Religion bad - Spirituality good?
Even the more progressive priests and religious seem to have embraced the notion that religion is bad and spirituality is better; therefore it is not just the enthusiastic, born again 20-somethings on YouTube preaching organized religion is bankrupt, or the online contemplatives lamenting the violence entailed in the spiritual combat who like a softer gentler approach to faith. Rather - the idea that 'religion' is bad and constraining and mean and violent seems to be pervasive in popular culture these days. At times it seems the very understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is disputed by some of our peace and justice workers when they disparage the understanding of the Church on earth as the Church militant, diminishing on some level the serious and necessary struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. Likewise, it seems to me at least, they forget that among the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of piety, which perfects the virtue of religion. Thus one must be careful - and informed - when one attempts to disparage religion.
1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor."68 "Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven."69 - CCCAs noted in the Catechism - the virtue of justice is one of the cardinal virtues, and Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Vague 'spirituality' does not complete these virtues or the practice of religion, rather it is the theological virtue of charity which crowns and perfects these goods. Therefore, as the Catechism teaches:
- 1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who "first loved us":106
- If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.107
It also must be remembered that it is a great charity to admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, and to manfully resist the world, the flesh, and the devil. When 'spiritual' persons call others to embrace some sort of esoteric 'spirituality' or seek to acquire a consciousness of the sacred and divine - more or less as an end in itself - it seems to me they are promoting erroneous teachings that may contain an element of truth but are incomplete - in other words, as Garrigou-Lagrange would say, these are based upon incomplete ideas of perfection.
15. There exists, in fact, a false charity, made up of culpable indulgence, of weakness, such as the meekness of those who never clash with anybody because they are afraid of everyone. There is also a false charity, made up of humanitarian sentimentalism, which seeks to have itself approved by true charity and which, by its contact, often taints the true.
One of the chief conflicts of the present day is that which arises between true and false charity. The latter reminds us of the false Christs spoken of in the Gospel; they are more dangerous before they are unmasked than when they make themselves known as the true enemies of the Church. Optimi corruptio pessima, the worst of corruptions is that which attacks what is best in us, the highest of the theological virtues. The apparent good which attracts the sinner is, in fact, so much the more dangerous as it is the counterfeit of a higher good. Such, for example, is the ideal of the pan-Christians, who seek the union of the Churches to the detriment of the faith, which this union presupposes. If, therefore, through stupidity or more or less conscious cowardice, those who should represent true charity approve here and there the dicta of the false, an incalculable evil may result. This evil is at times greater than that done by open persecutors, with whom evidently one can no longer have anything in common. - footnote, Ch 8: The True Nature of Christian PerfectionIn fact, I wonder if some of the namby-pamby spiritualists out there who find Church teaching to be uncharitable, just might have imbibed a little too much kool-aid from a fountain otherwise known as Theosophy?
The conception of the Greek philosophers, which makes perfection consist in wisdom, is found again today mingled with many errors in those who put intellectual culture above everything else, and also in the theosophists, for whom perfection lies in "a consciousness of our identity with God," in the intuition of what is divine in us. (11)
Far from putting the creature in his humble place beneath the Creator, theosophy presupposes pantheism, which is the negation of the order of grace and of all Christian dogmas, although it often preserves the terms of Christianity while giving them an entirely different meaning. (If a man becomes involved in theosophy, he may find himself enmeshed body and soul.) A most perfidious imitation and corruption of our asceticism and mysticism, theosophy is a product of the imagination in which God and the world are confounded, and in which we find, as we do in a novelty store, all sorts of antiques which attract our curiosity and turn our souls away from divine truth and eternal life. This heresy reminds us of the bewitching foolishness which darkens the intellect, as the Book of Wisdom says: "For the bewitching of vanity obscureth good things"(12) - ibidJust some stuff to think about as we approach Lent... Steep yourself in Roman Catholic spirituality... not self-centering spirituality.
1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church. - CCCOne does not need a degree to read and study the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Photo: Chair of St. Peter