Stoicism is not Catholicism

Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism (Photo c/o The Basics of Philosophy, click image to access)

Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism (Photo c/o The Basics of Philosophy, click image to access)

Editorial, Rome, February 15, 2015:  Stoicism was ancient pagan philosophy which taught that every excess of human emotion was evil, and that man should seek to perfect himself by the application of right reason to his affections.  Since the Stoic philosophers of ancient times taught a system of ethics similar in many things to Christianity, they were often cited by the Fathers and later writers with approbation.  But in recent centuries, some authors forgot the underlying error and departed from a sound send of human nature under the influence of the 16th century rationalists, who abandoned Christian doctrine and morals and took up once again the ancient pagan philosophers as their guides.

A common error, therefore, is found in many books which advocate “spirituality”, an error drawn from the system of the Stoics. It says that one must never allow emotions to arrive at intense levels, especially anger, which is the emotion which naturally is most disordering of right reason.

A stoic, for example, will always confess getting angry. For to him anger is an evil passion.

A Catholic, however, knows better, taking as he does Our Lord Jesus Christ as his role model of virtue.  Remembering that Christ got so angry at the avarice of those who had care for His Father’s House, the Temple of old in Jerusalem, that He went so far as to make an impromptu whip out of the rope available at hand, and used it to drive the money lenders out of the outer court of the Temple: a Catholic understands that there are things worthy of getting angry about, and that to allow such passion is not a sin, but a virtue.

This is not to say, that anger can be unjust or excessive.  It is unjust when it is directed against what is not evil or threatening; it is excessive when it exceeds the bounds of what is needful or appropriate to the evil opposed.

For this reason, it is a very good thing if a Catholic would allow himself to get angry when a Catholic bishop would use his sacred office to promote error, even as regards the natural world.  Such an error as the global-warming mania, which puts the blame on the variations of solar radiation on humans.  Everyone with any concept of physics, understands that the magnitudes of scale are so great between the variations of the output of solar radiation and any effect human activity, even of all 6-8 Billion of us, that the latter could never ever effect the human climate in any appreciable manner.  And thus the sane and impartial know that the global-warming mania is just that, a mania, a phobia: and if you look deeper, you will find that it is a phobia promoted by international socialists, who to convince those opposed to socialism to accept the socialist agenda of societal reorganization, use the phobia of climate change.

Writers, therefore, are justly angered that this is what Pope Francis is to do in his upcoming encyclical letter on the environment.

One such writer had strong words about the Pope on this issue:

It comes as no surprise. Handwriting has been on the wall along the Viale Vaticano from the get-go. At the beginning of his pontificate, Francis revealed himself to be fastidiously attuned to image. He refused to give communion in public ceremonies lest he be photographed giving the sacrament to the wrong kind of sinner. So, when he agreed to pose between two well-known environmental activists and brandish an anti-fracking T-shirt, we believed what we saw.

It was a portentous image. Press toads hopped to their keyboards to correct the evidence of our lying eyes. Francis was neither for nor against fracking, you see. Nothing of the sort. He was simply using a photo-op to assert blameless solidarity with the victims of ecological injustice. (Both a decisive definition of such injustice and its particular victims went unspecified.)

If that restyling were true, then the more fool Francis. But Francis is not a fool. He is an ideologue and a meddlesome egoist. His clumsy intrusion into the Middle East and covert collusion with Obama over Cuba makes that clear. Megalomania sends him galloping into geopolitical—and now meteorological—thickets, sacralizing politics and bending theology to premature, intemperate policy endorsements.

Later this year, Francis will take his sandwich board to the United Nations General Assembly, that beacon of progress toward the Kingdom. Next will come a summit of world religions—a sort of Green Assisi—organized to lend moral luster to an upcoming confederacy of world improvers in Paris. In the words of Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Francis means “to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion.”

There is a muddle for you. The bishop asserts a causal relation between two undefined, imprecise phenomena. His phrasing is a sober-sounding rhetorical dodge that eludes argument because the meaning is indeterminable. Ambiguity, like nonsense, is irrefutable. What caliber of scientist speaks this way?

(Source: First Things, Francis & Political Illusion, by Maureen Mullarkey )

Steve Skojec, over at OnePeterFive, upon reading these words, makes a very good observation:

Mullarkey’s is only the latest thrust in a battle that has been going on for the better part of the Francis papacy. This, sadly, is what it looks like when you “make a mess” in the Church – division, bitterness, and venom. Amidst the salvos back and forth between the various camps, however, thinking Catholics are faced with a growing suspicion that the powers in Rome see the Church differently than the rest of us. Rather than an institution founded by Christ to convert the world and bring about the salvation of souls, they seem to prefer that she more closely resemble a trendy social-issues NGO. As our own Eric Sammons wrote last week, what the Church has been doing for the past half century hasn’t worked; the practice of the faith is decimated, leaving only a tiny minority of Catholics embracing their religion in an orthodox fashion. The impression that this is no accident is only enhanced when hand-picked papal advisers support communist, pro-abortion, and pro-homosexual institutions, or simply foment heresy in the pope’s name. Making matters worse, the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family produced a public work so deviant from Catholic teaching that it caused one bishop to declare it “the first time in Church history that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope” and something that “will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See.”

(Source:  This is What a Mess Looks like)

Mr. Skojec goes on to say that both sides in the Church, which is dividing between the liberal and conservative camps, need to tone down the rhetoric and use less angry words.  While I agree that unjust anger and excessive anger, even in just things, is morally wrong, I disagree with Mr. Skojec when he suggests that both sides need to respond similarly.

For this reason:  Stoicism is not Catholicism.

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