Friday, August 31, 2007

A Catholic Church Scandal That Isn't

.
Father Andrew Greeley doesn't often get quoted in these pages, but he hit it on the nail head today:

Now, as the poor battered Catholic Church tries to recover from a bushel basket of scandals, it must cope with the Mother Teresa scandal. Someone has found the poor woman's private letters in which she confessed how weak her faith and love seemed. Spread around the world by Time magazine, the letters are taken as evidence that she was not the saint we all thought she was. On ABC Evening News on Friday night, an itinerant atheist offered the opinion that she was a hypocrite.

Is there no way that journalists reporting on the Catholic Church can treat it like it is something about which a little more is known than primitive tribes in the Brazilian rain forests or the impenetrable jungles of New Guinea?

Don't the respectable news agencies, the major TV outlets and the great if fading print media have a list of reliable Catholic experts who can explain what goes on among us?

A few years ago, a nasty editorial in what Jimmy Breslin calls the New York Times Newspaper compared the Jewish feast of Passover favorably with the Christian feast of Easter. Didn't the good gray Times have a fact-checker available who could have warned that they are the same feast and that in many languages have the same name?

Was there no one in the deep sub-basements of ABC who knew about the Dark Night of the Soul -- an experience in which someone on the road to sanctity feels abandoned by God and has to cling to faith and vocation by sheer stubborn faith? Could not someone at a local chancery call ABC and say, hey, you idiots, that feeling of abandonment is one more proof that she was a saint?

Catholics know that doubt and fear are part of the human condition, and absolute certainty is rarely if ever granted, and merits skepticism if it's offered. St. Teresa of Avila experienced the Dark Night; Juan de la Cruz did, too, and wrote one of the greatest of poems in human literature about it ("Once in the Dark of Night"). St. Therese of Lisieux lived through it in the last years of her brief life. Jesus' Agony in the Garden was quite literally a Dark Night. So was his cry, ''Why have you forsaken me?''

When I'm asked if I experience doubts, I usually answer, ''No more than 20, but that's before breakfast.''

I suspect that some Catholic source tried to explain these matters to the ABC reporter, but the reporter's paradigm for all things Catholic is scandal and had been given that paradigm by his news editor, who already had the lead for the story in mind. How could the clip have begun with ''Catholic experts on sanctity said today that the revelation of the secret letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta were simply one more proof that she indeed was a saint and a very great saint at that.''

No, it was a much better ''grabber'' to summon up an atheist to proclaim that the soon-to-be saint was a hypocrite. Like I say, a medicine man with poisoned arrows in the rain forest would get a better break. He would be someone novel.

Catholic nuns are interesting only when they become cops or bricklayers or baggage handlers at the airports or other weird jobs. In part it is the fault of the church leadership, which avoids transparency like it was the bubonic plague, and has been known on some occasions to short-circuit the canonization process. And, anyway, how do you explain to a religiously illiterate, secularist reporter about the Dark Night? Chicago SunTimes

Post a Comment