Extremism: The Solution for our Times (Part II)

Precisely in this true extremism we have the solution to all the false divisions drawn these days in various spheres and in various ways. For instance, politically, we have the divisions “conservative” and “liberal”. These have a very limited utility. For we must treat each issue distinctly. First, we must determine what are those issues that are intrinsically evil. These can never be endorsed, for who endorses them endorses something evil. For instance, any platform that offers to secure rights for the commission of an evil act is thereby endorsing evil. For instance, abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, contracepted intercourse, unnatural sexual intercourse, no fault divorce, credit lines that amount to usury, preemptive wars, etc. Platforms that offer to secure rights for the commission of these acts are endorsing evil.

In the ecclesial sphere, there are the similar terms used, “conservative” and “liberal”. These are used with some limited utility but are really unhelpful. They are distracting. The reason they are unhelpful is they lead to a wrong diagnosis of problems in the Church. They make people think that if someone is concerned about right doctrine that he is not concerned about the poor and about justice. Conversely, they make someone think that if a person is concerned about the poor that he is not concerned about right doctrine. They make it sound as though truth and love must be “balanced”. That is nonsense. They must be extreme. We must be extreme lovers of God and extremely faithful. We must sacrifice not one iota of Jesus’ teachings, not one iota. For if we do, we become the authors of his truth or the judges of his truth. If we are the judges of his truth, then we control the whole thing. We determine what belongs and doesn’t belong. This is why a Cafeteria Catholic is not a Catholic. Insofar as a Cafeteria Catholic obstinately denies or doubts any truth of divine faith, he is a heretic. And thus, no longer a Catholic. The Cafeteria Catholic is a contradiction in terms. This is a crucial point, and it is fundamental. For faith comes – in the order of generation – before charity. Why? You cannot love what you do not know! So, the sine qua non condition for being a Catholic is faith. A “sine qua non” condition is a necessary condition. If the necessary condition is not met, the result is not met. Thus, one cannot be a Catholic without that virtue. And a heretic formally sins against that virtue, thereby destroying in himself the whole of that virtue. He may still “agree” with the Church about 90% of things. That is well and good as far as “agreement” goes. But he has lost the virtue of faith, and his agreement is a “co-incidence” that can help his return or that can be eroded over time if he does not.

Then we come to charity. Charity is not a sine qua non condition of being a Catholic. I don’t know if people pay enough attention to this fact. Faith comes first in the order of generation. That does not mean charity is less important. It means you cannot even have love, charity, unless you have faith. Therefore, unless a Catholic is formally orthodox, he can have no charity! Unless a Catholic is formally orthodox, he can have no charity. This is, clearly, no balancing act. It is a “Both And” act. And both acts must be extreme. Without charity, of course, a Catholic can still be a Catholic, but he is a dead one, not a living one, he is one on the way to perdition, unless he opens his wounds to the Savior’s tender gaze. He is a noisy gong. And, if he does not love the God in whom he believes, why should he for much longer believe in him anyway? The Catholic who continues in a state of mortal sin for long risks losing his faith. And thus, his being a Catholic. If he, for instance, “lives in sin” (think of the great scene in the BBC version of Brideshead Revisited), he risks losing faith. Then, if he still looks outwardly Catholic, but has formally committed heresy, he will work away at the Church to try to get her to conform to his own depravity. Thus, losing charity is a great danger. And having charity is the greatest boon.

What is the summary? Extreme orthodoxy is the foundation of sainthood and justice. It is not inimical to justice and social concern. It is the condition for the right minded approach to love of the poor. What else? Extreme charity is the crowning of sainthood and truth. For we were meant for this – love. Thus, “Kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace shall kiss.”