Friday, October 06, 2006

The Dictatorship of Common Opinion

Amy has a homily from the Pope today, which the media were tripping over themselves in the hopes it would say something about Limbo. Now...since I missed all the years when Limbo was a prevalent teaching I'm not going to dive into that. Instead I'm most interested in something he said in the middle of the homily that could have been quite easily missed.

In this context, I am reminded of a beautiful sentence in the first Letter of St. Peter, chapter 1, verse 22. In Latin, it says - «Castificantes animas nostras in oboedentia veritatis» . Obedience to truth should chastify our souls - and thus, guide us to right words and right actions.

In other words, to speak in search of applause, to speak according to what we think others want to hear, to speak in obedience to the dictatorship of common opinion, may be considered a prostitution of words and of the spirit.

The "chastity" that the apostle Peter refers to means not submitting ourselves to common standards, not to seek applause, but rather, obedience to the truth.

Here we have another dictatorship he has revealed to us as such. The first dictatorship we heard about was, of course, the Dictatorship of Relativism at the time of the Conclave that would call him to the Chair of Peter. But I have my bets in that the media will miss this one, first because it seems less "quotable" and second because they are easily distracted by things they want or expect, such as his discussion of Limbo that didn't happen.

The second half of the second sentence is what really catches my eye. "To speak in obedience to the dictatorship of common opinion", he starts. Indeed, isn't common opinion a dictatorship? That which others have absorbed perhaps without even giving a second thought, which they have received from those they accept as impeccable - to do anything but reaffirm it is considered blaspheme. Truly in this way the "common" opinion reaches the stature of a dictatorship when to disagree with it is to find oneself ostracized, cut off from the benefits of the previously readily available camaraderie. "Common opinion", that received from "trusted sources" demands obedience. After all, if it were not "common", it would just be another opinion and that simply wouldn't do.

He continues, "may be considered a prostitution of words and of the spirit". These are harsh words for anyone who, as the saying goes, "goes along to get along". Certainly there is a need for wisdom ascertaining the appropriateness of confrontation and the level at and direction in which such confrontation takes place. But for the Holy Father to call something "a prostitution of words and of the spirit" must certainly make someone pause for thought before mindlessly agreeing with that which must be confronted if only to make things easier. Indeed, we have a generation who quotes with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9) God's response should give us pause: "What have you done? Listen! The voice of your brother's blood calls out to me from the soil." (Gen. 4:10) We who have been given this gift of faith, this gift of knowing God, and even more specifically this gift of the great Deposit of Faith held by our Church have a duty to help our brothers and sisters grow in love of and service to that God we receive. From we to whom much has been given is much expected.