Sunday, April 3, 2011
I decided to make my answer a full blog post for you, Anonymous. For everyone else, this is the continuation of a conversation that began on my Beowulf post. I encourage you to read those comments, so you can see from where we started. Basically, Anonymous made some charges which I am bound by my identity as a Roman Catholic to answer.
1) He disagrees with my opinions about pride, as expressed in my Beowulf post. “Pride is a sin, a very serious sin. Mainly related to Lucifer's hubris. Now this blog is encouraging pride toward service of god and showing that pride. Now pride is pride. It is still a sin. I wasn't saying that sinning is acceptable. Rather that this blog is encouraging a sin, and that is then acceptable within this context. That is where I find the contradiction.”
2) He disagrees with the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Confession. “The idea of forgiveness for sins is not a contradiction. I just find it to be a recruitment tool in which it detracts from any true morality. You say it's wrong, but if you do it and you're sorry it's okay… This then leads me to the assertion that it is a recruitment tool. The church teaches you that everyone sins, and sinning is wrong. If you sin you will burn in Hell for all eternity. Then they continue to say, but if you're really really sorry god will forgive you and you won't spend eternity in the fire pits of Hell.
The reason that it is such an abhorrent technique is that it is done to children. Confirmation is done at a young age, where the church manipulates the children to join so they won't spend eternity suffering.”
3) He disagrees with the Roman Catholic Sacrment of (I think) Confession and Confirmation, when administered to children. “The reason that it is such an abhorrent technique is that it is done to children. Confirmation is done at a young age, where the church manipulates the children to join so they won't spend eternity suffering.”
There are a couple of other points that we split on, but these are the prominent ones in his comments. Especially the first two. Therefore I will devote most of my answer to those first two.
1) I think I mentioned in one of my comments that I find a difference between excessive pride, and legitimate pride. Excessive pride I regard as glorifying yourself, and ignoring God in the process. Legitimate pride I call a sense of joy, triumph, and fulfillment over accomplishing something. This must include the understanding that it was God who gave you the strength to do what you did- and that it is God who smiles in your triumph. This also means that you must not speak of your triumphs excessively.
I admit I was too admiring of Beowulf's complete self-glorification. I still hold, however, that sharing legitimate pride, under my terms, is a healthy thing. Arrogant pride that mocks God is indeed “Lucifer’s hubris”, and the most terrible sin a human can commit, according to Fr. Francis Sheed. Pride that is satisfaction with a job well done is not.
2) Confession can indeed be a recruitment tool, if it seems attractive to a potential convert. You were correct that the Sacraments are not in their nature recruitment tools, and that is still not what they are. They do not detract from true morality, because they are still a path to true morality. Catholics believe that God showed us these rituals in order to come into contact with Him to receive special graces. These graces give us the strength and devotion to live a life in imitation of Jesus Christ. If we do this, we will come to Heaven.
Confession is not about escaping the horrible tortures of Hell. Confession is about keeping oneself pure in order to be able to live in Heaven. As you said, we clear the slate. And we know that it will not stay clear. You were too right when you said that we are “weak and flawed”. That’s why we can go to Confession more than once. It is a constant process of struggle. We fail, we go to Confession, and through our resolve and the graces won in Confession, we do better next time. Just as an obese man cannot run a marathon without lots of practice, we cannot live a life of grace without trying and failing several times.
You could come to grace without Confession. The obese man could drink no water while running his marathon. But just as the water would help him immensely, so Confession helps us so immensely that to refuse it is almost ludicrous.
That is the meaning behind it. We do not keep it propped up to scare people into Heaven. Any Catholic who tells you so is not reflecting what his Church actually says about it. And if any Catholic does that to children, I would not weep to see that Catholic excommunicated.
(As a side-note, I do not know if there is even any fire or physical torture in Hell, but I am certain that if there is, it is not the thing to fear. The thing to fear is external separation from the God who gave you life and holds you in existence, He who alone satisfies the human heart.)
3) I may be wrong here, but it seems you don’t like the idea of children being taught Confession and Confirmation at an early age. It seems to me that you are opposed to religious indoctrination for children, but I overstep myself, and apologize if my guess is incorrect.
Children will inevitably be indoctrinated by something. I was taught Confession and Confirmation as a child. I was also taught that premarital sex isn’t so bad, by the way people talked about it in high school, and in PG-13 movies. So either way, exterior forces will help shape what someone believes. Catholicism is based in Love, a ruling principle that sounds distant from the “vicious cycle” you brought up.
If children who have grown up as Catholics decide they do not believe our creed, they are free to leave the Church. We would no longer have a Catholic Church if the Church was that intolerant. Free will is essential in our faith. Dangerous, often, but essential.
Is this a satisfactory answer?