War ‘difficult to justify’
Courage in the face of temptations
By Teresa Pirola
It is not easy being an openly committed Catholic - especially in today's climate. Anti-Catholic sentiments surface at many levels, from media reporting and political manoeuvring to snide remarks from friends.
We face three temptations in such an environment. One is to go underground, stay out of the religious conversation, hide your beliefs or water them down so that you become acceptable to the status quo (Catholic? Who me?).
Another is to go in with guns blazing, zealously 'defending' the Church as if it has nothing to apologise for and blaming the rest of the world for its problems (If people would just shape up and follow the Church's teachings we would not be in this mess!).
A third temptation is to get on the bandwagon of constantly criticising the Church (Yes, I am an active member of the Church and this is what I hate about it!)
None of these approaches is healthy. The first is gutless. The second is angry and self-righteous. The third is angry and self-defeating.
So what is a better response? By way of an answer, I would like to quote an Australian bishop who was invited to speak at the US Catholic Bishops' Conference in Dallas last September, at the height of the media frenzy about sexual abuse scandals in the US.
It was in this context that Archbishop Phillip Wilson said:
"I heard someone say in one of the presentations: 'Who'd want to be a bishop today?' I was tempted to jump up at the back and say: 'Well, I do!'
"I do. I know it's hard. I know we have to suffer, but I think this is terrific. It's wonderful being a bishop. It's wonderful being a bishop in this particular time of our history because if you look at what is happening to us, you can see that the challenges that the Lord is laying before us give us the opportunity to do great things for God and for the Church.
"It's not necessarily a great time for the Church when everything runs swimmingly and everyone's happy and all the things that we're involved in and the projects we take up are all going well.
"It could very well be that a greater moment for the Church is a moment of pain when we confront the reality of what has been part of our life. A time of challenge and renewal, which imposes a burden on all of us, can be an exciting and wonderful moment to be a bishop in the Church and to be a leader of the Church community today." (Cf www. adelaide.catholic.org.au/Archbishop/ child_protection/usa_talks.htm)
Take this text and substitute the word 'Catholic' for 'bishop' and we have wise advice for every Catholic who is feeling a little jaded in the present climate. We might paraphrase the essential points like this:
* Have courage! Whatever the difficulties, claim this as a moment of greatness by the way you witness to the gospel. Positively embrace the burden - ultimately it is a privilege. It is a privilege to be called as a disciple of Christ.
Teresa Pirola co-ordinates The Story Source, a writing/publishing ministry serving Catholic parishes and dioceses.