mercredi 23 janvier 2013

To impose suffering on one-self is heroism.

It is also a good thing when that heroism is warranted. Sometimes it is not.

To impose sufferings on the guilty, or sometimes on objectively guilty in their acts though subjectively innocent, is sometimes warranted. If it makes the one doing so suffer, he might have a duty to take that suffering. The cases are pretty clear cut, and they do not include raising hours and lowering wages for your employees, unless you are certain they will have no job tomorrow even if you have only twice as much as they in income, nor do these cases include forbidding your daughter to marry a man unless you are certain she will suffer from a bad man in such a case. And even then it does not include stopping her unless she is about to make a marriage that is not valid in the sight of God and the Church. And even then that non-validity must not rest on any hasty presumption the other contrahent is mad, and today relying on a psychiatrist for such a judgement may very well include making precisely a hasty judgement. But if the contrahent is a sibling or a Jew or Turk not baptised, that is one confessing Judaism or Islam, the marriage is certainly not valid. And may be actually stopped. If it is of a non-Catholic Christian, it is illicit unless given dispensation to marry by the Church and unless marriage is conducted by a Catholic priest.

The cases that are there are, and here we talk about death which is as extreme a thing as you can suffer at one time:
  • Legitimate capital punishment, justly applied for a heinous crime;
  • Legitimate just war, justly declared for a heinous agression (not necessarily against the own territory, there are other agressions that warrant just war, like Azaña unjust war against clergy, against the souls of school children, and his refusal to punish red terrorists guilty of murder of clergy or rape of nuns)
  • Legitimate self defense or defense of other innocents.

Curing someone of an illness warrants imposing suffering on him only as much as the patient allows. Not actually imposing it, unless it be in measures where his life is immediately in danger (confer the right to righteous defense). And of course not taking a death penalty as an "immediate danger" to avoid by unwanted cures.

There was a Pope in the 17th. C. who did make a list of errors about legitimate self defense in the killing phase. Some people back then thought that being insulted verbally or having two coins pilfered were offenses grave enough to warrant legitimate deathbringing self defense. That Pope taught us otherwise. He may have been considered too softhearted for thieves and for people who deny the honour of honourable men by some in his day.

To be "good-hearted" about really bad people is not a duty. Franco had no "good-hearted" qualms about sending someone guilty of Church desecration to "vile garrote". He did however not send an Anarchist to the vile garrote when that precise Anarchist, precisely as a good hearted man, had stopped for a while the atrocities going on in Cárcel Modelo. That Anarchist got a few months for fighting on the wrong side, he had after all saved people not doing so. But to be "good-hearted" about really bad people is not a sin either. It may lead to sin, like by omission of duty, but it is no sin. And it can be used in better ways. And to be "good-hearted" about people not obviously bad, is not only not a sin, it is even likely to preserve from sin.

Tradition in Action gives a quote from Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, and I find the quote wanting and somewhat lopsided. But then I am not a Latin. Neither are the Englishmen or Americans quoting him. And at least this man is not accusing good-heartedness of being behind complacency with abortion: there you have something which requires as much hardness and lack of goodheartedness as any Franco or Plinio would like, only it is applied the wrong direction, against innocents rather than guilty. However, Tradition in Action sees fit to publish the quote or article along with a picture of not quite so good hearted young or even Catholic pro-choicers. To fathom the depth of that evil frame of mind, you have to get far beyond "good hearted" errors only. But let us take a few quotes where I disagree with his analysis, and this one first:

I know of one Catholic who counseled against a campaign against immoral magazines because it would make their editors suffer!

If the magazine was immoral, the editors deserved to suffer. If the magazine was not immoral, the thing to be said is that the campaign made them suffer unjustly, without due justification for imposing suffering.

I know of a Catholic educator who affirms that he is against scholarly awards because they make the less dedicated or intelligent students suffer! I know of religious organizations that tolerate bad elements to the detriment of the whole institution in order not to make the wrongdoers suffer.

Obviously a man like George Gheoghan ought to have been thrown out of sacred orders long before he comitted his first offense, not to mention the second one. But readmitting him was not just a matter of "good heart" but very decidedly of heeding bad advice - of the psychiatrists who back then were exploiting the "good heart" to get listeners. Now they tend to the opposite. But their advice is no purer from error for that. And if George Gheoghan had been thrown out, he might have been alive instead of killed in a prison by a fellow prisoner.

Nor does he admonish the sinner about the gravity of his moral state or speak of mortification, penance, conversion because these admonitions also make one suffer.

If you admonish an only presumed alcoholic, only presumedly homsexual, only presumed to be wasting his time, you make a possibly just man suffer undeservedly. But when you have knowledge someone is drinking every day onto the limit of drunkenness and past it, you have to tell him to sober up - or avoid him. When you know a homosexual lives in relation with someone of his sex, he should be told that he should leave the guy, either to find a wife understanding enough or - if he has already gone that far and therefore finds no wife to understand him (or if a clear vow of celibacy blocks marriage) - to live alone in order to live chastely. Fasting on wednesdays and fridays up to three o clock and even after three o clock from dairy eggs and meat might be helpful to some. It is hardly hurtful to anyone, even innocent, for that matter, unless they suffer severe physical deprivations in other ways, like sickness or being in the cold or getting too little sleep.

Likewise, the “good-hearted” man does not speak about the Devil, Hell and Purgatory nor warn the sick when they are near death.

Not warning the sick when near death is not ordinary goodheartedness, but as in the George Gheoghan case, a particular abuse of good heartedness, recommended by bad practitioners of medical professions. Though in this case, unlike the psychiatrists, real doctors, people doing the somatic medicine, properly so called.

The man of “good-heart” is complacent with divorce because he pities the spouses. He is favorable toward doing away with religious vows and clergy celibacy because of the sufferings these obligations impose on persons consecrated to God. He is quick to justify birth control with the excuse of pity for the suffering of the mother.

Or incomplacent with divorce because he pities the children of breakups. As for doing away with obligations for those clearly once obliged to the religious state for life, no, that is not good heartedness, it is seeing the small picture of someone getting more than he bargained for but not the big picture of thousands of people content to serve God and be obliged to certain privations for it.

The “good-hearted” man is opposed to any polemic among religions even when it is just and balanced; he is against the Index of Forbidden Books; he is against the Holy Office; he is against the Inquisition (even considered without some abuses that existed in some places); he is against the Crusades, because it caused suffering.

I am not aginst these things. And I shrink at stepping on a snail.

I am however against people who are NOT the Index Congregation, NOT the Holy Office, NOT in any kind of position to be Inquisitors, neither bishops nor dominicans nor franciscans, nor on any mission by Rome, taking on themselves to supply the lack nowadays of the Index.

Just before the Index of forbidden books was taken away by Paul VI - a freedom which we should freely enjoy but not abuse - I have found two of its decisions that I find doubtful.

Under John XXIII there was an Index decision against an "anonymous" book by someone very well known actually: Maria Valtorta. It was not anonymous, and the writer had and has a reputation for holiness. Since it is under John XXIII, a sedisvacantist is free to ignore it.

And under Pius XII there was a decision not against the Fifteen prayers of Saint Bridget but against the Fifteen promises that go with them, and it was based on modern methods and presuppositions of critical research: the researchers had not been able to find the promises in the available revelations to St Bridget (which edition did they use?) but finds them first mentioned centuries later - close to the printing press. I know at least one devout Catholic who ignored that decision - possibly by ignorance of it. But I am reminded of the calendar wipe outs of St Christopher and St Barbara.

I do not know exactly why Les Misérables was on the Index, but as a friend of Taverners, I find it clearly probable that using the cynicism of a Chemist named Thénard (who was against limiting working hours for children) as model for the cynicism of one neither a Chemist nor engaged into politics, like the Taverner Thénardier, might have been seen as objectively very abusive, especially as there were (though Victor Hugo might not have known that) in some countries people trying to shut all taverns. If the then Pope was into free working hours (not just in taverns where a late night can be compensated by a late morning after, but in factories), he was at least contradicted by Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII which is better than Les Misérables.

And as Victor Hugo was no Catholic nor living among Catholics only, but enjoyed a very secularised public, he did not suffer any pains of not being able to pay back the bills of any Taverner he might have had a grudge with because of such bills.

Now, the quote or article by Plinio does indeed end with something I quite agree with, verbally, but I have shown some disagreement about his applications of his own grudge.

This long list of examples is intended to better focus the problem I formulated at the beginning of this article: that all hatred is necessarily evil and a sin for the man of “good-heart.” To show that this is not in accordance with Catholic doctrine - i.e., that there a legitimate and virtuous hatred against evil exists - I will present the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas on this topic in my next article.

I had formulated the answer to that question quite in accordance with it. Unfortunately Tradition in Action does not immediately link to Plinio's next article. They link to a lot of related articles on the topic on their site, but not to the next one that Plinio wrote.

And so I cannot find where Plinio found St Thomas said there is a legitimate and virtuous hatred against evils (including bosses that inflict working hours such as make impossible a decent and Christian life to their employees, though Plinio seems to have ignored that one, and including fathers who positively run their children's life into havvoc rather than grant them the freedom - even if then avoiding them - to live by their choice). But I can look it up in the Summa. Or thought I could. Well, I tried a google on "utrum odium sit semper malum" and it seems the question is so ill formed that St Thomas did not treat it. He treated "odium inimicitiae" in one passage ... here is anyway his treatment of Hatred:

Summa Theologiae I-II Q 29 Hatred

See especially Article four:

Summa Theologiae I-II Q 29 A 4 Whether a man can hate himself

It seems St Thomas quite admits that a miser (and Thénardier is a miser, an avaricious man, even if as such he is not at all representative of the profession he has in the play) is hateful. He admits that either Thénardier should hate his own avarice or he is unfortunately uncapable of doing so, but is thereby hateful to others.

Now, if a miser gets a real turnabout of the conscience, he might of course act as St Francis for the rest of his life, out of penance. But he might also act as Scrooge (after seeing the Ghost of Christmas Future) and stay in his line of business, but pay better and be kinder, to workers as well as to other poor people. A Christmas Carol is not on the Index, I hope?

Similarily if a lesbian wants to better her life, she may act as St Magdalene, and stay chaste the rest of her life, but she may also marry a man (who knows about her past and about her good resolution and trusts it).

It may similarily seem excessive good heartedness to some that I recommend this rather than recommend the St Mary Magdalene approach only, and it may seem excessive good heartedness that to Renault I recommend not selling their shares to the next guy and giving it to the poor, not even primarily giving their shares to the Rénault workers (collectively as "the Renault workers of such a site" or individually, another share to another worker so long as the former share holder has any), but what I have in fact recommended:

- if they sell the site, sell it to the workers so they may continue the car building or similar outside the company but within old buildings (a grissini factory did that in Buenos Aires and the now self employed workers are doing a "Germany after 45 kind of economic miracle" of the company that was closing, or rather of its assets)
- or that they buy, while restructuring, farm land to make villages for willing former Renault workers.

What I do not recommend them - but some Catholic confessors might differ and I am not a father confessor, I am just a layman - is do what they are doing i e threaten workers to sack unless they sign a competivity clause. Just as I do not recommend homosexuals to stay in homosexual pseudo-couples. There also some Catholic priests seem to differ, Perry Lorenzo came across one who recommended him to stay with his partner but chastely. It appears he did obey that. He is dead. Reading his blogs won't encourage him to continue sinning. It won't encourage the reader to sin either, not in that way: Perry is not recommending his own sins. If it is a sin to accept Benedict XVI as a Pope, of course the blog of Perry Lorenzo should be read as cautiously as that of any other Catholic who holds Benedict XVI is the Pope.

Reading Perry Lorenzo incorrectly, as taking him for a priest who scandalised by openly living in a gay relationship, just because he is treating of spiritual things, and was found out apart from his blog to have been gay while alive, and reading me incorrectly, as if I pretended to be a priest, when I do not so pretend, because I sometimes speak of spiritual things, or because the man reading me finds I knows St Thomas Aquinas as well as his priest does, where he does not himself, is of course incitement to sin. But when I recommend my blogs (it is Mark Shea who recommends Perry Lorenzo's) I understand that the reader should not take an A for a B or a C for a D nor otherwise things for what they are not. But that also goes for looking at other people's lives, not just their blogs. Or books. Or plays. Or films.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Mouffetard Library, Paris
St Emerentia

Here is the page from Tradition in Action:

The ‘Good Heart,’ A Romantic Deformation of Charity (by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, on TIA)

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