Some outlets have started using, well, bellicose terminology to discuss the situation—crisis?—in the Church today. We are apparently in the midst of “a civil war.” We wonder if such warlike terminology is entirely necessary, especially since we are not talking always about a battle against “principalities and power,” Eph. 6:12, but against men and women within the Church. It seems to us that it would be far better to adopt a language of fraternal correction.
Better than a language of fraternal correction it seems to us that we need to adopt a practice of fraternal correction, rooted in scripture and the teaching of Thomas Aquinas, for this situation. Remember that Paul withstood Peter to the face when the faith was at stake. (Gal. 2:11-21.) And remember that the Common Doctor teaches us,
Consequently the correction of a wrongdoer is twofold, one which applies a remedy to the sin considered as an evil of the sinner himself. This is fraternal correction properly so called, which is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well. Consequently fraternal correction also is an act of charity, because thereby we drive out our brother’s evil, viz. sin, the removal of which pertains to charity rather than the removal of an external loss, or of a bodily injury, in so much as the contrary good of virtue is more akin to charity than the good of the body or of external things. Therefore fraternal correction is an act of charity rather than the healing of a bodily infirmity, or the relieving of an external bodily need. There is another correction which applies a remedy to the sin of the wrongdoer, considered as hurtful to others, and especially to the common good. This correction is an act of justice, whose concern it is to safeguard the rectitude of justice between one man and another.
(ST IIa IIae q.33 a.1 co.) (emphasis supplied). In other words, we think that it might do traditionally minded Catholics well to get off the war footing and start talking about love. Not a cheap love that passes over faults because they’re awkward or we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but real love. And part of that is charitably correcting our brothers’ faults, even when our brothers are high prelates in the Church (cf. ST IIa IIae q.33 a.4 co.; Gal. 2:11–21). We ought not to do battle with the adherents of Cardinal Kasper’s theories or the Modernists or any other clique or gang: we ought to try to drive out their fault. In the case of the theory currently rocking the Church, we ought to try to drive out the fault that leads some people to think that practice and doctrine are somehow separable. Not because we want to win, but because we want to get our brothers and sisters back on the narrow path. Because we love them.
And because the faith is at stake.
Now, as Aquinas tells us, fraternal correction is an act of virtue, IIa IIae q.33 a.2 co., which means doing the right thing to the right people at the right time in the right way (Ethic. II.5, 1106b20–24). The extent to which one deviates from this mean is, of course, the extent to which one’s actions are blameworthy (Ethic. II.9, 1109b20–23). And getting serious about fraternal correction means getting serious about finding the right way to do it. Or, as the Philosopher would say, getting serious about fraternal correction means figuring out how to hit the mean (cf. Ethic. II.5, 1106b24–28). We suspect that this discussion would be lively, not to say contentious, since there is a wide range of opinion on the proper response to the situation in the Church. However, it seems to us that the group of people best equipped, philosophically and doctrinally, to have this discussion are, in fact, traditionally minded Catholics.
Such an approach has two benefits. One, it seems to be more consistent with scriptural mandates in this context (cf. Matt. 5:43–48; Rom. 12:14–21). Two, building on the comment of an acquaintance of ours, a consistent language of love and charity goes a long way to rebutting allegations of hatred, bitterness, or outright aggression. And, if there is one thing that life in 2015 teaches us, leftists (or progressives or what-have-you) are not above alleging hate or aggression against those who uphold the Apostolic faith. Or even against those who refuse to surrender to disordered individualism and abolition of values Benedict once called non-negotiable.