The god of Easy Answers

The god (“God”) of Easy Answers, gEA for short, comes in two distinct forms for contemporary Catholics. The first version, what some might call with scorn the “traditional version,” ostensibly supplies his answers through dusty manuals, theological tomes untranslated from their original Latin, and, of course, an endless string of papal documents penned between the second-half of the first century and the mid-1950s. These easy answers appeal to a certain subclass of Catholics who cannot handle either (post)modernity or a casual conversation abut Major League Baseball. That’s how the story goes, at least. But like so many tales spun in the halls of the Vatican, the classrooms of “Catholic universities,” or innumerable online fora, the ring of truth to their gross generalizations is astonishingly faint. Manufacturing nonsense, even nonsense on stilts, comes easy in these environs because all three (though they are not the only three) are hallmark examples of in-group thinking or, rather, “thinking.” They dwell in ideological black holes where the light of truth stands not a chance.

The other gEA, the one that its adherents would never deny exists, is the one who has very worldly answers. That is to say, the answers are timely, consistent with the Zeitgeist, and easy enough to square with the ethos of the day. If there is anything uneasy about the second gEA, it concerns his/her/it’s relationship with what people of an earlier age, or even an earlier decade, believed and professed on the basis of Scripture and Tradition. To cover this, the second gEA becomes, paradoxically, one delivering easy answers in a particularly difficult way. The more difficult the way, the easier it is to avoid accusations of discontinuity and fabrication. The easier the message, the more people — many, many people — will flock to it, perhaps going so far as to hold, at least tacitly, that a new revelation of sorts has been delivered unto those spirit-thirsty souls who ultimately believe in neither spirits nor souls. Every time a fool genuflects before this gEA, another great-souled man falls into apostasy. And so hell’s population, if it actually numbered higher than three (Hitler, Stalin, and Lefebvre — Satan will be reconciled in the end), might continue to grow, and grow, and grow at a rate which would undoubtedly make it the best investment going on the metaphysical marketplace.

The first gEA isn’t easy either. And assuming that the first gEA isn’t gEA but indeed God Himself, the Holy Trinity whose feast occurs on this very day, then His answers can’t be easy as well — can they? For God demands much and is handed back very little. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Someone, an Orthodox priest in fact, once told me that verse applied to the priesthood. Perhaps he was speaking of the Eastern Orthodox priesthood as it exists in the United States today. For many ex-Evangelicals believe they are called, but few are chosen for ordination. (“And there was much rejoicing in Heaven…”). Certainly he could not be speaking of the Roman Catholic priesthood where God calls no fewer than He ever has in history, but pitiful few either hear it or accept it. Once those touched in the heart with a vocation are allowed, under the sanctity of marriage and the sure guidance of John Paul II’s great theological contribution, to be legitimately “touched” themselves, this great problem, which is anything but a perennial or necessary problem, shall be solved once and for all.

The gEA strikes again.