“You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you; Only to do the right (act justly) and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with God” Michah 6
On a recent Tim Haines show, Parading Mistruth, Tim discussed some of the controversy that surrounded the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York and Boston. One thing that controversies like this manage to do, is generate lots of drama. Catholics seem to be just as susceptible to drama as anyone else. The thing is, often we find ourselves debating the drama and not the real issues. We debate whether or not Cardinal Dolan gave an order for the police to give a faithful Catholic the bum’s rush. We then prove it with frame by frame video evidence. We accuse one person of employing a goon squad of thugs, yet will willing gather in mobs of our own. Gang banging across the internet, seemingly unaware that there is a difference and a line between making our voice heard and harassment tactics. We attempt to take by force what may instead be taken by grace. We resort to discrediting reputations rather than clarifying issues. It is not only within this particular event but acted out with frequency through many arguments and controversies. We have become reactionary without reason, dramatic without discourse, easily offended, easily rallied, easily triggered into thinking with outrage and emotion, and geared toward panic and fear. We are often antagonistic to each other but even worse we pit mercy against truth, one pope against another and one form of the mass against another form of the mass. From polarized points, while quoting documents, Church Fathers and catechism, we defend fact and do not realize that we have not told whole and complete truth.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. Gal 5:15
Not only do we turn and consume each other like a pack of wolves but whatever good that can be done is often overwhelmed and negated with an onslaught of negative publicity or argument. Who we are and what we are about is totally consumed and incoherent. Pope Francis has spoken on more than one occasion of giving coherent witness, of presenting a coherent morality. If we are going to bring the Gospel to those in need of it, if we are going to lead others to the mercy that Jesus has to offer them, if we want to show others what the Catholic Church is all about we will need to be coherent, cogent and cohesive. We need to be intelligible and clear, comprehensible and lucid, rational, reasoned and reasonable. We need to be strongly convincing and persuasive. We need to be united as forming a whole, not only with each other but with the teachings of the Church, unified in consistency. We have to tell the truth in its fullness.
The question is…have we done that? In many of the current controversies and arguments have we done that? Have we given coherent witness, have we presented a coherent morality, have we told the truth in its fullness? Did we strongly and cohesively persuade and convince anyone of that truth? Those who advocate more on the side of mercy, of welcome, of invitation believe they are presenting the truth of the experience of Jesus Christ. But have they misinterpreted and misapplied facts in a presentation of jovial acquiescence to and acceptance of the lifestyle of others? Have they been ambiguous as to exactly what it is we are inviting others to do? Those who defend the teachings of the Catholic Church believe they are telling the truth as well. But have they presented those teachings in a way that misrepresents mercy and truth as being somehow opposed to each other? Have they become so afraid of any perceived misinterpretation that they have tied their own hands as to compassionate applications of those teachings? In the end do both arguments just disintegrate into merely indulging in a dramatic dissent with and discrediting of their dissenters?
Catholic evangelism and pastoral care is not about filling the seats. It is not an invitation to a mere cultural tradition in which you can take some of it, leave some of it or redefine it to our own liking. Nor is it merely about a system of rules and regulations that must be strictly adhered to or you are the weakest link…good-bye. It is a living, dynamic, authentic representation of the Gospel in which mercy and truth are not diametrically opposed but instead balance and uphold one another. Both adhering to the integrity of a whole. True mercy not only invites and welcomes, it includes the necessity of repentance. It includes the warning of danger to a soul that chooses to follow its own way rather than the will of God. Without that inclusion it is a meagre exercise in human social justice and tolerance. The teachings of the Catholic Church are to direct us in the way of truth that leads to life. The teachings themselves offer compassion and merciful guidance amid the challenges of responding to the Gospel in today’s world. If not they become merely an exercise in legalism.
It is necessary that we have a voice in the public square. But that voice must speak of the fullness of truth and not just a part of it. It must display a living and coherent witness rather than embroiling itself in, and distracting itself with, useless drama, controversy, argument and attempts to discredit others disguised as correction.
Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen. Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation…Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will. 2 Tim 2:14-15, 23-26
What is our point and purpose anyway? Is it to bring about repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, to return others to sense and reason so that they will no longer be entrapped by the devil and do his will? Or is it merely to reveal the error, sin and hypocrisy of others as an end unto itself? When we remove the drama and the spin, when we kick drama to the curb, we remove distraction. We clarify rather than add to the confusion. We can give a witness that is reasoned and reasonable. We give a witness that can be clearly heard and understood. We give a message that has true power to convince and persuade. We bring a message that adheres to the integrity of the whole. That brings with it the whole and complete fullness of the teachings of the Church and of the Gospel. It brings with it, as well, the promise of the true mercy of God and the true way of mercy through Jesus Christ.