Loving Our Enemies

George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc and GK Chesterton
To my horror this morning, I have discovered that what was an internal discussion within The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma has quickly become an open wound with Richard Collins of Linen on the Hedgerow parting ways with the Guild after I encouraged members of this coalition of bloggers towards a more charitable exchange of ideas with each other on the internet - especially on social media.

To trace the history of how we got to this point would take an age and the intricacies of the Guild's issues should remain between the members. I would like, however, to challenge Richard Collin's view of Christian charity which I find as simplistic and black and white as he may perhaps consider mine.

In his stunning post, 'Let me get this straight', Richard highlights infamous murderous dictators from the 20th century and asks whether he is called to love these people or whether he is allowed to loathe them. The first question that arises for me to ask Richard Collins is, 'Can you think of anyone in the Guild who fits the description of a murderous 20th century atheist dictator?'

Richard then cites examples from the Gospel in which Our Blessed Lord calls Herod a 'fox' and sees this in terms of what could be described as an insult. Equally, Richard could cite Our Lord's dealings with the Pharisees who are described as a 'brood of vipers' and 'whited sepulchres'. This overlooks two important aspects of Our Lord's ministry. Firstly, Our Lord was and is God and He could see into the hearts of all his hearers, his enemies and his own disciples. If anybody therefore was well placed to deliver a right and fair judgment on anyone, that person is Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King and Judge of the World.

I think it is fair to say that as Catholics, disciples of the Lord though we may be, unless we are exceedingly holy, we may not be in quite such a position as Our Lord with our brethren. Our Lord was and is without sin, unlike us, and therefore any judgment we give on another Christian may be incomplete and tainted by human prejudice in a way in which Our Lord's Opinion would and could never be because His Judgment alone is Perfect.

Secondly, there is, within the Gospels, a world of difference between Our Lord's condemnation of his enemies and his treatment of his friends and disciples, since they, unlike his enemies, are open to His message, His divinity and His teachings. That does not mean that Our Blessed Lord neglected to correct His Apostles and hearers, for the Lord on one occasion called St Peter the Devil's own when He said, 'Get behind me, Satan!' Yet, again, it must be asked whether, as Catholic bloggers, anything so shocking as ascribing to other members a Satanic disposition has ever been seen. Presumably, even those who take to social media to attack each other's positions on certain matters do not go quite as far as that!

Richard then says that 'there is a long litany of saints who were bad tempered grouches and worse.' This is true, but these were incredibly holy people who, presumably, when they offered correction to others, or insulted others, did so out of the fire of divine charity. It is also worth noting that being bad tempered, or being a grouch is no problem for a Guild - we all have our personalities - what was and is at stake is a credible witness to the Gospel of truth and charity to which we are all called. As chair of the Guild, by urging brother and sister members to a more charitable approach to fraternal correction, it would appear that I have disturbed a hornets nest that was far larger than at first I thought it was.

That Richard has felt need to leave the Guild saddens me greatly, but I am equally astonished that in basically drawing attention to what Bishop Philip Egan had to say on the online activity of Catholics is considered by some to be in some way a limit on their personal freedom. I would argue that if it is really true that within a Guild, if members really did hate and despise one another, mock, ridicule or slander one another, whether that is a Catholic Guild at all. Are Catholics really saying that the Lord's teaching on charity, 'Love one another' is beyond us or in some way not binding on us?

GK Chesteron and Hilaire Belloc were polar opposites to George Bernard Shaw, who during his lifetime expounded some horrendous ideas that even led to admiration for various dictators. I believe his atheism was something pretty extreme and led to his support for socialism. Yet, Belloc and Chesterton were able to meet and to dialogue with Shaw and the three of them, despite a chasm of understanding of life, love, religion, liberty, politics and economics appear to have got on quite well. GK Chesterton, it would appear, did not loathe Shaw even though his moral positions were pretty lamentable on a number of things.

Could Catholic bloggers not take Chesterton as a model and communicate the Gospel to our friends and enemies without fear, without loathing and without the destruction of the reputation of the person? Are we saying, as Catholics, that this is beyond us? I had not wanted to blog about this, since this is a private matter to the Guild, well, it was, until this morning when one of our brethren decided to leave. Pray for him and pray for the Guild. All I was saying, was 'give peace a chance' because if we really take the words of Our Lord seriously, we will, as bloggers, not only speak the truth, but speak it in charity. The following are the words of Our Lord. Surely, unless we believe them and put them into practice, then we are not followers of Him. What has surprised me is that Catholics think they are controversial.

'By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.' 
- Our Lord Jesus Christ


Patricius said…
"Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est!"
Patricius said…
Was it Shaw of whom it was said, "He hasn't an enemy in all the world- and none of his friends like him"?
Richard Collins said…
Good heavens, Laurence, what's all this "Mr Collins" business?
I do apologise for going public when you wanted it restricted to members only but I am stuck with a tablet which I am not used to and, in the hassle overlooked that it was not on your FB entry that you had posted your comments. That said, I see nothing wrong with a healthy debate. You may have overlooked my comment re having several reasons for leaving. Some I am prepared to go into, others, is am not. But let's keep the debate on a mature level.
The Bones said…
I apologise Richard. I will amend it to personal familiarity, I am just so sad you have left the Guild.
viterbo said…
I grew up in a fairly large family so I would say it is certainly possible and even normal to spend a certain amount of time not at all liking someone that one would at the same time commit acts of love for.

Is there anything worse than a buddhist-like equanimity? it's the sort of peace that is peaceful simply because it doesn't give a hoot. the word 'charity' has become so trivialized and 'saccharinized' that it's enough make one wince.

"The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law." If our works towards our neighbour seek the good of his soul - I guess that's good as we can get.
viterbo said…
p.s. as for loathing the obvious nasties of history - it would be creepy not to.
Liam Ronan said…
Well, I recall that the first Epistle of John says at Chapter 5 verse 16:

"He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask, and life shall be given to him, who sinneth not to death.

There is a sin unto death: for that I say not that any man ask."

Just a thought for the mix.
The Bones said…
It sounds to me like people who claimed to love Benedict XVI did not really take on the entireity of his message. Truth and charity are not mutually exclusive.
Andrew said…
I think it was Nassim Nicholas Taleb who said that:

"Every social association that is not face-to-face is injurious to your health"

The internet corrodes happy human relationships. I suggest you organize more pub lunches and get-together days. Seriously.
Anonymous said…
Anyone is free in the Lord to exercise their freedom and not to belong to Guilds or Communist like organisations.

Well done Mr Collins you are free and continue writing your blog and praise God and keep praying for the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church!

Sign of Britishness: Not being able to come out and face the truth face to face because some people prefer screens!