Tuesday, 7 April 2009

on angry rhetoric

A recent issue of the Jesuit weekly ‘America’ carried an article by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., titled ‘Outrages’ . This article illustrates the level of uncontrolled anger to which some Catholic Anti-abortionist have resorted since US president Obama announced his decision to reverse his predecessors’ ban on abortion.

When the University of Notre Dame recently announced that they had invited president Obama to speak at an upcoming commencement ceremony it triggered a storm of protest from several militant anti-abortion groups. Hoping to stir up ecclesiastic support a local bishop publically announced he would boycott the proposed opening ceremony. Not satisfied, The Cardinal Newman Society called the invitation to Obama “an outrage, scandal and travesty” and accused Notre Dame’s president, John Jenkins of choosing “prestige over principles, popularity over morality.” At the same time well known Catholic activist Randall Terry, stated that Notre Dame’s president was a worse murderer than Herod and called on supporters to raze hell by stopping Obama’s presence which would result in a “cultural rape of true Catholicity.” Not satisfied with the ongoing name calling an anonymous anti-abortionist ranted that Notre Dame was “in collusion with a vicious form of Satanic evil, etc.”

Readers should note that all of these malicious and slanderous calls stemmed entirely from within the Catholic community. Their rhetoric caused Fr. Kavanaugh to conclude: 'We Catholics are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate.'

Far from being resolved Fr. Kavanaugh’s article illustrates how militant some Roman Catholic’s have become over their differing beliefs. More alarming, is the growing level of demeaning and damaging rhetoric used by some Catholic groups to promote their particular beliefs. There is no doubt in my mind that some of the opposition was politically motivated, however, I hope that this militant attitude or 'religious rage' does not spill over into Canada or elsewhere.

At a time when much of the world is pre-occupied with fear and pain our choice of words is vitally important. Some words can become weapons of destruction and all weapons of mass destruction first begin in the mind.

How then do we engage those who have a different belief or understanding? The National Catholic Reporter ‘s Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés's blog submits a challenging article Political Catholicism vs. Christ’s Catholicism introducing the word ‘Internecine’, meaning ways of disagreeing which are destructive to all sides.

The author offers further clarity to this word when she states: In our time, when it too often has come down to our listening hard, but not being able to tell some priests from most politicians -- as they too often sound exactly alike, choosing the same rhetorical references and processes to defeat or demand a cause ... we, in our beliefs, our striving to hold life sacred, have to go a different way.

In a marvelous adaptation/reflection on John’s story of the woman caught in adultery Dr. Pinkola offers us a totally compassionate way to deal with our differences. She calls it ‘The Third Way Through: the Soul’s Way’. But for that story, you will have to read her blog, mentioned above.

After reading Archbishop John R. Quinn's article 'A Critical Moment' in the Catholic Weekly: America it made me want to jump for joy and start a new blog 'When Religion Gets it Right!' readers are encouraged to read his story at


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