Friday, December 16, 2005

The Case for Catholic Principles, Part VIII: The Importance of a "Positive" Worldview

The concept I am attempting to outline today in this column is probably the most important for any Catholic, and I feel is a concept all too often neglected. There is a tendency amongst Catholics today to define themselves not by what they represent and advocate, but rather what they oppose. This line of thinking infects numerous schools of thought.

For the Traditionalist, all too often they are not putting forth a positive case for the Traditions of Catholicism, but rather an attack upon how what we have today contradicts that tradition. For the Charismatic, it is not a positive exposition of how the Holy Spirit should work in the life of a Christian (unless it is doing what they themselves do) but rather how every other line of thought in Catholicism "inhibits the spirit's work." For those involved in social concerns such as abortion, they are not as much as pro-life as they are anti-abortion. Ask them to put forth a coherent ethic surrounding questions of life, and one gets a blind stare. For the so called "Conservatives" (in the religious sense, not the political) their love affair with the Second Vatican Council is based not so much on demonstrating it's teaching and it's continuity with tradition, but rather it's demonizing of everything before Vatican II. (Interestingly enough, here they become the useful idiots of the modernists favoring woman priests, contraception, and a host of other issues "in line with the Spirit of Vatican II.")

Attempt to call them on this, and people get offended. They like their fixation with negativity. To be able to point out what is wrong with things is a basic element in humanity, and necessary for the cause of discernment. However, to most past the negativity and put forth a positive worldview in place of it, that takes hard work and co-operation with grace. A perfect example of the type of worldview to embrace for example would be in St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians:

To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth. Wherefore putting away lying, speak; ye the truth every man with his neighbour; for we are members one of another. Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Give not place to the devil. He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need. Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is good, to the edification of faith, that it may administer grace to the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God: whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamour, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ.

For St. Paul, it was never enough to simply point out what we were to avoid, or what he was against. Rather, something must be put in it's place. For the thief, not only should he no longer steal, but he should devote himself to labor, primarily to understand the high value of the property he used to steal from others. Not only are we to avoid obscene speech, but our speech should only be for the purpose of edification. If one's speech does not edify another, even if it is not inherently evil, it should be avoided. Let bitterness and rage give way to kindness and charity.

Following St. Paul's example, we should discern the negative, and definitely focus on it when the time is proper. However, once the negative has been pointed out, we must then progress past that, to working to put something else in it's place. For the Traditionalist, who fled to the Indult to avoid what they viewed liturgical anarchy, let their attendance at the Latin Mass teach them how to appreciate the liturgy, and how to get more out of an ordered and stable Mass. For the Charismatic, let them understand a greater appreciation for how the Spirit works in all Christians, not just your life and how others inhibit Him. The same can be said for other groups as well. It is the culture of death and the religion of self that is defined by it's rejection, namely it's rejection of God. The Culture of Life and religion of Christ should be modeled upon what it endorses.

God Bless,
Kevin M. Tierney