifestyle” agenda. St. Paul explained the origins of homosexuality in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans:
    25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.w 26Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.x 28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. 29y They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips 30and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. 31They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.z

    We must not shrink from this. Homosexuality is a choice against God.

  • bill bannon

    The Church is opposed because it is wholly truthful and that’s the only reason? Sorry, that’s part of it. Another part is that we tell the world to go to confession but we as a Church minimize our sins throughout history….the Inquisition wasn’t that bad because Protestants did it too….sex abuse was bad but public school teachers do it too. Try that in confession: Father I committed adultery but my whole block does it too. The priest would think we’re nuts….but our apologists are not nuts when they use this excuse pattern for the Church. Also the Church has not always been correct in its grasp of truth. And when we change, we announce that we are not really changing. The papal executioner, in the first half of the 19th century, executed 500 criminals in the papal territory which was extensive then. Now Popes and Bishops try to save mass murderers from execution which executions in general, John Paul called ” cruel” in 1999 in St. Louis… and our apologists immediately go to work saying we didn’t really change 180 degrees on executions because now we have life sentences. Lol…the Roman Empire and the Inquisition had life sentences. It takes a room and food and a locked door.
    Yes sometimes we offend the way Christ did….by speaking against evil like abortion. But sometimes we offend by constant self flattery….as to minimizing our historical sins by saying others did it too….and by saying we never change on the truth: execution is good then execution is bad; interest on a personal loan is bad no matter the amount for a millenium then in 1830 those taking moderate interest “are not to be
    We offend like Christ and we offend through other sinful ways. That the hierarchy had no hero who led as a leader against the sex abuse decades offended anyone in the non Catholic world who noticed it.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Remember the plank in your own eye.

  • bill bannon

    Except Christ contrasted the plank with the splinters that the pharisees were looking at. The sex abuse debacle was not a splinter nor was the Inquisition since Christ’s response to the heretical Samaritans (who rejected the prophets and changed one sentence in the Pentateuch)…was to rebuke one Samaritan woman at the well and praise two other Samaritans: one being the only leper of ten to return and thank Him for his cure; and the fictional Good Samaritan who must have been believable to Christ’s Jewish audience even though Nehemiah had forbidden the Samaritns to work on the second temple as not being Israelites.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Why do you wish to change the world if you cannot change yourself?

  • bill bannon

    You have zero idea of where my soul is before God unless God gave you the charism He gave to some saints of reading souls. If God didn’t, you are silencing not just me but those around you with a misuse of the splinter/plank observation of Christ….when those people don’t agree with you. That may be your plank. Check it out as time goes on. My plank is that I almost killed a criminal on the street two years ago and my state forbids that in the context I was in….tracking him down with my goods that included a lethal weapon he would have sold to other thugs. Next time I’ll just break his elbow. Turn either wrist of the criminal inward ( his right hand clockwise e.g.) this turns his elbow skyward, bring him down with pressure by one hand on the elbow ( one still on his hand) til you can put your knee on it and break it slightly. He has to go to a hospital and the police can then get him. So you see. I have changed with God’s help.

  • tz

    We have a problem with words – you need to make a distinction between “same sex attraction” which is a temptation and not a choice, and the choice by some even who do not have SSA to enter the gay lifestyle in intentional rebellion.

    You must have compassion on those in difficulty. You must love the sinner and only admonish him in that love. The goal is to save the soul, not make the church itself appear noxious by having its body be screeching, accusing, and condemning. If Christ is the head, that is where the mouth though noise may come out of another orifice.

    Even reading Paul, there are no end of heterosexuals in the church meeting many if not all of his laundry list in 29-31.

    How would Bl. Theresa of Calcutta handle the situation? The more you perfect yourself, the more you are Christ like in love and compassion and loving your enemy, the more wisdom you will have to drag sinners out of the deepest hell.

    Without charity there is no wisdom. Without wisdom your words are as likely to confirm the sinner in his sin as he will see you as just as fallen albeit differently.

  • Doug

    An interesting find, made by a friend with two dictionaries printed decades apart:
    Both had entries under “homosexual”, with essentially the same definition.
    Only the newer one defined “homophobia”, as ‘an irrational fear of homosexuals.’
    I tend to agree: I’ve never had a gay man or woman hold a gun to my head and say, ‘Convert or die!’ But some of today’s anti-gay folks must have had that happen to them. Can’t account for their rabid hatreds otherwise.
    Note that homosexuality [of the male-male persuasion] is condemned in 1 Cor 6, for example, right along with ‘lesser sins’ [as some see them] as drunkenness, theft, [straight] fornication … If the Bible is against something and I am, too, why should I worry about it more than other things condemned by God? Splinter for gays and beam for thieves, perhaps?

  • savvy

    You are missing the point. Apologists only respond to Protestant nuts, who accuse us of being the whore of Babylon, the anti-christ etc etc and those who perpetuate the big lie that the reformation was about respecting conscience and freedom. Historical documents prove otherwise.

    This does not minimize anybody’s sins.

  • savvy

    What do your rantings, have to do with the issue being discussed?

  • Hart Ponder

    Not paranoid, prophecy! (Jude 1:10,  Matthew 10:22) Stay Strong! 

  • Darren O.

    So if hornets decide to set up shop under my eaves and ruin my enjoyment of the patio in my back yard, I am supposed to leave them there undisturbed because they might get upset when I remove them? Maybe it is natural for hornets to set up shop where they see fit, but no sane person (an even most insane) would not hesitate to act contrary to the interests and in spite of the objections of the hornets. What about a raccoon family setting up shop in my attic? Should I leave them there because they would want to stay, may perhaps feel they can do whatever they want, and would be upset by my removing them? If I remove them, no one who owns a house would think that I am persecuting the raccoon family. Even if the raccoon fought back, nobody would question why I would want to remove them. There is a natural order and beings have places where they justly belong. Justice is the recognizing of what is proper to each and all. May feel put out by the determinations of natural justice does not mean that they were unjustly done by.

    Sometimes it is very difficult to determine what properly belongs where. Other times it is patently obvious what does not belong together. Sometimes there is a mighty fuss when natural claims overlap and a hierarchy of needs must be determined & established. That doesn’t mean that the effort to pursue the truth and a just ordering of society should not be undertaken. If not pursued, then the lower will always usurp the higher. A hornet has a just natural right to make it’s home. I have a just right to the enjoyment of the yard of my home. Here two just claims overlap, but there can be no disputing who has the right of way, save by the intentionally obtuse. Dare I say it? The human is of a higher order than the hornet. Human’s interest take precedent in most cases. The hornet may be fully enjoying the exercise what rights it has in setting up shop under my eves, but in so doing the privilege of exercising my higher order rights will be unjustly curtailed. I bare no enmity against hornets in general and hold that it would be unjust to see their wholesale eradication, but I have a particular and just objection to their setting up shop on my house were they do not belong. If I came across a hornet’s nest in a waste space or the wild that was of no bother to me or danger to others, I would be acting unjustly in wantonly hurling rocks at it with the express intent of destroying the hornet’s natural home.

    Therefore, your analogy fails. The symbol you propose of a the angry reaction of hornets to having their home hit by rock thrown by an ignorant young boy can not be held as emblematic of the actions of the Church, through seeking truth and just ordering of the world in light of the revelations given to Her by Truth Love and Justice itself, aka the Holy Trinity (for God is Love, among other glorious things), aka the very highest order of being (indeed the very fount of being), stirring up angry reactions among the benighted and sinful who are unjustly indignant to be told the truth, namely, that their behavior is disordered.

  • JARay

    I my time I have destroyed many wasp’s nests. The easiest way is to pour petrol into them and close the hole. The stench of the petrol does its work well. I really enjoyed this article, if ‘enjoyed’ is the right word. It all made sense to me. I destroyed the wasps because they were a menace to my bee hives. One wasp in a bee hive can cause immense destruction. The whole hive is upset and they can sting again and again whereas the bee dies when it stings once.