Are You a Ready or an Unready Catholic?
There are many Catholics who are "unready" Catholics, that is, operating under ill advice or bad counsel. They have adopted the counsel of sophists, satanists, or doubt-sowers, and have departed as a result from the teachings of the Church. Their understanding is thus darkened. Modernly, this is particularly true in the area of human sexuality. The solution: turn to the readily-available documents of the authentic Magisterium or teaching authority of the Church, and become "ready" Catholics.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In discussing one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, namely the gift of counsel, St. Bonaventure discusses the problem of bad counsel. "It is not enough to choose a good counselor," he says, one must also be "on guard against an evil counselor." He cites to the Book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (37:7-14) as authority for this point. The evil counsel given by a bad counselor, he observes, darkens the understanding.
St. Bonaventure identifies three kinds of bad counselors and their evil counsel.
The first we might call the sophist. Such a counselor is a distorter of values. This kind of bad counselor is one "who changes great things into nothing." Though St. Bonaventure does not mention it, a corollary to this is that a bad counselor is also one who changes nothing or small things into great things.
Such bad counselors and their evil counsel are not new. In his Apology, Plato has Socrates excoriate the Sophists who were able, through the art of argument, to make the weaker reason stronger and the stronger reason weaker.
Another kind of bad counselor is one who "turns good into evil." We might call this sort of counselor the satanist. The reason for this is that such a bad counselor, wittingly or unwittingly, adopts the attitude of Satan, who as John Milton puts it in his Paradise Lost, believes "Evil be thou my good."
The third kind of bad counselor identified by St. Bonaventure is one who "changes certainty into doubt." We might call this bad counselor the doubt-sower.
What might we call those operating under the evil counsel of sophists, satanists, or doubt-sowers?
Anglo Saxon had a noun for someone operating under the burden of bad counsel: unraed. The man who was operating under good counsel was known as raed. The unraed was a man operating under bad counsel. So, for example, Aethelred II of England was called Aethelred Unraed--known to us as Aethelred the Unready, which is mistranslated. The judgment of the Anglo-Saxon chroniclers was not that King Aethelred was not ready, but that he was unraed, that is, ill-advised or ill-counseled.
There are many Catholics who are "unready" Catholics, that is, operating under ill advice or bad counsel. They have adopted the counsel of sophists, satanists, or doubt-sowers, and have departed as a result from the teachings of the Church. Their understanding is thus darkened. Modernly, this "unreadiness" is particularly true in the area of human sexuality.
The modern world is full of bad counselors and their evil counsel in the area of human sexuality, and if we are unaware of it these evil counselors and their evil counsel tend to get the upper hand. Most of the evil counselors are neo-pagans, and,as T. S. Eliot observed some years ago, this neo-paganism "holds all the most valuable advertising space."
These purveyors of neo-paganism and its bad counsel offer stones when the people need bread, serve snakes instead of fish, and give scorpions in lieu of eggs. (Cf. Luke 11:11-12)
Unfortunately, some of these bad counselors--sophists, satanists, and doubt-sowers--can be found even in the Church's bosom, even in certain places in the hierarchy, where they might be identified as wolves in sheep's clothing. We are expressly warned by our Lord to watch out for such false prophets and teachers. "They come to you in sheep's clothing," He warns, "but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matt. 7:15)
There are some, for example, who publicly disregard or downplay through their silence or by pastoral practice the Church's teaching that same-sex attraction constitutes a disordered attraction--that is, it is unnatural, in no wise an objectively good, desire. There are a number who, in fact, have branded those who point the disorder out and fight against its legitimization via institution (same sex "marriage) as homophobes.
A good counselor, however, will point out that same-sex attraction cannot be characterized as a good. True, while it is not a moral evil so long as it is not acted upon, it is nevertheless an existential or psychological evil of sorts. Just ask anyone who has had to exercise the heroic virtue required to fight against such a desire (particularly if it is strong).
But this is exactly why we have God's grace: to repair fallen nature's disordered desires. Gratia naturam reparavit. Grace repairs nature.
The natural moral law treats the homosexual person with his particular desire like it would any other person burdened with a disordered desire that tends against the good of human sexuality. The Church thus treats all men and women suffering disordered tendencies equally. The only properly ordered sexual desire is one ordered toward the procreation of children within monogamous marriage. The homosexual desire, like other disordered sexual desires, must be fought against by the practice of the virtue of chastity.
Theologically, we know that such a disordered sexual desire exists as an unfortunate effect of the Fall. The general name for such a disordered network of desires is concupiscence. We all suffer from concupiscence (homosexuals are no different from heterosexuals in this regard), though the disorder may manifest itself differently and more strongly from person to person.
Sexual concupiscence, thy name is Legion.
We have other examples of bad counsel in the area of human sexuality in the form of those who espouse--through sophistry of various kinds--to sow doubt about the Church's teaching that those who are divorced and remarried cannot receive communion unless they live chastely, which, under their circumstance means celibately.
Similarly, for a long time we have suffered under bishops and clergy and lay professionals who have been less than zealous in promoting the Church's teaching which, for very sound reasons, prohibits the use of artificial contraception and recognizes its use as mortally sinful and against the natural moral law and right reason. Typically, these sow doubt by suggesting that somehow what is involved is a question of conscience, and not a question of an objective moral law and the obligation to form one's conscience in accordance with objective moral law.
For the "unready" Catholic who wants to be "ready," he or she should go to a good counselor who will provide the good counsel of bread, fish, and eggs, instead of evil counsel of stones, snakes, and scorpions.
For good counsel relating to the use of artificial contraception, one can turn to Pius XI's seminal encyclical on the subject, Casti conubii or Paul VI's courageous Humanae vitae, or the Catechism's handling of it in Paragraphs 2366 through 2372.
For good counsel regarding homosexuality, one can turn to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's various documents, such as its 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, its 1992 Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons, its 2003 Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, or the Catechism's succinct treatment of it in Paragraphs 2357 through 2359.
For good counsel regarding the possibility of communion by the divorced and remarried, one should turn to Pope St. John Paul II's 1981 apostolic exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 84, or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1994 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, or Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, No. 29, or the Catechism's summary of the Church's teaching in Paragraphs 2382 through 2386.
Don't be an unready Catholic. Be a ready Catholic. Read these sources, and internalize their doctrine--that is, make it your own and part of your life--if you have not already.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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