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.
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.