Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Humble Certainty vs. Passive Suggestion

 Saying "It is..." instead of "As Catholics, we believe it is..."

This often comes up in the context of a non-Catholic attending a Catholic liturgy or perhaps in other conversation of an apologetic nature. (apologetic - to do with explanation/defense). The Catholic will say to the non-Catholic "As Catholics we believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ and so [we genuflect/only Catholics may receive/etc...]" This is true. As Catholics we do believe that. However (and maybe I'm just splitting hairs here) I think that sometimes this phrasing, or things similar to it, carry a different implication.

What it sometimes sounds like to me (even when I say it myself) is "This is what we believe but I don't want to offend you by being too blunt so I'm going to soften it with language that lets you off the hook in case you don't want to believe it." I think we do this without even realizing, because we're so used to a culture where we have to make everything palatable lest we offend anybody. Again, I am plenty guilty of this myself so I'm not trying to point fingers here.

I want to encourage a different approach. What if we said "It is the Body and Blood of Christ and so [we genuflect/only Catholics may receive/etc...]"? It's a subtle difference but an important one. It leaves no room for relativism, no room for "If I don't believe it, it isn't true." I'm not proposing rudeness; we should always speak with Love.

Of course, I don't mean this to only apply to discussion regarding the true presence in the Eucharist. This is just the most obvious example. I think that speaking with humble certainty is needed in all aspects of our public dialogue. We only seem to know how to speak in the extremes of tiptoeing around everyone's nerves or abandoning all concern for others and just saying whatever we want. As usual, the middle ground is better.

Remember, love is all charity but also all truth and that we're not doing anyone a favor by softening, by lessening the truth to make it palatable. True things have their own sweetness and we should be let them shine through.

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