So I hear Catholics are getting “persecuted” by the media these days.
No, I’m sorry. For anyone to endure to hatred or discrimination because of their faith, or to watch the degradation of all they hold sacred, is awful. But really, this media “persecution” isn’t actually persecution, is it?
It’s far more like what we had coming to us.
Now, of course the media is biased against the Church.
Only a few months ago, I was in a media training course with a former ABC journalist (the Australian national broadcaster, or as I sometimes call it “the BBC six months later”) She was very upfront about the fact that if something bad comes up about the Catholic Church, journalists automatically believe it and run with it. Other churches and Christian organisations get leeway, and time to respond and small courtesies like the benefit of the doubt. We Catholics? Not on your life.
And who can blame them? We Catholics have clerical celibacy, which is so utterly foreign to our post-Freudian world that assumes all sexual desire must be expressed otherwise you will end up a psycho-repressed-deviant-maniac. We also have black robes and secret confessionals and, thanks to Dan Brown, self-flagellation.
In fact, we’re pretty much the religious version of Severus Snape. (And so maybe not so bad once you get to know us?? Ok, so maybe that’s not the best example… Professor Snape isn’t exactly renown for his healthy relationships.)
We’re so much fun to write about! Those dastardly, perverted Catholics with their celibates and crucifixes and general weirdness. It’s journalistic gothic horror at it’s best.
But it’s still not “persecution” from the media, really, is it? Because what are they writing about?
Child abuse. Sexual sin. Exploitation. Cover ups.
They are writing about the sins of the Church.
Not imaginary sins, real sins. Real sins that some members of the Church have tried to ignore or quietly “deal with”. Real sins that people are still suffering from. Real sins that we didn’t accuse ourselves of, so now the media is.
I don’t care what they say about us and our priests, if even one accusation that a man of God, chosen and consecrated by the Father to be a shepherd of souls, a minister of the gospel, and a sacrament of Christ Jesus himself, could sin against one of these little children, then we deserve all the shit we get.
Yes, the truth of sex abuse in the Church is mingled with bias and even abhorrence but as Pope Benedict said,
All that notwithstanding, one thing was always clear: Insofar as it is the truth, we must be grateful for every disclosure.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, 2010)
This is a severe mercy, a dreadful one but a necessary one. For sins have to be exposed and confessed before they can be forgiven or healing even to begin. We should be thanking the media for their exposure, for accusing us when we would not accuse ourselves.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light… Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:11-16)
And more to the point, the media’s not making this up, are they? We gave them all the reasons in the world to despise the Church and then turn around and act surprised that they seem to despise us.
[T]he media could not have reported in this way had there not been evil in the Church herself. Only because there was evil in the Church could it be played off against her by others. (Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, 2010)
We can talk about balance and fairness in reporting. They are good things and in this area, as in so many others, the media could do with a whole lot more.
But come on! We’re Christians, aren’t we? We’re Catholics!
We aren’t about what’s fair, we’re about what’s radically, counter-culturally unfair. We follow the Crucified Christ who shed His blood in a Roman execution, persecuted by the state and the mob. We believe that the blood of our martyrs is the seed of the Church. We believe that we are blessed when we are persecuted!
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt 5:11)
I see Catholics getting “persecuted” and think, good, the devil is still taking us seriously. He still thinks the priesthood is worth attacking.
When we’re just like the rest of society and no one has a problem with anything we do, then I’ll be worried. When they stop pulling out all the tropes and stereotypes and stop trying to make everything the Church teaches look like some sort of repressive dictatorship, then I’ll be worried. Because then, we will have become of the world.
But in the meantime, I’ll be praying for those Christians, including many, many Catholics, who are suffering genuine persecution and for the victims of sexual abuse in – outside of – our Church.
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly… For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Pe 2:19,21)
And then I’m going to listen a good priest, who tells it like it is.