Friday, March 15, 2013

How to Handle Doubt

For the moment, people seem to be calming down about Pope Francis and are back to adopting the "wait and see" approach.  Sure, there are those whining in comment boxes, but I think a lot of people got the initial surprise of the decision out of their system.  Reality has set in.  Pope Francis is Pope Francis, he is my pope and your pope.  There really is no point condemning the decision if you don't like it, unless you would like to discover just how little your opinion matters when he is still the Pope.

I've tried to do my best to point out the past few days that even if the way the guys like "New Catholic" handled this were truly atrocious, that's not to say his worry is completely unfounded.  If they go to far, I think others are doing the same when they are dismissing the existence of doubt as proof the "doubters" have a lack of faith, are enemies of the Church, etc etc.  My answer would be, maybe not.

We hear constantly in the media that the choice of a new Pope is obviously "the choice and work of the Holy Spirit."  This is not inherently true.  We pray for the Cardinals to be guided by the Holy Spirit, but any cursory reading of history (say anywhere from the year 1000 to the reign of St. Pius V) will have popes that were bad popes.  The Holy Spirit didn't directly will Benedict IX.

What the Holy Spirit was successful in doing however was keeping these popes from teaching error and leading the faithful astray.  So if we are doubting on the issue of whether or not Pope Francis is going to destroy the faith and lead the faithful Catholics into error (as some of the more unhinged commenters in some traditionalists blogs are doing), then yes, you are doing it wrong.  Yet if we doubt that a particular decision of this or any pope will always be the best decision or the best choice?  There's nothing wrong with that, and that kind of questioning can be healthy, provided it is handled in the right manner.

Doubt is a human emotion.  As it is an emotion, it is not something you can just will away.  Instead, we need to question that doubt as aggressively as possible.  As Kevin O'Brien states, we must "doubt the doubt."  I don't have to tell anyone, concupiscence sucks.  It warps natural and even healthy emotions and twists them into something sinful.  The best thing we can do is remember this fact whenever we begin to doubt.

Then we need to try and see things from the other way, and accept at least a fifty-fifty chance we could be dead wrong in our predictions.  After that, concede that even if we are 90% sure of something, that ten percent is real and it exists, and always temper our statements with that in mind.  When others take a different position on how a prediction will play out, we can view them as misguided and likely wrong, but until the event plays out precisely how we viewed it, we can't state for certain they are wrong.

Finally, when you have that doubt, go do something else.  All of this scandal would've likely been avoided had people went and had a drink, a smoke, hit the gym, say a rosary, something instead of jumping to social media in the first five minutes where we can anonymously type behind a keyboard and people who look at things precisely the same way we do agree with our outrage and heap up on the outrage in hopes more people see it and becoming even more outraged and, well you get the picture.

This kind of attitude isn't going to drive blog traffic.  Yet it will soothe your nerves and help you to focus on those things which we actually have control over.

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