Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Grand Inquisitor

Pictured; Galileo before the Holy Office.

It's been years since I've read "The Brothers Karamozov," Dostoevsky's classic. I was reminded of it yesterday when a co-worker was attempting to question me as to why another woman was upset that I would delete her comments off my blogs. I guess because "I can" wasn't good enough for him. I could tell he wanted to probe more deeply into my orthodoxy, asking me exactly what I wrote. He is a "traditionalist" of sorts, yet is in communion with Rome, and he is pretty balanced. (However he will attend the Novus Ordo Mass when the Tridentine rite is unavailable or circumstances warrant it.) He calls me a liberal, which is meant as a sort of slur upon my Catholicism.

I hate these nominative designations some traditionalists love to employ, such as; neo-con, liberal, neo-cath, neo-trad, JPII idolaters, among other less honorable appellations towards Catholics who support Vatican II and have a deep respect for the Novus Ordo Mass as well as other post-Councilar reforms. (However "trads" or "traditionalists" refer to themselves using this nomenclature, I did not invent it.) Everyone knows that many abuses arose in the 40 years since the Council, yet there have been many who have implemented the reforms in the correct manner and form, while remaining faithful to the Magisterium. With John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI we have seen, and will continue to see much needed "reform of the reform." Obviously it is not fast enough for the traditionalists who seem to want to call into question every word and action of the Supreme Pontiff and the legitimate Magisterium. As Mark Shea once commented, "For traditionalists, it seems no one is Catholic enough." (Those may not be his exact words, but they are close enough.)

Essentially, in "The Grand Inquisitor" the Cardinal questioning Jesus accused him of causing such great suffering in the world because he permitted people freedom to accept or reject him. He feared he would upset the good order of society by allowing this once again. (Keep in mind this was a literary device of Dostoesvky to convey an idea - it is fiction.) I am not going to write an entire review of "The Grand Inquisitor", either read the book, or go here to read a synopsis.

"The Inquisitor frames his denunciation of Jesus around the three questions Satan asked Jesus during his temptation in the desert. These three are the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptation to cast Himself from the Temple and be saved by the angels, and the temptation to rule over all the kingdoms of the world. The Inquisitor states that Jesus rejected these three temptations in favor of freedom. The Inquisitor thinks that Jesus has misjudged human nature, though. He does not believe that the vast majority of humanity can handle the freedom which Jesus has given them. Thus, he implies that Jesus, in giving humans freedom to choose, has excluded the majority of humanity from redemption and doomed humanity to suffer." -Wikipedia (For convenience.)

One of the greatest legacies of Vatican II was the liberty of spirit that it generated - however many people may object to that statement. While many vocations seemed lost, many others flourished. New religious orders blossomed, (not just Mother Teresa's either) as well as many new lay movements. Of course there has been much confusion and many abuses, that has happened after every Church Council. Granted, traditional Catholics were marginalized and ostracized, yet things are coming around. The question may be asked, are traditionalists coming around?

Nevertheless, the defensive, reactionary elements still malign the Popes, criticizing many things they do not understand, mistrusting every decision and pronouncement. John XXIII, now proclaimed Blessed by the Church was extremely hopeful for the Council. Later, the Servant of God, Paul VI recognized that the "smoke of satan" had entered into the Church and was wreaking havoc, yet these two popes take the blame for much of what happened. Later, John Paul II is roundly denounced by some traditionalists for his peace keeping efforts, as well as his 'permissive' attitude in implementing the Council reforms - ask a real liberal about that- liberals never thought for a minute that he was permissive. His kissing of the Koran is often cited as reason enough not to trust him. I don't know his thoughts or purpose in that action, nor do they.

Many times encyclicals of earlier Popes are brought up in contention of the Church's efforts to bring about dialogue between religious communities. The Jewish question is very much on the mind of one of my critics in particular. The Catechism and pronouncements of the current Holy Father seem not to satisfy however.

Take as an example how some insist that JPII's extension of the Rosary to 20 mysteries was wrong, that he had no right to do so. For one thing, he did not change the rosary, he did not pronounce that these mysteries were obligatory, he was suggesting them as an aid for our times. One may pray any mystery of the Lord's life they wish when they pray the rosary, it is called private devotion. Holy Father John Paul II announced the Mysteries of Light as public devotion, while never disturbing the integrity of the rosary in the least. Yet "Me thinks the woman protests too much."

Oftentimes I think a few traditionalists spend far too much time meddling in other's spiritual lives while neglecting their own. They feel impelled to tell people they are going to hell when many times they are totally unaware of their own shortcomings and the scandal their hostility generates. Teresa of Avila once protested to the Lord, "No wonder you have such few friends when you treat them like this." (I think her wagon collapsed in a river while she had been on an arduous journey.) I might accommodate her chide with, "No wonder people are turned away from the Church, when your so-called friends are so rude.")

I've been back in the Church since 1972, thirty four years. My faith is fixed upon Jesus, in the Eucharist and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I'm an unabashed papist as well. I grew up with the Tridentine rite and still love it, I have accepted the Novus Ordo rite and attend a Church where it is celebrated well. I adhere to the tradition of the Church, as well Her authentic teaching Magisterium. Over these years I have ignored much of the scandals, the abuses, and the firebrands on both sides, especially the ultra-traditionalist faction. (I've endured criticism from the extremist element in both camps. Sadly, in my experience, the ultra-traditionalist have been decidedly more venomous.)

One cannot argue with the self-righteous. When I write "I've ignored" these things and people, I have not. I've been disturbed by them. Yet I do not answer them. Like Jesus before the townsfolk who wanted to throw him over the hill, or before Pilate, or even St. Gerard Majella who never answered his accusers. Silence. Like the Christ before the Inquisitor, who simply replied by silently kissing the old man upon "his bloodless, ninety year old lips" and walked away into the streets of Seville, there is no reply to suit them except charity.

Arguing and name-calling, inquisitions and interdicts, or excommunications will not save the world. Contemplation and mysticism will. For in prayer and contemplation one is caught up in charity and love and peace, immersed in truth. In common mystic prayer before the silent, loving Jesus in the Eucharist, one becomes imbued with charity.

Unlike the silent Christ in Dostoevsky's tale, Our Lord did say in the Gospel, "It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice. Go and learn the meaning of the word mercy." Perhaps rather difficult for an angry traditionalist. People can argue dogma and polemic until they are blue in the face - they are so wasting their time on me - and making an ass of themselves in the process.


  1. just me9:35 PM

    Excellent post. I see both sides, and don't mind the dialogue on issues concerning the changes of V II. However, I don't think we act in charity when we bash Popes. Nor do I feel comfortable discussing these topics when they attack JPII or his predecesors. We can't be more Catholic than the Pope... though some may think they are!

  2. I think you're on to something.

    The so-called "traditionalists" (I don't cede the term readily) often behave badly, then when you call them on it, they respond by citing how they were "hurt" and treated badly. The irony is that this is exactly the argument used by radical feminists!

    I consider myself "traditional," but these folks turn me off.

  3. Child of the Church12:29 AM

    One must be very careful about generalizations. Not all traditionalists are bad, not all Novus Ordo types are saints. I think there is a tendancy these days to make the current reigning Pontiff the standard of holiness and orthodoxy as if all else in the world paled in comparison. Well look at some of the Popes we've had in the past and ask yourself if no one else in the world was more Catholic than those guys with kids and wives and buying their way into the Papacy. I don't know anyone who bashes the personages of Popes but their behavior and actions we must judge and there is no lack of charity in saying "There be a wolf!" but rather it is charity to say such a thing and warn others. Prayer is good and contemplation too but remember, the Church herself has excommunicated people for being heretics and therefore we must guard ourselves and sometimes, as Aquinas tells us, we must rebuke our prelates..even publically if need be. Not to say everyone's necc. qualified to do that, but some are. Look at Catherine of Siena for an example on how to deal with an erring Pope and a time of upheavel in the Church. One can accept Vat. II as a true council without prescribing to all it said..it does not make one less a child of the Church. Dietrich von Hildebrand criticized the new Mass to Pope Paul VI's face and he's lauded as a champion of orthodoxy. How could that be if saying things against Papal decisions is inherantly bad? Just my thoughts. Good stuff here..thanks for posting.

  4. Don Marco9:02 AM

    A splendid posting. In the Holy Rule Saint Benedict makes the wise distinction between "good zeal" and "bitter zeal." Bitter zeal is not of God. One must always look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit; where they are found, there is the Dextrae Dei Digitus. The gentle spirit of dear Saint Francis de Sales is just what is needed! And Terry is right: contemplation, adoration, and a gentle charity mark the paths of the saints.

  5. Anonymous12:20 PM

    Great Post and I find your words to be, unfortunately, far too truely spoken.

    ~ AdoroTeDevote

  6. Boy, Terry, I don't know how you find the time to come up with these well-written posts that regularly break new ground.

    You have captured an aspect of the Church that isn't often addressed and not often nearly as well.

    I grew up Tridentine, but I'm not crazy about it except for special occasions. I suppose if I had my old Marian Missal, I might get more value out of it. But I do love the Latin responses when chanted or spoken and have been getting great value from the Saturday Morning 8:30 Mass at St Anthony in Minneapolis.

    If you want to say publicly, what is your parish? I'm on the lookout for parishes (other than the well-known ones) to promote them as being one of my Great Parish series.

    So far I've got St Anthony of Padua in Minneapolis, St Peter Claver in St Paul and tonight, Cathy_of_Alex will be posting St John the Baptist in Biwabik, MN on the Iron Range.

  7. Don Marco3:30 PM

    I tried to post a comment this morning and it disappeared! Allora . . . Saint Benedict says in the Holy Rule that are two kinds of zeal: a good zeal and a bitter zeal. How does one recognize bitter zeal? By the absence of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Bitter zeal has a harshness about it; it is grim, and lacking in benevolence, in humility, and in sweetness. A good zeal is a sure sign of the presence of the Dextrae Dei Digitus: it is gentle, meek, forbearing, merciful, and cordial. We would all do well to put ourselves at the school of Saint Francis de Sales: he teaches the pure doctrine of Jesus, meek and humble of heart. And yes, Terry is right. Silence, adoration, and contemplation place one at the fountainhead of charity and of wisdom. Tacere et adorare! Tacere et adorare!

  8. just me8:45 PM

    I woke up this morning still thinking about this post!

    And thank you, Don Marco, for the information on the two kinds of zeal.

    When I had my conversion, I used to torture my father and sisters with what I just now learned it was bitter zeal. I was harsh. My intention was good; I had discovered the kingdom and wanted everybody else to discover it, too. My mother stopped me right on and let me know I had no charity. And that no one, NO ONE, would want to belong to this kingdom if it was full of people like me. She reminded me that Jesus would not approve of my attitude. She was very right.

    After reading Don Marco's post I wondered why God allows well intented people to have this kind of bitter zeal. In essence, they mean well. Most of them are very passionate about the faith and they want everyone to give God the reverence and the worship He is due. And this is not a debate about communion in the hand or gregorian chant, tridentine vs. kumbaya. Deep down this is about pride and a lot of judgement of others. It is about "I have the truth and you don't".
    This people love God and want to be the best Catholics. They are well intentioned. It is too bad that the enemy takes their zeal and twists it to his own advantage.

  9. Thank you "Just Me" - whoever you are. Your early experience is very common, many people act in this same manner. (As John of the Cross states, it is one of the common faults of beginners.) When reforming one's own life, we want to reform everyone's. The exuberance of our first conversion compels us to invite, or coerce, everyone to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord" we have experienced. Yet we are like the disciples who wanted to call fire down from heaven on those who would neither hear them or repent. Our Lord admonished them telling them they did not know of what spirit they spoke. Our Lord knew this in advance, as He knew those who would reject him, those of his own household and people. That is why he allows such freedom, to all men, the choice to choose or reject him. In falling and rising, humiliations and rejection, we understand the Divine Mercy. That is why I say we come to a much more vast understanding of the truth in and through what I term, "common mystic prayer" - when we present ourselves before him in the Blessed Sacrament. His silent, loving action in this Sacrament inspires and perfects our faith, while teaching us the meaning of the word mercy.
    On the other hand, souls who ought to have moved beyond this stage may perhaps be called "retarded souls" - as Garrigou Lagrange wrote about. Despite their illustrous knowledge and education, their theology and penetration of the writings of earlier Popes and saints, along with their piety - however sincere - there is an impediment, some obstacle - perhaps it is just bitter zeal. I rather think it is a question of spirituality - whether it's spiritual retardation, pride, I have no idea. It seems to me however, they are so zealous for the truth, they miss it - "they can't see the forest for the trees."
    You are correct however, many, many are very good and their intentions are wonderful. Once again John of the Cross comes to mind in the censure of a nun when he stated, "She (they) are perhaps too spiritual."
    Thanks for your comments.

  10. Random Person10:23 PM

    "The declared enemies of God and His Church, heretics and schismatics, must be criticized as much as possible, as long as truth is not denied. It is a work of charity to shout: 'Here is the wolf!' when it enters the flock or anywhere else.--St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chapter 29

    I thought this would be interesting since St. Francis de Sales was mentioned. Prayer and contemplation are indeed good and necc. things but the Saints also show us that sometimes words, even "harsh" words must be spoken. I find traditionalists are usually right in their assertions even if a little "rough around the edges" I think it's best to look at what's being said rather than the perceived way it's being said..esp. online..it's hard to tell. God bless.

  11. I'm sorry Terry,

    That's not what you said at all. Please feel free to delete that comment.

    Thank you. And don't post this one either, if that's all right...

    I have read that that is how some people view forgiveness- INcorrectly! And it wasn't what you said at all- I shouldn't have prefaced what I said with "I read your post on forgivenes"...

    Thank you- my goodness I knew you didn't say that, but what I wrote came out wrong... I hope you agree to delete it- sorry to have confused the issue:(

  12. Random Blogger8:25 PM

    Say I checked out this other blog you mentioned. I wouldn't quite say it was an attack. Here is what was said:
    "If you don’t mind, visit this link and give this guy an earful of truth."

    Just my thoughts, but maybe just let it go if you're upset about it? Prayers for you!

  13. It was sincere!
    I thought about this last night, and I am not getting dragged into this quagmire.
    So goodbye.
    No hard feelings, I apologize and hope to meet you in Heaven.

  14. Anonymous2:12 PM

    What's interesting is that I never see so called "traditionalists" attacking the personal holiness or piety of Novus Ordo goers yet somehow people think it's okay to say that they are pawns of the Devil, twisted to serve the Devil and have shallow prayer lives. Hmm? To make an observation about an abuse is not wrong..to say someone is spiritually retarded is a judgement. Be careful in your wording.

  15. I have learned one must be very careful how one addresses the issue of traditionalists, and never to make sweeping statements.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.