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On the whole, I ignore the Huffington Post, and that is usually especially the case when it deal with the Catholic Church; there is only so much uninformed nonsense that one can read in a day without the wells of charity beginning to sour. But this contains so many misunderstandings that it seems a Christian duty to comment on it. It is by someone who describes themselves as a ‘healed ex-Catholic’. Catechesis is, we know, not what it should be, but even so it is surprising to find someone who was a Catholic saying that the Centurion’s words to Christ, ‘I am not worthy that I should step under your roof’ were said ‘pre-salvation’. That implies she imagines that salvation is a one-off event. Whichever Catholic Church she learned that one in did a really poor job; but it is hard to believe that any Catholic catechesis is that poor; one wonders if she was catechised at all?

The brunt of her article is that those words are:

the root of all evil behavior. It is divisiveness personified. By believing we are not worthy, we open the door for the mistreatment of ourselves and the mistreatment of others as we seek to assuage the psychological pain the false belief imparts.

This seems the product of some personal turmoil for which one can only pray for healing for the author, as there is no necessary connection between the Centurion’s words and the attitude which the author describes. I am not convinced she understands the doctrine of Original Sin, and what it means in a Christian context to say “i am not worthy’. Since the alternative would be to say “I am worthy” that would be not only pelagian, but something more presumptuous. We are, none of us, ‘worthy’ of salvation, but Jesus loves us all the same, and that love redeems us – he said (and is) the Word and we are healed. Why should that open the door to mistreatment of anyone? Read as a whole, the verses convey precisely the opposite meaning to the one the author had forced on them. Although not one of us is worthy of salvation, Jesus loves each and every one of us, we are, each of us, valuable in his sight, and he loves us and redeems us through that. Quite how that becomes an invitation to abuse is a mystery. The same is true of this conclusion:

The guilt of unworthiness calls for us to judge ourselves and to judge others just as harshly. We cower within power-over structures or worse; we attempt to control others in our imagined superiority. The insanity continues as inferiority complexes pursue power and wealth as outward substitutes for what Jesus, Buddha, and many other saints and sages have said can only come from within.

Perhaps her catechesis never covered the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Guilt does not call us to judge anyone, it calls us to seek God’s forgiveness, and in the Catholic tradition, we do that not by judging anyone, but through Confession and absolution. Quite where this obsession with control is to be found within the Scriptures is a puzzle.

She sees the emotional pain of inner self hatred protected into the world in violence, and because she mistakenly believes that acknowledging one’s sinfulness leads to self-hatred, that uttering these words in the Mass does something bad. I can’t say I am aware of any Catholic going from Mass and projecting violence into the word as a result of the experience making him or her feel self-hatred; if the author has, it would be interesting to know more.

Her remedy is this:

The sooner we speak of our goodness; the sooner we can truly unify as a people. Then faith isn’t even required—we become the living Word.

That is plain heresy. We cannot become the living Word, we cannot become Jesus. Through the process of theosis we can be conformed more closely with the Word, but we cannot become Him. Her religion, we are told, ‘is love’, which is nice, but not really an excuse for thinking we can become Jesus. What does she want?

Might we instead recite the perfection of Jesus’ words? How about, “I do this in remembrance of you. Thank you that I am also worthy.”

This is rather painful, and charity perhaps dictates I pass over it swiftly. But again, it puts us in the place of Jesus, as well as adding a whole sentence he never spoke.

I do wonder whether self-denigration is really responsible for more sins than the modern nostrum of ‘because I am worth it’? It is not this last, with its selfishness, sense of entitlement and the pride it embodies which leads to the sort of greed and materialism which disfigure our world?

 

 

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