The Creed and Fear of Ridicule

Aug 7, 2021 | 0 comments

Archbishop Eamon Martin – What are the trolls searching for?

“There’s a lot of people in Ireland today who want to live the Christian faith, who want to be Catholic, who want to publicly profess their Catholic Faith and feel they cannot do so because of ridicule, because, in some cases, of downright oppression of what they believe in, and perhaps verging on forms of persecution.”

So declared Archbishop Eamon Martin recently, in a ‘St Patrick’s Podcast‘ – in response to interviewers Martina Purdy and Elaine Kelly.

This repeats a theme that the archbishop spoke of in May 2020 – in a Belfast Telegraph interview. “The harshest criticism and mockery tends to come in social media, often from people or trolls who have never met me…I ask myself: ‘What are these critics really saying or searching for?”

As the answer to that question is most likely the applause of an internet audience – and modern ‘applause’ is what ‘glory’ was to the ancient world – what is happening to Catholics and other Christians in Ireland today is exactly what happened to the earliest Christians, and to Jesus before that.

You look to each other for glory‘ Jesus told his critics (John 5: 44). No more brilliant explanation of media shaming has ever been uttered. Modern media – especially the Internet – are the Roman arena of our time – where would-be verbal gladiators vie for the applause of a crowd that could be global.

Yet it was in that very Roman era of persecution that the Christian Creeds were also compiled – short verbal summaries of a story that all Christians needed to know and believe. Their self-respect depended absolutely upon their ability to recite, inwardly, the Apostles Creed, in any adverse situation. It reassured them that the worst trolling of all – crucifixion – had been totally unavailing against the person they carried in their hearts and minds.

That is what the story of Easter means – the loving truth cannot be shamed.

Christianity almost lost the meaning of the Creeds when Christians themselves became socially and politically powerful, after 312 CE.  Worse still, the Creeds came to be used as instruments of shame in the Middle Ages, against those who disputed doctrines derived from them. Within living memory, self-righteous members of the Irish Catholic Church mistakenly believed that their faith gave them a licence to shame others – and the trolling and ridicule we can now expect in some situations is a reaction to that era.

This is a learning moment – to help us understand more fully our basic prayer and summary of faith. It was repeated internally in earliest Christian times – as reassurance that the cruel, shaming Roman world was passing away.

Fear of  ridicule and shame is always fear of what people think – and what people think is always passing away.

Sean O’Conaill – 7th August, 2021

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ACI’s Campaign for Lumen Gentium 37

The report of the Dublin archdiocesan 'Task Force' on the imminent crisis in the diocese offers no encouragement to believe that Ireland's 'Synodal Pathway' - announced with fanfare in March 2021 - will address this crisis.

As all Irish bishops well know, the 'co-responsibility' advocated in the Dublin Task Force report has been sabotaged time and again by canonical rules that deny representational authority and continuity to parish pastoral councils.  ACI's 2019 call for the immediate honouring of Lumen Gentium Article 37 becomes more urgent by the day and is supported by the following documents - also presented to the ICBC in October 2019.

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church
It was Catholic parents who educated Catholic Bishops on the paramountcy of the obligation of safeguarding  children in the church

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God
It was for challenging religious hypocrisy and injustice that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the common priesthood of the laity and for the challenging of injustice - in society and within the church.

A Suggested Strategy for the Recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church
Recovery of the church depends upon acknowledgment of the indispensable role of the common priesthood of the lay people of God and the explicit abandonment by bishops and clergy of paternalism and clericalism - the expectation of deference from lay people rather than honesty and integrity.

For the full story of ACI's campaign for the honouring of Article 37 of Lumen Gentium, click here.

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