Saturday, November 05, 2016

Power, Corruption, and Impure Love

Earlier today, I wrote this on my pilgrimage blog:

And a third intertwining point, connected here, is that love, the pure love of God in us, brings us holy death. We resist this with all our energy. 
What God wants most deeply from us all is to let Him love us. Once He has this, He can move. We cannot induce this "letting" in anyone; each door must be unlocked from within the heart.
And this was the upshot of my second point:
St. John and St. James made it clear that we lie if we say we love God but do not love our neighbor in practical, active terms. Likewise, if we seek to love our neighbor based on personal power and agenda that omits surrendering Lordship to Jesus, it is not love in which we deal, but corruption.
And while that post was complicated enough without developing these thoughts any further, the whole post was really born from the collision of those two points in my soul. That's something I need to go back to and think about.

There is a moment when even a genuine love can turn into ugliest violence. It is all the easier, the less genuine and the more impure that love is. I have done this. There is that moment when a soul, which loves, but impurely, makes a terrible shift in its motivation and its fuel. Genuine love gives and seeks the good of the other, even at the cost of the lover. This shift in motivation is about exerting power over another and attaining something for itself by some degree of force. Perhaps all of the time, this shift into the corruption of exerting power over another comes because the desired good is to be loved in return, but the person is not able to believe either that they are loved, that they can be loved, or that they will be loved, and so they take out their rage on someone they do love, because of their cavernous failure to believe.

There is perhaps nothing so agonizing as to extend all of ones energy, effort, heart, and soul, to hold it forth in deep vulnerability, and to feel it slapped down, rejected, crushed. But it is very important to a real relationship of love that rejection be borne with patiently. Under no circumstances should rejection by a loved one trigger a show of force of any sort by the one rejected. Sadness should never provoke violence, either in act or word.

There is nothing so frustrating to impure love as to not be able to impel love in return. It is death. It is precisely how impure love is purified. It is the price we are to pay; the cost of loving is this process of dying for the beloved. We love, and we long to be loved in return. When the one we love disappoints us, the disappointment is to be the flame that darts up and purifies our love to love all the more ardently, and with more detachment. We can even experience a taste of the bitter way God is treated by His creatures regularly, and we can praise Him more ardently for His faithfulness to us.

There have been moments when I have felt justified in being angry or frustrated over someone's failure to have a change of heart. There have been times when I have expressed that anger in just the corrupt way I am describing, as if the primary problem in their lack of conversion to Christ is that they have offended me. Decades ago the Lord was trying to teach me something that I have only begun to truly take in from the Carmelite Doctors: the point of prayer is to unite my heart to God's, not to bend creation to my will. The powerful intercessor is not the one who can call fire down from the sky to consume God's enemies; the powerful intercessor is the one who believes what God has said about Himself and who is consumed by His love.

And so I come back to the point I highlighted in the last post: What God wants most deeply from all of us is to let Him love us. Not infrequently, "letting Him love us" means willingly bearing a bit of pain, a bit of fear, a bit of vulnerability, as a concrete way of telling God that we believe He is worth it and His love for us is true. To believe in God, I keep teaching my daughter, is not so much to just believe He exists as to believe that He loves you. How much it grieves His heart when His own people do not trust His love.

But it is a grief He will bear, patiently. It will never provoke violence against you.


bill bannon said...

Your last two sentences are true of those who are generally trying. But God can indeed be violent to those who like the fig tree He cursed ...are producing no figs for a long time. The greatest violence in scripture is in 70 AD after scripture closes and it was predicted by Christ not as karma...but as from God through the Romans. The Old Covenant had said of God, " punishing down to the third and fourth generation those who hate me.". Many in Jerusalem in 70 AD were too young in 33 AD to have rejected Christ....they were the third and fourth generation. They were not punished eternally in 70 AD unless they deserved it on their own since Ezekiel says...." the son shall not die for the sins of the father". Rather they died physically only as David's baby with Bathsheba died...physically punished early for David's sin.
The last three Popes by tampering with the death penalty have obscured this reality. Read Romans 13:4 and you'll see God affirm the death penalty within the context of a very fallible Roman Empire inter alia.

Marie said...

Hi Bill,

I don't at all mean to say that there is no such thing as hell. Scripture makes it clear that there is. But unlike John Calvin and his followers, Catholics do not hold that God sends people to hell, but rather that those who have that as their destiny choose it for themselves. They choose it by rejecting God's covenant love and rebelling against it in the act of sin. And when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, it was a violent end to the Davidic covenant of temple worship, which had been fulfilled in Christ, leaving those who had rejected their Messiah bereft: some of life, everyone else of everything they had know of how to approach God.

I don't think it is correct to say that the last three Popes have tampered with the death penalty. The last three Popes have responded to the modern social context. Catholic social teaching is not unlike parenting, I believe. There are certain baselines which are givens -- dignity of the human person, the right to life, etc. But both the "parents" and the "children" grow and change, and it *requires* change in how these truths are applied. We simply don't live under the Roman Empire now. The Popes have rightly pointed out that there are few instances, if any at all, where the State MUST execute a criminal to uphold the common good, which is the safety of society. Crime is the same; security is not.

My primary point is of the blog is that God does not force Himself on us. We hold back from Him, we resist Him -- some by mortal sin, some by habitual venial sin that is stuck in our woundedness. I personally am constantly stunned by how God treats our wounds. He doesn't upbraid us or demand performance we are incapable of rendering, but he promises an abyss of mercy, if we will just come with our wounds to Him. The intensity of his love and the patience and long suffering of his heart are realities I don't know how to hold together, because I know his love is a consuming fire that would burn up his foes on every side. I could sit an meditate on the fire of his love for a long, long time...

bill bannon said...

God sends people to hell once they have chosen we're both right. Christ warns, " be afraid of him who can destroy both body and soul in hell" Matthew 7:23....Christ says to those saying they did such and such in his name..." I never knew you...away from me you evil doers". So he is sending them away into hell in that context.. Not every change in Catholicsm is a development...some are regressions. This was true of the Inquisition violence which had Aquinas' support in the Summa T. It was a regression vis a vis most saint commentary of the first millenium on avoiding coercion in spiritual matters. Now the opposite extreme is de talk of God's severity yet the NT says there is both goodness in God and severity....Romans 11:22...check it.
We differ on somethings. Google " homicide by country wiki". It will lead to the UN figures for each country on murder rates. For affluent domnant countries ( or some US states) , the death penalty doesn't matter much because there are few murders. In poor dominant countries, the death penalty saves lives in the tens of thousands. China has about 11,000 murders a year but non death penalty Brazil has 50,000 a year with far less people than China....200 million in Brazil and 1.357 billion in China. The two largest and non death penalty Catholic countries, Brazil and Mexico ( poor dominant), have murder rates of 24 and 20 per 100,000. China is 1 per 100,000. Asia in general is 1.1 per 100,000 and Asia is largely poor and death penalty. The UN lists Asia as the safest large area on earth in terms of adult murder and northern Latin America ( non death penalty) as the most murderous. Japan by the way is .3 per 100,000 but is not relevant because it is not poor dominant. If Japan stopped its death penalty, it would still like Austria have few murders. You'll notice all three recent Popes never....never...mention data. To Japan, Catholic countries from Brazil to Mexico are horrendus as to murder rates and none have a working death penalty.

Marie said...

The Catechism's statement on the death penalty:
"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

"If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

"Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68 (para 2267)

It seems quite clear.

I am not so sure a clear case can be made that the existence of death penalty is *the* factor that determines the officially reported murder rates in various countries. There are also the issues of those unjustly held on death row, which the advent of DNA testing has shown is not that rare.

Certainly God has a severity about him. But I would see it as a severity of love, a fierce, burning love, which must purge from his sight every taint of sin within us as a condition for attaining heaven. It is the "being thrown to the torturer until you have paid the last penny". But this suffering is not to pay the price for our sins, because we could never satisfy God's righteousness by any payment of our own. What we can satisfy is the total breaking, the total conversion, total relinquishing of ourselves, total abandonment to God's will, which is all of our sin, misery, powerlessness, etc being laid bare and admitted to. Jesus paid the price our sins deserve; we endure the flames of his love until all sin is purged and what He won for us positionally becomes ours in experience. This is in fact at the very heart of the Carmelite spirituality of St. John of the Cross.

bill bannon said...

Well we know from Acts 5 that execution deters ( as in Asia) because after God kills through Peter verbally...Ananias and Sapphira....the ending verse states that " the whole community and all who heard of it took fear". No one takes fear from coincidental death but from deliberate death. God did this same type of execution through Moses of Dathan and Abiram. Moses was over violent with the Eyptian and Peter was over violent at Gethsemane with the temple soldier through pride in their physical strength.. Yet God picked two violent men to lead the two covenants but He showed them that they must lose the pride in their physical strength and execute his will only verbally in the cases of Dathan, Abiram et al...and Ananias and Sapphira.

God affirmed the death penalty within a very unfair empire that had recently executed two innocents...Christ and James in Acts 12:2.
As to the clarity of the catechism, it is voided wherever three Popes are verbally successful as they make the rare use impossible by abolition subsequent to the 1997 catechism:

"Today I would encourage all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty...etc."
-Pope Francis Address to the Delegates of the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty

I draw the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty and to reform the penal system…”
– Pope Benedict XVI Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus Benin, November 19, 2011

“I renew the appeal…to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”
-Pope John Paul II Homily St. Louis, MO, January 27, 1999

Abolition makes void any use of the death penalty so three Popes worked against your catechism's logic because they had become in old age...pacifists on that topic by not doing worldwide research on data. In effect, you have two magisteria....the catechism which allows rare use of the dp ....and the verbal Papal efforts to stop even that. By the way, if the catechism makes sense to you that prisons protect by capturing murderers, then you are not reading in this area of capture rates. The US captures c.63% of murderers but Quatemala captures about 4%. Ergo Quatemala's capture rate deters almost no murderer on earth. The catechism pictures a perfect affluent European country with few murders....Austria, Luxembourg...and builds its reality of prison on that. It never looked at the two largest Catholic countries....Brazil and Mexico wherein gangs actually control many prisons. Go to youtube and type in Mexcan prison murder. You'll see cartel men enter a prison, scare the guards into hiding, and machine gun a cell of inmates from another cartel. The Cardinal who wrote 2267 in the catechism was looking at Europe but most Catholics are outside Europe.

Marie said...

It has never crossed my mind to take Acts 5 as teaching any kind of support for capital punishment. I just don't think that follows solid exegetical principles.

I understand that one can hold capital punishment as a personal moral value or favored political position.

When the Popes have spoken in recent years, they have spoken consistent with the Magisterial teaching reflecting in the Catechism, namely, that the necessity of the death penalty is "practically non-existent." Practically, in this sense, means, in the current real-world situation, not only in theological possibility. And since John Paul II promulgated the Catechism, he is hardly contradicting himself.

Does Catholic social teaching claim that murders should not be caught or prisons run justly? Of course not. That does not logically follow.

Magisterial teaching is not presented to us as one political opinion among others, but a Mother Church teaching us to understand what Christ has revealed and to help us to live it out. I accept that some who belong to the Church do not receive it as having authority, or any power to teach us, or as worthy of the assent of faith. I, however, receive it as an authoritative word with the power to teach, and, as I wrestle and learn, I also give it my assent of faith. It is good to look at research and statistics. But realize that multiple sides of any argument can usually find statistics that seem to validate said argument. There are principles of right and wrong, and human dignity, that are deeper than mere statistical outcomes.

bill bannon said...

I think you need Popes and catechisms to be constantly infallible. That's not Catholic belief and I had 16 years of great Catholic schooling. It's human belief but very understandable. Right now you have four Cardinals asking the Pope a list of questions on Amoris Laetitia and they are not alone in thinking it is amiss and is effectively letting invalidly remarrieds receive communion while still having sex with the non original spouse in order to keep that second union together for the good of the kids. God is using Francis as a lesson that pan infallibility does not exist...even though it makes life easy by not examining what Popes are saying. Jst rubber stamp anything they say. The death penalty mistake which will get thousands killed in poor dominant areas when it is followed is one of the mistakes God is against. Read ccc #2260. It is the position of a cdf Cardinal who was trying to go against the rare use fallacy of ccc #2267. The last word will be yours.

Marie said...

Hi Bill,

Thanksgiving, and now Advent, pulled me away from my blog for some time.

Let me simply recommend, generally, to the concerns you raise this blog: , and in particular, this post, concerning how to approach papal teaching: