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Tough love and its opposites

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 09, 2003

"They (Holy Cross) gave me information of allegations that they were taking seriously and that they were sending him to therapy," D'Arcy said.

A too-familiar story. It got me wondering whether the therapy to which erring priests are sent is really meant to remove the affliction of the patient, or whether, as in other forms of counseling, its concern is rather with appropriateness, i.e., with occasions and circumstances and priorities.

The old language of asceticism spoke of mortification, literally "putting to death." You didn't make a treaty with sinful inclinations, you didn't channel them into "appropriate behavior patterns," you killed them. Readers of C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce will remember the angel, the purifying fire, asking the sinner's permission to put to death the habitual vice that had tentacled itself so deeply into his existence that the sinner feared the death of his pet vice would be his own death as well.

It takes moral courage to embark on mortification, and it takes moral courage to require someone to embark on it. It sometimes miscarries. But as with a parent faced with the choice of risky and painful surgery that will make his child well and risk-free medication that won't, we sometimes need to ask others to walk the harder path.

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  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jun. 09, 2003 9:32 AM ET USA

    Courage is a word that is rarely heard these days from the pulpit. 300 Spartans held up to a million Persians at bay for several days at the aptly named Gates of Fire [Thermopylae]. Imagine what 300 present day saints could do.