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A confession with regard to the self-identification of female dogs

Monday, October 22, 2018

I have many sins which I commit again and again which I am not prepared to confess here, yet. But there is one that I ought to admit to because I think it is a character flaw that is perhaps common to many Anglo-Catholics, and one I believe should be excised certainly from my own character. I think that confessing it publicly may help me to be on guard and perhaps allow my readers to put me to shame if, as and when I relapse. I hope also to encourage others to do a better job of living the Christian life than I do.
I have a tendency to be... for want of a better word... bitchy.
Regular readers will probably have picked up on that rather unpleasant business of me being rather spiteful in my criticism of others. Obviously, that is a term that ought to give offense to folk of gentler dispositions. Rather than referring to the verb and adjective formed from referring to a female dog, I will return to Holy Father Benedict and the word he uses for this activity - murmuring.
I do notice it in the circles in which I move which leads me to wonder why it is that Anglo-Catholics, or Anglican Papalists like me, seem to be the best murmurers. Why be so complete and damning in one’s criticism of others? Why go overboard and assassinate someone's character when a simple, objective and fair criticism would do? Why cultivate such thoughtless malice?
This is not even restricted to English Anglo-Catholics, but across the pond too, and, admittedly, it is unpleasant and must put people off joining Churches of Catholic descent. This is another reason for good self-examination and a commitment to repentance.
I do think, however, that English Anglo-Catholics are best at it because we do passive aggression best. Essentially, many Anglo-Catholics have had a fight on their hands in recent years. Since Forward in Faith rather let the ball slip in the CofE with regard to a Third Province, there is no real Catholic presence in that Church to challenge the mores. Forward in Faith have pulled up the drawbridge and resigned themselves to an eventual disappearance. The Roman Catholic Church has its own problems and incipient divisions over faith and morals, as do the Orthodox Churches. There is a war being waged!
I find that Anglo-Catholics are necessarily better educated in history, philosophy and apologetics on the grounds that they have had, in the past, to wage a war on historical and philosophical lines. The business of being Catholic means that an all-round education is needed to ensure that Catholicism is maintained. The trouble with being intellectual and English is that we have to be dreadfully agreeable to our opponents. Thus, when we are in our "safe" circles of friends, the class come out to vent that frustration. Murmuring seems to be a way of letting off steam, venting fury, and poke fun at the object of one's ire. Such behaviour is two-faced, it must be admitted.
The trouble is that, if we are not willing to poke fun at our offender to his face, then we risk making him a figure of fun within people who share our bias. A joke is only truly funny if everyone who hears it and can understand it can laugh. In murmuring, our offender is reduced to a caricature or, worse, demonised. Perhaps murmuring is the omega male's way of fighting wars with alpha males. It’s interesting that it is murmuring that is perhaps characteristic of cliques of teenage girls. I was once given a bit of an education in this when I was made to watch the film “Mean Girls” with Lindsay Lohan. What I saw there, I can see in my own life. Just as a school community was damaged in that film, so can real communities be destroyed by such behaviour.
St Benedict says that our works of obedience mean nothing if we do so with murmuring:
But this same obedience will only then be acceptable to God and pleasing to man when that which is ordered be carried out neither with trepidation nor tardily and lukewarmly, nor yet with murmuring and the back answer of one unwilling; for obedience yielded to superiors is an offering laid before God: for Himself He has said: “Who hears you, hears Me.” And with good-will should disciples yield it because it is the cheerful giver God loves. For if it is with ill-will the disciple obeys if even he murmur in his heart and not only by actual word of mouth, though he fulfil the command yet will he not now be accepted as obedient by God, Who regardeth the heart of the murmurer And for such act he earns no reward; but rather he incurs the murmurer’s penalty, unless he amend and make satisfaction. (Chapter V of the Rule)
As I say, murmuring is easy to do because it is natural and a way of letting off steam. We see psalms of complaint, but the Christian must make the object of complaint the proliferation of evil, not the person who offends in some way.
What should I do?
Well, clearly I need to stop poking fun at people behind their back. I may question their actions, but not their dignity as human beings. Thus, I intend to follow a bit of a better programme.
1)       First, as in all things, a prayer to God each day for the grace to see Christ in all whom I meet, especially those who offend me in some way.
2)       If I need to call Herod a fox, then I should be prepared to do that to his face.
3)       If I am tempted to poke fun at someone unjustly (i.e. beyond calling Herod a fox) then I need to find some aspect of that person I truly admire. 
4)       If I find someone’s action irritating, then I need to look and see how that action might be a better reflection of my own actions.
5)       If I see sin in another person then my first duty is to look for that sin in myself and perhaps chastise that in myself before I admonish another. I must also remember that admonish comes from the Latin admonere meaning to warn, not castigate (the Latin for castigate is castigare) Admonition literally means to direct someone to think, consider or mind. Remonstrate should mean to direct someone to rethink, reconsider or remind.
Not being an American alpha male, the ability to rebuke a colleague is not well-developed within me, and perhaps that’s a good thing. I am quite capable of issuing rebuke to schoolchildren, though even now that ability has diminished somewhat since my “retirement” from the classroom. If I must rebuke, then that will come to me from God and certainly not from myself. I do see some of my earlier posts do indeed lend to rebuke, particularly of the heresies committed, sanctioned and glorified within the Established Church. These heresies can be clearly seen from Holy Scripture and Tradition.
If the Church is to become a home for people for people fleeing from Evil, then they need to be able to see that the Church is dealing with evil at the personal level. It must begin with the individual: it must begin with me. I beg your prayers and request, humbly, that you might consider joining me in making the Catholic Church (in all its colour) a purer lens through which to see the light of Christ. Jesu, mercy! Mary, pray!

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