Bullying the Scrupulous

Bullying the Scrupulous January 17, 2020

Scruples can be debilitating. Some people imagine “religion causes scruples” but I don’t buy it. You can meet people with scruples anywhere. It’s something more like OCD, an obsession with small things and a debilitating sense of fear that failure to maintain some petty system of order will result in calamity. Diseased religion can certainly exacerbate that. But (as a healed scrupe) I can also attest that healthy spirituality can likewise be an immense source of healing. I owe an incalculable debt to the easy-going, human, and humorous pastors at Blessed Sacrament parish (and elsewhere, such as at St. Luke’s) who have heard my confessions and offered me spiritual direction over the years. I know there are tales out there of guilt-mongering confessors, but I’ve had perhaps two bad experiences in the confessional in over thirty years as a Catholic, and at least one was due to ineptitude, not control freakishness. Overwhelmingly, the graces of the sacraments and the kindness and gentleness of priests has played a huge part in learning the mercy of God. As a rule, we are cruel to ourselves (and each other). God is gentle, even when we deserve nothing but scorn. And few are harder on themselves than the scrupulous. They are the weaker brother and sister and we owe them gentleness, not more crushing burdens than they already carry. They punish themselves over every little thing.

I say this because one of the things that most appalls me about the Greatest Catholics of All Time is their habit of tying up heavy burdens for others while not lifting a finger to help them–all for the sake of power and control. To wit:

Liesite News takes the Right Wing Panic du Jour thing to a whole new level. Nobody loves to manipulate and dominate the scrupulous like the Greatest Catholics of All Time.

What increasingly impresses me about Traditionalist bullies is how little of the Tradition they know as they batter the weak around with their human traditions and fearmongering. F’rinstance, here is Canon 20 from the First Council of Nicaea:

Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.

That’s not because God has a pointless obsession with standing any more than with kneeling but because liturgy means “the work of the people” and the Council Fathers in that time and culture thought this gesture appropriate to express the community’s worship of God.  Other cultures use other gestures and other liturgies have used them or chosen to let each individual do as they please in different portions of the rite.  It’s a really big and old Church and there have been lots and lots of ways of doing things over the centuries.  As Ambrose of Milan noted, “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are.”

These days, the custom of the Church is generally, “Do as you like as long as you do it in honor of the Lord”.  This is a part of the Tradition that dates back to a period considerably 0lder than 1956 Cleveland which Reactionaries imagine to be the ancient Church:

As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.
One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God;  for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
So each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Ro 14:1–12).

God does not care whether you receive communion in the hand or on the tongue or kneeling or standing and it will not be your fault if there is a war.  That is a ridiculous, manipulative, fearmongering Panic du Jour.

The keepers of the Truly True Tradition and Guardians of the Historic Faith overlook something rather crucial in all the crystal ball gazing: World Wars I and II happened in the Golden Past of pre-Vatican II Catholicism when everything was perfect.  Communion in the hand and standing did not cause these wars.  Guilt-mongering and domination of the scrupulous will not prevent another one.  Indeed, it will be much more the fault of the MAGA goons at Liesite who waste their time bullying people over gnats like this while swallowing the camel of their blind support for Trump’s reckless stupidity.

Don’t let yourself be bullied.  Live in the peace of Christ, who does not bully, shame, or terrorize–especially over trivialities like this.  What matters is fulfillment of the law of love, not petty rules and regulation from combox bullies who strain at gnats and swallow camels.  Stick with whatever the local practice–and liberty–is in your diocese and don’t let people with zero authority over the Church push you around.

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