It seems like it happens every year, right before Easter: There is one attack or another against Christianity. A few years ago, right before Easter, there was a wave of headlines about the supposed finding of the tomb of Jesus. This year, it took the form of an attack on Pope Benedict XVI.
Here we go again. When the mainstream media pick this time of the year to launch an attack against Christianity, I generally think it is best to just ignore it. It can take the form of a media frenzy with reports blown out of proportion, trying to capitalize on the additional attention that Christians give to their faith at this time of the year.
At best, it takes the mind off of Christ, the penitence of Lent, His Passion and His Resurrection, at a time of year when that is where the focus of our faith should be. At worst, it runs the risk of dissuading some people from coming into full communion with the Catholic Church when baptisms and confirmations are concentrated at the Easter Vigil. I suppose there might have been some wishful thinking in that regard in the comment made by Rowan Williams in an interview suggesting that the Pope had lost all credibility because of the Irish sex abuse scandal. It surely must have caught the attention of Anglo-Catholics now considering whether they will become Catholics.
But the Catholic faith is deeper than that. It survived through centuries of papal controversies in the Middle Ages, and perhaps we should remember that the holy people in Christianity are the saints and not the clergy; the powerful people are those who pray and not those who vote; and our faith is rooted in the eternal Trinity and not in the latest headlines.
Of course some of those headlines were outrageous. What would you expect? It's Easter, and a lot of the mainstream media has no remaining respect for Christianity as a whole, and for Christians in particular. That is all the more the case, I have no doubt, because of the recent pro-life opposition to the U.S. health care bill, and the roll that is likely to play in upcoming elections to unseat many of the Democratic politicians who supported a health care bill that did not do enough to protect life.
As wrong as clergy sex abuse truly is, the timing and the tone of much of the reporting ought not to outrage us so much as clue us in to its roots in a political and moral anti-Catholic bias. It is Satan tempting during Lent, tempting us to turn our eyes away from the Lord and the beauty of our Lenten modesty, the beauty of Holy Week, the beauty of the Church's turning from the darkness of Gethsemane to the splendor of Easter light.
Don't turn away from beauty to the soiled ugliness of the press. Its ugliness is a witness to its destiny. What in nature is beautiful is healthy, and what is ugly inevitably reflects decay and death. Look toward the beauty of the Easter sunrise and desire to see the Face of Christ our Lord.
Thomas Peters writes, "What was the point of this attack? To discredit the public moral witness of the Church, that 'inconvenient voice' of truth in our time." I think he is correct in that analysis. Read his American Papist blog post on the subject. Christopher Blosser has a round-up about it at The Benedict Blog.
The Holy Father needs our prayers and our support, as does the Church as a whole. We need to defend our Church and the Papacy in the public square. But let us not be distracted into the political fray so much that it turns our eyes away from the face of God.
A blessed Easter to you all.
Image: The Resurrection by Pieter Lastman, 1612.