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Choices have consequences

From the Ottawa Citizen (with a hat tip to NealeNews):

Charlie Angus and Celina Symmonds had their lives turned upside down when they were told by their parish priests that they could no longer take communion because their stands on social issues conflicted with church teachings.

Angus, a New Democrat MP who represents a northern Ontario riding, ran afoul of the Roman Catholic church over his support for the federal government's controversial same-sex marriage bill.

"It's quite disturbing,'' said Angus, pointing to what he called "the rising militancy of language within the church. I went to Ottawa feeling that I would be speaking as someone rooted in a faith tradition and rooted in a justice tradition.

The man suffers from both ignorance and idiocy, and here's why.

First, he complains about the "rising militancy of language within the church". This reveals his ignorance of the Catholic Church. The body of the Church is divided into three parts: the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant.

The Church Triumphant are those souls in union with God in heaven.

The Church Suffering are those souls suffering from the cleansing flames of Purgatory who, when their sins are purged, will join the Church Triumphant.

The Church Militant are those souls on earth (that is, us) who are subject to the predations of evil, and who must battle it.

Angus is disturbed by the "miilitancy of language". Ignorant fool! It's the Church Militant! It's supposed to sound militant!

I can't believe this person was labeled a "practising Catholic" in the article. Unless it was meant to suggest he needs more practise. A lot more practise.

My second point deals with his obvious idiocy. He complains of the decision of Church to withhold the sacrament because of his vote in support of same-sex marriage:

"Then your involvement in the sacraments becomes a political pressure point. It was unacceptable.''

The Church is not playing politics. The Church is following through on the rules that define its existence, rules that every Catholic agrees to obey, first at baptism when the parents make that promise on their behalf, then again at confirmation, as a self-aware adult.

Angus knows this. That he thinks he can choose to renege on his agreement, then get away with blaming the Church for the consequences he suffers suggests to me that he is an idiot, since anyone with a modicum of intelligence wouldn't try to get away with such an inane argument.

His position reveals the narcissistic core of the support for same-sex marriage. Celina Symmonds was denied a Church wedding as well as communion because of her pro-abortion stance:

For Symmonds, what was so upsetting was the feeling that the church had made "a blanket decision without even knowing who I was ... I knew that the church was not supportive of abortion rights. However I felt that the church would be supportive of me.'

Me. Me. Me. It's always about "Me" with these people.

For some reason, these people seem to think that their "selves" are separate from their "choices". The Church could be against abortion, but embrace those who support it, according to Symmonds twisted non-logic.

News flash to Angus and Symmonds: we are all defined by our choices. You know that because you claim to be Catholics. You understand that in Catholic teaching, as opposed to Calvinism, for example, the choices you make are the basis on which you will be judged.

Calvinism teaches predeterminism, which says that the decision of who will be saved and who will not has already been made, and there is no way a mote like you or I can alter the decision of an all-powerful and all-knowing God with our meagre attempts at good living. That dogma is very liberating, since the most venal sinner will be saved by God's infinite grace.

[I've rewritten this portion to provide a more accurate view of Calvinist and Catholic teaching. The points made haven't changed, but my original description of the function of grace in these two theological models was simplistic, and even flawed, and I hope I have addressed those shortcomings here.]

In classic Calvinism, it is taught that people have a very limited ability to alter their fate:

[O]ur salvation is completely dependant upon God. Before the Creation of the world, God predestined certain people to receive salvation, and we humans have no choice in the matter. We have the ability to make certain types of choices because we have "free agency," but we will never make the proper spiritual choices on our own because we do not have "free will" which would allow us to choose to make Jesus our Lord and Savior. This is sometimes referred to as "single election." The idea that God predestined certain people (the "elect") to receive salvation, and that He also predestined everyone else to go to hell is called "double election." The condemnation of the non-elect is referred to as "reprobation."


[T]here is nothing we can do on our own to influence our salvation. Our salvation is entirely due to the grace of God. Since Jesus' "Limited Atonement" purchased salvation only for those who were foreordained to salvation, this means that everyone who was predestined to salvation will be saved.

The Catholic Church has always taught that salvation can be granted through God's grace and earned by good acts. That is one of the fundamental theological differences between the Catholic Church and most Protestant Churches. The Catholic Church thus has a responsibility to understand what constitutes good and bad choices, and to guide the flock. Those who chose poorly chose to be separate from the Church.

The Catholic Church has always taught that we have a choice in accepting God's grace and thus salvation:

It begins with the grace of God which touches a sinner's heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the love and mercy of God. Man may receive or reject this inspiration of God, he may turn to God or remain in sin. Grace does not constrain man's free will.

For Angus and Symmonds, they want grace and salvation, but they don't want their choices constrained. Calvinism teaches that grace is divorced from our ability to choose. Catholicism teaches that God's grace can function only if we choose to allow it to, and that means chosing to follow His Word. Angus and Symmonds have to know all this, and yet they think the rules are different for them. Narcissism, plain and simple.

It's the same narcissism that fueled thr drive to same-sex marriage. Marriage is an institution defined by biological and social realities, and as such, had membership requirements shaped by those realities. Same-sex couples were excluded from membership because they did not meet the requirements. Unable to simply accept that their choice in partners had an impact on other aspects of their lives, they demanded that the institution be drained of all meaning so that they could join too.

Now consider the experiences of Angus and Symmonds. They made choices, and are startled that their choices had consequences imposed by others. Somehow they think that the only consequences are those they choose to impose on themselves. Their narcissism makes them believe that they are the ultimate arbiters of what punishments, if any, they should suffer.

Two things will happen in the future. The first is speculative, the second certain.

First, I'd speculate that sooner or later someone like Angus or Symmonds will be faced with the consequences imposed by the Church because of their decisions, but instead of accepting those consequences, they will take it to court. A fellow narcissist on the bench will decide that the Church is free to believe what it wants, but it is not free to impose the logical consequences of those beliefs on others.

Second, and this is certain for those who believe, whatever these individuals chose to do with regards to respecting the decisions of the Church, in their time, they will be forced to face the consequences of their decisions imposed by the ultimate judge of all souls. And there is no appeal, no sympathetic media, no compliant courts, who will take their side if the judgment goes against them.

I'd wager Angus and Symmonds and people like them would be startled and shocked if someone told them that as well.


[Update: Kathy at relapsed catholic has had some personal contact with Charles Angus and adds some additional insights. La Shawn Barber has a post about the pressure on Christian churches to abandon their principles.]

[I have to apologize for two things. First, this has to be one of the angriest posts I've ever written. But the towering foolishness of these people, their feigned surprise and shock at the Church's actions, demanded a strong response. Second, this post is written from a Catholic point of view. I'm Catholic, the Catholic Church is the subject of the article, and as the article points out, the Catholic Church is most likely to run into more of these situations with the passage of time, as opposed to certain Protestant churches, who either support C-38, or are more accomodating of members who buck doctrine. Nothing in this post should be taken as an insult to those who belong to Protestant faiths, but just an objective description of the differences in the theological underpinnings, and the consequences of those difference.]

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