Wednesday, May 1, 2013


   Happily, Pope Francis is giving us almost daily examples of true spiritual discernment.  We too, by the power of our baptism, are called and responsible to discern the presence and intentions of God in today's world.  True religious discernment leads to creative, healing and world-transforming prophetic action that moves our society and culture forward in the grace of Christ.

   But discernment can also be false and lead to violent and even murderous actions.  So it's very important that we remind ourselves of some of the bases for today's false discernments.  These bases are not completely separate but overlap one another.

       An ideology is a comprehensive worldview that constitute's and energizes a person's or group's expectations, goals, motivations and actions.  Spiritually mature discernment can be said to be the result of a positive spiritual ideology.
   Negative ideologies arise from radical individualism and isolation, biases, fears, greed, anger or hatred, and are therefore narrow and broken.  People with negative ideologies reach preconceived conclusions, dismissing all facts that might refute their ideology and conclusions.
   Negative ideologies result in, e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia, maximizing profit to the detriment of full employment and the environment; uncaring separation of the rich from the poor; extreme/fringe political views, and rigidly obstructionist political behavior.
   They beget false religious discernments such as strict fundamentalism, pay-pray-and-obey passivity; paternalistic and suppressive religious leadership; extreme/fringe and terrorist religious views.

       Paranoid-type people have delusions of grandeur, which causes them to believe they have superior, inside knowledge or understanding.  They are suspicious and sometimes hostile toward others, and they critically judge and attack those who disagree with them.  They can see plots and hoaxes that don't exist.
    Some of today's TV and radio personalities and Internet users thrive on fostering paranoid-type anger and false discernment among their viewers and listeners.  A severe spiritual problem arises when people believe and act upon these false views.
     In Religion, paranoid discernment occurs, for example, in people who establish and join cults; in those who condemn believers of other faiths to hell; in people who constantly see apocalyptic signs that the world is about to end; in people who "know" that the pope or some other world leader is the anti-Christ and is working to set up a Satanic, one-world government; and in those who know that Vatican II has destroyed the church.

        Today's culture fosters shallowness of many kinds.  For example, we prefer noise to thoughtful silence; we tend to process data, to "cut and paste," instead of thinking deeply; we're constantly looking for the next new thing; our use of smart phones, texting, tweets, Facebook, etc., can reduce our attention span to a few words and a few seconds.  
   Many of our schools are seriously remiss is forming our children to be thoughtful persons who can effectively appreciate the deep value of their human gifts of reason, dignity, integrity, spirit and purpose.  One result is that many of us cannot see and appreciate our own true worth and the true worth of our work, sciences, arts and entertainment, etc., all of which are, however imperfectly, images and expressions of God.  Also, many of us cannot prayerfully and thoughtfully use social principles to discuss politics or government, but rather fall into angry, propaganda-style talking points and partisanship.
   Many Catholics are ill informed about our faith, which can beget impaired discernment that hampers our ability to elevate and correct our society and culture in the healing, loving, world-transforming grace of Christ.

   The power of our baptism obliges us to work to remove all obstacles to clear and true discernment.  We can do this by prayerfully educating ourselves in our faith and using the light of our faith to fully see and appreciate our education, work, and all the gifts of this world.  We can then see more clearly and effectively into and through the dark obstacles, and see the Spirit of God calling to us in and through them, as indeed, God is calling to us from within the entire world.


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