Hatred, Anger, and Love

I really shouldn’t be on Facebook in the morning. It tends to make me crabby.

Advent and Lent are the times of year when the almost reflexive anti-Catholicism of ordinary people raises its ugly head. They are typically fueled by media stories that take one line of a Papal address or speech out of context and twist it until it’s meant to mean the exact opposite of what was intended.

Here’s an example of the hate speech written by a friend of a friend on Facebook, speaking of Christ:

He’s A figment of Your Fuckin imagination most rational adult humans Dont have imaginary friends “christians, Good ol’ Lion chow!!!” where was jesus when those kids were getting raped? Golfing? WTF?!

The devil draws us out to anger, and I confess I often succumb. Christ, however, calls us to endure ridicule for His sake.

Let’s be clear: the abuse of children is never acceptable. Covering up for the abuse of children is also never acceptable.

And yet, we humans do it all the time. Universities and their students and their fans cover for abusive coaches. School districts cover for abusive teachers. Families cover for abusive parents and relatives. It’s the very human condition of instinctively protecting one’s own tribe. Circling the wagons.

It doesn’t make it right, of course, but far too often when we must choose between doing what is right and doing what is easy, we choose easy.

I can understand why 85% of the media stories about child sexual abuse are about the Catholic Church, even though we are responsible for only a tiny percentage of cases. We are the Church, and we are called to protect, to comfort. This is, for us, the ultimate betrayal.

Having said that, it would be nice if folks would also look to the example the Church is setting in cleaning up this mess. New policies and procedures have essentially extinguished this blight in the American Church. But that’s not sensational enough.

You get a lot of hits on your news site if you publish a story about the Pope’s speech saying that sexual exploitation of children was acceptable in the 1970s. The truth of this “story” can be dismissed with a quick Google search and reading the actual speech, but most people are too lazy to do the research.

Imagine what headline you could use about this post? “Covering up the abuse of children is normal, says area Catholic.” You see what I did there? It’s exactly the same as with these stories about the Pope.

It’s frustrating.

But the lion thing I quoted above? It’s not even the worst of what I’ve seen. My instinctual reaction is anger. I want to circle the wagons, to call him out on his hate speech, to leap in righteous indignation and fury down this guy’s throat.

But that’s not what we’re called to. If you have any doubt, read Saint Peter’s first epistle. It’s short. I’ll wait.

Pray for the man who posted this hate. And pray for me, who nearly rose to the bait.

Bring on the lions.

Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas – yes, there really was a Saint Nicholas – and in today’s Patristic reading from the Office of Readings comes this:

However distressful death may be, the strength of love ought to master the distress. I mean the love we have for Christ who, although He is our life, consented to suffer death for our sake.

Consider this: if death held little or no distress for us, the glory of martyrdom would be less. … For the Good Shepherd who suffered for all mankind has made all mankind His lambs, since in order to suffer for them all, He made himself a lamb.”

(From a treatise on John by Saint Augustine)

Bring on the lions.

5 Replies to “Hatred, Anger, and Love”

  1. I get the same sort of reaction. I admit, infinite patience is not one of my virtues. I would rather -be- a lion, roaring in defiance of such attacks. But I suppose I need to learn to endure the attacks of such ravenous beasts. Good things to think on in this post Thom. Thanks for writing it!

  2. I’m not a Christian and things like this frustate and sadden me. It frustrates me any time one very large group is judged by the behavior of its worst members rather than its overall character and history. There is no large group of human beings — no religion, no political party, no society — that does not have things to be ashamed of as well as proud of. I have some serious disagreements with many Catholic teachings and policies, but I still challenge anyone I hear trying to insist that the church is utterly corrupt and all priests should be “thrown to the lions” in some way or another.

    I’m still rather embarrassed by the fact that at some point this last year I let one of those skewed headlines push one of my buttons and I made an angry post on Facebook about something the Pope was quoted as saying. Francine called me on it, and after some more digging I realized that I had committed the error of jumping to judgement and anger rather than seeking more information in the hopes of gaining understanding. I ended up posting a red-faced apology.

    May we all become ever more willing to seek first for true understanding rather than succumb to anger born of hasty judgment.

    • True wisdom there; judging any group by their worst members inevitably leads you to the conclusion that the human species are savage barbarians. If you must judge, judge by what heights the group calls you to, judge by what the average person actually accomplishes, judge not by the depths to which some members descend.

  3. You are, as usual, an example to people of lesser moral fortitude.

    I am, on occasion, guilty of knee-jerk responses to this kind of thing. I have my own problems with the Catholic church in particular and with large organised religions in general, but as I commented on Francine’s blog, discourtesy is never an acceptable platform for a reasoned argument. “Hate the sin and love the sinner”, as I believe someone quite sharp once observed.

    I have several friends in the UK who are Catholics, and while I am on occasion distressed by things I see in the media about the church and it’s attitude, especially to people like me, I am equally distressed to see the effect that indiscriminate broadsides have on my friends, who are my friends first to me. And that teaches me, as if I needed another lesson, to keep my arguments civil, my opinions courteous, and to try, always, to approach any debate of this nature with good humour, not rancour.

    I am not Fox News, nor would I ever relish any such comparison.

    In all things there are good and bad parts, like the Curate’s Egg. We choose for ourselves whether the glass is half full or half empty.

    Personally, I wanted a different glass, half full of chocolate.

    • Me, I was hoping for a larger glass. Or perhaps several.

      I’ve always thought that argument was the way we grew in wisdom – you don’t really know what you believe until you’ve spoken to defend it. Preferably in a pub. Or at least with that glass you mentioned.

      Some days I argue for positions with which I disagree, just to sharpen my appreciation for the subject.

      I do despair of discussion on the Interwebs, however, where arguments on public fora quickly descend to name-calling and bad grammar. Some of the most vicious diatribe I’ve ever read, things that would make a longshoreman blanch, was on a Doctor Who forum. So much for gaining in wisdom.

      Ian, I’ve never thought of you as anything but civil and courteous, and I’m happy to call you my friend.

      When you say “people like me” in the eyes of the Church, I assume you mean “sinners”. Of course the genius of it is that we’re all sinners of one sort or another, and no matter the sin (and believe me, I seem to have drawn an over-sized share), we are human beings worthy of love and dignity.

      Finally, I’ve worked in communications for schools, churches, and political parties and campaigns, and the one constant through all of that is that the media never, never gets it right.