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Friday, March 14, 2014

Prudence: Disappearing Among Our Clergy?

The four cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. St. Thomas Aquinas calls prudence the "mother" of the others. The word cardinal comes from a Latin root meaning "hinge" and of the four hinge virtues, prudence, in fact, has pre-eminence. As Josef Pieper says in his book, The Four Cardinal Virtues, "[N]one but the prudent man can be just, brave, and temperate, and the good man is good in so far as he is prudent." Pieper goes on to say that proclaiming prudence as the first among the moral virtues is met with a sense of "incomprehension and uneasiness." Modern man is more likely to attribute prudence to the man who runs away to fight another day, than to the man who, seeing an immediate danger stands his ground. Modern man would rather tell a "prudent" lie than face an uncomfortable truth. As Pieper puts it:

To the contemporary mind, then, the concept of the good rather excludes than includes prudence. Modern man cannot conceive of a good act which might not be imprudent, nor of a bad act which might not be prudent. He will often call lies and cowardice prudent, truthfulness and courageous sacrifice imprudent.
Prudence seems to be the disappearing virtue, particularly among so many high-placed clerics. As they foment to the media they seem to be unhinged from the "hinge" virtue of prudence. That they are creating confusion is obvious from the fact that so many who dispute Church doctrine are applauding their words. It is disconcerting to see Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners who claims opposition to abortion but wants to protect choice, Hans Kung, heretical theologian, and Thomas Reese, former editor of America removed at Vatican request for his dissent all cheering the "changes" in the Church. It is disconcerting to see high-profile cardinals like Timothy Dolan echoing the famous, "I can't judge," statement in context that implies approval of sin.

Confusion has always seemed to me to be a tool of the prince of lies. When media statements and interviews by our shepherds contribute to the flock's confusion, it is unsettling. To be honest, it gives me moral and theological vertigo. Now the question is...are these unbalancing acts showing a lack of prudence on the part of our shepherds? If so, they're call for social justice is doomed to failure. As Pieper says, "The good man is good in so far as he is prudent."

Dear Lord, give us prudent shepherds and make us prudent as well. How badly we need that virtue in today's world.

My friend Janet has a great post on "garbled messages." It's well worth reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

re: garbled messages and Michael Voris. I just posted this on Restore DC Catholicism:
Cardinal Burke recently wrote in L’Osservatore Romano a piece friendly to Pope Francis. I think, Burke, is, as Fr. Z. put it, engaged in talking people off the ledge. Voris loves and trusts this holy priest Cardinal Burke. I suspect that he is taking his stance from Cardinal Burke and following his consolations.