On Obligation versus Obligation

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “obligation.”  It’s my Asperger.  It’s my Americanism.  It’s my modernism.  But I balk at being required to do something.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “obligation” and the faith, and I thought I’d look up what the word actually means.  While today it means more a “requirement” or “responsibility,” it originally meant “pledge.”  Before that, it came from a Latin word for “binding.”  In one sense, an “obligation” binds the person to do it, but also binds one party to another.
St. Augustine’s oft-misquoted “dilige et quod vis fac” comes into play here.  “Dilige” is the root word for “delight” or “delicious,” but it’s also the root for “diligence.”  So while St. Augustine is misquoted as saying “Love and do as you will,” with “love” here meaning “follow your delights” (something St. Augustine quite obviously would not endorse), he really means “Love your duty from that that do as you will.”
This is really a functional definition of “obligation.”  It is always an act of love.  Socrates says he accepts the death penalty because he loves Athens too much to be exiled.  The patriot loves his country so much he offers his life in military service, which involves obligations.  The student has an obligation to study, but if she loves learning, the obligation is easier.
I have obligations to my body.  I have had to drastically adjust my diet and lifestyle since epilepsy was added to my list of ailments last month.  Out of love for my family, I fulfill the obligations of my new condition, whether I really desire them or not.
I have obligations to my children.  Some are difficult.  Some are enjoyable, but I do all of them because I love my children.
I have obligations to my wife.  I keep those obligations because I love her.  Some of those obligations are tedious, like chores, while others are more pleasurable.  But they’re still obligations.  One of the things Natural Family Planning teaches about marriage is how to make love when one doesn’t feel like it: it’s an obligation.
Thus, when we speak of obligations in the Church, or even not obligations but “requirements” of devotions, the purpose is not to be legalistic as such: it’s to provide a tried and true guideline for building a relationship with Christ.  Just as hugging and kissing daily strengthen a marriage, so prayer and certain practices strengthen our relationship with God.  Sure, I could skip checking for discount flowers at the grocery store, but when I bring my wife flowers, she feels loved and I grow in love for her from that appreciation.  Sure, I can skip my Rosary, but when I give Jesus and His Mother that spiritual bouquet, they feel loved, and I grow in love for them.
Studies show that married couples should make love at least once a week, on average, to feel happy and fulfilled in their marriages.  That, again, can be an “obligation” if one or both isn’t “in the mood,” or especially if they have to schedule a time, and if legitimate impediments exist, they are usually stressful situations that will either strengthen or weaken the marriage depending on how they’re handled: do the couple turn to each other or away from each other?.
Similarly, frequency of Confession and Communion builds our bonds to Jesus Christ.  It’s an “obligation” because it binds us to Him.  We should receive the Sacraments because we love Jesus.  Sometimes, the experience can be full of spiritual consolation.  Sometimes, it can be dry.  Sometimes, we receive indicators that we need to improve our relationship with Christ.  And as with marriage, when crises, however frequent or infrequent, impede us from coming to Him Sacramentally, do we turn to Him for help or away from Him?

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Remembering 9/10/2001

Yes, you read that right.

Last night, I was in the ER.  I was in what I call “Marfan limbo”: I felt kind of like I did before my aortic dissection: I’ve been very active lately, I’ve had a lot of stress, my blood pressure has been erratic, and I feel a lot of pressure and pain in my arteries (a concept which many doctors claim is “Impossible,” even though it’s the experience of many people I’ve talked to either with Marfan syndrome or atherosclerosis).  Before I digress into a complaint about ERs, the point is I came to the hospital around 7 PM and got into a room at 11.   I went to CT at 12:15 AM and noticed that the clock in my room said 2:15, so I wondered if it was broken or just off by 2 hours.  It still said 2:15 when I left the hospital at 1:45.  So it wasn’t “off by two hours”; it was “off, period,” thus illustrating the adage that a “stopped clock is right twice a day.”

An illustration of the adage in application happened 17 years ago.
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a disgruntled Gulf War veteran and atheist, used a truck full of fertilizer to commit what at the time was the deadliest and most destructive act of terrorism on US soil in history.
On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed, and given St. John Paul II’s guidelines for the proper use of the death penalty, his execution could have been considered justified.  At that point in my life, I was a young husband with a wife and unborn daughter, trying to work on my MA thesis and trying desperately to find a full time job so my wife could be a stay at home mother as she wanted.
We had a stack of Catholic periodicals I hadn’t had time to read yet.

On September 10, 2001, I was doing both–working on my thesis and catching up on my periodicals.  I read two things which a day later had great significance and showed me as always that God tends to guide my reading where He wants and when He wants me to know things.

C. S. Lewis’s fictional and allegorical books are sometimes considered novelizations of his nonfiction-he himself makes that point specifically in some cases, such as his association of That Hideous Strength with The Abolition of Man.

So in preparation for my thesis on Till We Have Faces, I was rereading The Four Loves and happened to be reading the part about patriotism.  Therein, Lewis (who was ironically pro-death penalty and one of the few pro-death penalty Christian writers that influenced me in my early reading) talks about how “Just War Theory” and Self-defense follow parallel principles.   He says that if someone invades your home and threatens you, robs you or assaults you, you have the right to fight back, but you do not have the right to chase the invader back to his home and kill him.  That’s vigilantism, not self-defense.  Thus, Lewis says, just war has to be defensive, not retaliatory.

Then I picked up a stack of slightly old diocesan newspapers and scanned for articles that might still have relevance.  I hit upon the USCCB’s statement about the then-upcoming execution of McVeigh.  I thought of the broken clock metaphor when I read the statement, presented by Roger Mahony, who argued that violence only perpetuates violence.  They warned that worse terrorism might result from McVeigh’s execution.

Three months to the day after McVeigh was executed, those words proved prophetic, as an even deadlier and more destructive act of terrorism was perpetrated by men with utility knives on commercial airlines.

These men had come into the country “legally” on student visas but stayed after those visas were expired.  Like McVeigh, the disgruntled Gulf War veteran, they were supposedly motivated by their anger at the United States’ imperialism in the Middle East.  I thought at the time how this event not only fulfilled that warning by the Catholic bishops–it also validated every warning that Patrick “I like what he has to say but I don’t think he can win so I’m not voting for him” Buchanan had made during his bids for the presidency, how if Republicans had nominated Buchanan instead of “likely to win” incumbent Bush in 1992, or possibly even in 2000, that 9/11 might not have happened because Buchanan would have tightened immigration policy, and brought our troops back to guard our own country instead of oil companies’ interests.

A week or two before, we went to a Sunday Mass where the priest quoted the famous Billy Graham quip that if God didn’t punish America, He owed an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Yet know this, that the kingdom of God is at hand. [12] I say to you, it shall be more tolerable at that day for Sodom, than for that city. [13] Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida. For if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the mighty works that have been wrought in you, they would have done penance long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. [14] But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgement, than for you. [15] And thou, Capharnaum, which art exalted unto heaven, thou shalt be thrust down to hell.” (Luke 10:11-15, Douay).

For about a week, people flooded into churches.  People prayed.  It seemed like America was having its Ninevah moment.  Then, suddenly, it became “They hate us because of our freedom.”
Suddenly, we were being told, “Islam means ‘peace,'” even though I was always taught before that–by Muslims–that “Islam means ‘submission.'”  We were being told that it was wrong to see God’s justice in the “tragedy,” that the victims were “innocent” (even though there has only been one innocent victim in history).  Rather than doing things that might have actually prevented something like 9/11 from happening again, like tightening our immigration policies and bringing our troops back to our country to defend our own borders, we got involved in a perpetual “War on Terror” that has just perpetuated the cycle of violence even further, and we’re told that if one criticizes this cycle of violence, if one criticizes the imperialism of it, one is “dishonoring the Troops.”

Socrates said it is better to suffer wrong than to do it.

A common theme of many Marian apparitions–which have very accurately warned of the times in which we live–is that our only weapons should be the Rosary and the Cross.

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

“The Weight of Glory” and the Weight of the Church

Probably one of the most bottom-line important pieces of Christian thought outside the Bible was the famous paragraph of C. S. Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory”:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations.  It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

I get the argument that the kinds of sexual abuse, physical abuse, corruption and cover-ups in the Catholic Church occur in any institution, and are often objectively worse.  For example, as my dear friend Jen Fitz has pointed out, no one is legally obligated to go to Catholic anything, but they are legally obligated to go to public schools (barring the resources for private or home schooling).

However, in an institution which is supposedly founded by God Himself, which supposedly exists to train people up to be Saints, and which supposedly believes every individual is of infinite worth, shouldn’t there be a Higher Standard?

If the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, then just one priest abusing his authority to spiritually or psychologically abuse one person should be a matter of grave horror to every member of the Church–did not Ven John Henry Newman say that it would be better for all the stars to fall than one person ever commit even a venial sin?

If we’re going to compare the Catholic Church, statistically, to other religions, government institutions, or businesses, aren’t we thereby saying that the Catholic Church is just another human institution?

And if the Catholic Church is just another human institution, with networks of predatory behavior, actions like wearing a Crucifix being used as signs of “grooming” by homosexual priests, bishops being reprimanded by the Vatican or dying mysterious deaths for trying to laicize homosexual and pedophile priests, and everything else that people like Fr. Malachi Martin and Fr. James Haley sacrificed their own priesthoods by trying to expose, but now the world believes because the state of Pennsylvania has validated its existence–then if the Church is just another human institution, then that makes the anti-Catholics right, and it’s just a gigantic network of people unwittingly and sometimes wittingly providing various sexual predators, narcissists and/or sociopaths a steady supply of victims and proteges.

But if the Church is the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ (as well as the Whore of Babylon), then She must be held to a higher standard.  It shouldn’t be about PR.  It shouldn’t be about statistics.  It shouldn’t be about minimal legal requirements.  It should be about saving the immortal souls of the victims and of the guilty.  It should be about fasting and prayer and penance.  It should be about sacrificing wealth and privilege and social status for the sake of souls.

And that applies to just about every issue you can think of: sex abuse, abortion, poverty, people with disabilities.  “Everyone who has two cloaks must share with the one who has none.”  We hear of St. Martin of Tours giving his military cloak to a beggar.  We don’t often hear of him being nearly rejected as a bishop because many priests and bishops didn’t like the fact that he dressed as a beggar.
St. Vincent de Paul is known for his service of the poor later in his life but he originally became a priest because he was born into a very poor family and, at the time, the priesthood was the best avenue for upward mobility.
Bl. Pier Giorgio was known for rarely coming home at the end of the day wearing the same clothes he put on in the morning, or  more than the most basic clothes decency required, because throughout the day he’d give away his clothes to the poor or trade clothes with them.  “Oh, but health.”  Yes, he died at a relatively young age because he gave his life in service to the poor.

In America, we have a “vocations crisis” because young men don’t want to give up their lives of pleasure, or more usually because they learn very quickly–as I did, as one of my childhood best friends did, as my wife’s uncle did–that if you want to pursue holiness the priesthood as it exists in America is not the place to be.
In the Middle East and Africa, by contrast, they have a vocations crisis because so many priests are being martyred.

My wife recently posted a “rant” on Facebook about how the two “ideological camps” of Catholicism are mutually inconsistent about respecting Life and supporting people.  She meant that, whatever our political views, we’re still obligated to help one another when and where we need it, and we should do so in a manner that treats people with respect.  This post was inspired not just by need but by the wonderful example of some local Catholics who’ve recently not only provided us with great material blessings but done so in a manner that was loving and respectful.

Of course, the post degraded into a political argument.

If each of us reminded ourselves every day of the infinite worth of every individual we meet, how different would our world be?  What if, as Lewis depicts in _The Great Divorce_ and as the Orthodox teach in the Tollhouse theory of personal judgement, the person I find most annoying, intolerable, disgusting, hateful, ugly or unforgiveable, ends up as a Saint in Heaven, whom I must love in order to get to Heaven?  What if the person I find most admirable, pleasant, enjoyable, beautiful, lovable and tolerable ends up in Hell?  What if someone ends up in Hell because of my sin?

We all sin, of course, but there’s a reason the Church and society distinguish degrees of sin and evil.

And no one who truly respects the infinite worth of every individual could sexually, physically, psychologically or worse, spiritually abuse another person.
No one who truly respects the infinite value of every soul could shrug their shoulders when a homebound or hospital-bound parishioners begs for Sacraments.
No one who truly respects the infinite value of every soul could decline to even make an attempt at helping anyone else in need.
No one who truly respects the infinite worth of every individual could say, “Well, I obeyed the reporting laws as I understood them.”
I could go on, but if you’ve read this far, you get the point.

Each of us, as always, needs to do a better job of acting like we actually believe in God.
If we want to win people to Christ, acting like Christ is the way, not comparing His Church to other earthly institutions.

_The Last Jedi_: _Star Wars_ is finally honest

When I first introduced my kids to Star Wars, I followed up with an explanation of Dualism, Gnosticism, the “Ray of Truth” concept, and authentic versus dangerous forms of spirituality and spiritual gifts.

C. S. Lewis argues against Dualism that  we cannot define “Good” and “Evil” without an external standard to define them.  If “Good” and “Evil” were truly opposite “forces,” they would not balance; they would cancel each other out.  Even if there were two equally powerful “gods,” one good/one evil, to know which was which there would still have to be a “God” to tell us which was which (e.g., the JW idea that Jesus & Satan are brothers).

“Only Sith deal in absolutes,” Obi-Wan tells Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, and that is the fundamental paradox at work in a Dualistic narrative.  The interesting irony is that the more honest Star Wars is about its flawed philosophical underpinnings, the more the fans complain–first the prequels undermined the narrative that the Jedi and the Republic are “good,” a narrative already flawed from Obi-Wan’s lies to Luke.  I think they’re viscerally reacting against the implicit and now explicit rejection of objective standards.

“Good guys, bad guys: made up words.  It’s all a machine,” says “DJ,” the early Han Solo-esque hacker who takes his money and runs.

Dualists and moral relativists always want to have their proverbial cake and eat it, too.  They want “good” and “evil” to be relative terms when it suits them and then appeal to morality or to vague concepts like “hope” and “energy” and “good thoughts” when it’s convenient.

So we’re supposed to support the Jedi because they’re the “guardians of peace and order,” yet the Sith also insist they want peace and order.  From a Thomistic standpoint, and from what we see of the Republic in the films, the Sith make the stronger claim to promoting “peace and order.”  And the “good guys” seem to ambiguate between whether they want “peace and order” or “freedom,” since the two concepts cannot coexist.  Hobbes tells us what “freedom” means: the war of all against all for all.  It’s the “Outer Rim,” ruled by warring gangsters.  The only way anyone can functionally have absolute freedom is to enslave others to some extent.

In the Force religion, as in Modernism and all other permutations of Gnosticism, we hear about “Hope,” and “Freedom” and “Peace,” but we hear no explanation for what these words mean or imply or why they are good things.

We love Star Wars because it seems to be about “good” versus “evil.”  However, in The Last Jedi, we’re told to “let the past die,” to destroy all the books, to look within for wisdom.  This was really the most honest movie in the Star Wars franchise in terms of expressing what we’ve been hearing all along.

Wake up!

From Evening Prayer, Friday Week 3:

2b Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,*3for you know that the testing* of your faith produces perseverance.4And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.5But if any of you lacks wisdom,* he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.c6But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.d7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,8since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

On May 25, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene De Pazzi, OCD, and the feast of the great and “venerable” Englishman St. Bede, Ireland, which St. Patrick prophesied would one day lose the faith but regain it to spread around the world, officially severed itself not just from Catholicism but from basic decency and Natural Law by sentencing millions of children to death by abortion.

About 20 years ago, I had a dream that the Chastisements would begin if Ireland legalized abortion. Prepare your hearts. Repent. Go to Confession. Get baptized if you aren’t. Fast. Pray. Stop blaspheming. Love God with all your hearts, minds and souls. Arm your family with faith, service and sacramentals. This is war. And we’re all soldiers asleep at our posts. Our Lord warns us that when we have done our duties, we should say “I am an unprofitable servant for I have only done my duty.” “You’ve done your duty; nothing more,” said Valjean to Javert.

St. John Bosco had a dream where St. Dominic Savio showed him all the souls he might have helped to bring to Heaven but even his efforts and faith were not strong enough.  One of the saints said that the thing Heaven and Hell have in common is that everyone says “I don’t deserve to be here.”

I for one know I could and should do much more for God.

I spent years reading books on apparitions.  I’ve always been conflicted on the “Three Days of Darkness,” yet it seems to match up not just with the prophecies of so many saints and approved visionaries but of many secular and Protestant ideas (the “zombie apocalypse,” for example).

Any Cradle Catholic who’s paid attention to their grandparents or “pious old Church ladies” has at least heard of it.  The prophecy is that, in a time such as ours, when the world and the Church herself fall into sin and rebellion and division, God will reveal Himself through various signs and plagues like those of Egypt, and one of the first will be three days of complete darkness (volcano? EMP?) when no lights will work except for the light of blessed beeswax candles.  One candle will last the three days and light a home, but it will only burn in the homes of those who are in a presumptive state of grace.  It will be the inverse of the “Rapture” as understood by Protestants: those who are in sin will be confronted by their sin and by demons and die.  Reanimated corpses will torment the godly in their homes, so doors and windows should be locked and covered, and protected with sacramentals.  Though it’s always struck me as a bit superstitious, too many signs are being fulfilled to not at least be prepared in spirit and in sacramentals:
https://www.cukierski.net/collections/spiritual-goods-collection

Want to stop school shootings? Ban contraception

Teenagers would have been considered adults 100 years ago.
Today, our “culture” coddles biological adults and keeps extending childhood. It’s difficult for those brainwashed by the media and public schools to think outside the box, as it were, but Americans live for self-centeredness and “I don’t wanna grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!” Thinking.

Thus, teenagers and now twentysomethings are “just kids” when their bodies are telling them to get married and have kids of their own. Artificial birth control severs the connection of sex, marriage and procreation. Then sex, the primordial sacrament, as CS Lewis calls it, becomes supposedly a form of casual recreation, with people denying the deep physical and spiritual bond it creates between persons.

People engage in sexual relationships without the protection of marriage, “break up,” and are left with emotional wounds that get aggravated by the person “moving on”–same with serial divorce and remarriage–and then express that frustration in varying degrees of anger.  

Abortion becomes a back up to failed contraception and, along with the media, teaches kids that human beings can be eliminated if inconvenient to their ambition or pleasure. My father saw this decades ago in his students’ inability to understand why characters in literature felt guilt or trepidation about murder and said it wouldn’t be long before kids were shooting each other in school. All of these consequences were warned about by GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, TS Eliot and Pope Paul VI, among others.

 

Detraction: What it is and isn’t

I read an article about a celebrity who’s Catholic who had a personal conversion experience a few years ago and has been taking his faith more seriously.  I can be vague because it seems in recent years we’ve been happily seeing quite a few celebrities who are either converts or “reverts” to Catholicism.  And, as a celebrity, this person has a “past,” and I think such behavior is taken for granted among celebrities.

Meanwhile, some people seem to be relishing in allegations by various women that they had adulterous relationships with the current President at a time be professes to have really “found Jesus” and that were as “consensual” as a relationship with a married billionaire can be, so really no worse, sadly, than many presidents and at least not as bad as some presidents who’ve been accused of rape.  Thus, it seems appropriate to talk a bit about detraction.

There is a big difference between the “Known Sinner” coming back from the parabolic Pig Sty, and the “Righteous” who speak in hypocrisy.  So the reaction when a “Known Sinner” repents should be one of “Hey, good for you! Keep it up!”  If a person is going around saying, “I’m a good Catholic” and then sleeping around or doing drugs or gossiping or whatever, then perhaps it would be “objectively good reason” to point out their hypocrisy, but otherwise, to poi

Detraction: it’s a sin that, on the one hand, is far too common and we all fall into very easily, with or without the Internet.  On the other hand, it’s a sin people with a few thin lines.  According to the Catechism, one is guilty

“of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them” (CCC 2247).

An ambiguity in our day lies in the fact that there’s so much detraction and calumny in the media that most of us know very quickly about things, so for the average person, the secondary principle is often moot, though that’s one very good reason to avoid the “news.”

Then there’s the question of an objectively valid reason, which has two sides: if the goal is purely to destroy someone’s reputation, then it’s definitely sinful, and that is one of the problems with elected versus hereditary or appointed governance: our system is supposed to based upon deciding which candidate one believes shares ones values and is of the best character. That, contrary to what many think, is the point of the Electoral College: we’re supposed to meet our electors personally and get to know them at literal “political parties,” and the electors are supposed to personally know the presidential candidates.  Still, “I’m the best man for the job” often degrades to “I’m the lesser of two evils,” as it has from pretty much the beginning of the US:


I have always believed that character counts in an election, and I have always believed that people should vote for the candidate on their ballot who best reflects their views (I usually draw the line, literally, at “write ins,” unless it’s a local election with only one name).

The tensions of the last election strained and in some cases ended many relationships for me, like everyone else–and ironically for me it was mostly other conservatives because, even to the last minute, I could not bring myself to vote for Donald Trump.  I voted for Castle.  Had I been in another state, I might have voted for a different third party candidate, but as far as I’m concerned, one candidate was a Northern liberal who supported gay marriage and socialized medicine, and the other was Hillary Clinton.  One candidate was a rich, white racist and warmonger, and the other was Donald Trump.

I’m immensely relieved Clinton is not president, and until he and the GOP failed to merely defund Planned Parenthood, much less actually do anything for Personhood, I’d have said they were doing a fairly decent job, and I’m considering voting for him next time.

The cry of Republicans today, like that of Democrats in the early 1990s, is, “We’re electing a president, not a pastor.”  I believe character matters because a politician should be trustworthy.  If I’m electing someone based upon my convictions, I want to know that person shares my convictions.  In theory, at least, we want someone who’s relatively honest, able to keep a vow, emotionally stable, etc.

And it should definitely matter if someone in office is accused of an actual felony–the reason “high crimes and misdemeanors” is worded like that is to say that “character counts.”  The Founding Fathers intended for impeachment to be applied more generously than it has been, to put the Office above the Officeholder.

So it would not, then, be detraction to point out the sins of a public official–if it were, John the Baptist and most of the other Prophets would be guilty.  Indeed, Leviticus tells us that the entire people bear the guilt of the sins of their leaders.

Still, we knew Donald Trump was an adulterer before he was elected.  He was not, as far as I’m aware, accused of any crimes, and he has not been accused of adultery or sexual harassment that allegedly occurred recently.  Yet some people continue to harp on allegations made by different women to a degree that I would argue constitutes detraction, since their goal is mainly to impugn his character more than to discuss his qualifications to be president.

Indeed, the most potentially criminal allegations against Trump have been made, via that infamous recording, by Trump himself, and he has publicly admitted to and acknowledged his past sins about as honestly as a public figure can do without fleeing to a monastery afterwards.  It arguably help him.  I know it was the main reason I considered changing my vote.

Now, getting back to the main topic, one thing I have always struggled with is the Church’s insistence on avoiding scandal by not discussing past sins.  In her Life, St. Teresa of Avila talks about a habitual sin she struggled with.  She says it came from reading fairy tales and adventure stories.  She says it was something that made her a very bad nun and caused her father to almost disown her at one point, but that she never did anything to dishonor her family.  She says it’s a sin many people struggle with, and she wished she was permitted to be open about it because it could help others who struggle with the same sin.  And yet people always say, “Oh, it was just scrupulosity.”  Now, Therese of Lisieux was definitely scrupulous, but I think Mother was being as honest as she could about an actual bad habit.

When Mary and I did our Engaged Encounter, one of the couples leading the retreat were as we expected to be in a few years–and pretty much were.  They were a vibrant young Northern Virginia, JP2-era, Catholic couple who met on a cruise, spend 2 weeks together, got engaged the first time they saw each other after the cruise, and got married as soon as they’d gone through their 6 months.

The other couple were middle-aged, and they had a palpable tension between them.  I could sense from the start that something major had happened in their relationship–not just the comfort of years but an actual rift that they’d had and healed from.  Throughout their various talks, they eventually said that they’d had a serious rift they’d had to heal from and eventually that the husband had committed adultery.  And it became a profound story of forgiveness and healing.

If a couple were standing there, talking about marriage and *not* admitting to such problems, that would be hypocrisy.  Saying, “I sinned, and Jesus forgave me, and my [wife/parents/kids/friends/whomever] forgave me for sinning against them” is not hypocrisy and should not be considered scandal–it’s testimony.