Monday, August 27, 2012

Righteous Anger (from Fr. Rutler)

Here's the link I promised late last week to Fr. Rutler's piece on Anger.

I love Fr. Rutler's writings. He harnesses our conflicts with sin, sloth, cowardice and ego and reveals our flaws with an accuracy that is startling.

He penetrates, and there is so much substance, I always find myself reading what he's written numerous times.

When I read it last week, I wondered if he has personally addressed our little problem with Cardinal Dolan. Picked up the phone. Sent his piece over to the Chancery in an overnight package marked "URGENT".

The reality is, righteous acts are retaliated against. Addressing the useful idiots in the bureaucracy of our Chanceries has consequences that blockade the salvation of souls. Corruption and cowardice flourishes in the temperance and prudence necessary to feed the lambs.

Anyway, I highly recommend reading the piece if you have not done so already.

Now then, there is a problem and it is this: the notion that the antidote to sinful anger is timidity. No saint, naturally placid or aggressive, makes that mistake. “God has not given us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) The cure for both kinds of sinfulness, angry and timid, is the virtue of courage. St. John Chrysostom wrote to Timotheus: “For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair of being unable to quench the flame which he had kindled by so many evil doings; but since the Divine nature is passionate, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, He does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving kindness; wherefore it behooves us to be of much courage, and to trust in the power of repentance.”

I do not know which is worse: sinful anger, which thinks that it is just, or timidity, which thinks that it is charitable. In our media-conscious culture, timidity easily takes the form of affected joviality, hoping to diffuse tension by amiability: a hug and a slap on the back and then let the “dialogue” begin. That may work with victims of evil but not with the minions of the Evil One himself. Prophecy is not birthed by Hegelian synthesis. During his forty days in the desert, our Lord never joked in the hope of charming the dark and brooding spirit who can only laugh at others and never with them. The soldiers put a funny hat on Christ, but he made it a crown. His benignity destroyed Satan’s burlesque. Anyone in a position of moral authority who thinks he might diffuse the tension between good and evil by playing the minstrel, only signals his own insecurity. That would be like the Queen of England wearing a Groucho nose at the opening of Parliament. Laughter is a medicine but it can also been an opiate, and when someone is constantly laughing there must be a deep disquiet when the lights go out. Hilaire Belloc, never to be confused with a Smile Button, wrote: “We sit by and watch the Barbarian, we tolerate him; in the long stretches of peace we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond: and on these faces there is no smile.”

Commenting on our Lord’s Eucharistic declaration that he is the Bread come down from heaven, Pope Benedict XVI recently said that Jesus knew exactly was he was doing in addressing the crowd “to break their illusions and, especially, force his disciples to decide.” St. Paul wanted Timothy to be temperate, but never a man pleaser. Timidity is not charity. It is distraction from danger. On the Titanic, some passengers noticed bits of ice on the deck, so the band played ragtime a little louder. St. Augustine said, “God does not need my lie.” And of course we also have Churchill’s definition of timidity incarnate: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori was not timid when he counseled: “Even when correcting faults, superiors should be kind.” But his kindness was the engine of his zeal for the first of the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy: to admonish sinners. The Confessors and Martyrs, ancient and new, had only one kind of Anger Management Therapy: kneeling down and saying, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” Then they got up and went to work.

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