Wednesday, January 9, 2013


HYPOCRISY[1] AND   RELIGION     March, 2006



My cardiologist is a very decent sort of chap, even when he is thumping away at my aorta, pushing on my left ventricle and bellowing  "Breathe through your mouth."  However, my last exam became a role reversal situation when he startled me by revealing a disillusionment at his   brother's departure from a religious Order. Confused as I was, I felt that somehow I was expected to minister to my physician "minister".  But what does one say to offer consolation or even a word of explanation on Religious severance after 15 years of presumably devoted, sincere service to the Lord's people?


The ex-religious explained his departure by his perception of "unbearable hypocrisy" of the Religious whose Community life he shared. He seemed surprised to discover that people in religion are just as selfish, lazy, manipulative and phony as the average fellow who works as a Wall Street  trader or the lady who sells hats at Bergdorf Goodman.  I, myself, have lived for 64 years in religious Community, given countless retreats and lectures to clergy and religious and have found similar human behaviors but that is only half the story.


How did he miss the abundant generosity, kindness and friendliness that pervades most religious Communities—even today when widespread secular narcissism has seeped into God's own acre?  Did he not meet the broken person striving for holiness who, contritely, makes amends after being sarcastic or cold to a fellow religious?  Did he not see the day by day attempts at prayer in the midst of very busy and demanding service to others? Did he not see these vessels of clay wrestling with their God to make sense out of much of the nonsense of their lives? Did he never hear the testimony of saints, such as John Berchmanns who painfully admitted that Religious Community life is a Purgatory? A Purgatory which highlights and magnifies human failings as well as human splendor? Of course selective friendships and greetings are rampant as are hurts and slights and even unChristian shunning. I once lived with a fellow religious who had a list of people he wouldn't talk to! It was a common joke to ask another Religious if he was "on the list."  Of course, there are innumerable instances of this kind of "hypocrisy." But isn't there another side of the coin?


I am surprised that he was surprised.  My assumption is that Catholic religious know and reasonably understand the basic doctrine of Original sin whereby all of us, intelligent or dopey, young or old, healthy or ill, will be tempted to be proud, envious, lazy, lustful, angry, mean, avaricious and vengeful. The priest who is too busy or annoyed to meet the request of an anxious Catholic for sacramental Confession is, on first impression, beneath my contempt, but I try to understand that there are unconscious and conscious dynamics working in him that are beyond my awareness. It is not for me to judge. Perhaps, in every human being, we might find weaknesses and modes of behavior that might be labeled hypocrisy!


The Catholic Church teaches that there is a fundamental incompletion in all human beings. No one escapes. Only Jesus Who was God (as well as man) and His Blessed Mother (by singular theological exception) can claim true and complete integration. Even on Ash Wednesday, the Church reminds us that we are dust, and highly limited by space and time. I am surprised that a modern religious is unaware that all religious communities represent a slice of that population we call the human race. That tainted and broken human population is the pool from which come all religious vocations. Ideally, I would like my religious leaders, male and female to be perfect human beings, always loving, always, intelligent, always kind, always "there" for me! If I really believed that, I would suspect that there is "something" in the water I drink.


Yet, it seems to me that some of the most terrifying words of the gentle Jesus were reserved for those whom he called "hypocrites."  These were the ones whom He labels "whited sepulchers"……..clean looking on the outside but  rotten inside. It surfaces for me a recollection of  the old Roman god, Janus, who had two faces to be used expediently according to the "appropriate" situation. Clearly, there is a difference between keeping personal secrets to oneself  (a moral choice) and pretending to believe something one does not (or even pretending not to believe when one does). While there is no moral need to splatter one's total self all over the landscape, there is a vital Christian imperative to try to match one's behavior with one's stated belief.


In fact, this principle applies not only to religious people but to anyone who seriously pursues what we call the Will of the Almighty, the Lord, Himself.  When, as reported in a New York newspaper recently, a local Rabbi cajoles women congregants to have sex with him under the guise of some kind of Jewish ritual, he is a hypocrite. As is the Catholic priest who has sexual relationships with adolescents under the pretense of helping them to mature. He is a desperate hypocrite. Or the public high school teacher who molests his  intimidated students, too fearful to resist or report him. Or any son or daughter of Adam/Eve who "feigns" virtue, belief or even feelings.


How many times I have heard the old saw from fallen-away Catholics that the reason for their non-practice is the hypocrisy of Catholics who attend Mass on Sundays!!   It is alleged that these Catholic hypocrites go only to show off their high couture or possibly to maintain some kind of social or professional contact.  While this might be true in isolated instances, particularly with politicians who pointedly carry big, highly visible Bibles, on Sunday mornings, it is insulting to the millions of good hearted people who do attend their various denominations sincerely and with full intent of living godly lives. Who are the real hypocrites?  It is fascinating to me to discover that many of the people I have encountered with that rationalization, are themselves engaging in or living with situations which are antithetical to the codes of the Great Religions. To attend services in Temple or Church might be too anxiety provoking for this critic.  Attendance could mean a challenge to his laziness or his carnality or his dishonesty. To call others hypocrites becomes an excuse for him. Yet, his rationalization relieves him of a strenuous effort to please God. Those faithful persons who worship their God with dignity and silence do not need to trumpet their prayer life. They are well aware of the basic spiritual axiom: God Who sees in secret, rewards in secret. Perhaps, the noisy criticism of those who are too involved with Mammon is all the reward they will get.


If believing people (of any religion) fail in their prayers or their charity or their self control, do they repent and reform and try again? If so, then these people are truly sincere—even if they fail. The critic doesn't even try. In one of the recent Courage[2] meetings, a newcomer to the Group who had broken free of the Gay lifestyle, commented on the absence of self loathing in the verbal witnessing of the members. His previous experience with SSA people, in other groups, had been rife with self hatred and self depreciation but the Courage people seemed pervaded with a sense of self respect. The explanation derives from the Catholic insight of the "Second Chance" and the "Constant Resurrection" (i.e. the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation).  Coupled with the insistent Catholic teaching that all men and women are loved by God Who sent His Son, Jesus, to die for all of us and our sins (translated as Value of a person), the encouragement to "pick oneself up and try all over again" takes root in one's self identity. Then the soul hears the message: Keep on trying. Keep up the good fight. Don't quit. You are basically good if marginally wounded. Miracles do happen.


Courage teaches its members the meaning of Original sin and its illumination on human behavior. It teaches that the disciplining of the disordered tendency for same sex can be a "platform of holiness" as in the Blessed apostle Paul mode with his " thorn in the side". Even if the disorder is never removed, it can be contained by God's great grace and can allow the person to reach spiritual heights he never imagined! This is not hypocrisy. This is real virtue wherein these SSA people do not "feign". They face the facts of their lives and struggle for the sake of the Lord to achieve and maintain interior Chastity. Is it that the cynical critics dislike struggle or effort and prefer the instant gratification so cherished in modern culture?


Still, fakery (or hypocrisy) and not-revealing "things" are two different issues.  Cardinal Levada, in an address to the seminarians at the North American College in Rome, recently suggested that an SSA priest would be well advised to keep his sexual ambiguity to himself. The need of some "Gay" priests to publicize their "gayness" to Catholics whose interest is more in sizzling bacon and Sunday newspapers, speaks, not to the spiritual good of parishioners, but to underdeveloped  psyches playing at being Clergymen. Keeping one's sexual preferences to oneself could  well indicate some attempt at generosity in protecting the Faithful from confusion and disillusionment. To argue that such self disclosure on a Sunday morning is necessary for the priest's own honesty is to high light the perceived priorities of the "Gay" priest. He is interested in himself and not in the peaceful growth of God's people.


Christian spirituality necessarily involves some form of the Cross which, in effect, translates into affective love of the Lord. While human failure is inevitable, in priests and peasants, laddies and lassies, and in all children of Adam, the splendor of human goodness still shines through all the muck and hypocrisy. Let us then sing the praises, under God, of being human! 



[1]  "..feigning of beliefs, feelings or virtues that one does not hold or possess; insincerity" Dictionary of Houghton, Mifflin Co.

[2]  a Catholic apostolate formed to assist Same Sex Attracted Persons (SSA) to pursue Chastity and holiness in  the Roman Catholic style


A Prayer For Light

O Holy Spirit of God, take me as your disciple: guide me, illuminate me, sanctify me. Bind my hands that they may do no evil; cover my eyes that they may see it no more; sanctify my heart that evil may not dwell within me. Be you my God; be you my guide.

Wherever you lead me I will go; whatever you forbid me I will renounce; and whatever you command me in your strength I will do. Lead me, then, unto the fullness of your truth. Amen. 



                                    EVERY ONE HAS A BIAS!
The New York Times is generally staffed by plagiarists and frauds! 
The New York Police Department is full of Officers who sodomize presumed Perps! 
The New York Prison system is full of Black rapists! 
Jewish business people are unethical: Business is Business! 
The Roman Catholic Clergy is predominantly pedophilic!
They are about the only ones who molest kids and they are the worst in the country. 
The New York City Public School system is loaded with child abusers! 
The Republican Party's Political initiative is to plan legislation to benefit the wealthy! 
The Democratic Party stands for partial Birth abortion, same sex marriages and de-funding National Defense!  
Moslems are basically committed to the overthrow of Judaeo-Christian way of life. This is the Real Jihad! 
Gays do not believe in self control or inner chastity. They believe in promiscuity! 
Sicilians are usually linked to the Mafia (?)  
The Irish are an alcohol addicted people. 
All American military torture and abuse prisoners.

COMMENT: One of the basic points in a course titled Introduction to Logic is that one cannot leap from the "particular" to the " general." Such a basic understanding would immediately signal to the reader that ALL the above statements are false Prima Facie! This means that each statement on its face value is incorrect. While each of them contains instances of the allegation, the dominance of the stated population is the exact opposite. When the then Police Officer, Justin Volpe, in a brutal and stupid moment sodomized a Black party goer, he was unanimously condemned by his colleagues, by his administration and fired from the Job! To argue from this disgusting "particular" to the superficial belief that " All cops are sadists and sodomizers" is puerile and absurd. Likewise, while, indeed there are prisoners in Rikers Island Prison who are rapists and black, to argue from that demographic fact to the facile conclusion that young, black males are generally sexual predators is insane.

Similar intellectual distortion, whether conscious or not, malice based or not, occurs too frequently. Perhaps, with anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Hispanic or African-American there are conscious motivations present. Some people DO have malicious intent. And perhaps there does exist " another side". But some issues do not have two sides. The Holocaust or Shoah in which millions of human beings were executed simply because of their ethnicity is intrinsically evil. It was specifically because people were Jewish that they were murdered. Sr. Benedicta of the Cross, (Edith Stein), a cloistered Camelite nun, was "terminated" because she was Jewish, not that she was a Catholic religious. The dragging-death of a black man behind a truck driven by two bigoted white men simply because of his skin color is intrinsically evil. There is no possible view other than that such savagery is evil in itself. 

The murder of a gay man (even if sexually enticing his abductors) by low level bigots is evil in itself. There is no way such horror can be justified. The widespread historical usage of Jim Crowism and the mid-nineteenth century Know Nothing-ism
(or Anti-Catholicism) is a frightening reminder that there are always those who seek " the other side" when there is no other side.

Shared understanding about decency and morality allows civilized people to avoid anything which creates the horror, revulsion and anger that are associated with the above examples. However, in the open square of dialogue so theoretically worshipped in America, there are viewpoints which are legitimately antithetically opposed to each other. These differing views do not necessarily indicate ill will or desire to injure anyone.

Yet these differences are "there" and often heavily influenced by
one's own Background including family, education, religion and experience. 

It is inevitable and obvious. To insist that one is completely objective, honest and fair, quite free of any bias, might well be naïve and fantasy. When I taught Graduate courses in Counseling with my psychiatrist colleague, Dr Arnie Zucker, I insisted early in every course that every budding psychotherapist be willing to explore his own personal biases. In effect, we taught there is no such being as a completely objective person. We all have biases!

To admit and know one's own biases is not a disaster. Self knowledge is essential if one is to control and contain one's bias tendencies. The real danger is the denial one might encounter in facing one's own tumultuous unconscious with the fears and angers and biases so relative therein.

I am struck by the almost palpable glee I sense in the near unending reporting of the heinous and evil behavior of 1.8% of all Catholic priests who have brutalized the young over the past 40 years! (Even the 4% of the past 50 years as is stated in the John Jay report of 2004). Is the fury merely and solely traceable to repulsive behavior of a comparatively few evil and dishonorable men? Or is there a more hidden, even unconscious, motivation?

 Most of us ARE enraged and disgusted at such satanic behavior but see the evil for what it really is - - - ! We rightly demand correction AND justice. Yet, it is seen within the reality of human experience. How does one explain the cascading of vituperation heaped upon the Catholic church? Is there an agenda to discredit a Church that has been a strong force for good and morality? Is it possible that the fury against Catholicism is because this is the ONLY Church which persistently and clearly stands against abortion and the homosexual lifestyle? Is it meaningful that some of the loudest drumbeaters are Pro-Abortion and Pro- same sex marriage? Is it meaningful that ex-Catholics are in the forefront of the "Screamers"? How come advocates of the ordination of women suddenly are carrying the banners to discredit the Holy Father? How did we get from the 1.8% (or even 4%) of weak, pathological clerics to abortion and same sex marriage?

And to the ordination of women? Throw in the demand for lay votes on selection of Bishops and married clergy and we come up with the word: Agenda!

This is not merely anger at the perfidious priests. Perhaps, those unfaithful ones are merely the stepping stone for attacks long brewing in the psyches of furious people who have been angered and frustrated by stalwart positions of the Church. Are we seeing the implementation of a denied bias?

Truth is a difficult achievement but it is our ideal. There is nothing unusual or terrible about bias. It is the psychological masking and the alleged motivation which harm our lives. The first step is to admit what we propose here. Let us all admit that we are biased but let us likewise try to keep such negatives to a minimum. One of my favorite colleagues, Dr. Vincenzio C., used to remark that "Normal" means keeping one's abnormals to a minimum.

Keep our biases to a minimum. Let us not hurt others - - at least as little as is humanly possible. Let us pray for truth and goodness. Life is very short. Out of control bias makes for misery. Balance - - as difficult as it is - - -remains the way of Jesus and any spiritual leader. We must tell the truth—particularly to ourselves. We are inconsistent, weak and biased beings. And this is all right - - - as long as we are honest! May God strengthen us to live humbly with our biased humanity./