This week’s post on the Church

30 07 2009

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From Leon J. Podles’ blog, and I reproduce it here in its entirety:

A Jew decides to go to Rome to see what the center of the Church was like. He investigated the papal court. He realized that:

“Not only did they indulge in normal lust but without the last restraint of remorse or shame even in sodomy and to such an extent that the influence of whores and minions was of no little importance in currying favor. Various other attributes he found them to possess besides lechery. They were gluttons, swillers guzzlers in general and devoted to their bellies like brute beasts. Investigating further he saw they were all avaricious and greedy for money.”

People have asked me how I can remain a Catholic after I discovered what was going on in the clergy. Well, the Jew, after seeing the corruption of the papal court tells a Christian:

“For all I can judge it seems to me your Shepherd and consequently everyone else with him do their utmost, exercise every care, wit and art at their disposal to ruin the Christian faith entirely and ban it altogether from the world, instead of striving to be its foundation and mainstay. Yet when I notice that their aim is not fulfilled, but that your religion continually grows and becomes more bright and clear, it seems to be very evident that the Holy Spirit is its foundation and support, so it must be the truest and holiest of all faiths.”

So the Jew becomes a Catholic.

A lawyer who represented abuse victims and saw the depths of corruption in the Church nonetheless became a Catholic. Like Boccaccio’s Jew, he decided that God most be at work in a Church that survives the determined eforts of the clergy to poison it.

Today, I don’t necessarily believe clergymen are any worse morally, but they certainly are theologically (in the past, clergy at least respected the Faith enough not to meddle with it or change it. They would ignore it, but at least they left it alone). But the Church is still here.

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An additional series of thoughts occured to me after I read this article, which I saw on the Conservative Blog for Peace. It is about the passing of the novelist Frank McCourt, famous for his novel, Angela’s Ashes, among others. I thought this part particularly poignant:

Peter Quinn, the novelist and a practicing Catholic, wrote in an email that his friend was neither “contemptuous of believers in general nor Catholics in particular. On a trip we took together in 1998, he went to Mass with me on the Sunday morning that we landed. He respected the fact that I had reached my own peace with the Catholic Church. ‘It’s a good thing,’ he once told me, ‘that you’re raising your kids in the Catholic faith. At least they’ll have a map to follow or throw away. In either case, they’ll know where they are.’ ”

One of the great ironies of my life is that my father is probably the most “racist” person I know against Mexicans. Even though his tejano Spanish is flawless, and he is “proud of who he is”, he isn’t from Mexico but was born and raised in Texas, and can break out in a litany of what’s wrong with the “paisas” newly arrived from across the border. I never felt this to be bigotry, but complete honesty about people he has to “share an identity with”. I don’t see the deceased Mr. McCourt’s attitude worthy of righteous indignation. Indeed, I have never seen the point of the Catholic League’s harping on anti-Catholicism as the last acceptable prejudice. It seems to be a lot of talk coming from a culture of entitlement: we have rights simply because we are a “minority”. Catholics used to be threatening to our enemies; now we just whine about injustices towards us like spurned, unpopular school girls. But I digress. There is a difference between outright bigotry and an honest critique, and it seems that Mr. McCourt’s attitude was the latter. Those informed about Catholic history and culture will not be surprised that the Church, while it had some influence and power, did not do too well in winning the hearts and minds of the faithful. Why else do you think we are in this situation?

As much as we should seek to cover our fathers’ nakedness, one can only go so far in doing so before it becomes farcical. On a very human level, the only real way to respect our own belief is to respect others’ honest disbelief. I speak not of a bigoted, ideological opposition to the Truth, but rather a disagreement that cannot assent and is honest about it, be it out of weakness or immovable prejudice. Only this I think would do justice to the fact that Faith is a gift given by God, not a battering ram for our own pet projects.