Friday, March 19, 2010

On Crooked Lines

The Legion and its supporters are fond of telling us that “God draws straight with crooked lines.” Nat has a pithy retort here. Still, the root of the problem is the Legion’s tendency to twist words and give them new meanings.

Twisting aphorisms isn’t as serious as twisting words like “Vocation” and “Charity.” They’re not messing with the deposit of Faith in this case, just folk wisdom. But they’re using this ‘wisdom’ to encourage people in folly, so we need to cut through the tangles.

In Legion-speak, “God draws straight with crooked lines” is used to explain how God can make a great “good” ( LC/RC) come from Maciel’s sins.

But “God draws straight with crooked lines” doesn’t mean that God turns sin into blessings.

It refers to those detours in our lives—the times we’re trying to do God’s will, but get sidetracked by events beyond our control. For example, last week I wanted to go to the Women’s Evening of Recollection at our parish. I needed some adoration time, I couldn’t wait to hear Father’s talk and hit the confessional. I looked forward to it all day. Then my husband came home with a sinus headache, the big kids were hungry and the little kids were screaming. I couldn’t go to church and be holy – I had to take care of my family instead.

This was one of those crooked lines. From a human perspective, it was a detour. Life had shoved me off the straight path (evening at church) onto this crooked line—I mean, the kids are always going to be hungry and cranky, but the evening of recollection only comes once a month! How am I supposed to grow in holiness while cooking a meal and washing dishes and burping a baby and holding a toddler? That evening, it seemed like God himself was working against my desire to deepen my faith. Definitely a crooked line.

But, from God’s perspective, things are different. He doesn’t see these things as detours. He sees the whole pattern – how our children will grow up remembering our loving care, how there will be other nights of recollection, how learning to cheerfully submit to our station in life will help us submit to His will in bigger things later one. My crooked lines are God’s straight ones.

Sin is not a crooked line. It can’t be made straight. It’s not a detour, it’s a roadblock. The only way to get a ‘straight line’ after sin is to repent and start over. God could not bring good out of Maciel’s evil, because Maciel did not repent. He started sinning at the founding, and he kept piling sacrilege upon sacrilege up until the moment of his death. We can only pray that he was given the mercy of a deathbed conversion. But his congregation? His rules? His writings? His inspiring talks? They’re a rock slide blocking the road to holiness.

An evil man cannot create a good spirituality. A man seeking only his own will cannot teach others to seek God.

There is no crooked line here, unless, somehow, your own suffering as you leave this tainted soil helps to purify you for what lies ahead.


Anonymous said...

Excellent Post!

Anonymous said...

"But “God draws straight with crooked lines” doesn’t mean that God turns sin into blessings. "

I don't quite understand this because God is always bringing forth good out of evil.

"God could not bring good out of Maciel’s evil, because Maciel did not repent."

Again, I'm confused. Since when does the sinner have to repent for God to bring good from the sin? And can't God do anything He wants?

Nat said...


Thanks for reminding us that detours go around roadblocks and return to the straight path.

When they twist that folk wisdom they're also twisting the whole notion of God drawing good from evil.

Evil is a corruption of good. God can remove us from that corruption and restore us to the good but we have to be willing to leave the corruption.

Nat said...

"can't God do anything He wants?"

What God wants is for us to distinguish good from corruption and for us to be delivered from corruption to good.

Augustine: "He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent"

Anonymous said...

Good, only I would say that since MM was a notorious cut and paste founder, he pasted in certain parts from others- the Jesuits, Opus Dei, perennial patrimony of the Church at large. In as much as LC/RC lives this they were growing, no thanks to him. I am sure when one day we are able to separate out his own twists on these greats charisms we will find narcissism, control, subjection and manipulation of conscience.

Nat said...

"I am sure when one day we are able to separate out his own twists"

It's been 4 years already. Maybe the reason the Legion hasn't separated itself from his teachings and methodology is because they can't

The Monk said...

Deidre - I don't know if you are aware that "God writes straight on crooked lines" is an old Mexican saying. It's akin to another one - "God never closes a door without opening a window."

I wasn't aware the LC twists the meaning of the saying so I won't debate that.

However, the saying reflects the faith and hope we proclaim as Catholics - "vince in bono malum" as St.Paul allegedly said.

It would be a pity if you were to allow your feelings about the LC to distort a beautiful and helpful saying. I think you miss the point of its deeper meaning. It has nothing to do with the Legion.

Pete Vere said...


What good do you suggest we write with your buddy Troll's comments to Aaron over at Erin's blog?

Here's the link:

Nat said...
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Nat said...
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Gracie said...

Monk --

I'm a long time lurker and at first I thought maybe other commenters were being too hard on you. I've changed my mind.

Deirdre doesn't misunderstand. She's not arguing that the proverb is about the Legion. She's explaining that the proverb doesn't apply to MM.

Are you being deliberately obtuse or are you so certain that you're right that you aren't reading what other people actually write?

Anonymous said...

Gracie - great point...I did the same thing as you and have tried to give Monk the benefit of the doubt, but I realized there is such a deep, learned need to defend LC at all costs - even the cost of truth and self examination.

Anonymous said...

So much for buying his book.
No sale, Jack.

gregorbo said...

Monk's blog is named "The Monk Who Stole the Cow," after an anecdote about great good coming out of the commission of a crime.

So, what do you expect?

Interestingly, even in Monk's retelling of the anecdote, a cleric returns many years after the crime to seek forgiveness . . .

Did Maciel ever do that?

Pete Vere said...

Actually, folks, this reminds me of a story called The Monk, the Troll and 'the Coward':

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