Trigger Warnings for a Fragile Generation

Perhaps in the interest of self-preservation, Catholic writers should provide ‘trigger warnings’ as we go about our Catholic living. Here are mine.

Andrey Mironov, “Golgotha”
Andrey Mironov, “Golgotha” (photo: CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons")

Students are not as tough as they used to be.  For instance they are receiving trigger warning at the University of Glasgow’s Bible study classes, warning them that they may see some distressing images of the crucifixion. It’s a warning that due to graphic content, they may wish to step out of class for a spell.

Christianity is not necessarily targeted since veterinary students are being warned they will be working with dead mice, archaeology students that they will see a skeleton, etc.  Scottish Tory education spokesperson Liz Smith said it was just "ridiculous." The university defended the move to protect pupils' mental health.  Yet, treating young adults like babies is not good for mental health.


Persecution of Teachers

Arrested development is now often included with tuition, since some students are not prepared to be challenged, particularly by Christian thought.  Last December, George Weigel wrote about the persecution of Professor Anthony Esolen, whom he called “a bright jewel in the crown of Catholic higher education in the United States.”  Esolen was persecuted at Providence College where he taught for twenty-five years.  Why?

“Because he spoke his mind plainly on questions of great consequence for the future of Catholic higher learning and got the PC Storm troopers into an uproar,” Weigel explained. “To make matters worse, the college's administration has shown more sympathy to those determined to bully Esolen into silence than to one of Providence's star professors.””

The offenses were 2 articles proposing that diversity be within a biblical vision of humanity’s unity in God “lest making a fetish of diversity create a coercive campus ethos inimical to true learning.”

Weigel noted that universities today “are filled with pampered millennials  [those born after 1980] who require "trigger warnings" if their tender sensibilities might be offended by this, that, or the other idea or text.”

Some students and faculty “reacted with fits of rage more befitting a day-care center than an institution of higher education,” he said. “Which, of course illustrated one point Esolen made in his articles.”


Not a Daycare

At Oklahoma Wesleyan University, a student complained about a chapel service sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13, claiming it made him feel “victimized.” (Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast….) He complained for being made to feel uncomfortable. It was refreshing to read how Dr. Everett Piper, the University President, reacted. 

He informed the student that he was not at a day care and said: “That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. …The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness.”


My Trigger Warnings

Perhaps these days, Catholic writers should provide trigger warnings as we go about the business of Catholic reflections and reporting.  It’s a wonder how people can keep getting bent out of shape over our beliefs after 2,000 years so maybe they just need a little warning.

Abortion.  You can scream bloody murder (for all the wrong reasons) when you see burned and mutilated bodies of aborted babies, and attempt to spin it as reproductive health care, but once a baby has been created, abortion = killing. That’s why we March for Life every year.

Post Abortive Women Hurt.   No matter how many women shout their abortions and try to say otherwise, women are hurt by abortions and need healing.

Christianity.  It’s beautiful, yet can also be inconvenient. Jesus gave us our trigger warning: “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me,” (Matthew 16:24).

Death.  It happens regardless of how many distractions we put in its path.  Embrace its inevitability and start fully living.

Catholicism.  Stop acting shocked or indignant by it. We are extreme. We love Mary, believe Jesus is present body and blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist, have an all male priesthood, have 7 sacraments, believe in Purgatory and Hell, and follow the same teachings as the early Church Fathers. 

Marriage. The Catholic Church adheres to Jesus’ teaching that what God has brought together, let no man put asunder [if it was valid].  It’s for one man and one woman. “He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them "Mankind" when they were created,” (Genesis 5:3).

Thou Shalt Not Judge.  Regardless of what you’ve heard, recognizing sin is not the same as judging a soul. Identifying a sin may cause discomfort but it’s the sin, not the discomfort that is the problem.

Those warnings should cover whatever I will be writing about in the future.  Realize, Catholic writers should ultimately be about loving God and loving neighbors.   Love inconveniences us at times.  I’d much rather be everyone’s friend but that’s following God’s command to love my neighbor as myself.  Skipping the hard stuff so people will like me would only be loving myself so as to avoid discomfort.

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during his Angelus address August 30, 2020.

Pope Francis: The Path to Holiness Requires Spiritual Combat

Reflecting on Sunday’s Gospel, the pope said that “living a Christian life is not made up of dreams or beautiful aspirations, but of concrete commitments, in order to open ourselves ever more to God's will and to love for our brothers and sisters.”