“If heretics no longer horrify us today”… it’s NOT because we are more charitable

I picked this up from Let Nothing You Dismay:

“If heretics no longer horrify us today, as they once did our forefathers, is it certain that it is because there is more charity in our hearts? Or would it not too often be, perhaps, without our daring to say so, because the bone of contention, that is to say, the very substance of our faith, no longer interests us? Men of too familiar and too passive a faith, perhaps for us dogmas are no longer the Mystery on which we live, the Mystery which is to be accomplished in us. Consequently then, heresy no longer shocks us; at least, it no longer convulses us like something trying to tear the soul of our souls away from us…. And that is why we have no trouble in being kind to heretics, and no repugnance in rubbing shoulders with them… It is not always charity, alas, which has grown greater, or which has become more enlightened: it is often faith, the taste for the things of eternity, which has grown less…”

Henri de Lubac: Further Paradoxes (Newman Press 1958) and reprinted in Paradoxes of Faith (Ignatius Press 1987)

A good point of reflection during this Year of Faith.

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  1. inexcels says:

    It is often a great challenge to me to find where the line lies between charity and cowardice, or between zeal and obnoxiousness. It’s all too easy to drift too far in one direction or the other, and that just ends up being counterproductive.

  2. Pingback: Consequently then, heresy no longer shocks us | Vexilia Regis

  3. acricketchirps says:

    Hum, I thought traddies hated de Lubac! What gives?!

  4. sw85 says:

    The shocking anger which one encounters, even from faithful Catholics, when forcefully addressing this or that heresy is a sure sign that the pest of indifferentism has prevailed in the hearts of far too many.

  5. Patrick-K says:

    inexcels, I don’t think that’s really a problem if you fully think through the doctrine. Of course we need to be polite and diplomatic, but not merely because it is effective in convincing people, but also because humility and gentleness are intrinsically pleasing to God. So we can respect other people’s opinions, not merely because this is socially mandated, but because more than likely they come from an honest desire to obey the laws of God. That is, we don’t generally have the right to assume bad faith in other people. The horror we feel at heresy should generally inspire sorrow, because of the lost sheep who are in danger of eternal damnation, and only rarely anger and aggression, only when the heresy is promoted with full knowledge of its status. Perhaps I am naive, but I don’t think it really happens very often that people intentionally lead others astray.

    As an analogy, let’s say someone sincerely wants to learn mathematics, but is not doing very well at it. So long as he really is sincere, it is quite pointless to become angry with him. You simply need to point him in the right direction and justify your reasoning. Having done so, if he resists, then at that point he is culpably ignorant (I believe that is the theological term).

    Given the state of catechesis in the past 40 years, particularly in the United States, it seems likely that a good many people are not culpably ignorant.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  6. Dave N. says:

    Less than four years ago Obama was given an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame. People were outraged. Protests! Arrests! Blogs! Live Coverage! Talk show hosts! Statements from the USCCB! And rightly so.

    Now fast forward. Tomorrow, pro-choice politician Mark Shriver, will give the keynote address at Archbishop Gomez’s Religious Education Congress–billed as one of the largest educational gatherings of Catholics in the world. (Sort of like inviting Nancy Pelosi to your church to teach CCD.) Equivalent outrage to the Notre Shame debacle? Anything? Bueller…? Just think for a moment about how much the Church itself has changed in less than four short years. All in the name of love and toleration of opposing viewpoints.

    The barque is going down, folks. And just in case you hadn’t noticed yet, it’s the guys in the big hats that are shooting holes in the boat.

  7. MikeM says:

    I see the indifference as a matter of selfishness. People used to care about heresies because they cared about what other people believed… because they cared about other people. Now, people don’t give enough thought to other people to care about what they believe.

  8. Nineteento20 says:

    Matthew 18:17 “And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.”

    This is no longer followed. Heretics or dissidents against the Catholic Church are not treated as heathens or publicans. I think it is from an unconsciously accepted inclination to be damned and not care if loved ones are damned.

  9. Nineteento20 says:

    The bible says in Titus 3:10 “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid”

    There is now “fellowship” with heretics not admonishing. I think it means that many Catholic have accepted Protestant’s sola scriptura teaching where everyone can believe their own interpretation.

    Or/and since salvation wasn’t talked about in homilies or CCD programs they think that must mean everything is a-ok or else logically someone authoritative wouldn’t act like their religion is so great and fine to be in. They act like evangelization is unneeded so the people that see their actions are logical in assuming it doesn’t matter. Instead ecumenicism is. Which can only be accomplished if we get along and aren’t horrified at each other for rejecting the truth.

  10. We don’t even use the words “heretic” or “heresy” anymore, purportedly in the interests of charity. But has this refusal to call things by their right names advanced the cause of ecumenism or brought more sheep into the fold? Or has it served merely to make Catholics think that, like the monsters that used to live under our beds, there are no such things after all as heretics and heresies?

    To ask the question is to answer it.

  11. Gail F says:

    Dave N: No one really expects the LA Religious Ed conference to be orthodox. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. And much of the rest of the country, for good or ill, pays no attention to LA when it comes to anything Catholic. People expect Notre Dame to actually be Catholic — maybe because they don’t know anything about Notre Dame. That’s the reason people were upset about the latter but not about the former, speaking of which — ARE YOU KIDDING ME????

  12. Patrick-K says:

    It would seem as though our Lord Jesus has presented me an opportunity to put my abstractions into an instance. That is, Dave N., to say “The barque is going down” is itself a heresy. “The gates of hades will not prevail” , Mt. 16:18. Individual bishops may well make mistakes. The barque of Peter, that is, the One, Holy, Roman and Catholic Church will not sink. This is a fundamental precept of Roman Catholicism. Many have found their faith in Rome lacking — such people are known as Protestants. Those with faith in the bishop of Rome are Catholics. Make your choice.

  13. Johnno says:

    Patrick-K –

    When Dave N said the barque is going down, I’m certain he only meant it not as an absolute defeat , but as pertaining to the reality that things are going south and for which many saints point out that the sailors themselves are damaging their own boat with their own inept axes to such an extent that the fact that it won’t sink is thanks to divine providence in the fact of a stupid humanity.

    And I simply hate how people continue to misunderstand the phrase about “the gates of hell.” The Gates of hell will not stand an assault of the Church on the Offensive. Nowhere are we warned the gates of the church cannot be infiltrated and much damage wrecked. In fact it’s quite the opposite, as types in Scripture, Christ’s warnings, and even approved apparitions will attest to. The Church as an institution will never go away so long as there’s just one person, the Pope alone in a world of 99% heretics and St. Peter’s Basilica is blown to smithereens similarily to the Temple of Jerusalem. And Christendom liable to face the same defeat & exile & shame of Israel. That’s of course the absolute worst case scenario. The fact remains that the Church is very much akin to the Ark of Noah, in that at the end only a very small number survived, and that history always tends to repeat itself.

    The Bishops of Rome can be great and dependable men, or weak and manipulated men. As a Catholic you are bound to the official teachings of the Pope and respect for the Office, but it is also your sacred duty to knock some sense into the Pope if he’s obviously doing something wrong. Papal infalliability does not mean Popes are impeccable. This is not a license to make the Pope do what you want, but in charity to the responsibility of laypeople, and our right to petition the Pope to do the right thing and make wiser decisions and also to warn him.

  14. I would be very careful with any statements by Henri DeLubac that appear to support traditional theology. They are springloaded to contradict his orthodox points at later junctures. And would it not be more correct to say ‘horrified at heresies rather than heretics?’

    And in the contemporary context, would not most Catholics today consider heretics as those that adhere to tradition?

  15. And by the way, I lay this crisis soley at the feet of Pope John XXIII who in the opening remarks to Vatican Council II called for “the medicine of mercy” to be offered “heretics” as though it were not a work of mercy to correct the errant.

  16. JKnott says:

    From “The Way of Perfection” , Chapter 1, St. Teresa of Avila wrote:
    At about this time there came to my notice the harm and havoc that were being wrought in France by these Lutherans and the way in which their unhappy sect was increasing.[11] This troubled me very much, and, as though I could do anything, or be of any help in the matter, I wept before the Lord and entreated Him to remedy this great evil. I felt that I would have laid down a thousand lives to save a single one of all the souls that were being lost there. And, seeing that I was a woman, and a sinner,[12] and incapable of doing all I should like in the Lord’s service, and as my whole yearning was, and still is, that, as He has so many enemies and so few friends, these last should be trusty ones, I determined to do the little that was in me — namely, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could, and to see that these few nuns who are here should do the same, confiding in the great goodness of God, Who never fails to help those who resolve to forsake everything for His sake. As they are all that I have ever painted them as being in my desires, I hoped that their virtues would more than counteract my defects, and I should thus be able to give the Lord some pleasure, and all of us, by busying ourselves in prayer for those who are defenders of the Church, and for the preachers and learned men who defend her, should do everything we could to aid this Lord of mine Who is so much oppressed by those to whom He has shown so much good that it seems as though these traitors would send Him to the Cross again and that He would have nowhere to lay His head.

  17. AdMajoremDeiGloriam says:

    Dave: I don’t think the Mark Shriver invitation is excusable or that people should just ignore it, but:

    Notre Dame awarded an honorary degree to the President. That’s going to get a lot of attention even if there’s no controversy. And the issue did receive protest that would be appropriate here as well.

    However, the LA Congress has, according to its website, 184 speakers and 310 workshops. The “keynote address” is an honor in a sense, but Shriver’s one of about a dozen speakers giving an address in the large arena during the weekend. I went today for my work and didn’t find out Shriver was speaking until quite late in the day when I saw him in the program. Maybe I wasn’t paying much attention. But I think a lot fewer people were made aware of this situation in the first place.

    And as Gail stated, the Congress has gone on for decades, and Catholics know what to expect: lots of liturgical dancing, some workshops that are a little out there, cardinals giving up on a portion of their flock uninterested in vibrant Masses, etc. I doubt people take the Religious Ed Congress seriously when there’s a speaker with non-Catholic views. (Again, that doesn’t excuse indifference to the situation. But I don’t think it’s just that things have changed in 4 years.)

    On the bright side, there are some good, orthodox speakers at the Congress. And I got to hear a great talk by John Allen today. He talked about the upcoming conclave, the climate in Rome, and some general things he’s been hearing from some cardinals.

  18. Clinton R. says:

    These are definitely sad days in the Church. It does seems few care anymore what passes for Catholicism. Here in the LA area, I am well aware of the mess known as the Religious Education Congress. Neither the Archbishop, nor the attendees seem to mind the lack of any traditional Catholicism there. No, instead they welcome pro abortion speakers and those who hatred of the Catholic Church is thinly veiled via their heterodox and outright heretical presentations. As to the topic here, like some here have stated, there is no heresy anymore, we have fallen into the morass of relativism. If the Catholic Church is not the pillar of truth, and protestants and non Christian religions are not in error, then we have become like Pontius Pilate: What is truth? Let us pray to Our Lord, that He Blesses us with a strong and faithful pope to guide the Church through the storm. +JMJ+

  19. Fr AJ says:

    Patrick-K, I believe you meant “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” not One, Holy, Roman, and Catholic. “Roman Catholic” really is a misnomer. We belong to the Catholic Church; Roman or Byzantine, or whatever name you want to use is referring to rite.

  20. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    What’s truly frightening in my mind is that heretics and heresies within the church no longer horrify the majority of the vicars, the bishops or the cardinals. Here in Massachusetts we’re in the situation of a frog put in a pot of water and the heat slowly turned up. What twenty or even ten years ago would have been shocking is no longer. People just float along.

  21. Scarltherr says:

    Fr. Z, it really is about the heresies. Behind every wrong action for or against the Catholic church, lies a heresy. Indifferentism as a heresy refers to the idea that all religions are equal before God. That heresy has lead to all men are equal before God, but that is not true. God loves us equally, but our own sins and heresies leave us in unequal relation to His love and mercy.

    Thoughts lead to words. Words lead to actions. And Heresy is the disordered thought that leads to disordered and disruptive words, which lead to to decadent and depraved action.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    “If heretics no longer horrify us today”… it’s NOT because we are more charitable…”

    Rather, it’s that we’ve become unsure and calloused to evil.
    This is not the same thing as being forgiving of those who are truly penitent, or being tolerant of those who are truly ignorant.
    On the other hand, it is the same thing as overlooking evil in order to avoid telling the truth about it or going out of our way to avoid it or refute it.

  23. Andrew says:

    Fr AJ:

    You wrote: “Roman Catholic” really is a misnomer. We belong to the Catholic Church; Roman or Byzantine, or whatever name you want to use is referring to rite.

    Isn’t Roman Catholic a reference to the Church of Rome, the “mater et magistra omnium ecclesiarum?” (Mother and Teacher of all the churches). We are not some kind of congregationalists, are we, were all are equal. We are not American Catholics or Italian Catholics: we are Roman Catholics, because the Holy See is in Rome even for the Byzantines. Roman is not only a rite, one of many; Roman is our Petrine identity and Latin is our language.

  24. Fr AJ says:

    Andrew, I believe the term “Roman Catholic” was invented by the Anglicans to further their three branch theory. Obviously we’ve adopted the name in many places to refer to Latin Rite Catholics and use it with pride but you won’t find it on any official documents from the Vatican. Byzantine Catholics are not and would not refer to themselves as Roman Catholics but of course they are in communion with the Holy Father in Rome. I’m not sure what you mean by being congregationalists. The differing Rites of the Church are equal, if that’s what you were getting at, even if the Latin is far more populous. That is not meant to bring the Latin down but lift up and protect the Eastern Rites.

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