Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Rant: The elephant in the room

illustration from Banksy's exhibition "Barely Legal"
One of the things that has fascinated me, during the last few days is the Catholic reaction to the Pope’s Regensburg Address.
It ranges from the “we hate Muslims”, something which makes one wonder whose teaching we Catholics actually follow, to the much more worrying, "let us not say anything that might offend". The problem is that Truth is offensive, certainly to those who find the very concept of “the Truth” unacceptable.
The Boston Globe had a column recently by an ex-priest, he concludes by saying in a derogatory way, misreading the Pope’s words, his central theme was faith is not at odds with reason, reason is of God. “In all of this, Benedict is defending a hierarchy of truth. Faith is superior to reason. Christian faith is superior to other faiths (especially Islam). Roman Catholicism is superior to other Christian faiths. And the pope is supreme among Catholics . He does not mean to insult when he defends this schema, yet seems ignorant of how inevitably insulting it is. Nor does the pope understand that, today, such narcissism of power comes attached to a fuse.”

Yes, he is right, the truth is explosive, having beliefs is explosive. It would be unreasonable for a Catholic to assume that his beliefs, which he holds up as being True, are going to be accepted by everyone. Faith, the ability to comprehend Truth is a divine gift. The problem is that for us Truth is something important enough to die for, it is non-negotiable.
Today is the memoria of Saints Cosmos and Damian, John Paul II did many splendid things, but one of the things he did was devalue the currency of martyrdom, he canonised men and women as martyrs who might well have been holy but died because of their ethnic origin or even for acts of goodness, rather than a deliberate choice between Christ who is Truth and death. Cosmos and Damian, whose death the Church remembers today, like the other great Martyrs of the Church, died for one simple reason, the Truth of the Catholic faith.

The elephant in the room is this Truth; secular society has truths, many of them. Catholicism has only one; the Gospels identify it as Jesus Christ; the Way, Truth and Life who says to the Apostles whoever listens to you listens to me, who guarantees that whatever Peter binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and promises to send the Spirit to guide us into all Truth. We can disguise the Truth we can make it blend in with the wallpaper, we can be a little shocked by it but for Catholics it is always there. John Paul and now Benedict, have been calling Catholics out of theological and moral relativism to see the Truth in our midst, for some Catholics this is going to be time of great joy, for others, who are consumed by the relativist theology and morals of the age, it is going to be a time of deep pain.

13 comments:

Maud said...

How humiliating for the elephant. I am surprised you have published it.

Michael Petek said...

The question is, how much more muscular do we need to become as Catholics when confronted with Islamic extremists intimidating worshippers on their way into Westminster Cathedral.

Years ago, when the US had a hostage crisis in the Middle East, Ronald Reagan said, "Having seen Rambo last night, I know what to do next time."

It's just as well I'm watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy back to back.

Martin said...

On the contrary, elephants love being painted.

Robyn Clayton-Jones said...

Michael,
Thank God we have wiser and more moral pope than Reagan or any other US president.
The model the Church puts before us quite clear. Forget the film read the Gospel or say the Rosary.

Anonymous said...

I love the picture!
But are you sure it is not a bishop, the purple ya'know.

Michael Petek said...

Forget the film, Robyn? Tolkien was a Catholic, remember. Always a good idea to say the Rosary, mind you. In 1571 Pope Pius V called all Catholic Europe to pray it, and the Holy League defeated the Turks in the sea battle of Lepanto.

When the forces of the Holy League boarded the flagship of Ali Pasha they got a bit too enthusiastic. They beheaded him and stuck his head on a pike.

The Pope dedicated the date of the battle to Our Lady of Victories, and in Protestant England Queen Elizabeth ordered church bells to be rung in celebration.

As for our Pope Benedict, I can't believe it was a coincidence that he gave his Regensburg lecture on the very anniversary of the breaking of the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683.

This was just as well, as the border of the Ottoman Empire just intersected with the county where my father's ancestors have lived for well over a thousand years.

Moral: it is a matter of history that Islam in arms has never been rolled back by prayer only, but always by Christian armies.

Paulinus said...

The question is, how much more muscular do we need to become as Catholics when confronted with Islamic extremists intimidating worshippers on their way into Westminster Cathedral.[Michael Petek]

The constant praying of the rosary with hypertrophy all the muscles you'll need for this fight - and it will be a long one.

There is an element of moral courage that will be required in this - the facing down of Islam (an honour-obsessed cult) every time the likes of Inayat Bunglawala, or Anjem Choudray try the shakedown (you know - "Do what we say and no-one gets hurt"). We also need to constantly point out the deficiencies in our media who seem in thrall to this weird Arabian heresy.(especially the BBC and The Guardian)

As Churchill said: "Continue to pester, nag and bite"

John Petigrue said...

How sensible, Paulinus! Never thought of Churchill as prayer guru. But an excellent comment.

Michael Petek said...

Well said, Paulinus! I remember the Croatian war of independence against the Serbs during the 1990s, and some of the old people said, "God is with us, and he will aim the rifles of our sons!"

When we pray the Rosary for our armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq - and remember October is the month of Our Lady of Victories on account of the Battle of Lepanto - we can expect the Taliban and al Qaeda to feel a little more ill.

Maureen Pickering said...

Michael, Are you some kind of Catholic Jihaddist, I don't recognise these rantings as Christian.

robyn clayton-jones said...

The Pope said, "A Christian always stands with the crucified, even if he is crucified by the crucifier".

Amy said...

Isn't this your sermon from Cosmos and Damian, with abit of tweaking?

Michael Petek said...

No, Maureen, I'm not some jihadist, Catholic or otherwise! I yield to no-one in my insistence that: (a) the use of the sword is reserved to the State; (b) the State is to use it in a just cause only, namely national defence and the restraint of aggression or injustices commensurate with it. When it does so it commits no evil, but acts in a morally good way.

The civil power can't use armed force to spread even the true religion, but it can use it against aggressors seeking to impose a false one, or to persecute the Church, or Christians in odium fidei if the persecution is genocidal or otherwise a crime against humanity.

If the civil power is itself confessionally Christian, such a war might even qualify as a lawful Crusade. However, the civil power could not attach any indulgences or other spiritual benefits to participation in it without the concurrence of the Pope.

The Croatian war of independence (which my cousin was involved in for a time) was a lawful defence against Serbian aggression. So was the battle of Vienna in 1683 against Turkish expansionism. In both cases, God was involved by His Providence, for He is the Lord of Hosts.

Croatia was then known as antemurale Christianitatis, and not for nothing. There is a better than even chance that my father's ancestors were involved, as peasants would have been in those days, in the armed defence against the Turkish threat.

As for my mother's ancestors, they were Polish nobles, so it is also more than a little probable that they marched to Vienna with King John III Sobieski. So you will understand that I am as proud of them and what they did in 1683 as of my maternal grandfather for having set out to kill Hitler during WW2.

If Vienna had gone the other way, the Turks would have conquered my ancestors' county (they had already reached the eastern end of it, and had raided into it for donkey's years) and my father would almost certainly have been a Muslim. So would I. Then you would have seen some jihad!