Thursday, July 18, 2002

Christ said 'Resist not evil'. Some one else is supposed to have said 'all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing'. At first glance, these two statements appear to stand in such extreme opposition that one might feel he is left with a choice between the folly of God and the wisdom of man. Such a conclusion would be mistaken.

Christ is not asking us to do nothing in the face to evil. Nor must we necessarily interpret the second quote as a requirement to resist evil. It is merely the requirement that we do 'something'. If we are willing to accept both quotes as practical wisdom, we have been given a clear response to the presence of evil in ourselves, our community and our world. In the presence of evil, we are required to do good. When we respond in a more direct way to the evil inherent in any and all acts of created beings, we run the risk of taking on the characteristics of the very evil we oppose.

The current situation in the Church exposes several examples of this danger. We become judgmental in our condemnation of those who are eager to condemn the perpetrators of sin. We become political in our efforts to stem the bureaucratic impersonalism of our leaders. We become dogmatic in our criticism of those we perceive as being rigid and uncaring. In blanket condemnation of disordered priests, we put our need for emotional release before the needs of the real and individual situation. We put our desire to align ourselves with innocence before the requirement that God places on us to behave reasonably and responsibly. In sympathy for the victim, we put our demand for retribution before the necessity of justice. Regardless of what particular evil we confront, we are sorely tempted to engage in a similar evil in order to eradicate the perceived evil.

In our efforts to combat evil we run the dual risk of either succumbing to the same evil ourselves or of succumbing to its equally evil antithesis. In an effort to combat the easy and vicious evil of Sentimentality, we run the risk of insensitivity. In an effort to be sensitive to the nuances of a situation, we run the risk of caricaturization in which the protagonist becomes the heart of lightness and the antagonist becomes the seat of darkness. In our effort to effect justice, we lose all sense of proportionality. In our efforts to be dispassionate, we lose all sense of compassion. Chesterton once suggested that virtues themselves when divorced, one from the other, are wild and dangerous things.

It is said that evil hates the good precisely because it is good. Simply by being good, goodness calls into question the entire premise on which evil is founded. Evil has no ontological reality. When we attack evil, we end by attacking the good thing to which the evil has attached itself. In the case of a disordered priest (or person for that matter), the priest and the person are good things. The disorder to which they have succumbed is the bad thing. The bad thing, however, has no separate existence and so, to root it out, we are forced to further damage the good thing to which it has become attached.

We are required to 'love our enemies and to bless those who persecute us'. This demands that we be faithful to the goodness inherent in all of creation. In order to effectively combat evil, we must discern the radical nature of goodness at the heart in our enemy, and we must love that essential goodness. We must concentrate not on the evil inherent in a person or a situation but rather on the goodness to which the evil has become attached. This focus on goodness is not a sentimental or ineffectual application of easy virtue or human love. Rather, it is a radical and resolute attention to the Truth and a forceful and willed determination to participate in the passioned Love of God.

The virtues of our androgynous culture are insufficient to this demand. They contain only the worst qualities of our complementary nature. To combat evil, we need the full measure of manly virtue and the forgotten measure of true femininity. "The Catholic ideal is the complete person, with a cool head and a warm heart, a hard head and a soft heart. The mere intellectual has a cool heart; the anti-intellectual has a hot head. The intellectual has a hard heart, the anti-intellectual has a soft head. The Church puts the severed parts in the right order because the Church has the blueprint: Christ (Eph 4:13). The Church has always had a conservative head and a liberal heart, and the world has never understood her, just as it never understood Christ."

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