Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 24, 2010

Whose Work Are We Doing?

Much of what I read in the main stream and Catholic press today is polarizing, and a lot of that seems to me to concern itself with matters of little or no substance; things designed to help the makers of blood pressure medicines and sell papers.

Take, for instance, this fellow Harry Knox.  He has been appointed to a position by the president to run a federal something having to do with something else called Faith Based Initiatives.

Time for a little aside, here.  I get kind of nervous when I hear about some office, division, agency or what have you in any part of any government which has to do with interface, liaison, oversight, contact or support of any thing religious in nature.  This is not by any means a separation of church and state issue mind you.  Or maybe it is.  I begin to get the creepy-crawlies about the whole thing; hearing in the back of my mind someone announcing, someday, that Bishop, Cardinal or just plain Reverend Loyal of the Patriotic American All Inclusive Church, has been nominated for a promotion by the President.

Anyway, this fellow is quoted as saying that Pope Benedict XVI is all kinds of a bad man because he and his church are condemning millions of people to death from AIDS by opposing the use of condoms.  He is also quoted as having said that the Pope and the Catholic Church are hurting homosexuals because of their opposition to homosexual marriages.  Was it Aeschylus who first said that the first casualty of war is truth?  Whatever!

Folks are saying that Mr. Knox is an anti-Catholic bigot, and  a Congressman is calling for the fellow to be removed from office.

At Mass the other morning the Gospel told us of the prayer Christ gave us, the Lord’s Prayer. In his short reflection on that passage Father B. wondered aloud how often we take the time to reflect on those words about forgiveness and Christ’s follow up about what would happen if we did not do that.

I’ve been reading a book by a Polish mystic (Slavomir Biela).  The first chapter deals with King David’s bad day while running for his life when he comes across Shimei who excoriates him, calling him a wicked and murderous man.

And David puts up with it, as you know!

That popped into my head as I listened to Father.  Alongside him was a large rendering of the First Station of the Cross.  The Innocent, who was unjustly accused of blasphemy and made no defense of Himself, nor called down legions of angels stands there before an impassive Pilot and the angry crowds, the plotters in their robes who wanted someone out of the way so they could get on with business as usual.  Biela makes the point that Shimei also accused David unjustly of being a usurper to his throne, when it was God himself who chose him.

Now, where am I going with all of this?  Well, as I just learned, Shimei in Hebrew means something like “Listen! Hear!” That’s a great word to use for the name of someone who’s got a beef.  And, one presumes, Knox has one against the Church and, particularly, the Holy Father.  He accuses him unjustly, of course, whatever else the Pope may have done which, thanks be to God, is between the Pope and God.  But, Knox seems to be a modern day Shimeiwalking alongside the Pope, the Church, hurling insults, throwing stones and dirt, calling names.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to compare someone like Knox with Shimei the Benjaminite, and the High Priest Caiaphas, two fellows who want to advance an agenda, expand, maintain or return power to themselves and their party.  But if so, do we wish to concern ourselves with determining whether or not they and he have engaged in something we now have a name for?  Or should we concentrate our energies elsewhere?

I read not too long ago that St. Francis of Assisi believed himself in some way responsible for any kind of evil in the world, begging God’s mercy for himself, however remotely connected to it he might have been, and confessing that he, somehow, was guilty of the sin, himself.  Is there not a remote possibility, speaking in the manner of St. Francis, that Knox and his attitudes are a kind of “difficult grace” for us, meant to be an occasion for an examination of conscience, regardless of whether or not his words and actions can be defined, labeled and categorized any one way or another? Does it matter, does it help, then to call him something and demand that he suffer reprimand?

I do not argue for either side of the question, but I am left thinking about the last of the Beatitudes in regard to this whole issue of who is saying what about whom and why.   There is, it seems to me, only one who is pleased with it.

Whose work are we doing?


  1. Oh my word! Now you are definitely cooking by gas!

    And I did appreciate Jesus standing before Pilot. The excite nicety of the word has me happily chortling when there is so much else I might be doing…

    • Thank you, Alys. Sometime I surprise me.

  2. ack – exact nicety!! You can’t expect better from someone who is supposed to be test driving a thurible

    • I liked excite nicety. Perhaps it will turn up in a poem somewhen. Do thuribles down there come with left or right hand drive? Mind you I can do both.


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