Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Question of Respect

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.

Mea Culpa

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 wrongdoingIn 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.

"Shields Up"

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


  1. Now, there is an analysis I can respect.

    1. Ha... Bear wants to make sure everybody misses him ;-) More to come...

  2. Devastatingly on point and persuasively put, Bear! Congratulations. Perhaps you ought be dubbed St. Paw, so much akin is your honeyed rhetoric to that of St. Paul's:

    "O you dear idiots of Galatia, who saw Jesus Christ the crucified so plainly, who has been casting a spell over you?...Surely you can’t be so idiotic as to think that a man begins his spiritual life in the Spirit and then completes it by reverting to outward observances?" Galatians 3:1-5 (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

    1. Long time, no hear, your Honor. Glad for it. A bit long-winded, and I'm not even done. My ursine apologia hear at the beginning of hibernation. I want people to understand the difference between the Bear and your ordinary bomb-thrower. Next is the difference in cross examination of a truthful, but mistaken witness, and a witness of bad character whose essential credibility must be challenged. You will know what I am talking about.

      BTW, there's a judge in the sequel to Judging Angels. Very well-known on the New York Supreme Court (the most confusingly titled court in the world, perhaps). Not, however, known for his... presence.

    2. Thanks, Bear. It's flattering to be remembered. The old gray mare ain't what she used to be.

      One of the television stations here in Ireland has picked up the "Law and Order" (never better than when Detective Briscoe was featured) spin-off "Crime & Punishment". Never had seen it before and it doesn't work wonders for my temperament.

      Try to repress the gorge rising, but "Judge Judy" is wildly popular here. Not in this household however.

      So exciting to hear you're working out the sequel to 'Judging Angels'. You have a crisp style and spin a convincing yarn. John Grisham in his early years.

      I keep you & yours in my prayers. BTW you have to survive that 'once in a lifetime' meteor shower on 12 August before the eclipse bifurcates the States.

    3. Eh, the August 12th meteor shower is always "once in a lifetime." I should know. That's my birthday. Even the Heaven's celebrate the birth of a Bear. The night sky is not what it used to be, as you can probably remember.

      Please consider doing the Bear a big favor and dropping a review at Amazon, if it's not too much trouble. I know people get more tired of me begging for reviews than even of me begging for salmon, but they are ridiculously important to getting the word out about a book.

      But if that's not your thing, I understand, and no problem. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I'm flattered by the comparison. Book Two is shaping up to be better, I think, as one would expect from the second effort. Different. More committed to the weirdness as a way of revealing the real from a different perspective.

  3. More Flannery O'Connor than John Grisham, perhaps? Intriguing. I'll have a go at the review, Bear. It will be my pleasure.

    As for the state of the world and church I am persuaded more and more by this axiom:

    "Motus in fine velocior" ("Motion accelerates when the end is near.")

    1. TIA! And, yes, you're right. I cannot believe the changes in my human lifetime compared to the essentially stable (if militarily violent) age my grandfather, or even my father lived in.

  4. MAN! 'hibernate' like a Kardashian after a Paris robbery.

    That was quick....but I'm most happy for that....perhaps you should put the bear in the header coming back into the frame with a little text bubble saying, "Psych!"

    1. You should read carefully, Badger. Bear said he would be going into hibernation in the next couple of weeks, but had a few things he wanted to make clear before he left. Anyway, everyone knows that the idea of Bears sleeping for months without ever waking up and going downstairs for snacks is a myth.

  5. Thanks Bear for masterfully providing us a rationale for something many of us now do with impious gusto.

    Are you going to issue a '005 License to Criticize the Pope' to those who have studied and initialed the above 'Argument in Favor of Verbal Attack on certain Clerical Persons'?

    1. You know, that is an excellent idea, Mike. Bear could issue licenses to criticize to people who have graduated from an expensive online course. And they would have to be renewed every month for a small fee. That way everyone could know what criticism was worthy of attention, and what was illegitimate.

  6. This photo sums up Bergoglio-style for me. Bishops best be careful if they don't want to swim with the fishes.

    1. An excellent example of agitprop, of which the Bear is no slouch himself. The revolution will be Photoshopped. As to the legitimacy of such tactics, see this series.

    2. Yes, just look at what they've done with Card. Pell, and now PBXVI's own brother. Shameless. The Bear does excel here, ridicule can sometimes be the only recourse when dealing with a tyrant with absolute power like Jorge. Just look at how effective those posters were in Rome, but it's not enough.
      Oh, and I meant "sleep" with the fishes.


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