Anticipating being asked to become involved in something I oppose, an opposition sourced in sound and firmly entrenched Catholic teaching. I recently sought the advice and wisdom of my Deacon, and indirectly, my priest on the matter. After some research, my own and that of those whose wisdom I was seeking, it became more than obvious, and painfully so, that I should not become involved. Though in the end, no one in the CHurch would forbid my involvement, it became clear in my mind that my conscience was going to be a serious roadblock.
A couple of days ago, as expected, I was formally asked about my anticipated involvement and had to tell the person, whom I love and respect dearly, that I could not participate. They were respectful and cordial about it but the pain seemed evident and that of course, caused pain in me as well.
In all honesty, it sucks at times to be faithful.
I give this as background because this morning, I came across Father Robert Barron’s most recent piece where he touches on aspects of this with, as is his style, effective clarity:
For the mainstream of the Catholic intellectual tradition, love is not primarily an emotion, but an act of the will. To love, Thomas Aquinas says, is to want the good of the other. Consequently, hatred is not primarily a feeling, but desiring evil for another, positively wanting what is bad for someone else.
Given this, when is hatred called for? When is hatred morally permissible? The simple answer: never.
God is nothing but love, and Jesus said that we are to be perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect. This is precisely why he told us to love even our enemies, to bless even those who curse us, to pray even for those who maltreat us.
Does this mean that our forebears were obliged to love Hitler and that we are obliged to love ISIS murderers? Yes. Period.
Does it mean that we are to will the good of those who, we are convinced, are walking a dangerous moral path? Yes. Period.
Should everyone love Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner? Absolutely, completely, unconditionally.
But here is where a crucial distinction has to be made: to criticize someone for engaging in immoral activity is not to “hate” that person. In point of fact, it is an act of love, for it is tantamount to willing good for him or her. Once the sense that there is objective good and evil has been attenuated, as it largely has been in our society, the only categories we have left are psychological ones. And this is why, in the minds of many, to question the moral legitimacy of transgenderism is, perforce, to “attack” or “hate” transgendered people.
A very real danger that flows from the failure to make the right distinction in this regard is that moral argument evanesces. If someone who disagrees with you on an ethical matter is simply a “hater,” then you don’t have to listen to his argument or engage it critically. You are permitted, in fact, to censor him, to shut him down.
Sadly, this is what obtains in much of the public arena today: the impugning of motives, the questioning of character, and the imposition of censorship. Just a few weeks ago, two Princeton faculty members, Cornel West and Robert George, had a public debate regarding same-sex marriage, West arguing for and George against. What was so refreshing was that both men, who are good friends, actually argued, that is to say, marshalled evidence, drew reasoned conclusions from premises, answered objections, etc., and neither one accused the other of “hating” advocates of the rival position. May their tribe increase.
Distinctions are called for, furthermore, regarding the word “tolerance,” which is bandied about constantly today. Typically, it has come to mean acceptance and even celebration. Thus, if one is anything shy of ecstatic about gay marriage or transgenderism, one is insufficiently “tolerant.”
In point of fact, the term implies the willingness to countenance a view or activity that one does not agree with. Hence, in the context of our wise political system, each citizen is required to tolerate a range of opinions that he finds puzzling, erroneous, repugnant or even bizarre.
There are lots of good reasons for this toleration, the most important of which are respect for the integrity of the individual and the avoidance of unnecessary civil strife, but it by no means implies that one is obliged to accept or celebrate those perspectives.
Read the whole thing, it’s most worthy, particularly Fr. Barron’s description of that which led him to write the piece.
I hope and pray, and I mean this sincerely, that love and respect for a person can be genuinely expressed, and accepted as such, despite painful decisions made to not engage in something that might communicate the acceptance and/or celebration of, that said something.
I hope and pray, with love and respect.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.