One of the great tragedies of our age has been the increasing capitulation of so many in the Church to the secularist premises of parasitic compassion. Seeking to support these premises in the name of ambiguous "Gospel principles", they join with the secularists in affirming that compassion is served best when the resources for its implementation are forcibly wrested from others. Interestingly, these secularists tend to morph the famous dictum of the traditional Three Monkeys (See no evil, Hear no evil and Speak no evil) with a new mantra based on "religious toleration" (See no Jesus, Hear no Jesus and Speak no Jesus). They insist that compassion must be liberated from Christ, in order to promote the progressive agenda of secular humanism.
Sadly, one of the basic principles of this compassion is that justice can only be attained by arousing and appeasing resentments against certain targeted groups of people. This is manifested in many ways. And it was stressed by President Obama last year when he told his supporters, "Voting is the best revenge". Indeed, the careful nurturing of attitudes of resentment, revenge and retaliation are essential for the promotion of the "social justice" proclaimed by the tenets of parasitic compassion.
Thus it is that it has become increasingly popular to impose more onerous taxes on the income and wealth of "the rich", who are already paying much more than their fair share of the cost of operating the constitutionally defined purposes of the government. By making the slanderous assertion that all wealth is the result of greed and exploitation, the proponents of parasitic compassion contend that it is only right to punish the purported "crimes" of the wealthy by seizing and redistributing their wealth.
Likewise, parasitic compassion has no qualms about attacking our posterity. Following the attitude of President Barack Obama, when he told Planned Parenthood that he would not want one of his daughters "punished with a child" due to unprotected sex, the proponents of parasitic compassion have no qualms about arrogantly consigning our posterity to either death by abortion or to crushing debt slavery to pay off tens of trillions of dollars worth of federal debt and unfunded mandates. Aside from violating the intent expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution of securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, such debt slavery is also a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition against involuntary servitude.
But, sadly, just as the Nazi SS consigned those arriving at Auschwitz to either death in the gas chambers or to slave labor in that concentration camp, the proponents of parasitic compassion have little compunction about consigning our posterity to either death by abortion or to debt slavery. They even go so far as to assert that the ability to kill our posterity in utero to be an integral aspect of holistic "health care".
The proponents of parasitic compassion are also quite comfortable with perpetuating the political cronyism of fiscal waste, fraud and abuse. For example, when emergency legislation was passed this year to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, only about a third of the funds appropriated went for this relief effort. The other two-thirds went for a number of "pork barrel" projects. Compassion was used as camouflage for appeasing addictions to greed and to political power.
The proponents of parasitic compassion also make a habit of slandering those who dare to even question any aspect of their agenda. When people raise the issues of the need for fiscal responsibility and for accountability, they are either labeled as "racists" or "hate mongers", or they are condescendingly treated as uneducated or naive. The proponents of parasitic compassion are thus unwilling to engage in any serious discussion of important issues. They prefer, instead, to slander those who will not fully capitulate to their demands.
These proponents of parasitic compassion also tend to portray the promotion and the subsidizing of various forms of sexual immorality as the promotion of "liberty"and of "personal autonomy". And so they feel perfectly justified to impose their perverse agendas on innocent children. After all, as they say, we do not want our children to develop the unhealthy attitudes toward their sexuality, which are promoted by the traditional virtues of modesty and chastity. Thus it is that, through "family life curricula", they make our children more open to sexual experimentation and sexual exploitation.
And here again, they accuse parents, who dare to even question, much less oppose their agenda, as being either prejudiced, ignorant or negligent.
In stark opposition to parasitic compassion, the authentic compassion proclaimed by Jesus Christ and His Church is based upon promoting reconciliation, not the alienation of class warfare. And this compassion is rooted in the Person of Jesus Christ. Apart from Him, any compassion degenerates into some form of manipulation or exploitation. It should be stressed here that "Gospel principles" are, in themselves, inadequate for the promotion of authentic compassion. Without Jesus Christ, such principles are as useless as a computer without a power source.
Christian compassion must thus also be a sanctifying compassion. The ministry it promotes does not merely help people in this life. It also draws them to appreciate and to realize the fullness of life offered for all eternity in Christ. Without this key dimension, any ministry would be analogous to helping people move from steerage to first-class on the Titanic.
Christian compassion is based upon a special grace of the Holy Spirit, whereby we come to the awareness that we all suffer from poverty in different ways. While some of these are more obvious than others, the fact is that the deepest dimension of our humanity is discovered in our poverty, in our hunger and thirst for that righteousness, which can only be realized by a living communion with Jesus Christ. This poverty is thus appreciated as a repentant and grateful receptivity to divine graciousness. And this graciousness is so transcendent and transformative that it overflows into a more authentic and reverent compassion for others.
Christian compassion also gratefully reverences the mystery of the mutuality of ministry. Any authentic ministry brings blessings to both the giver and receiver.
Although these blessings may touch each one in different ways and in different dimensions of his life and perspective, they are always dynamically active in the life of each person willing to be invested into the transformative mystery of such ministry. Thus it is that Christian compassion is always reconciling and redemptive, rather than alienating and resentful. It is not so much a matter of doing something, as it is one of allowing one's self to become a new creation along with the one with whom he is entering into this mystery of divine compassion.
Christian compassion is also permeated with a spirit of repentance, whereby one is always committed to love beyond his ability. First of all, where his love is crippled by sin, he humbly and contritely seeks God's gifts of forgiveness and reconciliation. Secondly, he seeks to grow in virtue by the grace of God and the sacrificial love of others. Realizing that any virtue he has is the fruit of other people's sacrifices, he is led to express his gratitude for those sacrifices by loving others as he has been loved. Thirdly, repentance leads one to love beyond his ability by breaking down those inhibitions that keep him from asking others to help him. Any great saint required the help of others to bring to fruition the love that overflowed from his heart. And by humbly asking another to help him to bring that love to fruition, he helped that person to escape from the spirit of complacency, which is so lethal to any authentic spirituality.
Finally, it must be stressed that Christian compassion is substantial. It leads one to invest one's own substance, and not merely of one's surplus. And it is definitely not parasitic. Rather it is participatory by its privileged sharing with others in both the mystery and the ministry of Christ's Self-emptying love. Guided by the truth of God's Word and by a sincere accountability to His commandments, one allows all dimensions of his life and relationships to be lovingly embraced into the sanctifying and salvific mystery of divine intimacy, whereby the Holy Spirit is forming humanity as one Body and one Spirit in Christ.
Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the first and the last Word on the true meaning of compassion. Without Him, any compassion is doomed to gradual degeneration into exploitation, abuse and despair. He came that we may have life to the full. And it is only in communion with Him that we can share that fullness of life, in spirit and in truth, with all of humanity for all eternity.
Spero columnist Rev. Thomas Collins is a priest serving in the state of Virginia.