Thursday, December 06, 2007

The sickness unto death rampant in a God-less society

The article linked to in the title of this post is about the gunman who went on a shooting rampage in Omaha, Nebraska. It begins:

OMAHA, Neb. - Robert Hawkins had been kicked out of his family’s house, fired from McDonald’s and had broken up with his girlfriend. He was 19, about the same age another sick man was when he terrified the state of Nebraska and the nation 50 years earlier.

Hawkins left a suicide note Wednesday at the home where he had been living. It said that he wouldn’t be a burden on his family anymore and that “now I’ll be famous,” according to Debora Maruca-Kovac, who owns the home. (emphasis mine)

A sick man. Yes, I would have to agree but I am quite sure I would disagree about the nature of his sickness. In our materialist society, too oft informed by erroneous psychology, individuals who commit such crimes, as also apparent in the Virginia Tech shootings, are considered mentally ill. Obviously, the logic runs, the individual must be chemically imbalanced because who would do such a heinous thing in their right mind? If only we had a safety net to catch these individuals before they act then we could ... medicate them. Once again we are faced with the logic of those who deny the deepest spiritual principle in man, his soul.

Not only is the soul ignored, and terrible acts like the one in this article attributed to brain chemicals, but the truth about man's situation is not properly understood. In our anthropocentric age, man is good - very good. He does what is right to him and any inkling of evil or sin is ignored. This notion is one reason why people cannot understand evil actions, why they think the individual is chemically imbalanced: "no one in their right mind would do such a thing." But what is a right mind?

One of the effects of original sin, of the fall, is a darkened intellect. Sin clouds our understanding. Our will is also, in the words of the Ecumenical Council of Trent, downward bent. We can all exclaim with St. Paul that what we want to do we do not do but what we do not want to do, that is what we do. It is a tremendous error of modernity to consider man better than he is, able to do all he desires and to do what is right on his own. It is Pelagianism restored.

Apart from the gratuitous grace of Christ man is lost in sin and stands in a state of death. Without grace we have no hope. The more we sin the greater our intellect is darkened, the weaker our will becomes. The fact remains that individuals are responsible. Chemicals in the mind can be altered by the soul, by acts of reason and of will. In Catholic theology the body and soul are fused, not separate. Individuals can choose to commit evil acts and apart from conversion to Christ - to become new in His through the grace of Holy Baptism - we should not be surprised if someone commits such evil acts - even more so when we consider the times.

Soren Kirkegaard, in The Sickness Unto Death, argued that any individual who does not believe in and obey God is in despair. This despair is that great sickness unto death. It is unto death because without God will cannot hope for eternal life and without God we can only despair of our existence. We live in an age where the spiritual is rejected, the material exalted and God mocked. Atheism is gaining ground and becoming more militant. Without God we have no hope. Without a Savior we can only despair of our situation.

What Kirkegaard put forth as the sick unto death is becoming a rule for entire societies. The true religion, the Catholic faith, is mocked and rejected by nations as well as individual people. It is only by acknowledging God and coming to Him that we can know the truth. It is our only hope. We can agree that people and nations are becoming sicker but not because of an imbalance of chemicals but rather from the despair that is inevitable when God is rejected.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Benedict XVI - Fighting Behind Closed Doors

I really find the linked article (in the post title) both interesting and encouraging. Among some the sedevacantists who claim greater faithfulness than the Pope himself, Benedict XVI is merely the latest installment in a modern line of anti-popes. While I can agree Benedict XVI does not appear to us in the mold of a Pius X or Pius XII or Leo XIII in every respect, we must not overlook the great blessing the current Pope is for the universal Church. He appears more theological and more traditional than his predecessor. He is somewhat, to some degree, critical of aspects of the ecumenical movement (read: he questions whether inter-religious prayer is even possible). One of the greatest things he has done for the Church was to make the traditional Latin liturgy an extraordinary form of the Roman rite - granting it an official status and taking away the local bishop's right to ban it. Yet we do not know what he does, what he endures, day-in and day-out in the Vatican among the curia.

"Pope Benedict is isolated," I was told when I visited Rome last week. "So many people, even in the Vatican, oppose him, and he feels the strain immensely." Yet he is ploughing ahead. He reminds me of another conservative revolutionary, Margaret Thatcher, who waited a couple of years before taking on the Cabinet "wets" sabotaging her reforms.

As Robinson notes in this BBC article, there is more than meets the eye. We know Benedict XVI is theologically astute and that his view is preferential toward a smaller, purer Church (if that is how it needs to be). The very fact that it is rumored he offers a traditional Latin Mass privately, and has elevated the liturgy to the extraordinary form, shows his respect and knowledge of the Church's liturgy. His latest encyclical, Spe Salvi is full of powerful theological reflections of hope, on faith and a critique of modern atheism and materialism. But there may very well be more he hopes to do, is attempting to do, that we do not see.

It is apparent that the Church has been infiltrated by the heterodox and those who do not put love of God and the salvation of souls as a priority. The wolves have dug their claws deep within the walls of the Church. It is naive to think they are not all around our dear Pope in the Roman curia. Robinson likens Benedict XVI to a "conservative revolutionary" but the fact of the matter is that he is neither a conservative nor a revolutionary. He is a Catholic, orthodox and faithful. He sees the Church in light of tradition (which is evident when in The Spirit of the Liturgy, I believe, he states that a liturgy esteemed throughout the history of the Church cannot simply be discarded). Benedict XVI is nothing more or less than a true Pope. The world may call it what they want.

The sedevacantist position is untenable but attractive. In an age when the Church's light burns dim in the midst of the thickening fog of darkness, there is a temptation to despair. It can appear easier to say that the entire Church, the Pope included, has gone astray and therefore a certain group is the lone remnant. "I/we alone," stated in all nobility and pride, "have remained pure and true." But what of Christ's promises to His Church? What of that earthen rock upon which Christ built His Church? A rock is not much of a foundation if it continues corroding until it disintegrates.

There is a temptation to think, in all shades of pride, that we could do a better job than the Pope. It may be attractive to crown ourselves as our own Pope, as the sedevacantists. We all want the Church to shine forth in splendor - refuting the rampant heresies of our times, calling all to a genuine conversion to Christ, and destroying the errors attributed to Vatican II! Not only do we desire it, we want it now. But it may be wise and charitable - ultimately most pleasing to Christ - to surrender ourselves to Divine Providence in the realization that God guides His Church, never abandoning her. It may take time. It may not happen in our time frame. Yet all things work to the good of those who love the Lord and work according to His purpose. His Divine Majesty has not forsaken us.

We do not know everything Pope Benedict XVI is working to do in the Church, surrounded as he is by those wolves that he prayed for the grace not to flee from in fear. If he needs anything from us, it is not our prideful criticisms but rather our prayers. If we have one need in this current stage of our valley of tears, it is to pray for the Church and for all the souls of the world.