Sometimes the things one hears cuts deep into the soul. And one is left without being able to respond.
The contemporary cultural phrase that ends all discussion is, “Well, that’s your opinion….” It takes the floor away from any search for the truth – or even an attempt to present it. It seems to be a cultural form of self-defence – like an intellectual Jiu Jitzu move? It seems to give one “peace with God”.
That, one thinks, would be unfair on the practioners of that particular Japanese martial art, which is highly effective – especially in its Brazilian form. They have courage to defend themselves against larger and, apparently, more formidable opponents. And they are willing to learn. The practioners of “Well that’s your opinion” seem to be afraid of finding out something. Is it the fear of being wrong? Or the fear of having to change? Or has Modernism sunk so deeply into everything around them that they believe all norms come from themselves? Has Universalism become their staple intellectual diet?
The reason for bringing up this point is that the present author has encountered more than a handful of souls throughout his life who have claimed to be at “peace with God” while also being involved in some very disturbing practices. Here are a couple of the situations he found himself in, when the only words he had were those silent ones directed toward God for some of this magical “peace”. He’s sure he’s not the only one to have been in such situations recently.
Firstly, there was the young nurse who worked for a profit making company who killed unborn babies. She was a regular Sunday Mass goer, and communicant. She said she was “at peace with God.”
Secondly, there was a member of prestigious ‘new movement’ who had used IVF on several occasions. She said she was “at peace with God.”
And thirdly, there was the soldier who said himself and his unit had blown up houses with old grandmothers in them, and then searched them, in order to move forward safely. The possible presence of the elderly or sick in such houses didn’t effect his decisions to fire first and ask questions later. He said he was “at peace with God.”
Finally, there have been countless contraceptors who have looked at him puzzled, and then said they were “at peace with God.”
On the other hand, there have been other souls whom this author has known who have been tormented by their faults and who cried out to God for help.
There was the former soldier who – mistaking the present author for a priest – told of the murders himself and his fellow soldiers performed; killing men and burying them in their fields simply because of who they were. While in a drunken state he said these things before being directed towards Fr. Murphy.
Then there was the bishop who was unfaithful to his vow of celibacy. He turned on the present author one day, shaking as if from the effects of alcohol, before going to offer Mass. The sound of his car always running to assist his quick get away still lingers. Objectively his faults were many and his flock suffered immensely. It is said he died reconciled with the Church.
Finally, there was a priest-friend who was involved in the abuse of children. He spoke of how, on the eve before his ordination, he confessed his moral failings to his spiritual director but was told it would all be fine. The effects of 1968? He deeply wounded many children and their families – destroying trust immensely. His Archbishop sent him to a family run centre before he was caught. He received seven years in prison.
Now, who was at peace and who wasn’t? The soldier, the bishop, and the priest were not a peace – or, at least they didn’t claim to be. They were tormented by their faults. Was it a lack of compassion on the side of the Church that drove them to be tortured by their consciences? Or was it the stupidity of others that compounded it? Maybe they had never really heard the Gospel that their was a way out of their sins. Did God hear their prayers before they died? One hopes so. Did they find Him, the source of that true harmony called peace that comes from order? One hopes so.
And what about the nurse and the sweet lady from that prestigious ‘new movement’ who loves her IVF children? Why were they not tormented? Had they confessed their wrongs, or stopped being involved in them. They said they didn’t need to; their priests said they had to go by their conscience. God understood.
So there you have it. “Being at peace with God”: Real Life Stories. By some magic power maybe someone knows the gnostic secret carried by those who are at “peace” or maybe they discerned that it doesn’t really matter since God is merciful.
One wonders, therefore, is there now any need for hope, since there doesn’t seem to be anything left to confess. Hope, afterall, is the virtue by which one seeks that difficult – but possilbe to attain – good of eternal happiness in union with God. If there is nothing left to confess then eternal happiness must already be in one’s possession; God must have already bestowed one with the Beatific Vision. This, of course, is hyperbole. But if these are only rhetorical statements used for effect to try expose the dangers in the idea of discening oneself to be at peace with God even when one has to admitt the objective error in ones actions, where does all this lead to? Where is the differnce between “I’m at peace with God” and “Well, that’s just your opinion”?
“Being at peace with God” – the new norm – seems to come from oneself. Should the famous words, “Abandon Hope all you who enter here!” now be hung outside of confessionals since these are defunct? Or should it be rephrased: “You don’t need to hope in His Mercy – You’re already Fine”? For it is in God’s goodness that sinners hope – they hope to receive from His Infinite Goodness His Mercy, and so the forgiveness of all their sins. This why children were once taught to say often – so that it would become second nature to them to trust in God – this wonderful little prayer:
Oh my God, relying on Your almight power and infinite mercy and promises,
I hope to obtain pardon for my sins,
the help of Your grace,
and life everlasting,
through the merits of Jesus Christ,
my Lord and Redeemer.
Has this also gone the way of all that was taught before. Is it ‘Universalism Victorious; Catholicism No-More’?
Maybe this temporary defeat explains why confessionals are going cheap.