Context does not matter any more. Any type of statement or opinion about even a slightly complex topic, gives rise to immediate predictable reactions. There is no consideration to reflect on what is written. Instant reactions are more about what team someone is on, and less about the actual content. It is true in politics, and sadly, it is true in the Church as well.
Consider the latest bit of news concerning the statement written by Pope Benedict. Immediate reactions revolved around one’s “team”. The “Pro-Benedict” team believes the letter it is the best thing ever written. Church troubles are all the result of Pope Francis. For “Pro-Francis” team, it is the worst analysis of any situation ever given. It is seen as a direct attack on Pope Francis. Truth is, it is neither. Pope Emeritus Benedict raises some valid points, gives compliments to Pope Francis for his efforts at changing Church law to address the abuse crisis, but misses the mark in some ways too.
To be sure, we do not always recognize our own hypocrisy. The very people who were most vocal speaking against anyone criticizing Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict are now the ones who are criticizing openly Pope Francis. Those critical of Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict are those who are now getting defensive about any criticism about Pope Francis.
Increasingly it is not just we have short memories, we choose to deny what we remember. Reactions and things spoken are immediate. What we said in the past simply never happened. If we don’t like what is said, or what is written, we simply dismiss it as “fake news.”
Just imagine how things might be different if we took time to listen to one another, to reflect on complex ideas, and resisted the urge to say something immediately. Sadly those of us who profess belief in Jesus Christ often act too much like secular politicians. It is a modern day example of Saint Paul’s words: I am for Paul, I am for Cephas, I am for Apollos. Are we not all for Christ?
When I read the first reactions to Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s appointment to Washington, too many immediately were critical. Why not offer prayers for the Archbishop in what will undeniably be a very challenging ministry? Why not hope he will act for the good of the Church in a challenging role? No, some people’s first response was to criticize, not to pray. The reaction to Benedict’s letter is no different.
Benedict raises valid points about the world today. It has become more secular. Politicians cheer laws to enshrine abortion. The congress will not commit to caring for a baby that survives an abortion attempt. Increasingly, we see ourselves as the only moral authority. At the same time, there is the question of causation and correlation that Benedict does not address. He assumes causation.
Perhaps if we could set aside our “teams”, and pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our decisions, we would all be better off. We all need to more fully and completely reflect the person of Jesus. The call to holiness is universal. We should hear this call. We must become more like Jesus. Calling for more just treatment of immigrants and refugees does not mean that we also do not stand against abortion. We welcome the stranger, we protect the unborn. We heed the command not to kill. When we become more like Jesus, we recognize the decay that comes from failing to admit God’s moral authority. When we become more holy, we see the Church, and our membership in it, in a way that leads all to a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus who saves.