|Respect me, or else.|
A Common-Sense Response to the Complex Question of Respect
First of all, the Bear acknowledges that this is a complex question, although he maintains it is not a hard one. For too many of his fellow Catholics, it seems to be an absolute that rests on ways of understanding reality that are uncongenial to Bears. As always, the Bear is not claiming that he has the complete truth. He's never been one for The Big Answer and has refused to endorse any theories along those lines.
Make sure you and yours are reasonably well-catechized, use the Sacraments, read the Bible, try to stay in a state of grace, be ready to help others, and peddle through life on a bicycle while juggling flaming horse heads. That's something everyone can enjoy, right?
Who is Bear to judge what sort of sense his friends try to make out of all these goings-on, especially with the Eclipse of Doom coming right down poor Bear's chimney?
Supernatural Answers are Beyond Bears
but are Usually not Necessary
While the Bear wholeheartedly accepts the supernatural, he does not know how to factor it into analysis. That is why he has never tried. Where natural explanations are good and sufficient, he does not try to nose down supernatural ones. If, in the end, the only answer is the Calvinists' "Sovereign Lord," or Muslims' "Insh'allah," what's the point of blogging anyway? Why get your brakes fixed, if Allah or the God of Calvinists has already doomed Joe Bogagi to die beneath your Goodyears?
No, the Bear sticks to evidence and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom.
It seems quite reasonable to the Bear that the Bishop of Bratwurst could have an unnatural appetite for adolescent boys. That is an issue of the sort the criminal justice system deals with as a matter of routine.
It also seems reasonable to the Bear that said Bishop might hold and teach dodgy theology, as well. While perhaps more esoteric, at least the more obvious questions should not be beyond the powers of educated laymen.
Furthermore, since it is a matter of historical record that there have been popes of dubious morality and imperfect theology, we know that even they are subject to temptation and falls of all kinds.
One might argue that it is a matter of current events that Pope Francis has been somewhat distracted, shall we say, from a full-throated defense of the Deposit of Faith. The Bear does not feel moved to attribute any supernatural cause to this, such as a "chastisement." Nor does the Bear believe every word that falls from Pope Francis' lips to a waiting microphone is nectar distilled from the Holy Spirit, or that the Pope is incapable of refusing to cooperate with God, or operating on bad information or suffering from a poor formation, or just be plain wrong.
The Bear does not feel it is necessary to reach for any supernatural explanations at all when the Church seems to be failing in the exact same way at the exact same time as every other Western institution. These are the days of our lives, which is not to say they are not the last days, too, just that the Bear is not competent to judge such matters.
It seems to the Bear only natural that we might come up a cropper in a papal election, especially these days. South America in general and Jesuits in particular are hardly synonymous with "orthodoxy," after all. The Bear can acknowledge facts without running around in circles like the Woodlands is burning down. Presumably, God is charge of the big picture, and the Bear expects a lot of surprises when the final credits roll, anyway.
The Bear acknowledges that he has not only criticized the Pope, but has also used the sharper rhetorical tools of parody, invective, and agitprop. The Bear is sure his readers chalked that up to "Bearishness," and figured it was just the Bear's style, and an effort to be humorous.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Here, at the end, the Bear reveals the method behind the meanness.
The Bear condemns insulting people for the sake of insulting them. For one thing, there is no art to hurling insults, e.g. "Bat Christian."
On the other hand, the Bear has not been deterred from criticizing anyone by a demand for "respect." Sometimes that very "respect" is not just an all-purpose objection to criticism, but a cover-up for wrongdoing. Worst of all, "respect" can be not just the blanket that covers, or the gag that stops criticism, but the very means by which someone commits evil.
The cries for "respect" and the need for legitimate criticism are never more in conflict than in this last case: when someone uses the cloak of respect to cover his misdeeds, repel deserved criticism, but also as the very instrument of wrongdoing. In such cases, the issue of "respect" is not irrelevant to the criticism. Indeed, the force field of "respect" must be the first target, because as long as that shield is up, criticism can go nowhere.
That kind of "respect" is the kind of protection Captain Kirk could only dream of from shields on the Enterprise.
The ordinary Catholic's "shield of respect" he is willing to grant is not only defensive, but offensive. It not only intercepts attacks, it bounces them back upon the attacker. The question is not whether the criticism is correct or not. The answer is simply, "You must never criticize the Pope!" for example. A fortiori, then, one must never be disrespectful to the Pope!
Therefore, if one criticizes the Pope, however validly, he is struck down seven-fold by the defensive-offensive force field of "respect" and the millions who generate it. Some of them pretend reasonableness by saying, "You may criticize the Pope, if you must, but always with respect." That sounds good until you try to work it out in practice.
In other words, you may criticize as long as you do not penetrate the force field of respect generated by the Church and supporters of the Pope. Understand that the attack will be repelled, and you yourself will be blasted, not your target. Underlying all of this is a tacit assumption that it is never legitimate to criticize the Pope. Because of God or something.
Even if criticism is allowed, after all, and "respect" not insisted upon, if someone does try to disable the force field of "respect" with the Phasers of Truth set on 100%, now the objection is "no, no, no, you've gone too far!"
Pfft. Bear gets tired of all of this human silliness. If the attack is true and matters enough to make, it should be as effective as possible. If the Bishop of Bratwurst is molesting adolescent boys, the Bear will call him a "bugger," whether that is an impolite word to apply to a prelate or not. The Bear believes that even those willing to hear criticism still want to look like they just stepped out of a holy card. Faster than you can say "Saint-Sulpice" you're rapped sharply on the muzzle.
Sometimes the Bear suspects a superstitious dread and papolatry that Jack Chick himself would reject as "too hard to sell even to snake-handlers."
Thus, one may expose the wolf in sheep's clothing, but one must never touch the sheep's clothing to accomplish the disclosure. What a neat trick that would be! And how convenient for the wolf!
One may expose a bishop who abets the molestation of adolescent boys, but has it not been the problem that the institutional force field of "respect" has not only hampered discovery and prosecution, but has been the very means for the abuse to occur and continue? Is the Bear wrong about that? If so, please, let him hear it.
Ah, when "respect" is the very means of doing what deserves criticism.
Now, that is where the Bear's "lack of respect" is not just playing, or used for shock, but is an essential and legitimate part of the criticism. As long as the Bishop of Bratwurst is "respected" and all, how do you effectively criticize him? "Lack of respect" is nothing more than laying hold of the sheep's clothing and yanking it off the wolf! (A practical example from the law will be coming in the next article.)
The Nature of Respect: Earned and Conferred
Respect is something owed to one person by others. It comes in two ways. The first may be gained by anyone, and depends upon character, the good odor of which is spread by reputation.
The second is conferred by an external authority completely independent of character, and says absolutely nothing about the person that must now be respected. In fact, the compromises one must often make in many institutions in order to get that "respect" conferred, whether it be a colored hat or tenure, might cause some to view it with cynicism.
Since the first kind of respect is honestly earned, it is "safe." This kind of respect is deserved and trust naturally follows. It is the very best kind of respect and belongs to the one respected as a personal attribute stemming from good character.
The second kind of respect is conferred by authority, usually to support the function of an institution. It has nothing to do with character. A judge, for example, is "your Honor" in the courtroom, and is treated with the utmost deference. His decisions are not questioned during a trial. He may be an alcoholic wife-beater with gambling debts, but that does not matter. The best we can do is hope that his bad character does not interfere with the fair administration of justice.
Indeed, many have deliberately used an externally-conferred demand for respect as a cover for the worst deeds. Sometimes this has happened within the Church.
When the Respect-Conferring Office is the Very Means of Misconduct
What is the proper response when a bad actor uses institutional respect as the very means of doing and/or covering his evil?
This is an important question. A bad person without an office of respect may do evil. (Most criminals, for instance.) A bad person with an office of respect may do evil unrelated to his office of respect. (For example, a judge who uses cocaine.) And then there is a bad person with an office of respect who deliberately uses that office as the very instrument of wrong-doing. (A judge solicits a bribe for a certain ruling.)
In the first two examples, the question of "respect" never enters into the picture. It is irrelevant to the wrongdoing. In the third, the robes of conferred respect are inextricably linked with the wrongdoing. The bribery can take place only because the corrupt judge is a judge.
The finest cloth of conferred respect is often the instrument for committing the worst crimes. The Bear does not fear a thug nearly as much as a thug with a badge.
When one has decided it is solely by means of the office (the one that everyone is demanding must be "respected") that the acts requiring criticism are being performed, then it follows that the very first attack must be made upon - not the office - but the unworthy use to which a person puts the respect due to that office. The distinctions are as fine as gossamer, perhaps, and yes, the respect due to the office deserves consideration.
And yet, you gotta burst that bubble of awe, even if it takes a Three Stooges eye poke.
What About Damaging the Papacy?
Martin Luther erred by criticizing not only the Pope, but the papacy. Few bloggers criticizing Francis are wanting to do away with the papacy (or any other genuine teaching of the Church - sometimes it feels we're the only ones who still care about those). May one criticize the papacy, yet acknowledge a virtuous and learned pope? Sure. By the same token, one may criticize a pope, and not touch the papacy.
The knee-jerk answer is that criticism of the pope necessarily brings the papacy into disrepute. The Bear does not see why that should be so. Even if that is true to some extent, the antics of an out-of-control pope pose a far greater risk of scandal and permanent damage than a bunch of bloggers.
The way the Bear has always viewed it is that the cloak of respect covers all intended uses of the office. When a person who has been conferred the respect of an office misuses that cloak of respect to cover misdeeds, gag critics, and advance his personal interests to the detriment of the institution that gave him that cloak to begin with, then he has uncovered himself to a greater or lesser degree from the protection of that cloak.
However, given the religious characteristic of some cloaks, people can easily become confused. They become absolutists. They refuse to follow their logic to go to the ridiculous place it leads. For them, of course, no argument is sufficient. The Pope is holy, correct, and might as well be Mumbo Jumbo of the Victorians. Bear sincerely hopes none of those types have wasted their time reading this far.
But how about this objection? "We must combat each individual error of a pope one-by-one, while respecting both the person and the office." That is actually a decent objection, and should be the approach whenever possible. In a rare case, however, it is not one or two errors, but a spirit of error that may color an entire pontificate. Given modern mass media, might a pope count on "respect" to keep the malcontents quiet while he deforms the Faith?
This calls for its own answer, but not in this already long article.
There is also "sacrilege," although wicked Bear observes it is pretty convenient when an institution that is your only ticket into Heaven (when it suits it - otherwise, confusingly, it's all about the interfaith) puts its upper management beyond criticism by the likes of you and Bear. See? It's a good thing the Bear is stopping blogging now, since he is truly so wicked and full of bad thoughts. Yes, Bear acknowledges sacrilege. He does not believe criticizing churchman who are deforming the faith falls under that.
Next (Related): The Two Classes of Witnesses and How Each Must be Cross Examined