[continued from yesterday]
...One act of courage, and all might have been so different; then there would have been no need for endless counterfeiting. Only one act of courage, following on the courage of clear understanding; and yet that one act - what an effort, for some, it implies! They prefer the burden and its consequences, no matter what the weight.
But there is a third class of moral coward, and this is the worst of all.
The first one can despise, because it is dishonest to itself; the man who will affect to see no evil in evil doing, merely that he may save himself the trouble of avoiding it, is his own worst enemy and may simply be set aside.
The second class one pities; one longs to help him; if he has not the courage to do what he ought, his weakness is after all one that belongs to human nature.
But with the third class one is indignant, because it is the most inhuman; it is the class of those who have substituted brazenness for bravery.
We all know the crew, but we do not always know its individual members, so clever are they in the art of confounding one kind of bravery with another. A man has done wrong; he knows that to evade it, and to declare it to be no evil, is merely contemptible; he himself scorns the evildoer who adopts this device. He knows, too, that to own the wrong, and yet to fret beneath its burden, is pitiable; he has no part with those who so compel themselves to lead two lives.
Braver is it, he tells himself, if he has done wrong, to live up to it. If he has done wrong, why then he has done so; and wrong-doing is a sign of a man of courage.
He has deeply wronged another; such wrong-doing, he will boldly say, is but a proof of his manly vigour. His poor victim in his clutches makes a life-and-death struggle to recover; it is laughed at for its timidity, it is abused for its disloyalty, it is harrassed and thwarted at every turn, taunted to be "brave" and keep itself free from priest-craft and conscience, told that it must, if it would enjoy life, defy alike God, man, and devil. He will have none of your womanish priests to interfere with his "manly" ways; none of your milk-sop pious people, who have not the "courage" to sin like himself; none of your chicken-hearted lovers of righteousness, who will not let themselves "enjoy" life like himself.
"I have sinned, and what harm has befallen me?" he cries with the sinner in the Scripture; and he holds up his head, and struts through life, "a law unto himself," the first principle of which is that sin is a mark of courage....
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918