Friday, 1 April 2011

"You're just being dogmatic..."

The Church is built on St Peter, first Pope
In conversation with a Catholic recently, a Catholic working in a lay ministry, I was accused of being "dogmatic" and being "black and white" for defending the Church's position on abortion.

In what had started out as a fairly tame discussion, it suddenly became a 'Taliban' Catholic Vs 'Progressive' Catholic showdown. What it really amounted to was a microcosm of the ongoing struggle within the Church to claim the soul of the Church belonging to Christ. While we as Her members may not always be faithful to Her teachings, in as much as we fall short of the Glory of God, our Holy Mother, the Church, is not 'easy'. In a Church in which we all fumble around for truth and virtue in our own lives, She, at least, stands firm, resolute and pure and so rightly, justly we cleave to Her.

As some may have noticed on my blog, I don't actually enjoy showdowns. I enjoy writing about the Faith, but I don't really enjoy quarreling. More than anything, it distresses me that I should be quarreling with another Catholic over Catholic teaching. It just seems so surreal. The dialogue ended peacefully enough, it is just that what took place between the start and end of it was so weird. On the issue of abortion, she claimed that a poor woman could obtain an abortion because she was poor and that wouldn't be a sin and she wouldn't be "damned" for doing so. By upholding the Church's teaching on abortion, I was, in her words, "dogmatic" and "black and white". I didn't say that the hypothetical poor woman would be damned (though such a sorry situation does make it a stark possibility), rather, I told the said lady that in Confession we are called upon not to make excuses for ourselves, but to be "black and white" with regard to our sins. Our confessions should be humble in admitting our personal faults, our sins.

She seemed to believe that Truth is cruel, rather than liberating - in what the Church understands as the Caritas in Veritate of Jesus Christ - who is Truth and Love. This is, after all, the Man, the Divine Founder of the Church, Who said "The truth shall set you free". I told her that we don't do anyone any favours in denying the known Truth. I told her that God desires the salvation of souls, that the Church rescues sinners, rather than condemns us and that that is Her mission - to preach the Gospel and to save souls. I was so shocked that we were having this conversation - that is, two Catholics - that I asked her, "Are you really a Catholic?" on more than one occasion.

She asked me whether I had considered joining one of the 'charismatic' movements in the Catholic Church. I don't really know much about the 'charismatic' movement within the Church, but was led to believe that if this lady was anything to go by, these movements which are so 'hot' on faith but so 'lukewarm' or 'tepid' on the actual Teaching of the Church should perhaps best be avoided. I don't know what the 'charismatic' movements are really like. I told her I'd been involved in one or two small groups within the Church, in London and that I suspected the majority of 'charismatic' movements in the Church of being somewhat Protestant. She told me I was being "dogmatic" and "black and white". On that point she may have been right. I'm sure there are some good 'charismatic' movements in Holy Mother Church, somewhere. Mea culpa. Still, that didn't stop me asking her, one more time, "Are you sure you're a Catholic?"

While I began to suspect the lady might be an 'HRTK', she asked me to look into the psychological condition of being 'HSP'. It means that I am a 'highly sensitive person.' I'll admit that on upholding the Magisterium to dissenting Catholics, I can become what she termed a 'highly sensitive person'.  In response, I asked her if she would psycho-analyse the Pope, because I just believe what he believes. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, for believing that, I am a "dogmatic", "black and white", "highly sensitive person".  She looked at me like believing faithfully all that the Church teaches and professes as revealed by God is something I needed to be healed of by seeing a counsellor or something. I did try to draw her attention also to the excellent work of the Good Counsel Network, who assist many poor expectant mothers in their pregnancy dilemmas, offering real, concrete support to those in need, but she seemed non-plussed about it. It all felt very weird, but, I guess, it is not so strange nowadays for two Catholics to disagree over abortion.


Anonymous said...

The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut. Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many other animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.
GK Chesterton.

I should carry on being dogmatic, Laurence.

PaulineG said...

Presumably by seeking to assign you to the 'charismatic' box this lady could also assign your views to this sub-category of Catholicism to which she need not subscribe.

Dilly said...

You may be sowing a seed in her mind that will take root, and be activated later on. Soldier on.

georgem said...

When you say "lay ministry" can you explain what that means, please? I am not sure what it involves.

The Bones said...

Lay 'pastoral care'. I can't say any more I'm afraid.

Adulio said...

That Catholic lay minister (whatever that is) needs to take some Catechism classes.

Patricius said...

There is nothing wrong with being dogmatic. Rather would I say that someone who supports abortion is altogether lacking in charity.

Unknown said...

Why not just show her the evidence?
Surely this is the most effective way of looking at it objectively:

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