The Church Belligerent

For the second of three posts, I want to summarize a very apt article cited by Persis, another DoR blogger a while back.

The author introduces his article:

Like a nation, however, the Church also encounters a danger: that the fighting spirit of the Church Militant turn against her. The danger is not of fighting—but of only fighting, and fighting in the wrong way. The danger is that the Church become not the New Jerusalem, but the New Sparta. And Sparta was known for only one thing: fighting. Ruthlessly, effectively, heroically at times, but only fighting. Sparta produced no great artwork, poetry, plays, or philosophy. It produced only war.

The entire article is well worth the read; the rest of this post will be the main points.  The author starts with characteristics of the Church Belligerent in order to better safeguard against them. He calls these The Pitfalls:

First, prizing principles over persons.
In short, the Church Belligerent succumbs to the temptation to win arguments instead of hearts

Second, losing the supernatural outlook.
All this is not merely staying informed. It is keeping score in the Church. …  Getting carried away by the human intrigue and politicking that loiters in the Church slowly wears away at our supernatural outlook. As it festers it leads us to fight no longer for Christ’s bride, but for our position, our group.

Third, making our preferences mandatory for others, or requiring more than the Church requires.
We stray from militant to belligerent when we mandate what the Church does not, or forbid what the Church permits.

Fourth, giving free rein to the critical faculty.
Those who constantly challenge and criticize cannot be taught. They may be able to pick apart goofy catechesis and spot liturgical abuse from a mile away. But they cannot learn, because they never stop questioning, criticizing, picking things apart. The criticism results in a cynicism borne (ironically) of a zeal for truth. If we refuse to trust anyone, then we set ourselves up as our own personal magisterium.

The author then moves on to The Casualties:
These habits of the Church Belligerent have a deadly effect on the soul of the soldier himself … And the refusal to extend charity to others results in an inability to receive love from God.

How to fight? The author says to Be Joyful Warriors.
I have to insert a parenthetical note here. “Joyful” is not to be equated with attempts at acerbic humor that only the like-minded find funny.  Christian joy is a radiance that is unmistakable and is recognized by all.  Perhaps the best known person to this readership is Mother Angelica.

The author makes three points under this heading:
First (and last), we must be willing to suffer. It is not our job to correct everything.

Second, holiness of life is essential. Again, the true battle is not out there, but within. The author uses an analogy from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Third, we should draw inspiration from and follow the example of the warriors who have gone before us.

In saying to Follow King David’s Example, the author cites chapters 24 and 26 of 1 Samuel and stresses not laying a hand on the Lord’s anointed.  That’s true.  Chapter 24 also highlights the ability to choose to refrain from striking.

Look to the Saints encourages the reader to imitate saints of the Catholic Reformation: St. Francis de Sales’, St. Philip Neri’s, “Songs (sic), jokes, picnics, even pranks” and St. Benedict, building rather than grumbling.  Again, it is important to note that St. Philip Neri’s songs, etc. are not to be confused with the acerbic attempts at humor so often found today.  Gentle teasing has two aspects that are frequently missing today: genuine affection for the “jokee” and an ability to know when to refrain.

The author concludes by fittingly describing Mary as a model to follow.

This article was written, not in the frequent “progressives versus traditionalists,” but by a priest concerned about the Church Militant.  Fr. Scalia’s article was published in This Rock shortly before Summorum Pontificum was released and during a time when combox comments were anything but charitable. 

I will pick up on this in a post in a few days.

Update: This post has already drawn one personalized comment that was all heat and no light, so I removed one sentence that was meant to provide context, out of a superabundance of caution.

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2 Responses to The Church Belligerent

  1. Colin says:

    In my humble opinion, it’s more charitable to confront these abuses head-on. Fr. Scalia wrote this for one reason, and people seem to be twisting it around to make statements that aren’t really based in fact, but rather emotion. I don’t know, but it certainly seems that the most charitable thing to do is to reprimand those who are in clear instances of error, be they bishops, priests, lay people, whatever. To do nothing is to fall into the “lukewarm” that Our Lord “casts out” from His mouth. I think we need to discern whether something is “belligerent” or if it’s actually merely being decisive.

  2. Colin,
    First let me ask you about “people seem to be twisting it around to make statements that arent’ really based in fact, but rather emotion.”

    Please specify who you refer to when you say “people,”
    in what specific ways these unknown people are “twisting” Fr. Scalia’s article?
    please substantiate your claim that these unspecified people are making statements not based in fact but rather emotion.

    Everything else in your comment is repetition of your saying over and over again that it’s more charitable to confront or reprimand abuses.

    Did you not read Fr. Scalia’s sentence: The danger is not of fighting—but of only fighting, and fighting in the wrong way.

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