O God, the restorer and lover of innocence,Catholic Collect
direct the hearts of Thy servants unto Thyself:
that being enkindled with the fire of Thy Spirit,
they may be found both steadfast in faith and fruitful in deed.
Innocence is a confusing topic to me. On the one hand, many want to protect innocence, such as that of a child. On the other hand, it seems to be a lie, one that is torn away like a veil as we grow up. If it is a lie, why protect it?
What is innocence? The first sense we think of is that an innocent man is not guilty. Not the best definition, since it is a negative, but St. Paul can help us out.
To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted.Titus 1:15
The corrupt man blames the world for the evil he senses inside himself. To the innocent, pure man, however, all things seem good. He has thrown sin out of himself to such an extent that he can see the good in all things. He has no guilt because sin is nowhere.
Such a man can also be considered naive. This is a negative understanding of innocence. Once a man has seen the awful truths of this world, he should lose his innocence. Innocence is, at best, a beautiful lie. At worst, it’s a willful ignorance of the harshness of reality.
According to the world
The world is confused by these contradicting senses of innocence. As a Star Trek fan, one of my favorite movies is Galaxy Quest, a clever parody of self-discovery. An actor who plays a Captain Kirk-like character learns he’s not as cool as he thought he was. He has to admit his lie to his alien fans, breaking the heart of their leader.
In the end, the actor becomes as cool as he thought he was. Just in time to lie to the aliens again. He lied about lying–he really is the famed hero of the galaxy. Hurray! With this lie, he “protects” the Thermians’ innocence.
This implies that innocence is nothing but a beautiful lie. Those of us who have learned the truth have a duty to protect that lie in others. The beautiful lie must go on.
I reject this idea of innocence as a lie. I also reject the recent trend towards hatred of innocence. Because the world sees it as a lie, people want to “free” each other from it. This attitude, rather than helping the innocent, is a stumbling block condemned by Christ:
Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!Matthew 18:7
The Christian answer to the seeming contradiction of innocence is that it is wholly good. Innocence is a virtue that the devil tries to destroy. It is a truth, foolish to those with closed hearts, wisdom to those who try to live according to the Word of God.
Why does the devil hate innocence so much that he is attacking it everywhere he can? Innocence is the power to know that good conquers all, restores all. With no more than a sigh of love for God, we can begin our journey out of darkness and into light.
The Church sometimes addresses God as “restorer and lover of innocence”. Christianity has always seen innocence as something to be protected, for it is Truth. We believe, not that there is no evil, but that evil will not win. All things will be restored when the world is reborn in Christ.