A Church under attack

  • December 22, 2010
Polp fatimaThe year 2010 will be remembered as months when religious intolerance repeatedly made the news and Catholics were often asked to stand up for their faith.

Perhaps a similar sentiment is expressed at the close of many years. But for various reasons these calls to action seemed more pressing in 2010 and were embodied in four stories that shaped the headlines in the Catholic press.

The first and most persistent centred around negative coverage in the secular media of Pope Benedict XVI. For reasons unclear, the mainstream media has made him a lightning rod for innuendo, distortion and, at times, malicious untruths. It reached a crescendo in 2010 when The New York Times attempted to implicate Benedict in the never-ending priest sex-abuse scandal.

In March, The Times accused the Pope, acting when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, of blocking justice in a case of an American abuser priest. The story was picked up by major news outlets and reported as truth even though subsequent investigation showed the accusations were undeniably false. As Fr. Raymond de Souza wrote last March, The Times story “gives every indication of being part of a co-ordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.”

In May, the spotlight shifted to former Canadian primate Cardinal Marc Ouellet who, in response to a reporter’s question, explained that the Church always views abortion as a moral crime, including instances when pregnancy results from rape. That comment brought vitriolic condemnation from politicians and news commentators. A month later, the Pope named Ouellet as the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most important jobs in the Vatican. The announcement was celebrated in Catholic Canada but portrayed negatively in the country’s largest newspaper, which suggested it was somehow inappropriate for Ouellet to hold traditional views and support the Pope.

October brought a joyous occasion when the Pope canonized St. Brother André. The canonization in a packed St. Peter’s Square was followed two weeks later by a 40,000-strong celebration in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. The scenes were stirring. Just as Catholics had been united in dismay over the negative headlines earlier in the year, the outpouring of faith surrounding St. Brother André galvanized people in rare public demonstrations of faith.

A day later they united again, this time in anger and sadness following the murder of 58 Christians in a Baghdad church. That massacre, by Islamic terrorists intent on cleansing Iraq of Christians, tragically highlighted the perils endured by Christians around the world as they live their faith. Thousands worldwide were assaulted and murdered in 2010 solely for being Christian.

With that in mind, Pope Benedict will celebrate the 2011 World Day of Peace with a call for religious freedom. If his prayers are answered it will indeed by a happier new year.

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