R. Jay Magill’s book Sincerity (W.W. Norton: 2012) was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and that tricked me into thinking that it was a serious book. It is an extraordinary exercise in pseudo-intellectual hyperbolism. What is shocking is that it would be published by a “legitimate” publishing house and presumably read as a philosophic essay.
An unfortunate incident took place for me after mass this morning. A man came up to me and said in a challenging way, “Are there any priests who will oppose the bishop for what he is doing about the parishes that closed?”
In Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, the Holy Father affirmed this very important truth of the Church’s essence: “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia)." (25.a) Organized charitable activity is thus “a part of (the Church’s) nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.” The pope is saying that charitable activity is not optional but actually a necessary expression of our religion. In the encyclical he shows this to be true from the very beginning of the Church, with the apostolic institution of deacons. Pope Benedict mentions that the apostate emperor Julian, who persecuted the Church, recommended to the pagan priesthoods to imitate the Christians in their works of charity. He saw the organized activity of charity as an appealing aspect of the Christian religion and wished that polytheistic pagans could have something similar.