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Living Among the Pharisees

By Deal W. Hudson
4/15/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In my 30 years in Catholic journalism, I have never encountered such breathtaking arrogance.

I will not quote directly from the article - there is no need to infect readers with the Phariseeism pervading Ruse's psychological/spiritual analysis of Thomas Williams. The readers can judge for themselves. I've been the target of similar, and worse, invective from self-appointed Catholic accusers  -- such as Ruse, which I've always ignored and just done my work. But when someone goes out of his way to make life harder for a man who is trying to put his life back together after years of humiliation I cannot ignore it.  There are few actions I can think of that are further from the spirit of Pope Francis than Ruse's public intrusion into the life of Thomas Williams.

Christ Before the High Priest

Christ Before the High Priest

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/15/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Crisis Magazine, Austin Ruse, Deal W. Hudson, Thomas Williams


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - A few days ago Crisis Magazine, which I once led for 15 years, published an article, "Thomas Williams Agonistes" by Austin Ruse. The article was removed the same day it appeared.  I don't know why the editors at Crisis took it down - but it should have never been published in the first place.  In my 30 years in Catholic journalism, I have never encountered such breathtaking arrogance.

Thomas Williams was once a well-known priest in the Legionaires of Christ.  He left the priesthood and eventually married the woman with whom he had fathered a child. The scandal was obvious, and Williams dealt with it honestly and without excuse. Time has passed, and Williams was recently hired by Inside the Vatican as a contributor.  Austin Ruse, who calls himself a friend of Williams, took it upon himself to decide whether or not Williams should be allowed to continue serving the Church.

I will not quote directly from the article - there is no need to infect readers with the Phariseeism pervading Ruse's psychological/spiritual analysis of Thomas Williams. The readers can judge for themselves. I've been the target of similar, and worse, invective from self-appointed Catholic accusers  -- such as Ruse, which I've always ignored and just done my work. But when someone goes out of his way to make life harder for a man who is trying to put his life back together after years of humiliation I cannot ignore it. 

There are few actions I can think of that are further from the spirit of Pope Francis than Ruse's public intrusion into the life of Thomas Williams. What makes Ruse's article even more pernicious is that he would have you believe that his willingness to green light Williams' association with Inside the Vatican makes Ruse look like he's a good guy, willing to forgive this poor sinner. 

When the Pharisees picked up stones to throw at a woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus said to them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8.10). This verse is so familiar its message of radical forgiveness can be forgotten, especially when there are new occasions to use your role as a Catholic leader to either award or deny your Catholic seal of approval on a sinner whose sins have made headlines. 

A Pharisee never sees himself as throwing a stone, a Pharisee always sees himself as protecting the standards of his faith, keeping his community of faith from harm.  His intentions may be good - who knows - but the Pharisee, if unchallenged, only infects his community with enmity. 

These words of Jesus Christ go to the heart of the matter, but bear in mind that no Pharisee ever sees himself as the one being addressed:

Judge not, that you may not be judged,
For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?
Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye?
Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5)

It may be that the editors of Crisis just let the Ruse article slip by, at least I hope so. Or it may be that some attentive readers objected to bald-faced  Phariseesim being allowed a voice in an otherwise valuable Catholic mouthpiece. That's the function of an editor, to save his magazine and his authors from embarrassment, even if an author wants to embarrass himself.  Editors have to learn how to say, "No"!

Ruse's nonsense is representative of a wider problem in the pro-life movement, among so-called conservative Catholics, and all those who are on the side of traditional values. Those who serve on the front lines of these battles can easily come to think of themselves as the only men left holding back the surge of moral disarray and decline.  How easily we forget, "seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?"

Thomas Williams will continue to serve the Church, and because of all he has suffered, due to his own actions, his future years of service will be infused with a greater humility and compassion.  When faced with a man or woman who has fallen, who has not lived up to the standards they have professed, Williams will not feel any impulse to judge them, refuse them entry back into the community, he will want only to offer his help.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

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Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

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