I had to chuckle just a bit when I saw this CNS report on Pope Benedict’s words yesterday referring to the apostle’s letter to the Galatians:

St. Paul refers here to the polemics that emerge where faith degenerates into intellectualism and humility is replaced by the arrogance of being better than the other.

We see clearly that today, too, there are similar situations where, instead of joining in communion with Christ, in the body of Christ which is the church, each one wants to be superior to the other and with intellectual arrogance maintains that he is better.

The pope raises a serious matter, chuckling aside.

In the domestic church, parents set the tone for children. Young people exposed to arrogance and superiority learn to spread it around to peers. I’ve seen many embittered young people who have learned hard (and unnecessary) lessons from the cruelty of parents.

The CDF’s treatment of theologians has been colored by a lack of due process, by secret procedures, and favoritism in the curia. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was responsible for this for well over two decades. The replacement of humility has a long track record in hierarchical Catholicism. Uppity bishops and laity may well have long memories. It does not excuse their sins against charity, but it makes these sins comprehensible in a larger context.

That said, I don’t envy the task of those who are charged with maintaining orthodoxy in belief. It’s a tough task to reign in the fringes–the SSPX is evidence enough of that on the Right, not to mention the St Mary’s of South Brisbane on the Left.

What concerns me is that the strident, aggressive, arrogant attitude has spread around quite a bit of Catholicism. I’m not quite sure as to the best way out. And I say that fully knowing I treat many other Catholics with my own brand of arrogance. The path that attempts to communicate the truth is fraught with pitfalls to unity, humility, and charity. I wonder if the pope sees the purposes of his talk and the purposes of his CDF were not always congruent.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Arrogance

  1. Jimmy Mac says:

    People’s true character is revealed at the moments when they have untrammeled power–not when they’re hemmed in by political expediency.

    —– Cathleen Kaveny

    By clericalism I mean an elitist mindset, together with structures and patterns of behavior corresponding to it, which takes it for ¬granted that clerics—in the Catholic context, mainly ¬bishops and priests—are intrinsically superior to the other members of the Church and deserve automatic -deference. Passivity and dependence are the laity’s lot. By no means is clericalism confined to clerics themselves. The clericalist mindset is widely shared by Catholic lay people.

    —- Russell Shaw, “To Hunt, to Shoot, to Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity” (1993)

  2. FranIam says:

    What else can I say? So well put, so well put.

  3. Kevin in Texas says:

    Very interesting commentary, Todd.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately (probably far too much!) about the intersection of faith and politics in the American public square. Just from our exchanges recently on your blog here, I am coming to believe that practicing, engaged American Catholics (and this undoubtedly occurs worldwide, but I’m only familiar with the US situation firsthand) allow ourselves to be divided rather easily based on our political differences, and that strains our unity as Catholics.

    Strong and orthodox belief in the Church that Christ founded is compatible with multiple human political systems, at least to some degree (i.e., none are perfectly in line with Catholic teaching), but we who inhabit those distinct political spheres tend to hew to them and look upon fellow Catholics with whom we disagree politically as “the other”, or in some cases, “the enemy.”

    So what can we do in human terms about our politics and our arrogant attachments to “my way or the highway” mentalities on all sides? We hardly set a Christlike example when we call each other names and politicize even non-political issues in the names of declaring ourselves right.

    Much to take to prayer…

  4. Todd says:

    Kevin, thanks, as always for coming by to comment.

    I think our internet tussles (and I speak of an “our” wider than just you and I) speak to the reality that the parish is far superior for the expression of unity than any sort of medium, including the internet.

    In person, I find political people as charming and engaging as anybody else.

    As for declaring myself right and others wrong, I hope I don’t do that too much. I make statements, sometimes brash, but I have no problem if people disagree.

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