Defense of the Faith

A friend asked me if I had seen a comment in the Washington Post’s On Faith section about  the recent announcement by the Vatican of its Anglican Provision. The comment is by Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion.  The title of the commentary is “Give us your misogynists and bigots”.  I’m sorry to say it only gets worse.  It can be found here.


Catholic Bigotry

My friend asked if there was an official response to this blatant bigotry that seemed to pass through all of the editorial pens at the Washington Post and deemed suitable for its newspaper and Web forum. I don’t know of any official response, but I wondered how many people were concerned enough to question the Post’s decision to run the commentary.

My immediate reaction to something like this is to say, “look on the bright side, it shows that the Church still matters.” If someone, who has publicly professed his atheism, feels the need to take on the Church, it can only be because he thinks it has power.” However, I have to ask myself if this attitude is a bit of a cop-out. I think it is more accurate to say that I am typical of the Catholic who lets these things slide.  Does this make me an accomplice in allowing anti-Catholic bias to flourish in a way that the media and the public would never accept (and rightly so) for Judaism or Islam?  Look how justifiably careful the media is being in covering the shooting at Fort Hood. In looking over some of the comments in the On Faith section, there are the usual range of opinions that reflect ignorance or poor judgement or bias, but none that come close to the bigotry expressed in Mr. Dawkins’ column. I can’t imagine that the Post did not receive some hateful mail about the suspected shooter at Fort Hood and made choices about which to accept and not to accept.

Defending the Church

As Catholics we have to be better at standing up and saying that Catholic bigotry is not acceptable. We have a responsibility to defend the faith. Opposing bigotry seems to be a good example of when one is called to defend the faith. To be sure, the question of the Anglican Provision is an interesting one and opens many avenues for debate and discussion related to ecumenical dialogue, evangelization, and ecclesiology. No doubt, many people have quite strong opinions and they make for interesting conversation and thought. In the case of this commentary, it is a conversation non-starter because it has no fact or reasonable opinion to which one can respond. 

The Courage of Martyrs

Karl Rahner, the great 20th century theologian, wrote as essay in 1981 called “The Christian of the Future.” He said that in a world that was becoming increasingly hostile to Judeo-Christian principles, Christians of the future would have to have the courage of the martyrs in giving public witness to their faith. For a church built on the witness of those killed for the faith, opposing this kind of bigotry does not seem to be too much for the Lord to ask of his followers.

Defense of the Faith as Evangelization

Some people don’t like the tone of “defending the faith” for fear that it sounds triumphalist, it need not be. We are also called to be evangelizers and to find ways to tell the story of Christianity and the church in a way that people see it is the most wonderful story of life and love. The church is first and foremost an instrument of God’s love to draw others to life and love. 


6 Replies to “Defense of the Faith”

  1. As a faithful Lutheran, married to a faithful Catholic, I’ve developed a respect for the Catholic church. I find anti-Catholic sentiment appalling.

    That said, I have to point out that Catholics aren’t guiltless in terms of religious bigotry. On this site, and in my own parish, I’ve seen and heard snarky comments whose theme is Poor Stupid Ignorant Protest-ants. I think many priests and deacons forget – or don’t care that – not all of those sitting in front of them are cradle Catholics. I don’t think telling someone that s/he is stupid and ignorant serves one’s pastoral role well.

    1. Indeed Cynthia, we Catholics can be guilty of bigotry as well, I’m sorry that you have experienced this on this site, a good reminder that we all need to think before we speak and act. I am reminded of Pope John Paul II’s beautiful quote in Ut unum Sint, “the biggest obstacle to preaching the Gospel is the disunity among Christians.” This is sobering for we who are commited to evangelization.

      1. Anon,

        I think that is why it is important to speak out and to comment, it is one advantage of having so many blogs and on-line commentary, it does give us a public voice. That said, we could spend our whole day doing only that!

  2. It’s long past time to speak up in defense of our faith but also in defense of our church leaders. Many seem willing, ready and eager to jump on the bash-the-bishops-bandwagon. The mainstream media is so vicious and we all continue to tune in and/or turn the pages. Being informed is important, but what does one do when that comes along with anti-church messages?

    I was reading another article in the same newspaper mentioned here that suggested audacity on the Bishops’ part for pressing Pelosi and others about abortion funding being excluded from the healthcare reform bill. Meanwhile, the lobbying sharks are circling and nothing is noted. So, I gather, applying pressure against what the Church has consistently stated is evil is a no-no, but pressing an ear if you are seeking to line your pockets (and the coffers of those same elected officials’ re-election campaigns) is all good.

  3. So, the Catholic Church is singled out as if Catholic clergy are the only clergy who are human, imperfect and capable of giving in to temptation.
    Toward the end of the Twentieth Century the Canadian residential school scandal of an earlier period came to a conclusion in the courts. For those who may not know the details; the government had many First Nation (formerly called “Native”) children sent to residential schools run (in many cases) by churches. The idea was that they would get a better and, more modern education than that which was to be had in the far flung reserves.
    The downside was that they were cut off from their culture; emotionally and (often) sexually abused. When the victims became adults many teamed up with legal activists and the government gave in to resolve the entire matter in the courts so that Canada could move on from this dark chapter.
    Solid proof was established and damages were awarded. Some large sums of money were paid out by the churches and therapies to help the victims were provided.
    The part that bothered me throughout was the constant references to “those Catholic priests” and twisted sexual jokes; again about priests; being told. When I heard this I asked why was the Catholic clergy wearing it all. Other, protestant, churches were involved. Furthermore, if a church can keep sexual predators out of their clergy by allowing marriage then – why did the Canadian branch of one the protestant churches who provided staff to these schools go bankrupt from paying out huge damage suits?
    Whenever I mentioned this aspect people would drift away and; I don’t ever recall anyone disputing my viewpoint or attempting to justify singling out Catholic clergy. Eventually, it seemed that word got around and these one sided comments stopped coming my way. I don’t, for a mintue, suspect that these comments stopped, except when I was around.
    Why the one sided aspect which I so heavily encountered I don’t know. However, Christianity seems more and more a subject of criticism and fair game to those “liberals” who would discourage any criticism of any other religions. If this is the beginning of “divide and conquer;” if churches that aren’t the target of anti Christian sentiment fade quietly into the shadows and don’t take a stand; where will they be once the increasing new age paganism has gradually divided us with their subtle pseudo liberalism? Will they be allowed to continue hiding in their shadows? I think not.
    Just in conclusion ‘though; I do want to stress that what the residential school victims went through was terrible and the traumas; many of which still need healing; should not be downplayed. Working in “blue collar” workplaces has put me where I heard many of the horror stories first hand but, may they rise above it.

  4. Peter, this is an interesting comment that highlights that people either consciously or unconsciously put Catholic priests in a different category, I think some think that if you claim celibacy than you are held to a different standard. Just recently two teachers in the D.C. area were accused of abuse and the stories had no more than one day coverage. I like to say the good news is that the church still matters because people wouldn’t care if it did not. That said –it takes all of us having your kind of courage to speak up and not let people get away with it. I think our Jewish brothers and sisters are much more conscious and committed to this than we Catholics. The Archdiocese of Washington is now a leader is training people to recognize signs of abuse and fingerprinting all folks who work with children. That story is hard to get out however!

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