When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.
LUKE 9:51-56 NASB
St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, earned a nickname from Jesus. Our Lord called them the "sons of thunder." He did not rebuke their thinking or call them out for lack of loyalty or orthodoxy but for something entirely different--excessive zeal. Excessive zeal is when love turns to anger which then turns into hatred. Imagine a husband who loves his wife, but he loves her so much that he would rather see her dead than unfaithful, So, like Shakespeare's Othello, he kills his beloved in his rage. Likewise, there are those who love Christ and the Roman Catholic Church so much that their zeal turns them into destroyers as they jettison charity in favor of evil and go down the path of the deadly sin of wrath. I call these zealous defenders "Mad Dog Catholics."
When I think of Mad Dog Catholics, one celebrity springs to mind. I will not mention his name since to do so puts me in danger of detraction. But readers will probably have figured out his identity already because of his infamy. All I can say is that this individual has great love for the Church and has produced fine films that I highly recommend to Catholics. But he is literally more Catholic than the pope embracing the heresy of sedeprivationism which teaches that the Holy Father can be so defective in his office as to not actually be the Holy Father. Don't ask me how that trick can be pulled off. Then, our mad dog added racial hatred and fornication to his sins which ended up on public display. Finally, I heard him say in an interview that he did not think transubstantiation occurs in a Mass not said in Latin. What can I say? The foam drips heavy from the mouth of this mad dog.
I understand this man and pray for him. I get his anger over the modernism that has overtaken much of the Roman Catholic Church. I agree with much of what he and others like him say. I am angry over these things, but I also remind myself to not let that anger destroy me. It is easy to let anger turn to the dark side of things such that the initial love we have for Christ makes us end up hating Him indirectly by hating our fellow men and women. Here are the words of St. Francis de Sales on true and false zeal:
True zeal is the child of charity as being its ardour; wherefore, like to charity, it is patient, is kind, envieth not, dealeth not perversely, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, rejoiceth in the truth. The ardour of true zeal resembles that of the huntsman, being diligent, careful, active, industrious, eager in pursuit, but without passion, anger or disquiet, for if the huntsman's work were done in anger, bad temper and vexation, it would not be so much loved and desired. Zeal in like manner has ardours which are extreme, but constant, solid, sweet, industrious, equally agreeable and untiring; whereas on the contrary, false zeal is turbulent, troubled, insolent, arrogant, choleric, transient, equally impetuous and inconstant.It is one thing to hate sin and error. It is another thing to hate the sinner. This seems like an easy distinction to make in theory, but it can be very difficult in practice. It is most difficult when it comes to calling out those in leadership positions because they lead others into error. To use an example from self-defense, you always aim for center mass and shoot to kill. But when you drop the bad guy, your next move is to immediately call for an ambulance and try to save his life. Likewise, you have to do what you must to protect sinners and others from their own sin and errors, but you should always pray for and seek their redemption not their destruction.
The greatest example of false zeal is St. Paul the Apostle. As Saul of Tarsus, Paul was zealous for the Jewish faith and set out to destroy the heresy of the followers of Jesus. He was convinced these Christians had it wrong. Then, he discovered his error on the road to Damascus and turned his zeal in the opposite direction. His was not so much a conversion so much as a redirection. His zeal came from a good place, but his brain was infected with theological rabies. Fortunately, the love of Christ is the cure for this sort of thing. And St. Paul gives us these great lines on love:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
My mother-in-law told my wife and I something very profound. We want mercy for yesterday but justice for today. In other words, we love Jesus for letting us off the hook for our transgressions, but we really want Him to stick it to our enemies. This is not love. This is not forgiveness. The soul that cannot forgive the transgressions of others will find itself damned.1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-7 NASB
Mad Dog Catholics imperil their own souls in their misguided zeal. But we must also be wise in discerning who is an MDC, and who isn't. Someone who is fervent for the faith and tells the truth even when it offends is not automatically an MDC. It is usually when they have already demonstrated zeal and courage in telling the truth that they become frustrated that their words were not heeded. So, they turn up the volume. They go for the deliberately shocking instead of the merely honest. They attack people resorting to insults and invective more suitable to a men's locker room or even a Klan rally than fraternal correction. A certain Catholic blogger springs to mind as I write this who goes for the rhetorical jugular each time she posts using coarse language, profanity, insults, and the like. She is akin to the pro-lifer who opts for the pipe bomb over the picket sign not seeing the self-defeating nature of such a move.
Of course, there is the way of the wimp that opts for non-confrontation mistaking cowardice for charity. The man who best exemplified a sort of middle path between wimpery and mad doggery was the brilliant G.K. Chesterton who loved a good argument but was always charitable to those he debated. As Chesterton put it, "People generally quarrel because they cannot argue." This quarreling is usually because it is easier to scorch the earth than to reason. As Chesterton expressed it, "If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment." The best example of the madman in action would be our current presidential campaign with insults replacing discourse.
When you get angry, I recommend following the path I call "constructive anger." We are already familiar with destructive anger which is to annihilate one's enemy into oblivion by any and all means necessary. Constructive anger follows the strategy that the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend. You may or may not succeed in this endeavor, but this charitable path is the one advocated by our Lord who destroyed us, His enemies, by making us His friends. When you turn the other cheek and show charity to those who hate you, you confound your enemies because they do not know how to deal with it. It is always the move they never see coming.
Finally, I don't consider myself a Mad Dog Catholic, but I have been a Mad Dog Atheist and a Mad Dog Calvinist in years past. I learned something from all that stupidity. It is much easier to hate than love, but it is never satisfying. Hate merely compounds the hate and brings more misery. I see this double down effect with any and all Mad Dogs including Mad Dog Catholics. It is good to remember St. Peter's words that love covers a multitude of sins. I have fought people, and I have forgiven people. Forgiveness feels a lot better. As for the Church, if you think a few heretics and a lot of scoundrels can undo the faith, then your faith is also deficient and in error. We are to love the Church but not so much that we would burn it to the ground. Speak the truth in charity and believe that God knows what He is doing. And clean up your own messes before you decide to tackle the Augean Stables of the world and the Roman Catholic Church.