Because I am a regular old Catholic I have a working knowledge of Holy Scripture. A Biblical Scholar I am not, nor do I claim to be a deep thinker or a startled philosopher. Rather, I am a run of the mill catechist with an active imagination and a growing prayer life.
With that in mind, I have been pondering what causes many of our separated brothers and sisters to misread letters or articles written by Catholics. I think I may have come up with an answer.
It's John Calvin's fault. John and Martin Luther.
We are accused of being judgemental and exclusive because most Americans have a WASP background . There is a specific theology that goes along with being Protestant and it is more than just hating the Pope (though there is a beautiful marble tile at the bottom of the Ptomac River thrown there by good Americans because it came from The Vatican). Part of that theology is the belief that human beings are basically corrupt and disgusting and icky piles of dung. This theology does not embrace the changing power of God's Grace in the same way as Catholics understand that power; rather, it speaks to the Power that comes from being covered in God's Grace (snow covering a dung heap). If one is saved simply by FAITH, then it doesn't matter if you stay a stinky pile of dung. Stinky piles of dung can still believe in Jesus Christ. Stinky piles of dung can be covered up by lots of fresh snow.
Grace, therefore, becomes the Fabreze of Heaven.
Think about it for a minute. If someone thinks PEOPLE are basically bad, then it is a short hop, skip and jump in logic to regard the naming of an action as intrinsinctly evil as meaning the person DOING the act is intrinsinctly evil. The person is the act, the act is not the result of concupiscence or disordered appetites or misinformation. While both Protestants and Catholics believe people must accept the consequences of their actions, the old-fashioned Calvinistic approach to human nature and sin permeates most of the culture of Americans. This make is difficult for them to understand how someone like me, a Faithful Catholic, can love without question those people in my life who are choosing to live outside the parameters of grace. It makes it harder for them to forgive the child molester, the rapist, the woman who kills her children in the name of freedom because they are held captive by the foundational belief that man is corrupt.
Catholics believe that man is born in the Image and Likeness of his Creator. We are wounded by sin, we are NOT corrupt and so saved in spite of our corruption. We are affected by sin, in particular by the wound of Original Sin that has caused us to suffer the effects despite the fact that we were not there to break the original covenant. Like a war veteran still suffering from the pain of a bullet received in battle seventy years earlier, the effects of Original Sin reverberate in our minds and bodies even today.
Grace does not just cover us (and our inequities). Grace transforms us, heals us and changes us if we cooperate with it. While we all know we cannot work our way to heaven, simply yelling at the top of our lungs that we believe and therefore we are saved ain't gonna do the trick. There are things we have to DO - we are a Sacramental and Liturgical people.
I thought about this as I read the comments under a letter to the editor about voting with a well-formed Catholic Conscience. Those who were definitely anti-Catholic in their response went right for what they thought was our jugular. Their responses were something along the lines of "You must think the majority of Americans are evil if you believe that birth control and abortion and gay marriage is evil".
We had to patiently explain to them the difference between hating the sin and loving the sinner, which none of them could grasp. I was honestly puzzled by this until I remembered my friend Patti Bonds.
Patti, a convert to Catholicism, once described herself to me as a Recovering Calvinist. She stated that being taught all her life that human beings were really icky at their core, discovering the Truth in Catholic Teaching was like being given a cup of clear, cool water to drink after a lifetime of drinking carbonated swill.
If you consider that most Americans come from a WASP perspective (though I understand that demographic is changing as the number of people who identify themselves as Protestant is shrinking), the idea that people are basically bad has to permeate the way most Americans view the world. We are the most generous of nations when there is a crisis. We are the first to try and help by fashioning laws and educational systems and all kinds of governmental ways to 'help' those less fortunate than the rest. However we seem to have trouble differentiating form the person and the action that person takes. We have a bit of the Puritan in us - if you are poor it is because you are not industrious enough and so you are being punished in God's eyes.
This Protestant Ethic may be fading in name, but I don't think it is fading from the American Psyche. I believe the reason so many of us think naming something a sin means we are attacking the sinner themselves is because of this Calvinistic view of human beings. I think there is a hum of self-hatred that runs beneath the surface of America and that only those who have embraced the fullness of Truth can help people love themselves again as beautiful, gorgeous children of God. We are not dung heaps covered in His Grace. We are wounded children, healed by His Love.
As I was running all this around in my head, I got to thinking about the similarities between the original People of God (Israel) and the present People of God (The Church).
Once united, we have been split.
Like the Lost Tribes of Israel, many members of the Body of Christ have been sucked into the culture that surrounds it - The Culture of Death.
Today, people who believe in Jesus also believe it is ok to kill a child in the womb because its father is a rapist. These people, good people all, believe that doing so will allow the victim of rape to heal faster from the injustice that was done to her.
Most of them have never been raped, have no idea of how much abortion hurts the woman and the trauma that both rape and abortion leave upon the psyche. They are honestly trying to do good. Instead, they are promoting evil.
Today, people who claim to believe in Jesus also believe it is ok to kill a child in the womb because the woman carrying that child was violated by a man related to her. They believe this will heal her faster - she will somehow be able to get over the fact that their brother or father or uncle forced or seduced them into sexual intercourse quicker if she has someone suck the baby out of her womb. These people are not trying to hurt her, they are trying to help her. They have no experience with this type of evil, this type of dysfunction or this type of hell on earth but by golly they have a remedy for it....kill the baby and shut up about it...all will be well.
I firmly believe that the people who advocate for abortion and call it a 'reproductive right' (which is funny since that would mean we have the right to kill an unwanted child, and we do not have that right. It is legal, but we do not have that right) do so because they believe they are championing women. They believe they are helping us, keeping us 'free'.
Like the Lost Tribes of Israel of so long ago, these people who claim to believe in Jesus and see Him as God have been sucked into the surrounding culture, a culture that glorifies hatred of women, hatred of children, hatred of the family and sees a lack of responsibility as an indicator that it is unnatural to BE responsible. In other words, a culture that tells a man who cannot stay faithful to one woman that it is the Sacrament of Marriage that is at fault and a woman who can get pregnant that it is that ability, that gift, that keeps her from being equal to men.
There may be a similarity between Israel and The Church. The difference between them is that The Church will be here until Jesus comes again. He promised us that and He is not a liar.
So, with all that in mind it becomes easier for me to understand why people (especially people who pride themselves on being liberal thinkers) are so adverse to calling an act evil. And with a better understanding on my part, I can maybe approach them in a way that allows them to understand why someone like me can pray for Judas while regarding his betrayal of Our Lord as evil.
what do you think?