Ok, those of us who are delighted by the election of Benedict XVI have had a couple of days to rejoice now, and I know I’m far from alone in taking a certain pleasure in the confounding of the progressive party. That’s not a very admirable or virtuous attitude, and I tried to curb it pretty quickly. But I think it’s understandable.
Now I’m hearing something else here and there: a really malicious desire to see certain people or certain classes of people heaved over the side of the barque of Peter. Too many of us who have suffered through the liturgical and catechetical horrors of the not-very-distant past–even more, those who are still suffering through them–are exhibiting an eagerness to see heads roll that is not compatible with charity.
Whenever I feel the urge to congratulate myself on not being like the publican or the pharisee, I get nervous. Even more so when I find myself feeling like Jonah, annoyed that God is not raining fire upon Nineveh.
The great clearing of the air that began with John Paul II continues, and it seems safe to predict that some, perhaps many, will leave the Church eventually as they despair of remodeling it to contemporary taste. But if we react to the departure of those who have lost their faith by rejoicing in their humiliation, we’re courting the same danger. Flannery O’Connor’s great short story The Life You Save May Be Your Own is a wonderful parable on the topic of self-righteousness. If you don’t know it, you should, and think of that shower that follows Mr. Shiflet.
Amy Wellborn has a fine comment on this (the situation, not the story), with a lot of interesting comments following.