Monday, December 13, 2010
Are You a Good Catholic? No One is Good but God Alone
This month the Serviam blog is hosting its annual CINO Award. The CINO Award (Catholic in Name Only) is granted to the Catholic persons or institutions, which the readers of the blog deem to be the most egregious offenders of Catholic orthodoxy. Last year’s dishonor was paid to Nancy Pelosi, who has again been nominated this year along with Doug Kmeic, Joe Biden and two periodicals: The National Catholic Reporter and America. Whether the intent of this contest is to send a prophetic message or simply to have some innocent fun, the participants would do well to reflect on the spiritual danger to themselves by participating in this act of virtual stone throwing.
While most Catholics journey in starkly different communities, It is difficult in some Catholic circles to avoid the all too frequent discussion about “dissenters.” Such conversations often center on pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage politicians or various dissenters within the Church whom are blamed for her current ailments. Great frustration is expressed that such individuals insist on calling themselves Catholic and have not been forbidden by their bishops from presenting themselves for communion.
The CINO award, it seems to me, is born of this frustration and anxiety. One poster even suggested that Washington DC Archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, should be nominated for failing to take more severe measures against dissenting politicians. Of course, there is much to be anxious about in the Church. That American Catholics are more likely to have abortions than the average population is just one example of the pervasive rejection of the faith that rightly causes a great deal of concerns and anxiety. One of the ways that the self-defined “faithful Catholics” address that reality is by declaring the contracepting, non-mass attending, pro-choicers CINO’s. Once CINO’s are properly identified, then the Church will have purer, albeit smaller numbers, but with nicer statistics. This is not only terrible strategy for a Church that is bleeding members, but it’s contrary to Scripture and sinful. Lost sheep should be sought not declared to be vexing goats.
The CINO award, like the conversations about dissenters, is utterly pointless. Although the writer of the blog assures us that these faithless Catholics are in their prayers, they can’t possibly believe that their mocking them will lead to their conversion. There is little likelihood that Joe Biden will land on this blog and even less chance that upon reading it, he will cover himself with sackcloth and ashes. Therefore, such an award serves no good purpose. It contradicts the words of Saint Paul who said, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Although a private prayer for those about whose souls we are concerned is a duty, and at times, private confrontation is equally necessary, public mockery is simply uncharitable and will not give grace to those who hear.
Given the fact that such an activity contributes nothing to the propagation of the Gospel, it can only have one real objective—to serve a self-congratulatory fest for those who have deemed themselves orthodox. In every pointless conversation about who is not orthodox, there is the implicit declaration of one’s own orthodoxy and one’s one superior moral standing. The dangers of such an attitude should not be minimized.
In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Jesus strongly cautions against those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt,” and it was not the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not “like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” who went home justified (Luke 18:9-12). Today, these words could easily be replaced with “I thank thee that I am not like the contraceptor, the pro-choicer, women-priest supporter.” Sinful as these activities may be, the greatest of all sin, the Luciferian sin, is not using a condom but pride.
Moreover, there is something presumptuous and self-deceiving about arrogating to oneself the task of declaring who is the least faithful Catholic. If one looks at the list of nominees, they have one thing in common; these are people who have either supported or shown sympathy for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. If one honestly believes there was a need for such a list of malefactors, are there not equally good reasons to include someone like former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani,who has actually been asked by his bishop not to receive Holy Communion? Are these moral disapprobations or political ones?
But the selectivity goes beyond party lines. There is a great plethora of sins by which the devil can entrap us and to focus on how people vote as the chief of all sins, runs the risk of making too many of us feel comfortable and secure in our righteousness when perhaps we should not be. In Matthew 7, Jesus taught that upon his return to separate sheep from the goats that many will be shocked, shocked, when they learn that they have not been doing his will—“Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’”(Matt. 7:22). This passage comes just a few verses after he says, “"Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matt. 7:1-2).
And while we are on the subject of sheep and goats, we would also do well to remember that it is He, The Lord, who will separate the sheep from the goats, not us. Whether a particular sinner is the most sinful, the most faithless of all God’s children is known to Him alone. With our failings being as great as they are, no one of us has the time and the spiritual resources to be figuring out who should win the CINO Award. So, next time someone accuses you of being a good, orthodox Catholic, remember there is only one appropriate response, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:17).