`In some ways, I think it's right that Catholics are now so despised and disliked. This is the way it's supposed to be. To be despised and excluded is the true vocation of a Christian'
AYorkshire lady has written me a distressed letter about the way in which Catholics and the Catholic church are nowadays so negatively portrayed. Whether this constitutes showing Our Lady being raped, as in a BBC TV drama, or in the transmission of programmes with such titles as "Abused and Catholic", or in the films which now routinely portray nuns as cruel sadists — she feels a sense of dejection. She senses a great hatred against Catholics and the Church and it depresses her greatly. It even lowers her collective sense of worthiness.
I perfectly understand these feelings and to some extent agree with the observations. If my correspondent were to reside in Ireland she would have an even stronger sense of the Catholic church being denigrated on all sides. Everything that has ever been wrong with the country is now attributed to the Catholic Church.
It is also the case that being a Catholic is now decidedly a had career move. Secularists complain that they are excluded from religious broadcasting, but Catholics are excluded from a range of appointments, albeit by private consensus rather than by open avowal.
In Britain, almost anything touching on bio-ethics, such as the Human Embryology and Fertility Authority. excludes Catholics. In Ireland, organisations dealing with the status of women and the family often distance themselves from practising Catholics. The Irish Government is just about to set up a new authority dealing with marriage and the family: I will be very surprised if any of those appointed to this quango openly embraces Catholic values.
However, unlike my Yorkshire correspondent I don't see all this negatively. Indeed, in some ways, I think it's right that Catholics are now so despised and discriminated against. This is the way it is supposed to be. Jesus Christ did not say "if you follow Me you will be praised, treated nicely and regarded with honour". He did not say " you will have a positive profile and your values will be admired". Quite the contrary. He said
"take up your cross and follow Me", If you are going to be a proper Christian, he warned, you will be hated, excluded and looked down upon. You will be treated unfairly. Accusations will be made against you which are untrue.
To be disliked, excluded and subjected to a stream of bad publicity is therefore the special vocation of the true Christian, and far from feeling despondent about their collective self-image, Catholics should rejoice that the world hates the faith. For this is the proper path as spelled out by Jesus Christ. Moreover, in some cases the bad publicity is deserved. I sometimes think that Catholics are intensely loyal to their Church not because of the leadership of their bishops and priests, but in spite of it. One comes across many cases where the hierarchy of the Church has deceived and misled the people, and one still comes across cases where the petty jealousies of Church politics take precedence over the spiritual needs of the people.
However, that too has been predicted. Because we are all so steeped in Original Sin, error constantly prevails. In a recent episode of that saucy, worldly TV drama "Sex and the City" (now softening slightly as it comes to the end of its span) one of the New York wenches was much bewildered by the idea that a newborn baby could carry the stain of sin. It hadn't been explained to her that this is an image of the human condition.
Yet, there is no cause for gloom. Despite the error abounding, the Church and the faith — go on. All the bad publicity in the world is powerless to halt it. Because it is rooted in the hearts of men and women, and not in the powers and principalities which seem to rule the earth.
p nAa qr yu i tset oe x t r aa obrodui -t
seven real-life dwarfs has emerged from the bitter ashes of the Holocaust. The Ovitz family were seven siblings — two men and five women — who were born with what we now call achondroplasia. They also had three full-size siblings — their mother was full-size, their father had been a dwarf.
The seven were condemned to Auschwitz and actually taken to the gas chamber, when Dr Mengele, the Nazi doctor who was fascinated by abnormalities, rescued them for experirnental purposes. They suffered, but they all survived, living into the 1980s.
They look quite adorable. Perla, the last of the family, who died at the age of 81, said:"My handicap was God's way of keeping me alive." What a movie it would make for Spielberg except that it would now be impossible to cast. Dwarfs are no longer sent to concentration camps: they are killed in the womb instead.