February 2015 - Deadly Criticism

February 28, 2015


Dear Friends and Benefactors,

Those absent are always wrong, particularly when they fall under the heavy fire of criticism. Not being able to defend themselves or impose silence by their simple presence, they become the target of sharp-edged arrows and peremptory judgments. The spirit of criticism does not accept nuances or excuses. How could it be otherwise? He who criticizes is, at the same time, prosecutor and judge, while refusing to assume the role of defender. It is difficult to imagine a more obvious example of denial of justice.

These criticisms not only violate fraternal charity and justice, but they are very contagious. One criticism brings another in its wake. In an avalanche effect, they multiply by feeding one another. Soon, criticisms arise from all sides and create an unhealthy environment, suitable for all overstatements, as nobody wants to be left behind and thus everyone falls into excess.

Man draws a strange glory from this game of skittles, objectively without risks and demanding no particular talent. But it seems that an evil joy suddenly leads him on, making him forget any measure. There is no more a question of judging, but of pouring out an old resentment. Taken over by this fury which raises it, man does not realize that he shows himself as he truly is, spreading out, in full light, his pettiness, miserably expressed in this bilious torrent.

Popular wisdom says, indeed, that he who points to his neighbor with his finger, directs three other fingers towards himself. This simple and picturesque language makes clear that man criticizes in others that which he has not yet reformed in himself or, at least, that which he does not undertake to reform. He cannot endure seeing in others what he manages to keep quiet in himself and which is drawn up before him as a living reproach or a prick of the conscience.

The spirit of criticism also tears apart the social fabric that connects men to one another and which is primarily woven by trust, obedience and respect. These qualities are, indeed, affected by this systematic criticism. If a man can allow himself to be so cynical towards another man in his absence, what would he not say to others about his interlocutor when he goes away? The trust that makes it possible to live harmoniously in society is undermined by all these criticisms and man, not knowing any more whom to trust, is weakened by retreating into himself. In the same way, the repeated use of criticism saps the spirit of obedience. In this noxious environment, authority loses any worth because all is passed through the filter of criticism – and nothing finds favor in the eyes of a spirit that lives in criticism. An authority that does not receive its due respect loses its force and cannot ensure any more the common good. Society then falls into decline, before dissolving into barbarism. Perhaps those who embrace a systematic criticism do not understand that they are cutting off the branch on which they rest. By nature man is a social animal. By tearing apart this social fabric necessary to his development, criticism deeply wounds man; and this wound often proves to be irremediable.

The habit of criticizing others on any subject destroys man’s capacity to judge in all rectitude and freedom of soul. The man who is carried along by his constant criticisms judges by taking himself as the ultimate standard for all things, the measure of what is true and good. His one perspective is reduced to his own person and his own interests – upon which, on the other hand, he does not make any critical judgment. Woe to the man who does not keep a critical eye on his own person, because becoming convinced of his own excellence he is not only heavily mistaken about himself, but also becomes unable to take the distance necessary for judging objectively any situation. However, man is basically distinguished from the animal thanks to his ability to judge. Where the animal is satisfied in following its instinct, having neither intelligence nor will to enlighten and lead it, man makes an intelligent choice. Truly free, he can choose in full knowledge of the facts, passing into action by following the judgment of his reason. Systematic criticism reduces man to the level of an animal.

Moreover, his judgment is seriously altered on account of this deplorable habit, which pushes him to set himself up on every occasion as an implacable arbiter, without ever trying to know all the details of the cause on which he passes judgment. To criticize everything is not judging. On the contrary, it is to assume a function of the highest importance without having the necessary wisdom and prudence to exercise it.

Not so long ago, criticisms spread in the villages according to the moods of the gossips and normally remained confined within the boundaries of the village itself, or at most reached only a few hamlets in the neighborhood. Matters have changed, however, with the democratization of the means of communication, which has accelerated the decline of the moral sense (by making it possible to each and every one to anonymously pour out his bile), combined with the obvious absence of men of a tempered character. Living in an immense global village resembling a drunken boat, without compass and without a firm hand at the rudder, the men of today are at the mercy of the Internet gossips that babble away and destroy whatever little order has still managed to survive.

And who could seriously claim that we are ourselves spared from this evil?

Wouldn't this Lent be the time to return to the Gospel and live this charity that excuses and understands everything, just as St. Paul exhorts us to do?

In Christo sacerdote et Maria,

Fr. Yves le Roux

 

A NOTE FROM THE SEMINARY

Once more, circumstances oblige us to appeal to you, our dear friends and benefactors, to help us to maintain our aging Winona building. Our Maintenance Dept. has a long list of major urgent repairs to be made (a new septic system, new windows, roof leaks to be fixed, etc.) and an even longer list of many smaller repair and renovation projects. As the cost of such work imposes an additional, heavy burden on our finances, after turning to Saint Joseph and entrusting our concern to him, we now turn to you, so that you may become his earthly collaborators. We express to you, in advance, our deepest gratitude.