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Keep Calm and Canon On

October 14, 2014

Pretty much every Christian who is persecuted (physically or psychologically) for his beliefs sooner or later parlays that persecution into divine approbation of his beliefs. Nevertheless I try to avoid leaping to such a conclusion when I, or people I respect and care about, are persecuted for positions taken on this ecclesial matter or that. Notwithstanding verses like “Blessed are you when you are reviled for my name’s sake…,” I think scorn usually has a more mundane explanation than divine messaging. Besides, even if one is persecuted for one’s beliefs, that’s no guarantee one’s beliefs are sound.

I mention this by way of preface to observing that lawyer-bashing and law-dissing seem lately to have become very common in certain Catholic circles. If I had a dime for every time I’ve been called, say, a Pharisee, I’d have—if not the proverbial million dollars—then certainly enough dimes to feed the parking meter for the rest of my life. Amid the avalanche of Bible verses now being hurled at canonists and lawyers, however, one passage is curiously omitted. Matthew 23, verse three, quotes Jesus thus: “Whatever [the scribes and Pharisees] tell you to do, do it and observe it…” (emphasis added). Now, considering who those lawyers were and what they later did, that’s a pretty startling thing for our Lord to say.

So I wonder: from such a divine admonition, should not one understand that, even if lawyers do stand in peril of their soul (and this canonist thinks about that possibility every day), lawyers generally know what they are talking about? Or was Jesus wrong to direct his people and disciples to do what the lawyers told them they should do?

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