Many Catholics will be familiar with the question, “Do you reject the glamour of evil?” It was part of the older form of the renewal of baptismal promises. The “glamour of evil” is a curious expression that I think speaks to the reaction many Catholics are having in the face of the ongoing clerical scandals in the Church.
I think most people interpret that phrase, “the glamour of evil” to mean that evil can seem superficially attractive. If we let it, it has the power to draw us in, even when we know its wrong. As Oscar Wilde famously put it, “I can resist everything…except temptation.” But I think there is another dimension to that phrase that this scandal is revealing.
More and more, I am seeing otherwise good, faithful people unable to focus on anything but the latest horrifying tidbit to come across their social media feeds, no matter how unsubstantiated it may be. I see other good and faithful people who can’t resist goading each other, either because each new vile story is just more proof that “Pope Francis has failed” or just another example of the “vast right-wing conspiracy that’s plotting to get Pope Francis.”
It seems to me that despite whatever good intentions we may have, we are all running the risk of being unintentionally seduced by glamour of the evil that is pouring out of the church. We have inadvertently become obsessed with it, like some people can’t get enough of those “Dr. Popper” pimple videos on YouTube, or how you just can’t bring yourself to look away from that horrific accident where blood and transmission fluid are smeared across the highway. A melange of death and gore.
Look Away…Look Away….
Evil is glamorous, not only in the sense that it can be hard to resist being drawn into it, but also in the sense that it can be hard to look away from it. If you aren’t careful, it’s tremendously easy to stare at it, and stare at it, and stare at it, until you can’t see anything else. Until everything good, and godly, and righteous, and beautiful has been drained from view, and all that is left is outrage, and anger, and indignation, and disgust.
Pollyanna Need Not Apply
I don’t mean to imply that we should adopt some Pollyanna perspective that simply pretends everything is just fine while the Cathedral burns to the ground. I’ve read the PA Grand Jury Report. I’ve read Vigano’s testimony. As both a pastoral counselor who works with abuse victims and someone in Catholic media, I can’t afford to not know what’s going on. I am as unfortunately well-informed as anyone can be about all the latest appalling news.
Moreover, I don’t think we can afford to not be well-informed. As I have written before, this is going to have to be a lay-led reform, and we can’t lead the reform if we aren’t well-informed.
Even so, we all have to remember to do whatever we can to intentionally and consciously drag ourselves out of the cesspool at least several times a day to remember that God is good. That there is still beauty in the world. That the Holy Spirit is alive and well. That there are real, hurting people who need to see that someone…anyone in the Church is still capable of love, compassion, and goodness. And that nothing good comes from swimming in a sewer and throwing sh*t at each other all day long.
Whatever “kind” of Catholic you are (left, right, middle, upside-down), whoever’s ox you would like to see gored, maybe we would all do well to pause a few times a day. Step away from social media. Hug your kids. Give thanks to God for something. Help someone who is hurting. Just…be kind to someone–for God’s sake. Literally.
Satan is throwing a huge party, and yes, we need to stay on top of it so that maybe, just maybe, we can stop it from turning into a riot that burns down the entire block (or, y’know, theocratic city-state). But the one thing I can guarantee is that you are not doing anyone any good by sending in your RSVP to Hatefest 2018 and diving into the mosh pit.
Please. I know it isn’t as much fun as raking muck. I know that it’s hard to resist when everyone, including the highest officials in the church, are acting like competitors in some coke-fueled mud-wrestling tournament. But please. Do yourself a favor. Do the world a favor. Do the actual victims a favor. And do whatever you can to resist the glamour of evil. Look away. A little bit. Just enough to remember St Paul’s words. “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:8).
Yes. Be aware. Be informed. By all means, be motivated to act. But at all costs, in big and small ways, please, be a force for good. Because even if you don’t join in, there is plenty of evil to go around right now. And unfortunately, I promise it will all still be there when you get back from your break.