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Cooperation with evil, a parable

I've been trying to find an example that would illuminate the aborted fetal cell issue and our responsibility towards it, the issue of what Don Pietro Leone calls "a social and universal structure of sin: that of the treatment of man as an object to be used, abused, and disposed of at will." 

For your consideration: The Mafia. 

Suppose your village is run by an organized crime mob. You are a truck driver and you must support your family. Your friends are butchers and bakers and grocers and teachers and construction workers; they must all support their families.

You all try to stay away from the main workings of the crime family, yet to get along you must do things ("cooperate") with their plans. Deliveries have to be made, houses have to be built, and so on. 

Normally you manage to stay away from criminal activity, but sometimes you are asked to drive your truck and it is not an offer you can easily refuse, so to speak. 

Your conscience troubles you occasionally, so you talk to the priest. 

He too is maintaining his position in this village by having a church for people to go to; and he too has to get along with the crime family on a certain level. He sees the good in baptizing their children and giving the Last Rites to the elderly. He tries to give homilies that are not too vague, but these do end up being about the importance of loving God and giving to charity; not very often does he mention the sin of stealing, for instance. One thing is that sometimes he receives quite lavish gifts from The Family, especially after a big wedding. His life is not uncomfortable.

When you go to confession with this priest, he assures you that you are doing your best. "God will forgive you, and it's not as if YOU are committing these sins; you are only driving the truck, and only rarely for them."

He may even explain to you that there are various ways of cooperating with evil, and some are so remote as to not involve the person in complicity with that evil. Besides, there is the good of supporting your family, carrying on your good work of being an important part of the supply chain for the village, and living your life undisturbed. Besides, we are meant to live in the world, and if we try never to have anything to do with any evil, we simply can't function

This is why the Church has developed a way of thinking about getting along in a world full of ambiguities, he says.

But the truth is that this village is not thriving. The Family has gotten really strong as its younger members have stepped up and claimed their own share in the spoils. There are now multiple centers of control that have to be juggled and fewer places to hide. As time has gone on, more and more of the businesses are run by or receive backing from The Family. The schools too -- the high school just got a beautiful new playing field, financed by the Don.

People live in fear and this fear plays out in different ways, none of them doing anyone much good. Some people simply cower, really afraid that they will become victims. Others, wishing to have peace, go about their business but live with the knowledge that their children may very well be drawn into a bad life. Some want to advance in comfort or position and engage in flattery, sometimes carrying out the more peripheral of the criminal activities going on. These then take out their petty worries and troubles on the others, those weaker than they, or further from the inner circle they wish to inhabit; in short, they become bullies in the service of the mobsters. There is a definite predatory tone, a real but unspoken power structure, to life in this village.

You realize one day while you are driving down the road that while it is true that you are not to blame for the crime family's deeds, without people like you they could not continue -- if enough of you decided not to cooperate. And without doing something, your village will descend into rather a hellish situation. You can already see it happening, now that your children are older. 

But this is the problem! How can a village go from one or two people listening to conscience to a large enough group being willing simply to stop living in a way that harms the common good? How to gain enough numbers to be effective against so much power? How can you, one person, do anything when the evil is so much a way of life?

There is no other way than for the one person to decide not to go along, no matter what the consequences. He must abandon the "levels of cooperation" way of looking at things because the situation is not anymore about needing to get along with all sorts of people; it has become a matter of having nowhere to turn without coming up against real wrongdoing. 

Having decided, he can then speak to the others if he has the opportunity, but they will not be convinced unless he actually does something that goes against his short-term well being. He doesn't have to have every step figured out and he may be surprised at how God guides him. It starts with the conviction, though, not to cooperate if he can help it. If he can find friends, they can accomplish right action and the defeat of evil.

Or he may convince no one and change nothing, but at least he has followed God's Law.

Thus do the saints act; thus did Our Lord act in His Passion. We are not here to go along with evil but to bring good into the world and to be with the Good God in heaven. 



10 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this!!! My husband and I feel so alone in this stand we are taking and you will never know what a comfort it is to know that there are some people out there that are standing with us....even if far away. We would do this even if we were the only ones doing it, but by God's grace, He sustains us, and blesses us with people like you.

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  2. Excellent parable. I think the key statement is "no matter what the consequences." The Founding Fathers signed their names to a document that if followed by failure they would all by hung for treason. But God blessed them with success, though the price many paid was steep. Thank you for continuing to speak the truth and help us to take stands that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. If we stand strong together we can make a difference.

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    1. Thank you. My readers give me a lot of support and I appreciate it.

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  3. Rory Lass, your comment reminded me of this quote from a speech about the founding fathers given by Rush Limbaugh’s father is a grim reminder of the price we may be asked to pay, and that some are paying now! “Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.”

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    1. And, it is, of course, a call to courage! We often romanticize the founding of this country, but it was hard won by perseverance!

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  4. Dear Leila,
    Thank you for writing this parable- I found it helped me identify more clearly that it is ok and to be expected that there will be fear and needed courage to choose a different way than the majority. We are alone among most of our relations, friends, and my husband’s coworkers in rejecting the COVID vaccines. We have been supported by the courageous voice of Bishop Athanasius Schneider. In the past I have struggled sometimes thinking God wouldn’t want us to have the consequences of going against the norm in a way that would prevent our livelihood. Early in my conversion process I was influenced by the thinking that you could have many of the world’s comforts and values and be a faithful Catholic. I have shaken that dust off my feet- gradually over the years- thanks to the gift of many children and grace to discover the tradition and fullness of our Catholic faith. I am grateful to God that for me and my husband it is so clear that the covid vaccines are impossible for us - consequences be what they may. Thanks for being vocal on this and other important Catholic issues.

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  5. The new phrase i see is "vaccine hesitancy". I'm not hestitant at all about this one! I am adamantly resistant! I don't need an educational campaign to convince me. I need my free will and independence to be respected. But if course, the evil at work will not let that stand. We must all be pushed along into what has been decided as good for us.

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  6. This reminds me of Terrence Malick's "A Hidden Life." And Michael Apted's "Amazing Grace"! Or the piece you linked to several months ago, Solzhenitsyn's "Live not by lies."

    I love this line from Wilberforce's Abolition Speech: "When I reflect, especially, that however averse any gentleman may now be, yet we shall all be of one opinion in the end; — when I turn myself to these thoughts, I take courage — I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out."

    I love his faith in the triumph of the right. When faced with these sorts of trials, I find it helpful to remember that we revere people like this (even if mostly after the fact).

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