Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The corrupt religious
Sun 26 Jan. 2014, 14:00 CAT
It is said that the corruption of the best is the worst of all. This can be applied to the religious, among whom the corrupt also exist. Many of our religious institutions have problems of corruption, to a greater or lesser extent. And we do not mean isolated cases, but daily occurrences of corruption. We would call them venial, but they do bog down religious life. How can such a thing happen?
A golden rule has been suggested to detect the state of a soul living in peace and tranquility: assign to him or her something extra. A soul closed to generosity reacts badly.
A soul gets used to the evil smell of corruption. It is the same in a closed environment: only the one who comes from outside detects the rarefied atmosphere. When one wants to help a soul in that state, there arises an indescribable sequence of resistances. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, but they had become used to this loss of freedom, adjusting the state of their soul to it, and did not desire any other manner of living. Their conscience was asleep, somewhat corrupt. When Moses announced to them God's plan, "they would not listen to him because of their dejection and hard slavery" (Exodus 6:9). Later, when the going in the desert got increasingly difficult, they reproached Moses for having got them into trouble: "When they came up on Moses and Aaron … they said to them: 'The Lord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odour with Pharaoh and his servants and have put a sword into their hands to slay us" (Exodus 5:21).
The elders intended to negotiate with the enemy. They were tired and frightened. Judith had to come and re-read history to them in order that they would not accept situations unwanted by God, like sheep led to the slaughter. Jona does not want problems: he is sent to Nineveh and rushes off to Tarshish. God has to intervene and purify him with a long night in the belly of the monster. Elijah says to himself that he's gone too far in the issue of the slaughter of the priests of Balaam, and gets frightened of a woman to the extent of desiring death: he is not up to bearing the solitude of triumphing in God. Nathaniel finds it easier to utter his skeptical "nothing good can come out of Nazareth…" (John 1:46), than to believe in Philip's enthusiasm. The two disciples, new Jonahs, didn't want problems either: they had been summoned to Galilee and escaped towards Emmaus instead…and the rest of the apostles could not believe what their eyes were seeing, "incredulously for joy and amazed" (Luke 24:41). This is the key point: sorrow always leads to a worse state; having experienced defeat, it leads the human heart to getting used to it, so as not to be surprised and not to suffer before another possible defeat. Or, simply, one is satisfied with one's state and wants no more problems.
There is reticence in all these biblical references. The heart wants no trouble. There is the fear that God might burst in and lead us along ways out of our control. There is fear of God's visit, fear of being consoled. A fatalism of sorts sets in; horizons shrink to the measure of one's desolation or tranquility. One fears hope, preferring the realism of less to the promise of more…forgetting that God's utmost realism is in the words: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing" (Genesis 12:1-2).
There is a subtle process of corruption in this supposedly realistic preferring of the less: one arrives at mediocrity or lukewarmness, two forms of spiritual corruption, and haggles with God according to one or the other. In the sacrament of reconciliation, one asks for the forgiveness of other sins…but does not show the Lord this deluded state of soul. A slow, but fatal sclerosis of the heart has begun.
Then the soul begins to find satisfaction in the products of religious consumerism. Consecrated life is lived more than ever as an immanent realisation of one's personality. For many, this will consist in professional satisfaction, for others in successful works, for others in taking pleasure in oneself for the esteem in which one is held or, in finding imperfection of modern means, the ways of filling the vacuum left in the soul by the absence of the end originally looked for and for which one let oneself be called. Others will engage in an intense social life: they will enjoy going out, holidays with friends, dinners and receptions; they will try to be taken into account in all that implies status. We could go on listing cases of corruption…but, simply, all of this is a part of something deeper: spiritual worldliness. It is a form of paganism ecclesially disguised. In the face of such men and women with their corrupt consecrated life, the Church shows the greatness of her saints…who have been able to transcend all appearances to contemplate the face of Christ, thus becoming mad for Christ.
Many men and women spend their lives in what we have called venial corruption. They don't measure up to the standard of their consecration. They make themselves comfortable beside the pool, during 38 long years looking at the waters and seeing others getting cured (John 5:5). Such a heart is corrupt. One dreams while awake, and would rather revive the dead part of the heart; one feels the call of the Lord…but no, it's too much trouble, too much work. Our indigence must make an effort to open up to transcendence, but the illness of corruption prevents it.
Spiritual worldliness constitutes the greatest danger, the most treacherous temptation. It is insidiously reborn when all the others have been conquered, and the very victories give it new strength. Were this same spiritual worldliness to infiltrate the Church so as to corrupt her in her very principle, it would infinitely be more disastrous than any other, simply moral, worldliness. It would be even worse than loathsome leprosy that at some historical times cruelly disfigured the countenance of the beloved spouse.