The “Good-hearted’’ A Romantic Deformation of Charity

January 26, 2015

By Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

 

Dr. Plinio

Is it a sin to hate? Why or why not? A survey of Catholics on this question would draw curious answers revealing a terrible confusion of ideas and a fundamental lack of logic.

The many people still intoxicated with remnants of romanticism inherited from the nineteenth century consider hate not only a sin, but the sin par excellence. The romantic defines an evil man as one who harbors hate in his heart. On the contrary, the virtue par excellence is goodness, and every sin is attenuated if committed by a “good-hearted” person. How often we hear such remarks as: “Poor fellow, in his ‘weakness’ he committed such-and such iniquity, but deep down he’s really a good person, with a beautiful heart;” or: “Poor fellow, he let the theft take place in his department, but it was only out of an excess of goodness. He just can’t refuse anything to anyone.”

Photo of Kim Jong-Un by petersnoopy. In an interview, Dennis Rodman, who spent time on the private island of Kim Jong-Un, said that the Communist North Korean leader was a "good guy", a "good-hearted kid." "I don't care what he does over there – between me and him we're friends. I don't care," the former American basketball player said.

Photo of Kim Jong-Un by petersnoopy. In an interview, Dennis Rodman, who spent time on the private island of Kim Jong-Un, said that the Communist North Korean leader was a “good guy”, a “good-hearted kid.” “I don’t care what he does over there – between me and him we’re friends. I don’t care,” the former American basketball player said.

What has “good-hearted” come to mean? Evidently, it does not refer to the heart per se, but to a state of spirit. A “good-hearted” person is one who acutely feels the sufferings of others, and who, for the same reason, never causes another to suffer.
A person with a good heart will also consistently forgo punishing his children for their misbehavior, or will allow anarchy to invade the classroom in which he teaches or the workplace he superintends. A reprimand would cause suffering, which the good-hearted one cannot bear; he suffers too much in causing others to suffer. The good-hearted sacrifices everything to this primary objective of sparing others any suffering. If he hears anyone complaining about the rigor of the Ten Commandments, he immediately thinks of reforms, mitigations, or accommodating interpretations. Seeing anyone suffering from envy for not being a noble or a millionaire, he immediately thinks of democratization.

If he is a judge, his goodness will lead him to rationalize the law rather than punish certain crimes. If a police officer, he will close his eyes to deeds that he is duty-bound to prohibit. A prison warden, he will treat the inmates as innocent victims of their times and environment. Accordingly, he will end up establishing a penal system that will make the prison a meeting place of all vices in which free communication among prisoners leads them to vices they originally lacked. If he is a teacher, he will indolently and good-naturedly pass students who fail their tests. A legislator, he will systematically favor all kinds of measures to reduce hours and raise salaries. If involved in international politics, he will favor compromises and hasty capitulations, so long as a few more days of peace can be gained without wasting much effort.

Book image of "Rejecting The Da Vinci Code" How a Blasphemous Novel Brutally Attacks Our Lord and the Catholic Church, published by the American TFP.

Book image of “Rejecting The Da Vinci Code” How a Blasphemous Novel Brutally Attacks Our Lord and the Catholic Church, published by the American TFP.

Behind all these approaches is the notion that physical or moral suffering is the only evil in this world. In this view, good is anything that tends to prevent or suppress suffering, and evil is anything that tends to cause or increase it. The good-hearted has a special sensitivity whereby he is easily moved at the sight of any suffering, and defends any and every person who suffers as if he were the victim of an unjust aggression. From this perspective, to love one’s neighbor is to desire that he not suffer; to cause him suffering is always and necessarily the same as to hate him.

Hence, a special psychology is contrived for the benefit of the good-hearted man. All those who show zeal for order, for hierarchy, for the integrity of principles, for the defense of good against the attacks of evil, are heartless people because, in their vigor, they cause suffering to those “poor fellows” who, “in weakness,” slipped and fell.
And if the good-hearted man tolerates all the world’s sinners, it is quite understandable that he will likewise hate the “bad-hearted” man who “makes others suffer.”

Theresa "Terri" Schiavo, starved slowly to death in the name of "goodness."

Theresa “Terri” Schiavo, starved slowly to death in the name of “goodness.”

These are the general lines upon which we can construct a common state of spirit which up to now we have discussed theoretically. Thanks be to God, only a relatively small number of people actually reach these extremes, but we frequently find people who act entirely like this in diverse places, and there are many people in whom some aspects of this spirit may be found.

Even here, some examples are illuminating. To show how people are deeply imbued with this problem, we chose these examples from ways of speaking and feeling common among Catholics.

A sentiment shared by many Catholics  across the country.

A sentiment shared by many Catholics across the country.

Let us begin by briefly recalling Catholic teaching in this matter so that we may understand the errors in the examples that will follow.

For the Church, the greatest evil in this world is not suffering, but sin. The greatest good does not consist in having good health, a bountiful table, tranquil sleep, enjoyment of honors, or little need of work, but in doing God’s will. While suffering is certainly an evil, it is an evil that may often be transformed into a good for one’s formation, as a means of expiation or spiritual progress. The Church is our Mother, the most tender, the most solicitous of mothers. Of Her it can be said, as is said of Our Lady, that She is Mater Admirabilis, Mater Misericordiae – Mother Most Admirable, Mother of Mercy.
She has always striven, and will strive until the end of time, to remove any useless pain from mankind. But, She will never cease to impose pain to the extent that the glory of God and the salvation of souls requires it. She demanded that the martyrs in all ages endure atrocious torments; She asked the crusaders to sacrifice the comforts of their homes for endless fatigue, endless combats, even their deaths, in foreign lands. Still today, She requires missionaries to expose themselves to multiple risks and to weariness, and these in the most inhospitable and remote corners of the earth. Of all the faithful She asks incessant struggle against their passions and continual interior efforts to resist all that is evil.

Thousands March to Save Marriage in New York City. The march was organized by State Senator Ruben Diaz.

Thousands March to Save Marriage in New York City. The march was organized by State Senator Ruben Diaz.

All this causes such intense and unbearable suffering for our human weakness that the Church teaches that no one can practice the Commandments continually and in their totality without God’s grace..

The Church imposes all these sufferings with prudence and goodness, true, but without vacillation, remorse, or weakness. This is not in spite of the Her being a good mother, but because She is a good mother. A mother who hesitates, shies away, or feels remorse when obliging her son to study or to undergo a painful but necessary medical treatment or a deserved punishment, would not be a good mother.

The Church also expects this behavior from Her children not only in what pertains to themselves but also in relation to their neighbors. We must not just seek to avoid useless and avoidable sufferings. We must have merciful hearts toward our neighbors, pitying them in their sufferings and sparing ourselves little in alleviating them. All the while, we must love mortification, courageously discipline our bodies and, especially, fight the defects of our souls persistently, clearsightedly, and precisely. And, as the love for our neighbors leads us to desire for them what we should desire for ourselves, we must not hesitate to see them suffer when their sanctification demands it.
Applying these principles, it is easy to point out many deviations that are born from the romantic conception of the good-hearted.

The people carried signs against Planned Parenthood in front of their offices on 7th Ave., New York City.

The people carried signs against Planned Parenthood in front of their offices on 7th Ave in New York City.

It is typical of the good-hearted to condone veiled forms of divorce and pity the couple, to favor the abolition of religious and priestly celibacy, to pity those consecrated to God, and to regard the various forms of birth control and abortion with leniency and pity for the mother. In other fields, being good-hearted consists in opposing any favorable opinions, even though they be just and temperate, concerning the Index, the Holy Office, the Inquisition, (aside from the abuses that occurred in some places), or the Crusades, because all these caused suffering. In yet other fields, the good-hearted will avoid speaking of demons, of hell, of purgatory. He will not warn the sick that death is near, nor inform the sinner of the gravity of his moral state, talking to them about neither mortification, nor penitence, nor amendment of life, because all these would cause suffering. He will not speak against immoral fashions and dances nor vigorously censure movies, because doing so would appear uncharitable for the suffering that it would cause.

We have seen Catholic educators oppose scholastic awards because they impose suffering on the underachievers! Similarly, we have seen religious institutions tolerate elements in their communities inimical to their own members and demoralizing to the public because expelling the transgressors would make them suffer. We knew of someone who opposed a campaign against immoral newspapers because this would have upset the editors, whose souls we should save!

"...being good-hearted consists in opposing any favorable opinions." A local entrepreneur attacking  and tearing to shreds a traditional marriage banner.

“…being good-hearted consists in opposing any favorable opinions.” A local entrepreneur attacking and tearing to shreds a traditional marriage banner.

We made this long digression to bring into clearer focus the problem formulated at the outset. To the good-hearted, all hatred is necessarily sinful. Will they say the same in light of Catholic doctrine?

We scarcely dare utter that question, fearing the perilous avalanche of fury from the “good-hearted,” who are so plentiful. And we shall certainly not answer in our own words. Rather, we will speak, in our next article, through the great and authoritative voice of Saint Thomas.

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