All Conversations in My Heart
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
  Fraternal Correction by a Gardener
How often we hide behind rank, privilege or through a rude dismissal of facts presented which are more often than not unacceptable to one’s ego. How often have any of you heard the words, “You don’t know what you are talking about”.

First would you please understand, these facts,that follow, down to, “Not to correct”, are taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Even with these definitions, objections and scholastic refutations, the subject is hard to understand. Yet surprise! surprise! the majority of catholics do not want to know them, as they will have to force themselves to rise out of their mediocrity and tepidity.

The Catholic Encyclopedia:
Fraternal correction is here taken to mean the admonishing of one's neighbor by a private individual with the purpose of reforming him or, if possible, preventing his sinful indulgence. This is clearly distinguishable from an official disciplining, whose mouthpiece is a judge or other like superior, whose object is the punishment of one found to be guilty, and whose motive is not so directly the individual advantage of the offender, as the furtherance of the common good. That there is, upon occasion and with due regard to circumstances, an obligation to administer fraternal correction there can be no doubt. This is a conclusion not only deducible from the natural law binding us to love and to assist one another, but also explicitly contained in positive precept such as the inculcation of Christ: "If thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother" (Matthew 18:15) Given a sufficiently grave condition of spiritual distress calling for succor in this way, this commandment may exact fulfillment under pain of mortal sin. (Means it must be corrected or else a grave sin is committed through the lack of correction)"This is reckoned to be so only when…..

1: the delinquency to be corrected or prevented is a grievous one;
2: there is no good reason to believe that the sinner will adequately provide for himself;
3: there is a well-founded expectation that the admonition will be heeded;
4: there is no one else as well fitted for this work of Christian Charity and likely to undertake it;
5: there is no special trouble or disadvantage accruing to the reformer as a result of his zeal

Practically, however, individuals without any official capacity are seldom impeachable as having seriously transgressed the law in this matter because it is but rarely one finds the coalition of circumstances just enumerated.
Of course, the reproof is to be administered privately, i.e. directly to the delinquent and not in the presence of others. This is plainly the method appointed by Christ in the words just cited and only as a remedy for obduracy is any other contemplated by Him. Still there are occasions upon which one might lawfully proceed in a different way. For instance

1: when the offense is a public one;
2: when it makes for the prejudice of a third party or perhaps even the entire community;
3: when it can only be condignly dealt with by the authority of a superior paternally exercised;
4: when a public rebuke is necessary to preclude scandal: witness the withstanding of Peter by Paul mentioned in the Epistle to the Galatians (2:11-14);
5: when the offender has already in advance relinquished whatever right he possessed to have his good name safeguarded, as is the custom in some religious bodies.

The obligation of fraternal correction, as far as private persons go, is not demanded, generally speaking, for the case of one who violates a law through invincible ignorance. The obvious reason is that there is then no immunity, for it is their duty to instruct their subordinates. Every one, however, whether having an official competency or not, is bound to give the admonition when the sin committed though it be from ignorance, is hurtful to the offender or a third party or is the occasion of scandal

What did St Thomas of Aquinas write among his many objections and refutations, this is what he wrote.

To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction, and so Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he was in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. However, one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully. Hence the Apostle in writing to the Colossians (4:17) tells them to admonish their prelate: "Say to Archippus: Fulfill thy ministry [Vulgate: 'Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.' Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5."

I, personally claim, and say if the person is full of the importance of his own position and has made it obvious from previous behavior, he is above correction then one could take the next step and do it in front of witnesses by letter or by notifying his superiors.

Aquinas again, It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss (voice or word) of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, "Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects."

Sometimes it is amazing how many who do not, will not, follow the Church’s instructions, always refuse to listen, replying as one woman did, “You cannot tell me you are not a priest”. What was the subject? She had not gone to confession for thirty years, her own admission, and did not want to know the precepts of the Church. That! I believe is not, “invincible ignorance”. She went to the parish priest about me, who promptly told her the same,"GO!". Another woman was heard telling a visiting priest, when she went to communion she received both the Body and Blood, and he had better remember it in future. She was beside herself in anger when I pointed out to her the Council of Trent’s teaching on receiving “in either kind alone”. She too, went to the parish priest who promptly corrected me saying he would have told her if he was given time. He was constantly telling me he would do things in time, trouble was he forgot to add one of the adjectives “long or some” when describing his time. By the way, the woman did wait ‘til she thought the church was empty before she approached the visiting priest. I guess that was a private fraternal correction as the priest had caused her ego to be scandalized.

So what is good of fraternal correction when priests literally loose then temper when even pleasantly corrected, Bishops get to huff and puff and then avoid the issue saying that is my decision. And the laity, so badly informed, so badly taught in the Church today very deliberately ignore rubrics and instructions by letters from Church Authorities. Look at the Canadian Bishops and the Manitoba Manifesto which dismissed Humana Vitae out of hand and told JP2 to his face, “We will take it to the people and see what they say”. Three Archbishops ago in this Diocese the Ordinary wrote that prayer groups could not meet in the Church unless the Parish Priest was present among them. It never was enforced, ignored is the way to describe it, dismissed out of hand. Look at all the instructions on the Liturgy from Rome over the last years. How many parishes practice them? Try fraternally to correct the opinions of the laity in the parishes on what should be followed. It usually becomes a very heated discussion on what should be, the priest vanishes. If the Bishop is called to adjudicate, he will tell the orthodox catholic to be more charitable. Why does he? He knows that the Orthodox practicing papal catholic will obey and he will have peace. So much I say, for fraternal correction.

Jesus in His parables of the Vines and gardens tells of seed falling on rocky ground and perishing. One of His gardeners said give me a chance to revive this vine. Let me dig in and around it and fertilize the vine. Please do not destroy it ‘til I do”. How do you dig in the hardened ground of selective ignorance? Do as the gardener did dig hard, preferably with a pick and shovel. I mean get their attention with a heavy hand.

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