Eorum culpa

“O God, I give thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this Republican.”

The passage is a slight update by Timothy Williams at Crisis (here), on the original in Saint Luke. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is among the more biting of Christ’s satires, and an anticipation of what our contemporary Church and her leaders, from popes down, would keep doing. That is, issuing apologies for someone else. Aren’t we Goody Two-Shoes?

As those who have received elementary Christian instruction ought to know, other people’s sins are not our business. We have enough sins of our own to confess, and have performed enough injustices to keep all of our enemies smirking and happy. Trying to apologize for something that e.g. may or may not have been done by our ecclesiastical forebears, one thousand years ago — or have been done by some other faction we frequently disown and despise — does not count for moral purity. Instead it is exemplary of hypocrisy and corruption.

And as Professor Williams, of Steubenville, propounds, the contrast with mediaeval practice is striking. It was typical of men, a thousand years ago, to apologize for their own failures; to look upon their own generation as fallen into filth; and often to compare their own behaviour — unfavourably — with that of their worst enemies.

They could also be ribald, and lively in many other ways. This was an important balancing feature: necessary, I think, to Catholic survival. Having found the mire, we should not sink in it. We need not take counsel of despair. We must maintain a sane appreciation for the fact that, “sin happens”; that it will continue to happen and that the Confessionals are there for a purpose — like shower stalls on the way into church.

If I am right (and I could be, sometimes), the tilt occurred in the Reformation. That is where I first find the fashion emerging, of unctuously apologizing for the other side. It seemed natural for rebels from the Church to distance themselves in this way, from their unworthy ancestors; for Church loyalists to apply the same unction to the rebels — in the course of their respective moral preenings. Though of course, there had been that previous “hermeneutic of rupture,” between East and West, with its legacy of Pharisaical expostulations.

Just yesterday I was saying (at the Thing, here) that it is amazing atheism can survive, in the face of modern scientific discoveries. Today I should like to add it is amazing that the most basic biblical, gospel, Christian principles can be overlooked. But let me not apologize for the people who do this. I do it myself; and ought to be chastised.

Here is where we insert the standard quotation from G. K. Chesterton — that eloquent spokesman for all Christian Dark Ages. To the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” he replied: “I am.”