Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Meakness and Righteous Indignation

"theculturewarrior" asked the following multi-layered question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
  • What is the virtue of meekness?
Here are some definitions from both Catholic and Protestant sources:
  • 1910 New Catholic Dictionary
    • Meekness: The virtue which moderates anger, checking its disorderly effects. It is reducible to temperance. In a wider sense it controls every disorderly affection leading one to resent another's action. Saint James sees in it the general purification of soul required for the practise of the Gospel precepts already accepted by faith.

  • Pocket Catholic Dictionary
    • Meekness: The virtue that moderates anger and its disorderly effects. It is a form of temperance that controls every inordinate movement of resentment at another person's character or behavior.

  • Easton's Bible Dictionary
    • Meekness: A calm temper of mind, not easily provoked (James 3:13). Peculiar promises are made to the meek (Matt. 5:5; Isa. 66:2). The cultivation of this spirit is enjoined (Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 6:11; Zeph. 2:3), and is exemplified in Christ (Matt. 11:29), Abraham (Gen. 13; 16:5, 6) Moses (Num. 12:3), David (Zech. 12:8; 2 Sam. 16:10, 12), and Paul (1 Cor. 9:19).
Now, on to the rest of your questions:

  • Is there such a thing as righteous indignation, and if so, how does one be angry righteously?
There most certainly is such a thing! A man's indignation is righteous when it is motivated by love and zeal for the Lord and when his response is proportionate to the injustice committed against the Lord or His Church. It must be rooted in love of the Lord and His Church --not revenge, or hatred, or pride. As far as a proportionate response, you would not, for example, want to follow the lead of the Boondock Saints and run around killing every bad guy in the neighborhood just because their actions are contrary to the Lord's Will. However, when you see Church doctrine being misrepresented or maligned, you have every right to stand up and defend the Church with the utmost veracity, vehemence, and vociferousness (3 wonderful "V" words). That is righteous indignation.

  • Is voicing anger a sin?
The New Advent encyclopedia is helpful here:
  • Anger: The desire of vengeance. Its ethical rating depends upon the quality of the vengeance and the quantity of the passion. When these are in conformity with the prescriptions of balanced reason, anger is not a sin. It is rather a praiseworthy thing and justifiable with a proper zeal. It becomes sinful when it is sought to wreak vengeance upon one who has not deserved it, or to a greater extent than it has been deserved, or in conflict with the dispositions of law, or from an improper motive. The sin is then in a general sense mortal as being opposed to justice and charity. It may, however, be venial because the punishment aimed at is but a trifling one or because of lack of full deliberation. Likewise, anger is sinful when there is an undue vehemence in the passion itself, whether inwardly or outwardly. Ordinarily it is then accounted a venial sin unless the excess be so great as to go counter seriously to the love of God or of one's neighbour.
We see from this that voicing anger can be a sin, but not necessarily.

  • Is there a way to act out in anger that is not sinful? Is there a way to assert yourself while angry that is not sinful? Can you provide me with examples?
See the paragraph above on the definition of "anger" and how to be righteously angry. Jesus provided many of our best examples, for instance, when he drove out the money changers (here), called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers" (here), and chastised the "wicked servant" (here). Of course there are some excellent examples in the OT as well, such as when Moses slayed the worshippers of the golden calf (here) and when the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomor'rah (here). Note that the Lord's actions are proportionate in this instance because in the Old Covenant, the punishment for transgressing the law was death, and this was just since it was always the arrangment that the people agreed to when they entered into a convenant with the Lord.

I hope that helps

Pax Christi,


Kathryn said...

Thanks for the comment! I'll link you to mine too. Later!


causa nostra laetitiae said...

Very informative post on a seldom discussed topic.
I once heard a good explanation of this distinction, from Maria Von Trapp. She said, why is it that we tolerate all manner of offences against Our Lord, with calm, and call it charity, yet the first thing said against ourselves personally evokes a speedy response?
It should be the opposite, we must be quick to defend Our Lord from insult, and dismiss it when it is against ourselves. Look at how Our Lord tolerated the insults of the Passion, and do likewise.

Anonymous said...

Excited to find your site.
In Jesus
Maria in the UK

phatcatholic said...

great! i hope you will return often!

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