Restoring Catholic Wisdom, Part 3

Restoring Catholic Wisdom, Part 3

Part 1 of this essay argued that the Catholic Church desperately needs to renew its historic teachings, and the Bishops and Cardinals need to lead the effort with the help of informed laypeople. Part 2 explained why the teachings must be presented both from the pulpit and in the marketplaces of ideas, and not just on special occasions but as often as modern culture challenges them. Furthermore, an essential part of this effort is to identify and denounce the specific sins being committed in law, science, medicine, engineering, history, philosophy, religion, education, journalism, politics, and other areas of society. Part 3 will suggest how this should be done.

Catholic wisdom, like Judeo-Christian wisdom in general, is based on the ethical principle of doing good and avoiding evil. Scripture and the understandings that have flowed from it reveal how this principle is to be applied:

By observing the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet.”

By following Christ’s commands: Notably, Reconcile with those you have offended; Do not seek revenge, but instead forgive others as you would be forgiven; Love your enemies.

By avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth (Laziness),Wrath (Hatred), Envy, Pride (Boastfulness)

By practicing the Seven Virtues: Kindness, Temperance, Charity (Love), Chastity (Self-control), Humility, Diligence (Zeal), Patience

It is important to understand that these applications are truths given to humanity by their creator who is the very author of truth. To follow them is to do good; to oppose them is to do evil, in other words to sin. Catholic wisdom is based on these truths, and the chief guardians of that wisdom are the bishops. Christ gave the apostles and their successors (the bishops) “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness.” (Matt 10:1) He was clearly referring not only to physical afflictions but also to those of the mind and soul. And when he repeatedly instructed Peter and the other apostles to “feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (John 21: 15-17) He was speaking not only literally about food, but metaphorically about truth. That message not only gave the apostles and their successors tremendous power–it also created profound responsibility.

All of the problems in modern culture, society, and civilization are rooted in rejection or defiance not just of biblical truths but the very idea that God is the sole author of all truth. Such rejection and/or defiance has led to the delusion that we create our own truth and is tantamount to “playing God,” the fruit of which has been foolishness, nonsense, absurdity, and evil. The bishops’ response must not be passively waiting for the Holy Spirit to change the world. It must instead be following the Holy Spirit’s prompting to challenge falsehoods, boldly teach truths, and direct all the priests in their dioceses to do the same. Here are a few examples of falsehoods that need challenging:

Condemn as sinful the illegal immigration that encourages a flow of deadly narcotics, causes the rape and virtual enslavement of migrants, and unfairly burdens citizens of the receiving countries. (At the same time, support aid to poor countries and generous levels of legal immigration.)

Condemn as sinful teachers usurping parental rights by propagandizing students rather than teaching what they are paid to teach, undermining the transmission of parents’ beliefs and values, and refusing to let parents know what is being taught in the classroom.

Condemn as false, harmful, and therefore sinful the unscientific idea that there are more than two sexes or that biological males can become pregnant.

Condemn as false and potentially dangerous the notion that grade school students have the cognitive capacity to make informed judgments about changing their sex/gender, as well as the notion that teenagers have sufficient self-knowledge and maturity to make such judgments wisely. Condemn as sinful teachers encouraging elementary or secondary school students to consider changing sex/gender, and doctors approving hormonal treatments and/or sex-organ surgery.

Condemn unfair judgments of our ancestors: For example, denouncing honored ancestors and tearing down their statues for behavior that was not understood to be wrong when they were alive. This is a form of bearing false witness and therefore sinful.

Condemn the justification of shoplifting by low-income people. Shoplifting is a combination of three sins–envy, stealing, and the taking of revenge. The third is especially heinous because in most cases its target is innocent of any offense.

Condemn as sinful the idea of paying reparations to those whose ancestors were actual (or imagined) victims of slavery. This punishes people who had nothing to do with slavery and rewards those who were never slaves. It is a combination of theft and bearing false witness, and it encourages coveting.

Condemn as sinful the hatred of white people because of their “white privilege.” To begin with, many or perhaps most white people are not in any way privileged. Others may seem privileged whereas they actually became successful by working hard against the odds. Hating them as well as the truly privileged is therefore especially wrong.

Condemn Sologomy, which means marrying oneself. This is a relatively new practice performed to express love of oneself and thereby increase self-affirmation,  self-esteem and contentment. In reality it goes beyond the sin of pride all the way to narcissism.

Some may think I am overstating the obligations of Catholic shepherds to respond more forcefully to the needs of the flocks. In response I offer an Old Testament passage, written three centuries before Christ, that shows how seriously God takes those obligations.

“‘Woe to the shepherds who are causing the sheep of My pasture to perish and are scattering them!’ declares the Lord. Therefore, this is what the LORD, the God of Israel says concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: ‘You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not been concerned about them; behold, I am going to call you to account for the evil of your deeds,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23: 1,2)

Copyright © 2023 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero