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Friday, 10 July 2015

The Spirit of Malice and The Party Spirit

This post is divided as it is about division.

Some of these thoughts were incorporate into two other posts, one on another blog in years past.

In the first part, I highlight what I call the Spirit of Malice.

The society is seeing an explosion of malice outside and inside the Church. For years, malice has been subtle and underground, but now, it is obvious and terribly nasty. What is malice? Malice is the intention to do evil on purpose. Those who fall into the habit of malice reveal a will which is always inclined towards evil.

This evil can exhibit itself in words, actions, thoughts through the will, and not through passion. A malicious person chooses to do a certain evil. That person is not acting out of the emotions, the passions. Thomas Aquinas explains this for us.

One can see how despicable this sin is. It is a willed habit. Aquinas states that the sin comes from either a corruption within the person; in other words, the sin "presupposes some inordinateness"; or through habit; but malicious becomes a habit of the will.

Signs of malice can be multiple. Have you ever met a person who constantly is negative, who undermines other people on a regular basis, who is constantly finding fault? Have you ever met someone who thinks mean practical jokes are funny, or destroying someone's reputation a game? Have you ever met someone who simply hates everyone and delights in slander, calumny, gossip? Have you met someone who purposefully wants to hurt others, manipulate them, make them suffer?

These are malicious people. Sometimes someone will say to me, "I really do not like being around this person because she carries a cloud around with her and dampens joy and positive attitudes in others."

That is a good description of the sin of malice.

Or, someone will say, "I get the feeling this person is not real in his liking of me, but that he is waiting to hurt me somehow."

That is another good description of malice.

Of course, Catholics know who the Father of Malice is , the Father of Lies, a Liar from the his first and only sin against God-Satan.

One cannot choose to be friends with persons who are addicted to being malicious unless one is patient and kind. And, this is not necessarily good for a person on one's own. It is not healthy to be around malicious people, as they are living in a powerfully negative world and desire to bring other's down into their hells, which they have created. Pray for such people if you must deal with them at work or in the family. Kindness is a good Christian virtue to combat malice.

Here is Garrigou-Lagrange on the sin of malice, which is a bit of a repetition from the perfection series, but helpful here again.

In contradistinction to the sin of ignorance and that of frailty, the sin of malice is that by which one chooses evil knowingly. In Latin it is called a sin de industria, that is, a sin committed with deliberate calculation, design, and express intention, free from ignorance and even from antecedent passion. The sin of malice is often premeditated. This is not equivalent to saying that evil is willed for the sake of evil; since the adequate object of the will is the good, it can will evil only under the aspect of an apparent good.
Now he who sins through malice, acting with full knowledge of the case and through evil will, knowingly wills a spiritual evil (for example, the loss of charity or divine friendship) in order to possess a temporal good. It is clear that this sin thus defined differs in the degree of gravity from the sin of ignorance and that of frailty. But we must not conclude from this that every sin of malice is a sin against the Holy Ghost. This last sin is one of the gravest of the sins of malice. It is produced when a man rejects through contempt the very thing that would save him or deliver him from evil: for example, when he combats recognized religious truth, or when by reason of jealousy, he deliberately grows sad over the graces and spiritual progress of his neighbor.
The sin of malice often proceeds from a vice engendered by multiple faults; but it can exist even in the absence of this vice. It is thus that the first sin of the devil was a sin of malice, not of habitual malice but of actual malice, of evil will, of an intoxication of pride.
It is clear that the sin of malice is graver than the sins of ignorance and frailty, although these last are sometimes mortal. This explains why human laws inflict greater punishment for premeditated murder than for that committed through passion.
The greatest gravity of the sins of malice comes from the fact that they are more voluntary than the others, from the fact that they generally proceed from a vice engendered by repeated sins, and from the fact that by them man knowingly prefers a temporal good to the divine friendship, without the partial excuse of a certain ignorance or of a strong passion.
In these questions one may err in two ways that are contradictory to each other. Some lean to the opinion that only the sin of malice can be mortal; they do not see with sufficient clearness the gravity of certain sins of voluntary ignorance and of certain sins of frailty, in which, nevertheless, there is serious matter, sufficient advertence, and full consent.
Others, on the contrary, do not see clearly enough the gravity of certain sins of malice committed in cold blood, with an affected moderation and a pretense of good will or of tolerance. Those who thus combat the true religion and take away from children the bread of divine truth may be sinning more gravely than he who blasphemes and kills someone under the impulse of anger.
Sin is so much the more grave as it is more voluntary, as it is committed with greater light and proceeds from a more inordinate love of self, which sometimes even goes so far as contempt of God. On the other hand, a virtuous act is more or less meritorious according as it is more voluntary, more free, and as it is inspired by a greater love of God and neighbor, a love that may even reach holy contempt of self, as St. Augustine says.

Thus he who prays with too great attachment to sensible consolation merits less than he who perseveres in prayer in a continual and profound aridity without any consolation. But on emerging from this trial, his merit does not grow less if his prayer proceeds from an equal degree of charity which now has a happy reaction on his sensibility. It is still true that one interior act of pure love is of greater value in the eyes of God than many exterior works inspired by a lesser charity.
In all these questions, whether good or evil is involved, particular attention must be paid to what proceeds from our higher faculties, the intellect and will: that is, to the act of the will following full knowledge of the case. And, from this point of view, if an evil act committed with full deliberation and consent, like a formal pact with the devil, has formidable consequences, a good act, such as the oblation of self to God, made with full deliberation and consent and frequently renewed, can have even greater consequences in the order of good; for the Holy Ghost is of a certainty infinitely more powerful than the spirit of evil, and He can do more for our sanctification than the latter can for our ruin. It is well to think of this in the face of the gravity of certain present-day events. The love of Christ, dying on the cross for us, pleased God more than all sins taken together displeased Him; so the Savior is more powerful to save us than the enemy of good is to destroy us. With this meaning, Christ said: "Fear ye not them that kill the body and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell." (28) Unless we open the door of our hearts to him, the enemy of good cannot penetrate into the sanctuary of our will, whereas God is closer to us than we are to ourselves and can lead us strongly and sweetly to the most profound and elevated meritorious free acts, to acts that are the prelude of eternal life.

Malice leads to divisiveness in a community, to the party spirit in a church.

The "party spirit" has nothing to do with balloons or cake.

Few Catholics understand what the “party spirit” is and how it comes about. Factions have been within the Church since day one. St. Paul refers to such in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, in Roman 12: 9-21 and Romans 14: 1-12.

St. Paul tells us that the party spirit is a spirit, or demon, of division. Divisiveness is never from God within the Church. Divisiveness is not the same as criticism, which should include positive solutions to problems.

For example, one may criticize a catechetical program in a church, but not offer to find alternatives which may be better or teach. Those who judge and criticize merely to stir up trouble build the doorway for the party spirit.

Divisiveness usually means three things. Firstly, that a lack of charity and forbearance has crept into a parish or a group. This lack of charity comes from concentrating on people’s sins and failings, rather than encouraging their good points.

Secondly, egotism, which rears its hydra head, creates division. Egotism must be heard, seen and is in everybody’s face. Egotism is not humble ever and defends itself constantly.

Thirdly, the seeking for power creates a party spirit. To the extreme, this seeking of power creates entirely new churches, such as the four churches found in the 1960s on one corner in my home town, all split-offs from the other. Division caused confusion, anger, even hatred.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, St. Paul tells us where the party spirit comes from.

“But understand this, that in the last days, there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, love of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, loves of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.”

The last phrase must include the discernment to know when to avoid and when to correct.
Avoiding means not being friends with those who are untrustworthy of the Gospel of the Lord. Avoiding means that if one does not avoid slanderers or the abusive or the arrogant, on becomes like them and loses the gifts of discernment, temperance, and prudence.

We do not have to win every battle and even fight every battle in the Church. Some battles require great holiness and purity of heart. Some require patience and intense prayer and fasting.

How does one avoid strife in groups? St. Paul has the answer, “Put on then, God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forbearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all of these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”Colossians 3:12-15

One must find peace within one’s self in order to spread peace and only those who have found peace, through meekness to God can truly stay away from unnecessary conflicts.

Grieving the Holy Spirit, another one of Paul’s inspirations, comes about when people engage and encourage, wrath, anger, bitterness, clamor, and slander. See Ephesians 4: 25-32 on these points.

If one reads all the epistles, one finds the theme of communal harmony is almost in each one. If St. Paul had to address divisiveness over and over, one can see that it can be a persistent problem.
I cannot refer to all the passages on this theme, but list a few ways to avoid divisiveness in the Church, in our parishes, in our communities, in our families, and so on.

One, look to one’s own sins in humility and truth. If one sees the horribleness of one’s own weaknesses and failings, one cannot judge nor cause dissension by pointing to another’s faults.

Two, think on Christ and not on one’s self. If one is truly in love with Christ, the Bridegroom, one supernaturally wants to love His brothers and sisters and find creative ways to show this love.

Three, forgiveness covers a multitude of sins and failings. To forgive is to forget, which some priests do not teach. I would hope people in my life forgive and forget instead of constantly saying a litany of my faults to me. This concentration on negativity rises from unforgiveness and even hatred. The negative litany destroys community.

Four, egotism must go. The rule of the saints and the great teachers on purity of heart, mind and soul tell us that the ego stands between us and God, between us and His Perfect Will in our lives, between us and the community, between us and eternity. If the ego is not destroyed, we shall not see God after our particular judgment as we have chosen our self-will over Him.

Lastly, egotism and narcissism constantly fall back on talking about one’s self and one’s grievances. As we say here in Iowa, “Get over it, he (or she) is not that into you.” I have discovered that really most people are truly not interested in me, but only in themselves. This should be a freeing experience of grace, enabling one to concentrate on God and not one’s self.

St. Paul wraps up this discussion so poignantly: “I hear that there are divisions among you ; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

The genuine are not those who cause the factions, but the Truth of the Gospel itself causes factions-however, we can teach, preach, instruct, but never judge. “For if we judge ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened, so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

The genuine are those who allow God to purify them and those who cling to the orthodoxy of the Church in all things.