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.