Sometimes we have to wade in, sword or gun in hand, and use deadly force to quash the actions of evil men—and we must do so without hating them.

Too soon after Christmas trees are taken down, hundreds of thousands of us will be getting ready to freeze in our nation’s capital while we March for Life. The presence of evil, of very different kinds, is harder to miss this year than most—at least since 2001, when my hometown was attacked. Because it was innocent blood, willingly offered, that wiped away the evil each of carries in himself, and offered us the antidote: imitating Christ, making sacrifices freely to further the Good, and push back against evil.

Those sacrifices aren’t always peaceful—which is why the Church has thousands of soldier saints. We are not a religion for pacifists, or those who would stand by dabbing our tears and caressing our consciences while the weak are victimized. Sometimes we have to wade in, sword or gun in hand, and use deadly force to quash the actions of evil men—and we must do so without hating them. That doesn’t mean without anger, or even without (where needed) the will to kill. The plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944 was carried out by a Catholic war hero, Claus von Stauffenberg, and met with the approval of Pius XII—who transmitted messages on behalf of the conspirators.

Nor is it hate to want to see a criminal be punished, or to take a grim satisfaction in the execution of his sentence. Only those who do not believe in life after death who could think this way; to them, earthly life is the only and ultimate good, so wanting to spoil that for or take that from someone (for any reason) amounts to hate.

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Nihilism

But sadly most people today suffer from some form of Nihilism. Most people deny the fact of objective moral norms. Even more deny the notion of absolute moral norms. Most people today no longer consider things to be true or false. Rather, most everything is seen just as opinion or a subjective point of view. It may be true that many things are just opinion but does this mean that there is really no objective truth to be found? It would seem so, according to many if not most people today. All of this of course leads to a rather deep cynicism as well as an incapacity to come to agreement on many important issues of the day. Since no agreed upon norms exist, life amounts to a power struggle between factions. Nihilism has so permeated our culture that most people don’t even know its there. It’s like talking to a fish about water and the fish says, “What water?” Most people congratulate themselves for their Nihilism by calling it other things like “open-mindedness”, “tolerance”, “acceptance”, “progressiveness” and the like. There are real virtues by these names but it is likely that most who claim these virtues for themselves are actually just suffering from some form of Nihilism. Yes, I want to argue that nihilism has reached the suburbs, the kitchen table, the family hearth.

And more than ever this is why we need Catholic culture and faith. It is only with something that we can battle nothing. I have come a long way out of my Nihilism that reached full flower in the late 1970s. I had turned my sights away from God and the Church and found only  “nothing.”  I cannot say I have fully emerged from Nihilism for it has  so permeated everything. And yet I credit the Catholic faith for restoring to me to truth and its existence. I credit the faith for restoring my hope and healing so much of my anger and cynicism. I thank the Catholic Faith for restoring to me my sight. Truth inevitably leads to beauty and goodness,  and what a beautiful view it is. There is great serenity and freedom in the truth. I know that Nihilism brought me only anger and struggle against perceived enemies (i.e. my father, the Church et al.) that was far from serene.   So here I stand more blessed than I deserve, coming out of nothing into everything, out of darkness into light. The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. (Matt 6:23-24)

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Archbishop Chaput of Denver shares a Health Care Bill email with us

What the hell don’t you understand about the term separatin [sic] of Church and State. Keep your evil hands off of our Health Care Bill. Mind your own business. We don’t care about your beliefs, and if you want to meddle in our affairs, we will be coming for you. If that’s how you want to play, we will come for your pedophile priests, your ill-gotten money you stole for decades. The Catholic church is just another organized crime syndicate that should be put out of business. Get the f–k away from Congress, or you will regret it … .

That’s a real e-mail from a real person.  The man who sent it last week was either very candid or very foolish about his anger: he added his real name and e-mail address.  I’ve withheld them here because I like to hope that most people, or at least many of them, are better than the poisonous things they sometimes write. But this e-mail does teach a useful lesson, because it’s not just a case of a random bigot getting in touch with his inner bully.  Instead, it’s a snapshot of the anti-Catholic bitterness that drives some of the loudest voices in the current health-care debate.

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On the Proper Integration of Anger into the Virtuous Life

Sorrow at evil without anger at evil is a fault, a fault that the Catholic bishops have repeatedly fallen into in their handling of sexual abuse and that the late pope fell into when he tolerated the bishops’ faults. Until just anger is directed at the bishops, until bishops (including the pope) feel just anger at their fellow bishops who have disgraced and failed their office, the state of sin in the Church continues.

Virtue Without a Name

Meekness, which is the virtue that moderates anger, is misunderstood as passivity. Moses angrily confronting Pharaoh was the meekest of men, because he moderated the plagues to allow Pharaoh time to repent. Meekness moderates anger so that it is in accord with reason. Since most people suffer from an excess of anger, the virtue that increases anger in those who are deficient in it so that it is in accord with reason does not have a name, but it needs one.

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