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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weekend Reading

I will be away for yet another long weekend. I will leave you with these passages to mull over. Take them as you will.

"On the one hand there is the question of obedience. On the other hand there is neglect of the poor, a lack of understanding concerning the needy and the poor. Which sin is the greater? Practically everyone would say the second, because everybody gives lip service to the poor when they don't give hand or foot service. But the question of obedience goes back still further, "to man's first disobedience," and to that great obedience, the folly of the cross, "He was obedient unto death." And on just such obedience, such a folly of love, stands the very life of the Church, and the Church is the Body of Christ, which we love. Though the members rend each other in wars and dissentions, still there is no separation of the head from the members, and to love the one is to love the other. Americans hate the word obedience, and the only way to look at it is from the supernatural point of view, not from the natural, because it is often folly. This is not to deny that conscience comes first: one must obey the voice of conscience, one must obey God rather than men, as St. Peter himself was the first to say. And here is one of those delicate problems that drive the rest of the world crazy when they observe the Catholic in his relations to Holy Mother the Church. They point out the scandals in the Church, the mistakes in history, the bad Popes. the Inquisition, the lining up of the Church with temporal power, the concordats, the expediency, the diplomacy, and so on and so on. ...
Guardini said that the Church was the Cross and one could not separate Christ from his Cross. He said, too, that we must learn to live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction and impatience with the Church. We have to suffer and hang our heads at all the accusations made against us. We are all guilty, we all make up the Body of Christ. And we must suffer with bitterness, the Little Flower said, if need be, and without courage, and that is what makes the suffering especially keen. ...
We do know how in the history of the Church, a St. John of the Cross, a St. Teresa of Avila, were always getting around their superiors in one way or another in order to do or effect what they considered necessary for the times. Over and over again in the history of the Church in the lives of the saints there have been these struggles within the Church. We hate to see them used against her. At the same time we have seen, to our grief and shame, priests and prelates sitting on the platform with a Mayor Hague, and other politicians and receiving no rebuke from the Chancery offices of their diocese. ...
Yes, God is making a point no doubt, and using Father Duffy with all his faults to do it. But in saying this we do recognize that besides this problem there is that other. We recognize and accept the authority of the Church as we do that of Christ himself. Our Holy Father the Pope is our dear sweet Christ on earth, as St. Catherine called him, even when she was pointing out with the liberty of a saint, how wrong he was at the time, in his conduct of temporal affairs. We accept the authority of the Church but we wonder why it shows itself in such strange ways. At the same time that Fr. Duffy is corrected ... other priests and sisters, in another state, also engaged in political activity, handing out posters and leaflets to school children and parishioners, to vote for a candidate that favors bingo, are actually directed to that activity by authority rather than corrected for it. We respect the agony of frustration of Fr. Duffy, but at the same time, we remember with St. Paul, "how can they preach unless they be sent." And Fr. Duffy has not been sent. We are obliged to conform to Christ even in Christ's folly. He submitted to the injustices, the mistakes, the crimes committed against Him, and against St. John the Baptist. He submitted even to be termed a lamb led to the slaughter, and He was King of the whole world. Fr. Duffy is a priest, and at his ordination, he placed his hands in the hands of his bishop as a serf does with his liege lord, and promises obedience. It is a symbol of something. It is seeing Christ in the Church. Just as a wife is obliged to see Christ in her husband. We write these things for the instruction of our communist brothers, though they cannot understand the faith which alone makes it possible to hold this view. We, on the other hand, are the laity. We have a freedom not granted to priests who are under orders. If Fr. Duffy is plunging ahead and making mistakes now, it is because we, as lay people have not gone ahead and led the way, working from the bottom up, expressing the longings and aspirations and yes, rebellion, of all the people. He is paying for our sins of omission. Bishop O'Hara once said to Peter Maurin, "Peter, you lead the way, we will follow." The work that we must do, in addition to all the other works of mercy, is to enlighten the laity, to educate, to call attention to the conditions that exist, to arouse the conscience, to start the personalist and communitarian revolution, as Peter used to call it, or the pacifist-distributist-anarchist movement as Bob Ludlow terms it. (The word anarchist is deliberately and repeatedly used in order to awaken our readers to the necessity of combating the "all encroaching" state, as our Bishops have termed it, and to shock serious students into looking into the possibility of another society, an order, made up of associations, guilds, unions, communes, parishes--voluntary associations of men, on regional or national lines, where there is a possibility of liberty and responsibility for all men.). Those are ideas which can be shouted from any platform, and we are hoping that Fr. Duffy will be allowed, by some strange freak of Providence, to go on doing it. ..."
"The Case of Father Duffy"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, December 1949, 1, 4.