I've had to note many times lately to my readers that I've taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.And I said:
There ain't no %$#@ vow of nice.
I think the time for "being sweet" to the enemy is last past...
Well, Father Philip, I don't think that 1 Corinthians 13 goes out of fashion (at least, one of my confessors never seems to think so).
And my experience with liberal nuns is that their protective armor of smug dissidence is pretty impenetrable.
I'd recommend that the reader tell her seriously, the next time something like this happens, "Oh, Sister, just like yours once did long, long ago, my generation is now ready to Sing A New Church Into Being! We just like to sing in Latin..."
Then retreat. Some of these ladies have claws.Whereupon Father replied:
Red,:-) :-) :-)
That's what I mean by "not being nice."
The truth of the matter is that Christians are supposed to love each other. 1 Corinthians 13 spells it out pretty well: love is patient, kind, not selfish, etc. I've mediated on that passage many a time--usually because a confessor or spiritual adviser recommended it. But how do we show love to people who are supposed to share our faith, but instead seem to want to contradict everything our Church teaches? How are we to be loving examples of patient Christian witness when someone begins with that predictable, telltale phrase, "Well, I'm a Catholic, but..."
And this is where I think Father Philip and I are in agreement: it is always necessary to love your enemies, even when they're the worst kind--the ones who by their baptism are supposed to be your family in Christ. But it is not always necessary to show that love by being silent under their abuse, or by adopting a syrupy sweetness that refuses to waver or to say anything stronger than, "I can see you feel strongly about this, so since we don't agree let's talk of something else. The pachysandra is coming along fine this year, isn't it?"
Don't get me wrong: there are times and places when discretion is most definitely the better part of valor, and where getting into a vocal showdown with a heretic co-worker may be inadvisable, especially if said heretic is a professed Sister and possibly one's superior in the workforce. To everything there is a season, and that includes the compulsion to speak some home truths to an erring brother in Christ; there is a time for silence, and even a time to be nice.
But too often sincere Catholics and other Christians think that "nice" is synonymous with "Christian," especially the kind of "nice" that avoids confrontation at all costs. It's hard to see how that idea got started, considering that St. Paul is frequently far from "nice" when he calls erring members of the early Church to account for various misbehaviors or misdeeds; the writings of the Church Fathers contain denunciations of heresy, and of heretics. Consider this from St. Alexander of Alexandria, on Arius:
1. The ambitious and avaricious will of wicked men is always wont to lay snares against those churches which seem greater, by various pretexts attacking the ecclesiastical piety of such. For incited by the devil who works in them, to the lust of that which is set before them, and throwing away all religious scruples, they trample under foot the fear of the judgment of God. Concerning which things, I who suffer, have thought it necessary to show to your piety, in order that you may be aware of such men, lest any of them presume to set foot in your dioceses, whether by themselves or by others; for these sorcerers know how to use hypocrisy to carry out their fraud; and to employ letters composed and dressed out with lies, which are able to deceive a man who is intent upon a simple and sincere faith. Arius, therefore, and Achilles, having lately entered into a conspiracy, emulating the ambition of Colluthus, have turned out far worse than he. For Colluthus, indeed, who reprehends these very men, found some pretext for his evil purpose; but these, beholding his battering of Christ, endured no longer to be subject to the Church; but building for themselves dens of thieves, they hold their assemblies in them unceasingly, night and day directing their calumnies against Christ and against us. For since they call in question all pious and apostolical doctrine, after the manner of the Jews, they have constructed a workshop for contending against Christ, denying the Godhead of our Saviour, and preaching that He is only the equal of all others. And having collected all the passages which speak of His plan of salvation and His humiliation for our sakes, they endeavour from these to collect the preaching of their impiety, ignoring altogether the passages in which His eternal Godhead and unutterable glory with the Father is set forth. Since, therefore, they back up the impious opinion concerning Christ, which is held by the Jews and Greeks, in every possible way they strive to gain their approval; busying themselves about all those things which they are wont to deride in us, and daily stirring up against us seditions and persecutions. And now, indeed, they drag us before the tribunals of the judges, by intercourse with silly and disorderly women, whom they have led into error; at another time they cast opprobrium and infamy upon the Christian religion, their young maidens disgracefully wandering about every village and street. Nay, even Christ's indivisible tunic, which His executioners were unwilling to divide, these wretches have dared to rend."Wicked men...sorcerers...den of thieves...impious opinion...silly and disorderly women...wretches..." Not exactly a hand-holding chorus of Kumbaya, is it?
The saints and Fathers of the Church took their responsibility to guard against error seriously; they did not hate the men they chastised, but loved them enough to hope that their chastisement would lead them to repentance, so that their souls would not be lost. Loving our fellow Catholics does not always mean being nice to them; sometimes the greatest love we can show them is to be clear about their errors, as we would hope others would be clear to us about ours, and by our charitably-motivated insistence on the truths which they reject help them to return to the diligent and faithful practice of our Catholic religion.