Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

False cliches

Cliches are usually truths that occur just frequently enough that we tire of hearing them, right? Same with stereotypes, which, as unPC as it is to say, are also rooted in reality.

Here are some popular cliches that vex my spirit. Some appear on bumperstickers, others just sort of float around the cultural ether:

"And eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Mahatma Gandhi.

Sorry, Bapu, but this ain't so. The lex talionis, while having been re-framed and superseded by Jesus, is scriptural and did the wooly world of ancient Israel a lot of good in the order-keeping and self-defense departments. By this reasoning, no one should have taken up arms against Hitler or any other unjust aggressor. To his credit, Gandhi was at least consistent in calling for Jews to use passive non-violent resistance with the Nazis. (I personally think the Nazis would have found that hilarious.)

"God has not called me to be successful; he has called me to be faithful."
- Bl. Mother Teresa

I know, I know this is taboo territory. First, I completely agree with the original context of this saying of Mother Teresa's. She meant that we should leave the final results of our efforts to God and not be too concerned with ego-driven "success" -- the whole "be a pencil in God's hand" thing, which is true and profound. But...this slogan has been taken to mean excusing poor performance and being satisfied with mediocrity ("Oh well, God calls me to be faithful, not successful!" Sorry, but in a legitimate sense God does call us to be successful, at least insofar as we're called to strive for excellence, precision, good project planning, etc. I don't think success, per se, is some worldly thing to be feared, as long as we know Who is in charge. How can a blase attitude toward low standards be pleasing to our Lord, or do us any good?

"I'm spiritual, not religious."
- Every lapsed Christian in history

I'm sure you've heard this one a zillion times. Not only is it a completely false dichotomy, it gives the flattering impression that the speaker is somehow superior. Ironic, that. Religion, so says this cliche, is rigid, spirituality (never defined) is flexible; religion is narrow, spirituality is broad-minded; religion judges, spirituality accepts; religion is machismo, spirituality is the true feminine; religion is backward represents limit, spirituality is progressive and represents openness. I can't take it! I always imagine that the deity worshiped by the Spiritual People is a non-threatening, all-nice Nerf Force in the sky who looks like this man:

Which cliches do you love to loathe, and why?


Anonymous Lao Tzu said...

Wayne Dyer has his head up his Tao.

5:20 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

I'm thinking that's not much better than getting his Tao stuck in a lathe.

12:11 PM

Blogger boinky said...

my favorite cliche is that the gospel means doing something that is "in" this year...this year it is the environment, but racism, opposing the military, preferential option for the poor, the need for us to do social action etc.

I usually write back and say that sometimes "taking care of the least of our brethren" means getting up at 2am to feed the baby, and feeding the hungry might mean making enough food for your teenager and his five friends.

Oh yes: I'm an ex missionary and a doctor, so if they give me lip for ignoring the poor, I just tell them so...

1:40 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

Exactly, Dr. B. Or how about equating the Gospel with the social platform of the Democratic Party?

Or saying, "I'll pray about it" when the real answer is no?

3:28 PM

Anonymous Liam said...

Dear Patrick,
How about Pope Paul VI's exhortation, "If you want peace, work for justice," which got bastardized during the Los Angeles riots by Maxine Waters and her ilk and became the chant, "No justice, no peace!"

4:36 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Good point, Liam. I couldn't help notice the negative "ilk" again, however. It would be so nice if you could admit that the word is pejorative, and that using it in reference to the Holy Father says something about your theo-liturgical viewpoint. You already said it's merely shorthand, but I'm not buying it. You'd never use it for someone you loved or admired.

Then again, I have no way of knowing if Liam is just Anon remasked.

9:35 PM

Anonymous Liam said...

Dear Patrick,
To me, "ilk" is not so much a pejorative as much as a way saying "those of the same mindset". I remember studying heraldry and seeing arms that signified this or that "sire" and his" ilk." I haven't looked it up but I think it simply means "of the same or similar kind."

I would use it to describe Father Richard McBrien and his ilk as much as I would o describe me and my ilk. (My "ilk" being passionately "moderate" Catholics who hold to the Magisterium and eschew such labels as "liberal," "progressive," "conservative," and "traditionalist."

12:19 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

Ah, the great "passionate moderates" of history. As oxymorons go, that takes the cake.

Like I said, liberals flee being called such.

9:09 AM

Anonymous Liam said...

Dear Patrick,
The reason I eschew the terms liberal, progressive, conservative, traditionalist, (and their ilk) is that these are completely meaningless when it comes to the Church. What matters is that we hold positions that are completely Catholic, i.e., in conformity with the Magisterium of the Church.

Part of the reason for the meaninglessness of the above terms is because they simply confuse issues. We are against all procured abortions and this is considered politically conservative, but it is actually extremely liberal for we seek to widen accessibility to all human rights, most significantly the right to lufe, for all human beings especially the unborn.

We uphold the state's right to capital punishment but tell the state that the cases in which it might be morally justified are so rare as to be virtually non-existent. This, in the political order, is considered to be liberal.

We teach that homosexuals must not be subject to unjust discrimination and then further hold that marriage is, by definition, a union of one man and one woman and that this is not unjust discrimination against gays who seek to "marry" members of their own sex. So are we liberal (supporting equal rights for all people) or conservative (asserting that there is no right to "gay marriage")?

One could go on and on pointing out the ways that being authentically Catholic defies the labels of the political sphere.

To be passionately moderate, to me, means to stand with the Holy Father and the bishops in communion with him, the Magisterium. So, yes, I flee from the label "liberal" and "conservative."

If you want to label me, just call me Catholic.

6:18 PM

Blogger Patrick said...


That's all great. "Catholic" ought to be sufficient nomenclature. I agree. My remark has to do with your belief -- repeated many times in the face of contrary scriptural and magisterial evidence -- that "human beings are sacred" with no qualifications, and your general "spirit of Vatican II" tone-deafness to Quintero's humorous point about moving the congregation off to a side chapel.

You have a habit of wrapping yourself in the cloak of "passionately moderate orthodoxy" complete with references to scholastic ends, Aristotle, et al, yet you keep slipping into left-leaning mushiness. It's not liberal advocacy altogether; more like a lack of interest in maintaining catechetically vital distinctions, such as, oh, let's see about the difference between the substantially unique Real Presence and the presence of Jesus in Scripture or the inherently sacred beings you call the people. You blend where the Church differentiates. IMHO, you evince, by the objections you side step or the presuppositions you live by, a set of sympathies that are best termed liberal - even if you're 100% pro-life, you support the all-male priesthood, and have been axed from a paper for being too conservative.

I am officially tired of the debate. No longer worth chasing down. You jumped the shark at Q's blog.

You wrote: "Pastorally, I think Cardinal Mahony and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' approach to ministry with homosexual Catholics is excellent. It is very Christ-like in accepting and loving gay Catholics where they are but challenging them to grow as Christians in the spiritual life, striving for the chastity the Gospel expects of all of Jesus' disciples."

I guess you're not joking! "Excellent," eh? It's easy to cut and paste website propaganda, but you obviously don't know what you're talking about. You just lost the bulk of your credibility, "Liam." Examples are legion, although I'm sure you'll find some way of dancing away from inconvenient facts:

* The LA Archdiocese takes a dim view of Courage, the leading support group for people with SSAD. You'll look in vain for any national Courage conference held in Los Angeles, ever. The Cardinal has warmly welcomed the Rainbow Coalition (can you say, disrupt the Mass?) despite that group's vociferous rejection of the hard teachings of the Church on sodomy.

* The literature from the "gay and lesbian ministry" office, the "pastorally sensitive" book written by Peter Luizzi, OCarm (former Los Angeles "gay and lesbian ministry" head who was suddenly shuffled off to Phoenix) -- 99% of it that I have seen is remarkably adept at shifting, avoiding, fudging, manipulating, selectively obeying, and befuddling the reader. One thing that is NOT stressed is the gospel requirement of chastity, except as lip service.

* The Archdiocese's annual Religious Ed Congress (aka "Congress" aka Heresy Fest) is a showcase opportunity for dissenters on all aspects so Catholic teaching, with pro-gay being a consistent favorite. Orthodox speakers who make it under the radar or who are invited as a token "conservative" are quickly disinvited forever (ask Father Benedict Groeschel to take one example).

* The Archdiocesan website is designed and maintained by Deacon Eric Stolz, a self-labelled "gay urbanite" who was ordained by the Cardinal in 2004. Check out Q's blog for info on Dcn. Stolz's posted homilettes. Let's just say they're fabulous.

Readers who live here, or who otherwise know the facts about the pro-homosexual track record of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, will make their own conclusions about where you stand, "Liam."

1:01 PM

Anonymous Liam said...

Gee, suggested that I come over to your blog spot and so I did. I'm sorry if I have offended you and I will certainly cease and desist.

I don't understand why we cannot agree to disagree but in an agreeable fashion.

Do you think the relationship between Courage and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (who advocates changing homosexuals) might have anything to do with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles sponsoring its own ministry to gay and Lesbian Catholics rather than subscribing to Courage?

You make Fr. Petere Liuzzi's transfer to the Diocese of Phoenix sound so far as I know, he resigned from the gay and Lesbian office in L.A. and was assigned by his provncial superiors to the Carmelite parish in the Diocese of Phoenix. If there's more to it than that, I'd be interested to learn about it.

2:42 PM

Anonymous Liam said...

Dear Patrick,
I never go to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress any more because I think it is way too feminized and has too many speakers whom I consider out of the mainstream. I am not a fan of Sister Edith Prendergast and her ilk.

Having said that, I don't go along with Mr. Fisher and his ilk who picket the Congress every year. I agree with the statement the Archdiocese issued several years back that says that the Catholics who attend the Congress are adult catechists who can discern what the Church teaches and that, in all cases, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the norm against which everything else at the Congress must be measured.

And I don't care for the liturgical dancers either, but I am not so doctrinaire as to say that such dancing is forbidden by the Church. I just don't care for it or for liturgical music that seems fixated on "us" rather than focused on the Trinity.

So, I just don't go.

2:52 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Dear "Liam:"

"Way too feminized" and "out of the mainstream" are odd ways to describe what's really wrong with the Congress: heterodoxy validated and promoted in Cardinal Mahoney territory. The theological concept of "mainstream" was invented to justify all manner of dissent.

You haven't offended me. You have just proven impossible re: beneficial dialogue or debate. Which is why I'm out of the game. Attempts at pinning you down to simple principles is like trying to pin down mercury. In your replies to myself and to Q, you avoid direct answers, you go off on arcane philosophical (often off-topic) subjects, all the while showing yourself as someone who is unwilling to admit that he (she?) is uninformed. To be 100% descriptive, your description of the LA gay/lesbian ministry as excellent is a joke, and one that only makes sense if A) you're ignorant of the situation but prefer to sound knowledgable or B) you're homosexual and find the program wunnderful. I'm fine with either A or C, and I'm sure there's a C, but I can't think of it right now.

You mention Joe Nicolosi. I am unaware of the formal relation between him and Courage. But I see nothing wrong with wanting to restore normal heterosexual desire to someone wounded and struggling against same-sex attractions. It's what his CLIENTS want, and it often succeeds with hard therapeutic work, much healing of the relationship with the same-sex parent, and the establishment of a habit of repentance and prayer. Reparative therapy, according to friends with firsthand knowledge, forces no one to be or do anything.

Someone as devoted to the magisterium as you should hardly object to this worthy, and humanly possible, goal. Courage focuses on the battle of chastity and gives people with SSAD a network of loving, and orthodox Catholic support; and therapists like Dr. Nicolosi focus on the clinical dynamics that lie behind homosexual behavior with a view to full or partial healing of a disordered inclination. The fact that the Cardinal feels the need to personally get behind (can I use that metaphor?) other alternative "pastoral options" speaks volumes.

Nicolosi is not some strange ultra-conservative nutcase for recognizing that the homosexual orientation is neither fixed nor final. Dr. Charles Socarides, Dr. Elizabeth Moberly, Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse, Leanne Payne, Father B. Groeschel, Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, MD, Gerard J.M. Van Den Aardweg, PhD, Hymie Rubenstein, PhD, Conrad Baars, MD, and many others come to the exact same conclusion. The story of Rev. Mario Bergner's FULL healing from a radically gay lifestyle is particularly compelling and inspiring per his book "Setting Love In Order."

Jesus Christ is not content to "accept people where they're at." He is the Healer par excellence and is quite able to do the seemingly impossible with even inveterate sinners.

Regarding Fr. Luizzi, well, his ouster was contemplated by authorities in the LA Chancery according to published emails; his long time housemate Father Dominic Savino, OCarm, was booted from his post as president of Crespi High School for credible allegations related to the diddling of minors under his care. (The Hispanic neighbors in Encino expressed great surprise that they two were even priests -- the two were mistaken for a committed couple, as the parlance now goes.) These are facts in the public record. But hey -- you're probably right -- just unfortunate timing! He probably always wanted a nice Phoenix placement since forever.

Of course the adult catechists who attend the Congress are fine -- they're sacred! But that's not really the point. The point is that the whole event is a scandal that should be retired and replaced with something solid and orthodox -- it's not like the country has no top-tier Catholic teaching talent. Start that list with Scott Hahn Peter Kreeft, and Janet Smith -- all personae non grata in the all-sacred eyes of Congress organizers.

You may not like Mr. Fisher's approach (I'm not a big fan of communication by placard myself) but at least he's doing something.

For the record, I know you aren't so doctrinaire as to say that liturgical dance is forbidden by the Church, but liturgical dance is, in fact, forbidden by the Church. I thought the "adult catechists" who attend the Congress are quite able to discern BS from Catholic teaching knew this. I guess being sacred doesn't provide full immunity from the effects of heresy subtly dolled up as Catholic teaching -- excuse me, "gospel values."

Since each Congress sees a new bevy of liturgical showgirls, its unlikely that any complaints are registered. But according to the 1975 document from the Holy See (which has never been amended or invalidated by subsequent papal or curial documents) liturgical dance introduced "one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements" leading to "an atmosphere of profanity, which would easily suggest to those present worldly places and profane situations. Nor is it acceptable to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because it would reduce the liturgy to mere entertainment" (Notitiae 11 [1975] 202–205).

This is all the more applicable when the dancer is a Brittany Spears wannabe or a chubby nun in a unitard.

Over and out.

11:47 PM


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