of “Which Pope Said This?“:
“As the years went by and the Church spread further afield, the exercise of charity became established as one of her essential activities, along with the administration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the word: love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.”
You can click the link to go find the answer. What interests me about the quote is that it reminds me of something I have been struggling with for the past couple of years.
Briefly, I find I care less and less about a Christianity that treats love as optional, secondary, or even as a hindrance to power. But I also find I have responded to the ugliness of the American Conservative Christianity in the Age of Trump Adoration and Francis Hatred which constantly does this by mirroring much of what I hate.
So, for intance, last week I remarked on the Holy Father’s comment that we should give to the poor and not worry overmuch about how they spend it. My comment was partly tongue in cheek, but also had a real point. It is that conservatives tend to punch down at the poor and how they may–horror of horrors–spend something on a little pleasure in their hard and bitter lives and that matters far more to them than how the extremely wealthy spend their money on debauchery, cruelty, oppression, and theft from the weak–as, for instance, when their god king Trump proposes to rob the old and sick to the tune of billions by stealing their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and annihilating Obamacare. And all this while putting some crook who massively raised the price of prescription drugs in charge of regulating the price of drugs.
This offended the guy who runs Canon 212 and he linked the piece, which some of his readers decided to comment on. One guy in particular had several comments to offer and they stand as representative of the sort of opposition between faith and charity that I constantly encounter from the Righteous.
You’re an anti-white racist white. A Leftist not a God-following person.
I think Leftist Marxists posing as Christ-followers are a weird cult. They rage on all-day, all-night not about FAITH but arguments over money and bash the white race (anti-white racism). Their constant haranguing about “the poor” is nothing more than display and virtue-signaling. Bashing the rich and elite is basically just anti-Semitism which PF1 claims to reject!
The article is bizarre babble, and Dorothy Day aborted her own child, killing it. She will never be a “saint”.
There are, of course, all manner of obvious theological rebuttals to this, beginning with the bizarre assertion that baptism cannot forgive the sins of post-abortive women like Dorothy Day, who has already been canonized as a Servant of God. Also weirdly telling is the suggestion that criticizing the ‘rich and elite’ is anti-semitic, which speaks volumes about the assumptions of the commenter that rich Jews control the world economy, but nothing about my assumption that the issue is a living wage, not the ethnicity of the person paying/not paying it. And the notion that criticism of white conservative enemies of the Church’s teaching on the preferential option for the poor is ‘anti-white racism’ is deeply strange too, though definitely of a piece with the bizarre self-pity of the white racists who fret about being ‘replaced’ by Jews and brownskins. It’s malignant and ugly and I hate it.
But here’s the problem–I was taking a walk the other day and revolving, as I have done so many times, my deep anger, confusion, and yes hatred I have felt since earning the contempt of hundreds of Catholic like the guy above for failure to detest Francis and adore Donald Trump. For the umpteenth time, I was protesting to God that assassinations like ‘A Leftist is not a God-following person’ were malignant lies–first because I am not a Leftist, but most of all because even if I were, I still believe all that Church teaches and am completely orthodox. I was just about to begin another speech about how wronged I have been by these vicious sons of bitches and protest my orthodoxy yet again when the Holy Spirit, very gently and without a hint of condemnation, shame, guilt, or disgust said, ‘You don’t love them.’ I thought of Paul saying, ‘If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.’
It was the total lack of condemnation that made it clear this was God speaking. And it was the instant recognition that in my hatred of them I sound just like the people I hate, not like God, that stopped me in my tracks. There was no pretense that they are not wrong. There was no crushing humiliation at the revelation of my sin. There was just the realization that the issue is not lack of orthodoxy, but lack of love, coupled with the idea that what those I hate do was irrelevant to my situation. ‘What is that to thee? Follow thou me’ was the idea, not ‘You are just as bad as they are’ and still less, ‘Your sin exonerates them.’ I was presented with a chance to stop and change, not with information about anybody else. There was also no pretense that the change would be instantaneous. But there was the offer of grace and the realization that I need to begin now and not put it off.I took it to confession and have been trying since then to work on change. I was given a penance to read Antonio Rosmini’s Maxims of Christian Perfection, with which I was unfamiliar. Rosmini also experienced rejection by fellow Catholics, so my confessor thought it might be helpful, which it is. I think I may do a little blog series on it after Easter.
There is a lot I do not understand about what to do next. Steven Greydanus sent this along from his friend Jon Trott, which I agree with 100 percent, though I don’t know how to live it. But if you also are struggling with the command to love enemies, maybe it will be useful:
You must not forget that human beings are complex blends of feeling, thought, and belief. You of course included. Your Evangelical neighbors and relatives are themselves trying to sort things out… some more honestly than others. You’re not their judge. I am. As I am yours. (Hey, when did this shift from a conversation with conscience to a conversation with God?) (Silly man, I speak to you often through your conscience.)
You may in fact discern facts correctly. How you react to what you discern is as important as how accurately you discern. Discerning is a form of judgement, yes, and I do not forbid it despite what some say. But love must be the foundation of discernment, along with truth.
Sharp reproofs are not wrongful judging in and of themselves. But they are, in your case, sometimes more cries of pain at what is being done to others and, yes Jon, even to Me. The trouble is when you allow those cries of pain to bend toward a depersonalizing hate for others. Take care. Love your enemies. Are some who call themselves my followers my enemies? Yes. But I love them, pour mercy down on them, just as I pour mercy down into your life, child.
You are not righteous. You keep half-forgetting that. You want to force the issue, force white Christians who have sided – and they have, some of them – with Satan to repent and turn away from their idolatrous nation-worship and worship of whiteness in the guise of religion. You will fail at that. Look at my history with evil. Did I ever force my people to obey me? Israel did not. And through history the Church did not. And is not now.
And Jon, did you always obey me? Have you always obeyed me? I note your silence as admission.
Love is what I require of you. Stop. Before you begin ranting about ‘How can I love racists who use your name as apologetic to violate every verse of Matthew 25.’ Do you think I don’t see? I am not mocked by these people. What they reap they do sow, even in the here and now. But that is between them and myself.
Don’t misunderstand. You are right to speak out. Silence isn’t what I require of you, my friend and brother and beloved. Quiet yourself now, and hear me.
All must be rooted in love. Your fiercest word will be fitly spoken if you remember the other is a person. Even, and especially for you, the Evangelical supporter of this regime. Part of your rage is rooted in your own sense of having been wholly and thoroughly betrayed. But dear friend, remember Judas. Remember Peter. Remember even yourself. You have not always stood by me. Perhaps you will fail me again, and if you do, I will wrap you in my love and mercy and lift you up to walk again with me… if you will walk with me. Because my way is love and always will be love.
Stand with those who are persecuted, identify with those I identify with, speak against injustice especially when it comes from those using and abusing my name. But. Love. Jon, you must never, ever lose sight of your own utter need for my love… and your responsibility to be a conduit of that love to my enemies. Even, especially, those enemies so blinded by their own self-righteousness that they fail to admit their pride of race and idolatry. As someone who himself struggles with pride and self-righteousness, will you let me love through you? I do love you. I do. I love you. Will you love me?
So I soldier on through Lent. Please pray for me.