This week saw the publication of the report on the Catholic Irish orphanages. Horrifying! I had seen the movie: The Magdalene Sisters (www.miramax.com/the_magdalene_sisters ) and this was just commonplace. Some very good comments can be found on the New York Times blog on the report. (http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/abuse-in-ireland-one-victim-responds/). One particularly caught my attention: “To begin to understand the appalling torture and slavery of children by Catholic institutions with the complicity of the Department of Education and the Government and Courts, you must attempt to understand the subservience of the individual in this country to the tribe, to the leaders of the tribe, and to whatever organizational form the tribe assumes through history.”
I am not sure if it is true of the Irish, but if it is, it is not only of the Irish. Is it true of us Catholics? In France where I grew up, anti-clericalism is prevalent. It is the norm. To become a nun or a priest does not give you any special status in society, almost the opposite. The Church is poor having lost all its real-estate holding in 1905.
I am not trying to defend the RC Church; I am only looking at the connection between a particular society and the Church within it. Looking both at history and at actual instances, one could conclude the more persecuted the Church, the more holy it is! In any case, the less collusion between Church and State, the best it is for everybody.
Such collusion begins within each one of us. What do I give to Caesar and what do I give to God? And that brings us to the feast of the Ascension we celebrated this week. Christ had to disappear from our mist, if he had not, his visible presence would have de facto been part of the particular political reality of wherever he is.
Persecution reminds us that our Christian faith needs to be forever challenged by the affairs of the city, the political reality of our day – and vice versa. In the absence of persecution, we need to be vigilant, forever questioning our faith, our own Church and our own City. We need to risk loosing if not “our tribe” at least our peace of mind and comfort level in doing so. We need to do so over and over again as complacency is always one of our worst temptations.