False Courage and Real Selfishness

I have noted several things in the past.

One is that grave sin always cloaks itself in the language of courage. Somebody who wants to be a real son of a bitch always tells himself and those around him that he has the raw guts to do what lesser, weaker, more timid souls are too afraid to do.

Another thing I have noted is that, particularly with the Cult of Trump, accusation is always a form of confession. If you want to know the deepest desires of the Cult, just listen to what it accuses others of planning to do.

Finally, as I have remarked several times, the greatest calamity to befall American conservative Christianity–and above all Reactionary Catholicism–is its nearly infinite capacity for combining bullying pride directed at its victims with butthurt self pity directed at itself.

Behold! The perfect synthesis of it all:

The conviction that having to show some consideration for other people is The Beginning of the End, like the belief that doing so is a mark of cowardice and that Real Catholics have the guts to trample those at risk to grab their Me-Charist is everything wrong with this selfish, bullying cult of aesthetes.

Here’s reality: Those who choose to receive communion in the hand commit no sin because Holy Church permits it and Sacred Tradition shows us there is precedent:

“When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.” – St. Cyril of Alexandria

More than this, Holy Church has a perfect right to legislate that, in time of Pandemic, communion in the hand be the sole manner under which the Eucharist be distributed in order to help protect the lives of the flock.

Any Catholic serious about dying to themselves and living for others should gladly accept this minor inconvenience to their customary piety. (I speak as one who customarily receives on the tongue).

To make war on Holy Church, bullying the vulnerable and those showing them consideration with charges of “cowardice” or, worse, of attempting to persecute those selfish enough to demand communion on the tongue is nothing other than narcissism, not obedience to Christ or love of God or neighbor.

Here’s reality: Jesus Christ told the apostles and their successors, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 18:18).

Those who defy and insult Holy Church for this perfectly legitimate measure undertaken for the good of the flock and of the most vulnerable are not martyrs for the Faith. They are selfish, thoughtless, narcissistic bullies putting others at risk because of a pious aesthetic fetish that is a purely human tradition.

Stop it. Think about somebody besides yourself for a change.


24 Responses

  1. To love your neighbor as yourself -to actually care requires humility, it requires generosity Of heart, and trust in God. Humility means putting others in front of you. Generosity of heart means that our “needs” become secondary or tertiary and that we do so willingly. Trust in God means that we truly believe that he is with us and supporting us as we do each other.
    The hard-hearted “communion in the hand only” crowd seem to have lost the second greatest commandment and having lost that Wouk day seem to have lost the greatest commandment. They have put in the cloaks of the Pharisees and make demands of others. They also seem to forget the concepts of solidarity and subsidarity.

  2. It is very interesting how today’s (Aug 21) Gospel reading is exactly about this. And Bishop Barron’s comment about that Gospel today also contains something that I think should apply to Mark: Loving your neighbour does not always mean being a “nice guy” and never saying things that upset others, or carefully choosing one’s wording when rebuking someone’s wrongdoing to avoid being accused of lacking in charity towards such persons.

  3. Receiving on the tongue was born of a stunted theology that claimed that only the hands of the ontologically-changed ordained were worthy to touch the consecrated host. A deepening understanding of the communal nature of the Eucharist and our common baptismal mission as priest, prophet and king should move us beyond this affectation.

    1. Yes, you are correct. A thought I have had often but never really dared put in writing was that I don’t suppose that, during the Last Supper, Jesus went from one Apostle to the other, had them kneel in front of Him, and carefully deposited a little piece of bread on their tongues…

      1. I agree Marthe. Many of our customs that evolved over the years seem more designed to separate us from Jesus, rather than unite us with Him.

      2. Not after the Second to Last Supper when Simon lunged at his hand like a half-starved beagle and nearly took a finger.

    2. An issue I tend to have in regards to this is that often intentions and outcomes don’t align. The intention may have been to teach a deeper “understanding of the communal nature of the Eucharist and our common baptismal mission as priest, prophet and king,” but the result has usually been less understanding of these things and less reverence. I grew up as part of the generation that was actively taught not to receive on the tongue (I was even told it was against the rules to do so*), and I never learned any of what you mentioned. It really wasn’t until I encountered more traditional practices that I even heard of the communal nature of the Eucharist or that we are a “priestly people.”

      As for the topic at hand, my diocese allows communion on the tongue now, but I have only received twice since the churches have reopened. I am a higher risk person. If we were forbidden from receiving on the tongue, I would receive in the hand or not receive, but I wouldn’t complain about it. I have been very disillusioned lately by some of my Latin Mass friends’ attitude towards the pandemic, and have even been attending a more traditional Novus Ordo lately since they take it seriously there.

      *It’s this sort of deceptiveness that often accompanied the liturgical reform and its practices that breeds Radical Traditionalism. People will naturally be resentful when they discover they were lied to.

      1. The Church for certain badly needs, and had badly needed for a long time (for always?) a massive reform of catechesis, definitely of cradle Catholics and I’m told of RCIA in a lot of places (my parish RCIA was excellent, I’m given to understand that’s not the case everywhere). I love the Ordinary Form, I receive in the hand, I think the arguments for ad orientem are better but seeing the love and devotion on the priest’s face during the elevation the first time I attended Mass was THE pivotal moment in my conversion. I went back the next week exclusively to see that face again and try to understand it. It’s so sad and disturbing to me to hear about how the changes were promulgated and what a mess was made of something with good and Spirit-led intentions. And speaking of disturbing, how disturbing was that survey that found only a third of Catholics understood and believed in transubstantiation?? I’ve STILL yet to hear that addressed in a meaningful way from the pulpit or the cathedral.

        Talking with people who grew up before VII, it’s clear this catechesis and piety gap has been around for ages. Priests whose pre-Pauline masses were mumbled, rushed, and sloppy; people whose minds wandered amidst all that “sacred silence” or received on the tongue with boredom and carelessness; parishioners who stood in the back of the nave chatting and smoking, came in to receive, and then immediately left (because “it’s not like the rest of the Mass was for them or needed them anyway”)… My godmother’s confirmation name is Theresa, but she doesn’t have a particular confirmation saint – because she didn’t understand that’s what they were choosing. So she just chose the prettiest name, and nobody explained or so much as asked her “Which Theresa?” But, hey, she was 12 instead of 15 and the sacrament was in Latin, so it MUST have been reverent and the catechesis MUST have been good, right? Lex orandi, lex credendi?

        I don’t know. I feel “too lib for the trads and too trad for the libs.” I’d love to see a Church where parishes offer both EF/TLM and (*good, reverent*) OF masses every Sunday, where the norm is for parishioners to “dress up” but our response to those who aren’t is to be grateful they’re present with us, where women feel free to veil or not as led by the Spirit and not external pressures, where the laity are trusted to rise to challenging practices like fasting or Friday abstinence while also being offered grace and room to discern…

        Trying to stay hopeful that the reactionary element of the “trad” movement will die down and the good fruits of it, a longing for a distinctive and challenging faith with good catechesis and deep connections to Tradition, will stick around.

    3. Linda, you are so correct. We are in communion with one another and three priest at the Mass. as Marthe said below I doubt Jesus had the disciples at the Last Supper kneel in front of him. I would think this might have been offensive to Him given what he did and displayed at the washing of the feet.

  4. It’s really all one huge conspiracy for these people, isn’t it? Communion in the hand, the Jesuit Pope, the whole world being ”so so unfair to the USA”, gays, BLM, the Democratic party, modernist church design, Pachamama and Chumbawamba.

    Never mind that half of it doesn’t make sense at all, and the rest barely. I’ll be my ole moderate compromising self when it comes to these people and make them a deal: when every reactionary Catholic online agrees with every other reactionary catholic online, and on every little detail, I’ll join them. Until then: toodeloo milites.

  5. You know Mark, this reminds me of that conversation we had a while back about Lent and the Catholic notions about fasting, which makes all this seem even more bizarre.

    Its like, sure, I’ll make a sacrifice, but only when its mostly ceremonial, at a time that is convenient for me and is of little consequence. But asking me to make a small sacrifice to save thousands of lives? Nope, that’s a bridge too far.

    Its quite ironic, because in a way, Catholics have been training for this their entire lives. All of that fasting during Lent should’ve served as preparation for a situation like the one we’re going through right now.

    But I guess that at some point, people just started going through the motions without reflecting on the significance of that aspect of their own tradition.

    1. For Catholics, piety is *supposed* to lead to spiritual growth and moral reform. But for Qatholics, it is performative and often a prophylactic *against* spiritual growth and moral reform. It is an ancient problem Isaiah 58 is yelling the same point at Jews 27 centuries ago. Jesus has the same complaints about the Pharisees.

      1. @marthelepine, @Mark Shea

        This is like the student who memorized the answers for a test but is then unable to apply any of the lessons to real life: knowing everything while understanding nothing. It misses the entire point.

      2. This brings to mind an incident that happened some time last year in a university from one of the Western provinces of Canada, possibly in Alberta, when students in an ethics program got caught cheating on their exams…

  6. What I have observed in these Trads (and I hate to say it)–is that most of them come from some form of family dysfunction. It’s not like they come from generations and generations of “traditional” Catholicism. No, it’s like they are overcompensating for something that is or was missing from their lives at some point.

    The Catholics that I have known, that prompted those of us in the pew next to them to reflect upon their holiness, were never hung up on ultra *anything*–they just clearly loved God (most of the ones I grew up with are dead now). All of them were simply humble and kind. None of them went in for theatrics are grandiose displays of piety that the Trads are fond of. They might nod politely when the more radicalized types were raging about corruption, hot-button topics and conspiracy theories.

    The other thing that the new Trads seem most affected by is *fear*. They don’t trust God. (I wouldn’t trust what they have reduced him to either)–And they are the ones that are always trying to bend God to their own will, turning comforting traditional prayers into a kind of obsessive voodoo. It’s genuinely creepy.

    1. What would be an example of this creepy voodoo? My own experience is that traditionalists have largely retained aspects of “old world” folk Catholicism that were mostly discouraged after the council. The piety and devotional practices among trads seems similar in ethos (if not in specifics) to what I have experienced of Mexican Catholicism or the odd pockets of Eastern/Southern European Catholicism you sometimes still find in old urban areas. I’m talking a more heightened use of images and sacramentals and extreme forms of reverence.

      1. I use the word “voodoo” to shock on purpose because we think we are above all of that here in the U.S. in the 21st century. I’d give a really good example from just this week in which a relative said to me, “let’s pray a novena to St. Monica together!” I was glad she said it, I was tempted to say “yes” because I think St. Monica is a real saint in heaven who would and can help both of us. It’s just that she wants to use this offer to appear a certain way, and is in love with the idea that she is a certain way, but she doesn’t and can’t see all of the effortless unkindness in her life. All the nice words, and beads and statues and regular church attendance can’t help you if you despise all kinds of people, and casually smile at the thought of a bad end for them.

        (*She thinks she’s a sheep and lots of other people (most) are goats–not that *sin* is code for goat and *charity* is code for sheep.)

  7. My parish is our local cathedral. We have a priest there who has been in failing health for years. He is there along with a more able priest mostly because the ill priest, Fr. Lawrence, does not drive and so he needs to be close to the bus route for the hospital trips – 3 every week for dialysis and now for chemo as well. Everyone at our parish KNOWS full well how ill this man is because we are asked to pray for him regularly. But Fr. Lawrence lives to be a priest and so he still presides at as many Masses as his health allows. Knowing our bishop well, I am sure the bishop would release him from duty in a heartbeat, but he also knows that Fr. Lawrence lives to serve.

    En tu cas (French for anywhoooo)….I am at Mass and everyone receives in the hand except for this super pious person who walks up at the end of Mass, mask off (we are supposed to keep it on until we receive in the hand and walk away from the priest so we aren’t talking “in his space” when we say amen), and kneels down to receive on the tongue. IF she has COVID, this will definitely kill this priest if he gets it. We all know that about him. He gestures to her to get up. She doesn’t, just sits there all holy with her tongue out. “No”, he says and gestures again for her to get up and receive in the hand. She finally does this with a hurt expression on her face. Seriously? This priest is one of the most vulnerable people in our parish at the moment. You’d think she’d thing of him first and foremost. I am tired of the false piety and demands of these people. Suck it up all you holy buttercups because charity sometimes can mean going without for a very long time for the sake of others.

    1. This long but accurate article written by Thomas Merton, The Neurotuc Personality in the Monastic Life, speaks to the motivations behind the behaviors you describe. I can attest to its reality in monastic life proper, but believe it also applies many ‘radtrad’ behaviors in the life of the church.


      1. From the article: “The tree is known by its fruits.
        Even though he may be permitted to indulge his desires, he is always restless, anxious, tormented. He cannot have peace. He cannot submit to authority or be guided by his director – or else he clings blindly to authority without understanding anything of what his superiors want of him. He is not adapted to reality. He is led by fancies and illusions. Life is not something that he is content to live: he wrestles with it, never at peace with himself or with others, because he is not at peace with reality.”

        Merton is insistent upon the compassion that must be shown to the religious neurotic. He is also clear that those presenting with paranoid delusions or persecution complexes are not suited for monastic life, for their own sake as well as for the community. This article is extremely informative and should read by RCIA formators.

      2. Thank you for posting this. It was hard to get through but interesting, and definitely worth the read.

        Good spiritual direction made a gigantic difference in my life.

    2. That priest is charitable. If it were me, I would have made her roll over and play dead and various other dog tricks.

      Then I would have made her take it in the hand…

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