Thursday, January 14, 2010

To Defend My Faith

Posted by Webster
I learned from my Popeye post that taking the fight to Protestants, even with tongue squarely in cheek, is a questionable undertaking. Of the 50 or so comments beneath that post, most are positive, but a few are righteously indignant, maybe rightfully too. I might have thought twice about some statements. But when attacks are made on my faith, and especially on my fellow Catholics, I will not hold back.

Frank and I began a prayer intentions list on Monday, an innovation (of his) that I am particularly proud of. Today we received one “intention” that, unedited, reads as follows:

Catholicism is so great that we held our grandmothers funeral at a catholic church. The best part was when they past around the money basket! That is catholicism at it's finest. Isn't it great that if you sin all you got to do is say a couple of hail mary's and all is forgiven? Or make a big enough contibution and your saved! I'll stick with christianity, we don't have a pope to worship, we worship christ himself.

There are plenty of swipes I could take at this “intention,” which Frank and I chose not to publish, for obvious reasons, but let’s take the points seriously for a moment. Our commenter apparently thought he/she was being clever phrasing them as he/she did (just as I thought with Popeye), but behind the ironic delivery there are some substantive thoughts (same as Popeye). I count three points worth taking seriously:

They passed around the money basketTranslation: The Catholic Church is rich and its clergy greedy.

Say a couple of Hail Marys, or make a big enough contribution, and all is forgivenTranslation: Catholics think they can sin freely and all will be forgiven if they just say a few prayers, especially after confession, and then make an indulgence-worthy donation to the Church.

We don’t have a Pope to worshipTranslation: The hierarchy of the Catholic Church, especially its leader, is irrelevant to personal faith.

I will answer these three points with a single word: Haiti.

I am proud of Catholics’ response to Tuesday’s earthquake.

Yes, we Catholics are passing the money basket. Please go right now to Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services or Cross Catholic International or some other reputable relief organization and throw something in that money basket. Please.

Yes, we Catholics are saying our Hail Marys. What else can we do? The airport in Port-au-Prince is as good as closed, yet the media are bringing us horrifying reports and images. Our brothers and sisters, including many Catholic priests, religious, and social workers, have been killed or have been injured or are desperately working to help the injured and homeless. I feel helpless. I’m sure Frank feels helpless. But at least we can pray, and I for one believe that prayer works.

Yes, our Pope is leading us. He is leading our prayers. And our Church has a bishop on the ground in Haiti, helping the Church’s relief effort. I have carefully observed my Pope at work since the day I considered becoming a Catholic in 2007, and I have never seen anything less than a wise and compassionate leader, one I would follow unto death if I had to.

I have just completed the final chapter of GK Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy and will be posting on it soon. I am afraid that our commenter, like many critics of the Catholic Church, is well described by Chesterton in this final chapter, where he wrote:

The sceptic was quite right to go by the facts, only he had not looked at the facts.