"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."


Glenn Reynolds:

Barack Obama:
"Impossible to transcend."

Albert A. Gore, Jr.:
"An incontinent brute."

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
"God damn the Gentleman Farmer."

Friends of GF's Sons:
"Is that really your dad?"

Kickball Girl:
"Keeping 'em alive until 7:45."

Hired Hand:
"I think . . . we forgot the pheasant."

I'm an
Alcoholic Yeti
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

Thursday, April 14, 2011


One of the useful things I learned on my journey from muddled Deist to Roman Catholic is the correct meaning and use of the word "scandal." It's a much more useful and helpful concept than it might seem at first; certainly much more important than I could have imagined. When a non-Catholic seeks to criticize the Church, whether to minimize its influence on public events, or to diminish the weight of its teaching on a moral question, or simply to justify or explain why he is not a Catholic, one very seldom hears, "the Roman Church's claim of authority for the Pope and his Bishops is unsupported by early church Councils or the writings of the Fathers," for example. Instead, one almost always hears, "just look what those priests did, and I'm supposed to rely on them?" or "lots of Catholics use contraception," or "Andrew Cuomo lives with a woman not his wife and he takes (and is permitted to take) Communion!" The giving of scandal takes an individual sin and multiplies it -- scandal is "leveraged" sin, transforming perhaps fatal damage to a single soul into danger to thousands and thousands.

The jumping-off point for this morning's sermon is a piece in Time magazine titled, "Catholic Controversy: Is 'Being' Superior to 'Substance'?" The topic is the new English translation of the Roman Missal. As with any human endeavor, there are criticisms to be made from all "sides." Treating the Latin texts as authoritative, the new translation, in balancing accuracy, understandability, and beauty, weighted accuracy more heavily. Thus, for example, the English word "consubstantial" makes its way back into our Sunday Missal. The argument is made that this word is difficult and unfamiliar, and increases opacity. The counter-argument is made that it is a more correct rendering of the Latin, that the people are not stupid, and if it provides an occasion for some catechesis, that's a good thing.

Inevitably, sides have been drawn, rhetoric has become heated, and unworthy motives ascribed. Without question, some who criticize the new translation are Catholics of that ilk who criticize all things identifiably Catholic, who would be more comfortable in the American Episcopal Church on their way to the bliss of communion with the Church of What's Happenin' Now. Without question, some supporters of the new translation -- critics of the critics -- are crypto-sedevacantists, who have spent their entire adult lives smugly more Catholic than the Pope. But I boldly insist that the overwhelming body of thoughtful Catholics (wherein I confess my aspirations) harbor very mild opinions on the matter, believe that they might learn something from the labor of the translators and, inasmuch as the new translation is approved by both their bishops and by Rome, consider the matter closed.

But this is not what the Gentiles will take away from the article in Time. They will instead come to believe that while Rome is burning, those strange and quaint Catholics are at it again, angrily fiddling over the odd and inconsequential word here or there. That is false. The author, a self-identified Catholic, uncharitably describes the matter so as to leave no question but that any Catholic who has considered this is a fool -- but that's just who Catholics are, and that is just what the Church is: foolish, distracted, and fractured. This goes beyond an individual lack of charity. It is scandal.

All of which reminds me that, on my way to the Nationals game this afternoon, I think I'll stop off for confession, and offer a prayer for the healing of Ryan Zimmerman.


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