Thursday, September 06, 2007

More Anti-Catholic Bigotry

And more proof, if more proof were needed, that anti-Catholicism remains the last great acceptable prejudice.

This letter, from a Catholic priest in a nearby community, appeared the day before yesterday in the local rag:

All authority on earth is derived from God
By Rev. Michael G. Wensing

In his Aug. 30 letter in the Argus Leader, Robin Kip Speckels used very deliberate misunderstandings of Catholic theology and tradition concerning the priesthood and other matters.

First of all, the church treasures the Bible as the word of God. In fact, the Christian Bible's canon (list of books contained as sacred) and publication were developed inside the church in the first centuries of our era. Before the printing press, which arrived about the same time as the Reformation, the Bible was copied and passed down for families and faith communities mainly by monks and religious orders that had the erudition, time, copy skills and sponsorship to ensure future ages would have Bibles in hand.

When our theology says it recognizes priests as "other Christs," we rely on Scriptures as well. In fact, we believe in seeing the image of Jesus not just in priests but in many people. In Matthew 25, the uncharitable ones questioned the Lord about not seeing him needing shelter and food, implying that if they had seen him in need, they would have ministered to him. And the Lord responded that if they did not do it to one of these least, they did not do it to him .

In the letter to the Hebrews, as Catholics believe, Jesus Christ is the one true high priest. Jesus himself instituted the New Testament priesthood whereby those he called (beginning with the Apostles) would participate in his priesthood, not substitute for it. In this sense, priests often are called "alter Christus" in Latin, or they pray and celebrate the worship of the sacraments "in persona Christi" (Latin again for "in the person of Christ").

Finally, the literal words of Jesus in Matthew 23:9 did not affirm or deny calling a biological "dad" by the name of "father." In fact, St. Paul himself understood the nature of spiritual fatherhood and how he possessed it and appealed to it in his own writing such as in 1 Corinthians 4:15 "... you have only one father. It was I who begot you in Christ Jesus through my preaching of the Gospel."

Jesus said to call no one on earth "leader" or "rabbi," either. Thus, a true understanding of his meaning must be ascertained, or Speckels would have trouble with many others in society and in our education and political systems who are leaders or teachers.

Jesus was pointing to the one absolute authority over all: our Father in heaven. And as Paul reflected (Ephesians 3:14-19 and Romans 13:1-5), all other authority is derivative from God, who is the final authority, whether it be a teacher, a biological or spiritual father or a leader.

Published: September 04. 2007 1:55AM

Nicely put. Here's the bizarre letter that set off the Father Wensing:

Earthly priesthood came to end
Robin Kip Speckels
Sioux Falls

After reading Elizabeth Strabawa's Aug. 24 letter to the Argus Leader, I was compelled to respond.

In her letter Strabawa states that Catholics are taught that a priest is "another Christ" when offering Mass and hearing confessions. Another Christ? Paul warned the Corinthian church about those who would come teaching this very same doctrine (2 Corinthians 11:4).

Furthermore, the earthly priesthood was done away with at the cross when the veil of the temple was torn in half from top to bottom, symbolizing that all may enter in (Mark 15:38). Christians now have direct access to God through Jesus Christ, who is himself the high priest and makes intercession for them in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). They need no other intermediary. And nowhere is mandatory celibacy taught in the New Testament. In fact, the opposite is true (Hebrews 13:4). Timothy warned about those who would forbid marriage in the end times (1 Timothy 4:3).

Catholics address the Pope as "Holy Father" and their clergy as "Fathers." Yet Jesus commanded his followers not to call any man on earth "Father" because they have only one Father who is in heaven (Matthew 23:9). It's important to understand that he wasn't referring to biological fathers but rather spiritual authorities within the church. Catholic hierarchy, however, doesn't hold the Bible as the final authority, and consequently they develop their own extra-Biblical dogma, a practice forbidden by God (Proverbs 30:6).

Christians today need to be more like the noble people of Berea, who searched the Scriptures daily to make sure Paul was preaching the truth to them (Acts 17:11).

You know, every so often I fall into the lazy habit of thinking that we as a people have progressed to a certain level, that we've figured some things out, that we've gained some understanding and maturity. And then someone like the above-quoted Speckels comes along to remind me that, no, people are just as stupid and ignorant and prejudiced and hate-filled as ever.

This business about Catholics being in opposition to Jesus because we call our clergy "father" has been bandied about for at least the past 50 years that I can attest to. And for much of that half-century, I have asked myself:

1. If no one is supposed to call anyone but God "father," what do people like Speckels call their biological parent of the Y-chromosome persuasion?

2. Why is it that the likes of Speckels, et al., single out the Roman Catholic Church for condemnation? I believe that members of the Episcopal Church refer to their ministers as "priests" and as "Father"; and I think that many if not most if not all of the Orthodox churches do so as well. So why is the Roman church always singled out?

Well, here's why: Prejudice. Anti-Catholic bigotry. Hatred. And general stupidity.

And here, tracing the thread all the way back, is the letter that seems to have started the hubbub in the first place:

Catholic church helps abused
By Elizabeth L. Strabawa
Published: August 24, 2007

It is courageous for any victim of abuse to come forward, whether the perpetrator of the abuse be a priest, minister, counselor, teacher, Scout leader or family member. All of the aforementioned hold power over those who are vulnerable and reach out to them.

Catholic priests (the more than 98 percent who are faithful to their vow of celibacy), however, have been victimized by poorly informed people such as Barbara Dorris of SNAP.

Catholics are not taught that "a priest represents God on earth and holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven." Catholics are taught that a priest is "another Christ" when he offers Mass and when he hears confessions.

Our Holy Father, the pope and successor of Peter, was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven. When speaking in union with the bishops, offering Mass and hearing confessions are the only times that he is not speaking simply as a human being - albeit a holy human being.

The Catholic church has opened its arms to the abused and provided many ways for the victimized to begin the healing process. It is the hope of the church that all in that category will come forward to seek that help.

That's about as far as I'm willing to take things; I'm not about to ferret out whatever "poorly informed people such as Barbara Dorris of SNAP" might have had to say. I imagine it was something against priests who have demonstrated themselves to be sexual predators, and their fellow priests, bishops, cardinals who have helped them hide--all of whom belong behind bars, by the way--which seems to have prompted Strabawa to mount a more-or-less uncritical defense of all priests.

(Disclaimer: I have known a great many priests in my time. Several of them have been great men, true exemplars. Many have been jerks. None, to my knowledge, has been a sexual deviant. I hate to see all of them tarred with the same brush because I personally know priests who certainly don't deserve it...but I'm equally unwilling to give them all a free pass just because they claim to be "doing God's work." Indeed, I take great comfort in my belief that there is an extra-special little corner of hell reserved for people who, metaphorically and otherwise, fuck people over in God's name.)

Anyhow. Roman Catholic do view their clergy in a different way than most other Christian faiths seem to; likewise we see their call as something different than, say, a Protestant minister sees his or hers. But I don't believe I have ever heard this "another Christ" business that Strabawa refers to, and I doubt very much that it's doctrine. In my time, the teaching was that priests are emissaries of Christ, stand-ins, if you will--not "another Christ" in any way, the very notion of which seems heretical.

But of course that's not what Speckels objects to; instead he concocts that tired, pointless old biblical "reason" that Catholics are bad because they call their ministers "Father." That's it?? That's the worst you can come up with to say against us?? ZZZZZzzzz. See above re other churches who use the same terminology but never seem to get lambasted in letters to editors, and all one can conclude is that we're dealing with someone who hates Catholics and who seeks any opportunity to display that irrational hatred.

One does wonder, however: If Spreckels had written a similarly hateful and uninformed diatribe against, say, Jews, or Muslims, or even Presbyterians, would the local rag have published it? Or would the editors have recognized it for what it is--hate-mongering--and put it in the circular file where it belongs?

Impossible to know, obviously. But, as I say, one does wonder...

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