Many Catholics will be familiar with the question, “Do you reject the glamour of evil?” that was part of the older form of the renewal of baptismal promises. It’s a phrase that, I think, offers some unique insight into the reaction many Catholics are having to the ongoing scandals in the Church.
I suspect most people interpret the phrase, “the glamour of evil” to mean that evil can seem superficially attractive. As Oscar Wilde famously put it, “I can resist everything…except temptation.” But I think there is another dimension to that phrase that this scandal is revealing.
Lately, I am seeing otherwise good, faithful people unable to focus on anything but the latest horrifying tidbit to come across their social media feeds, no matter how unsubstantiated it may be. I see other good and faithful people who can’t resist goading each other, either because each new vile story is just more “proof” that either “Pope Francis has failed” or that there is some “vast right-wing conspiracy plotting to undermine Pope Francis.”
Despite whatever good intentions we may have, we all run the risk of being unintentionally seduced by glamour of the evil that is pouring out of the church. Many have inadvertently become obsessed with it, like some people can’t get enough of those “Dr. Popper” pimple videos on YouTube, or how you just can’t bring yourself to look away from that horrific accident where blood and transmission fluid are smeared across the highway. A mélange of death and gore.
Look Away…Look Away….
Evil is glamorous, not only in the sense that it can be hard to resist being drawn into it, but also in the sense that it can be hard to look away from it. If you aren’t careful, it’s tremendously easy to stare at it, and stare at it, and stare at it, until you can’t see anything else. Until everything good, and godly, and righteous, and beautiful has been drained from view, and all that is left is outrage, and anger, and indignation, and disgust.
Pollyanna Need Not Apply
I don’t mean that we should adopt some Pollyanna perspective that simply pretends everything is just fine while the Cathedral burns to the ground. I’ve read the PA Grand Jury Report. I’ve read Vigano’s testimony. As both a pastoral counselor who works with abuse victims and someone in Catholic media, I can’t afford to remain ignorant about what’s going on. I am as unfortunately well-informed as anyone can be about all the latest appalling news. Moreover, I don’t think we can afford to stay out of it. I sincerely believe that this is going to have to be a lay-led reform. We can’t lead the reform if we aren’t well-informed.
Even so, we all have to remember to do whatever we can to intentionally drag ourselves out of the cesspool at least several times a day to remember that God is good. That there is still beauty in the world. That the Holy Spirit is alive and well. And, most importantly, that there are real, hurting people who need to see that someone in the Church is still capable of love, compassion, and goodness.
Whatever “kind” of Catholic you are (left, right, middle, upside-down), and whoever’s ox you would like to see gored, maybe we would all do well to pause a few times a day. Step away from social media. Hug our kids. Give thanks to God for something. Help someone who is hurting. Just…be kind to someone–for God’s sake. Literally.
Satan is throwing a huge party, and yes, we need to stay on top of it so that maybe, just maybe, we can stop it from turning into a riot that burns down the entire block. But the one thing I can guarantee is that you are not doing anyone any good by diving into the mosh pit at Hatefest 2018.
I know it isn’t as much fun as raking muck. I know that it’s hard to resist when everyone, including the highest officials in the church, are acting like competitors in some coke-fueled mud-wrestling tournament. But please. Do yourself, the world, and the actual victims, a favor by doing whatever you can to resist the glamour of evil. Look away. A little bit. Just enough to remember St Paul’s words. “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:8).
Yes. Be aware. Be informed. By all means, be motivated to act. But at all times please, look for ways to be be a force for good. Because even if you don’t join in, there is plenty of evil to go around right now. And unfortunately, I promise it will all still be there when you get back from your break.