Legitimacy and Conscience

Reading Joseph’s post on Byzantine TX about the pro-choice Catholic nuns (sounds like an oxymoron, but I guess it’s becoming more common…) I was struck by something. Have you noticed that people who hold a stance on something that is not in accordance with Tradition, abortion and gay “marriage” being the most common, are always desperately looking for affirmation from someone? Specifically, someone from whom they wouldn’t have traditionally ever received that affirmation? For most people in the West (who have never heard of Orthodoxy), the Roman Catholic church represents an unchanging pillar of Truth and Right, no matter what their religious (if any) persuasion. They may not agree with that statement, but it’s hard to not observe that in practice people think of the RC church as the “gold standard”. So much so, that even if you’re Unitarian and pro-abortion you’ll be positively delighted when some Catholic nuns march around with “it’s a woman’s choice” signs held high. Why? Because they legitimize your position. If the Catholics support this, then it must be right!

This is also why “scholars” are tickled pink to find some long-since rejected opinion from a Church Father that seems to support some unorthodox opinion. The Church knows that humans, including saints, are not infallible, and many saints have written things at one time or another that they later acknowledged were wrong. Something that Saint so-and-so wrote, if it is not in agreement with Church Tradition, is considered inadmissible, as it were. But the scholars, not caring or understanding about Tradition, greedily snatch up such rejected writings and tack them onto articles ‘proving’ one unorthodox opinion or another.

But why would they care what the Catholics think? Apart from solidarity that is? Again, the Catholic church provides legitimacy, it lends authority. The deeper question is why are they looking to the Catholics for authority whey they disagree with them almost completely and say they are wrong? In the West, as I mentioned, Catholicism represents The Church. You can protest and fight and run away, but you somehow can’t ever get away from it.

I think that deep down, no matter how flat you squash it, people have consciences. They may only be a fraction of a millimeter thick in some cases, but they Just. Won’t. Go. Away. God has provided very nicely in this respect. And those consciences, even the very squashed ones, nag and nag. They just won’t shut up! To keep them quiet people toss them bones of self-justification, try to gag them with self-deception. They nervously argue with them, offering up rags of “proof” (like the pro-choice nuns run amok) that they are, in fact, right so shut up! Then they quickly turn their backs because even then, deep, deep down, they know they are wrong. Any real examination on their parts of the evidence will make that obvious. But when you’ve built so much of your life around holding these opinions, the whole structure may come crashing down if you wiggle even one of the supports. People don’t like having things come crashing down around them, even though the ultimate consequences of remaining in such a house are dire and eternal.

This is why you can’t argue someone into agreeing with you. I have never, in any argument, managed to convince someone that they were wrong and I was right. The best I have managed to do is badger someone into submission (meaning they don’t agree, but they’re sick of arguing and just want me to shut up and go away). The only hope is to offer simultaneously both (1) overwhelming evidence that they eventually cannot deny and (2) nonjudgmental love, so when they are forced to abandon their rickety structure they have somewhere to go. And be prepared to do this for years and years if necessary.

And pray.

“Do not disdain your conscience, for
it always gives you the best advice.  It sets before you the Will of
God and the Angels, frees you from the secret defilements of the heart,
and grants you boldness before God at your departure from this life.”
St. Maximos the Confessor

6 thoughts on “Legitimacy and Conscience

  1. Thanks. (:

    I just looked at the webring and I think I see what you're looking at. You see a preview of my site, not the site itself. If you look just below the preview, you see in blue type something like “go to this site now”. If you click that, then you actually come here and see the whole page. I hope that helps!


  2. I wanted to thank you for this. My daughter is finishing her major in Religious Studies, and she needed to hear these wise words and encouragement. I was happy to read this to her.

    Oma Jo


  3. Reblogged this on Praying With My Feet and commented:

    I was looking for something this morning and ran across this blog post from several years ago. It was pretty good and I found myself saying, “hey… U wrote that??” What happened to the person who used to be able to write? Hahaha. So I decided to share it with you.


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