An empowering thought

It has come to my attention that a considerable proportion of the people around me are Heretics. This includes members of my Commentariat; much of the congregation at my church, and up in the choir; people at large in the Greater Parkdale Area; and who knows how many beyond? I believe I may be a Heretic myself, on one doctrinal matter or another, although I am trying to avoid that sort of thing. It then comes to you, gentle reader. Quite frankly, I suspect that you, too, harbour heretical tendencies, much as you might try to conceal them from yourself and from the world. Which leaves God, from Whom nothing can be hidden.

Will we be thrust into Hell for our heretical beliefs, and speculations? (For instance, the belief that Hell is a “myth.”) Call me a heretic, but I doubt it will come to that. There will be, come the end of Time, so many other reasons to thrust us thence, one wonders if our miserable little private opinions will even come into it.

Here is my heterodox thought for this morning. Or perhaps it is orthodox, I stand to be corrected. It is that private heretical notions are inconsequential. Until, of course, they are acted upon. It begins to matter only when one uses one’s private insolence to give one’s public actions some spiritual torque. Acting would of course include, teaching Heresy, when one knows what it is. (Yet another reason why the body of Catholics should be better catechized, especially the priests: to put them on the spot.)

But then, the question of what heresy is, in the moral dimension, comes immediately to mind. I think I know what it is in the intellectual dimension: getting the basic doctrines of the Church wrong. This can be achieved from the purest pig ignorance, but there is such a thing as an heretical frame of mind and intention, in which one wilfully places oneself in opposition to the known teachings, because one considers oneself to be the greater authority. This became the issue front-and-centre in the Reformation, when Christians were instructed (by Heretics) to make themselves the judges of Scripture, Tradition, and more generally of the Faith; then told that their salvation depended in some strange way on their sincerity. We have since had a lot of people going — quite sincerely — very, very wrong.

In other words, the heretical became a public “choice.” To my twisted (or possibly, untwisted) mind, bad things such as abortion-on-demand ultimately depend on that principle of “reform,” in which conscience became dislocated from what I am about to call, Truth. For if you sincerely believe something is permissible, on this view, it must surely be permitted. To do other than permit the demand would abridge the subject’s “freedom,” and our entire definition of “freedom” has itself been publicly adjusted, over the last few centuries, so that it is now indistinguishable from what was formerly known as “licence.”

Verily: “freedom,” and “democracy,” have been the bird calls for a couple of centuries, at least. “Conscience” has been fully atomized. The confusion of bird calls with genuine authority (i.e. what is demonstrably, self-consistently true) explains pretty much everything we see around us.

Heresy matters, because the rationally self-consistent teaching of Holy Church — perceived not merely in the wording of the current official Catechism, but in the weight and consistency of her preaching over two thousand years — is required to order the conscience properly. I am personally against heresy; but it should not matter whether or not I am personally opposed. (It may, however, rather matter whether the pope fully gets it, from time to time.)

My hero (the secret patron of this blog) Nicolás Gómez Dávila observed somewhere that it would be better to have a smaller Church, full of Catholics, than a larger Church, full of let us say, Rotarians. (This was a point the retired Benedict XVI was admirably clear on.) Here I think Dávila was touching, among other things, on the heresy issue. It is, I would add, the same thing with armies. A small army, that knows what it is doing, can easily defeat a large army, that does not know what it is doing. Indeed, this has happened rather often in history. And I am certainly in favour of having the people who are armed with the Sacraments fully conversant with what they are doing.

What is your point this morning, Mr Warren? It is that we should look upon heterodoxy not as a question of salvation in itself. God will know when it crosses a line of no return in the mind and soul of the individual sinner; and we are taught to leave such judgements to Him. Rather, the matter should be considered the other way around. It should be realized that orthodoxy is the positive and empowering good. It is what makes us effective as soldiers, proclaiming the Faith in our actions. Soldiers I say; I said it on purpose. Soldiers as opposed to, say, clowns.