“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18
I’ve always been too sensitive for my own good. Things which others seem content to just let slide, I take rather personally. Like the stereotyping of Catholic priests as nothing but a bunch of undercover homosexuals or, worse yet, a bunch of child molesters. After all, I am a Catholic priest but I am neither homosexual nor a child molester. What I am is a fan of the website www.stluciastar.com.
It was through the St Lucia STAR online that I kept abreast with so much of what was happening in St Lucian society and in life while studying, first in Trinidad and then Rome, in preparation for my ordination to the priesthood. When I returned home in July of 2008, it was almost as if I had never been away. I must also confess that in continuing to indulge this online guilty pleasure, I hardly ever read an article without scrolling down to the comments posted by other regular readers who are eager to share their profound intellectual reflections on the issues dealt with by STAR reporters and regular contributors. I continue to do this even though many of the comments posted cause me to cringe in embarrassment at what passes for profound thought in this fair isle that gave birth to two Nobel Laureates.
Still, nothing could prepare me for the venom that was spewed out in lieu of comments in response to a February 23 STAR article entitled “Archbishop Makes Peace Proposal to the PM.” Apparently none of those who took time to share their innermost thoughts saw any merit in the initiative being outlined in the article… none that was worth applauding anyway. Or could it be that their issue was not so much with the initiative per se, but with the fact that it was the local Roman Catholic Archbishop proposing the initiative. After all, can anything good come from the Catholic Church; that great bastion of evil, seeking to enslave or corrupt the minds of the truly righteous ones? After all, she is nothing more than the drunken whore of Babylon; a secretive, idolatrous organization run by the “beast” himself right? Right!
Judging from the majority of the online comments to the above mentioned article and to other recent articles as well, such as the one entitled “Archbishop’s New Year Message of Hope;” this seems to be the perception of the Church now harbored by so many of those who consider themselves enlightened. I would be lying through my teeth if I said that this does not cause me untold grief, because what others call “Whore of Babylon” I call “Mother.”
I do not write to convince anyone that evil has not existed within the Church over the centuries. That would be like saying that all of our politicians over the years have been beacons of virtue. No doubt the devil has made his corrupting presence felt from within, as he will do in seeking to destroy anything that is good. I believe the fact that the Catholic Church has existed and continues to exist only by Divine Grace, but it is obviously a body of human beings and as such, we are all far from perfect. Greed, hunger for power, lust, selfishness, pride and blatant dishonesty have been just some of the forms of rot we have suffered and it is true that many of those who should have been held accountable were not. It would be a crime for us to simply ignore thesedark stains on our Church history.
However, is it not just as criminal to judge the Church, which traces its history back over two thousand years to the Apostles of Christ, by the bold evil of some while totally ignoring the heroic virtue of so many others? There are many who would choose to see the likes of the ridiculous Pope Alexander VI as symbolic of Catholicity, while totally ignoring spiritual giants like Gregory the Great, Augustine and in our own time, a man like Karol Jozef Wojtyla (John Paul II). Catholic women too have not been outdone in terms of holiness of life. Think of the likes of Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux and again in our own time, a woman like Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Google them if you feel the need.
There are those who would suggest that the Catholic Church today is nothing more than a money- and gold-hoarding “organization” with little or no concern for the “ghetto youth.” Here again they choose to ignore the continuing work of the Church in some of the most trying circumstances, through parish initiatives or organizations like Caritas and the Missionaries of Charity, among so many others. Catholic leaders like Bishop Oscar Romero have died in defense of those who are considered the least in society. The work of such Catholic heroes and groups so often goes unnoticed as they hold on to the principle that our good deeds should never be trumpeted before men to win their approval.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting the good we have done and continue to do today should in any way erase the pain we have caused on too many occasions. But is it fair that I should be judged only by the worst I have done in my life? Is it also fair that I as a Catholic today should be judged, using today’s standards, for mistakes made from as far back as the medieval period? Have the enlightened and liberated thinkers ever stopped to wonder if it is not in the best interest of an immoral or amoral few to highlight and broadcast far and wide the sins of the Church while totally ignoring her virtues? One almost gets the impression that pedophilia is a “Catholic thing” or worst yet a “priest thing,” but doesn’t child abuse also take place in the classroom, in the doctor’s office and especially in the trusted family home? Are not other pastors, rabbis and elders guilty of some of the same, if not more atrocious misbehavior that some Catholic leaders are singled out for? No, this does not make such behavior acceptable for us, but think for a moment about the number of other church assemblies which owe their filled pews to Catholic Church bashing.
I also believe that it would serve some very well to have the Church silenced on issues like abortion. What better way to achieve this than to attack our credibility. The fact that this silencing strategy seems to have worked on the Church in St Lucia is a source of great pain for me…but that is for my next article. Over to you great thinkers. . .