I stayed up late on Friday evening and so was awake to get the message from a friend about the Good Friday services in the Vatican. I waited until today to send this reflection live so that I could be a bit more sure that I wasn’t rushing to judgment. I don’t want to cause any pain for victims who might wander across my site or my Catholic friends who read whatever crap I vomit out here.
But the Pope’s preacher, Father Cantalamessa, thought Good Friday was a good time to address the global scandal that is emerging (but began emerging over ten years ago!) by accusing the media of bias. It sickened me. Fr. Cantalamessa quoted from a Jewish friend who wrote in a letter:
I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world. The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism. Therefore I desire to express to you personally, to the Pope and to the whole Church my solidarity as Jew of dialogue and of all those that in the Jewish world share these sentiments of brotherhood. Our Passover and yours are undoubtedly different, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father. I wish you and all Catholics a Good Easter.
The fact that this letter was written by a Jewish friend or that it is not official Papal teaching does not alter the fact that the Pope’s preacher, the only man in the world entitled to preach to the Pope (how crazy is that?!), compared media coverage of the abuses to anti-Semitic attacks. The BBC reports that one US victim support group Snap, responded by saying:
They’re sitting in the papal palace, they’re experiencing a little discomfort, and they’re going to compare themselves to being rounded up or lined up and sent in cattle cars to Auschwitz? … You cannot be serious.
Throughout the world, it was the media that unearthed these abuses. The Roman Catholic Church was not going to publicise them. Reporting on sexual abuse and the systematic cover-ups that sometimes were associated with it by Christian leaders is not evidence of a media bias or an attack on the Gospel or a seeking to “to once again annihilate the body of Christ“! Even where there are particular news outlets or journalists with an unprofessional axe to grind, they are irrelevant to the issue. Referring to them is shockingly beside the point.
The simple fact is that the Vatican, the Irish hierarchy and individual Catholics should be thanking the media and following the “secularists'” lead by bringing to light the corruption and the evil that is actually annihilating the body of Christ. John’s Gospel tells us that the darkness cannot comprehend light. In that case, the current line taken by the Vatican is especially depressing because they cannot seem to comprehend that the bringing to light of our sin is a cause of rejoicing, not shame, defensiveness or self protection.
We are not made right by our merit. We are not esteemed worthy because of our perfect record. We stand as Christians, in the words of Luther and closer to home for me, a lovely pensioner in my congregation called Ian, as beggars. We do not need to cling to the appearance of being upstanding. We do need to happily and commonly repent.
It would not be going too far to say that the media is saving the Catholic Church. God has used it to expose this disgusting sin and given the church a chance to be Church by reconciling with victims in humble penitence. The media is the church’s Confessor. As she teaches the faithful to welcome their Confessor, so should they!
Anti-Semitism is not a magic word to be used to get people off your back. The despising of Jews is a real threat in this world and as Christians, we who worship a crucified Jew, should always be the chief defenders against such hatred. By taking the most solemn day of our year and mis-using the term Anti-Semitism as a tool, Fr. Cantalamessa has made a distressing mistake. Any Christian who continues to peddle the line that somehow the media is on a secular crusade is participating in this distressing and sorrowful missing of the point of God’s work in our midst.
Fr. Cantalamessa told in his sermon that while every other priest offers a victim as sacrifice, Christ offers himself. Christ is the only victim that he mentioned (apart of course from the church). The crucified Christ calls us to take up our Cross and follow him. He warns us we will be despised and persecuted for his sake. He tells us that it is better that we never be born than that we mislead children. And his apostle Paul tells us that we are his ambassadors for the sake of his reconciliation. May we as Christians in Ireland pray deeply on these things and be made into a people who more accurately reflect the self-sacrificial love of our God.
Your Correspondent, He is Hosea’s wife