Today, we feature another extract from The Gentle Traditionalist – my new book of apologetics in the form of fictional dialogues about the Faith.
In this particular dialogue, GT – the Gentle Traditionalist himself – is seeking to explain something that is all-too-obscured by our modern media.
Rather than elaborate on that, I will simply let GT speak for himself.
However, I will just note that this section of dialogue follows a discussion on sexual abuse in the Church, which is also featured here at this site. (I say this as certain readers might like to begin with the earlier section and read them in sequence.)
Without further ado, then, we turn to GT and his interlocutor GPL:
GPL: There’s something I just don’t get, GT. You confess your Church is afflicted by evil. How on earth, then, can you hold it up like this—like it’s some sort of ideal solution for humanity?!
GT: I don’t. Because there is no ideal solution for humanity. Not in this world, anyway. Nothing in this fallen world is ever perfect. Undoubtedly, certain manifestations of the Church have been downright perverse.
GPL: Yes! Exactly! That’s what I think. That’s why I just don’t get you! Just what am I missing here?
“What are you missing here? What are you missing here?” GT repeated the question slowly, deliberately, almost to himself, as if he needed to turn it over in his mind. Maybe he was also giving me a breather to calm down.
GT: Look, GPL, it would be lying to deny the evil Catholics have committed. But I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit something.
Frankly, the only hope I have for humanity is the Church. Especially at this critical hour. It would be less easy to make that claim, if anything else had a better track record. But, looking at history closely, I can’t see it does.
GPL: Whoa! That’s some claim you’re making there.
GT: Is it? Look, GPL, we’ve spent some important time considering the dark side of the Church. But there’s another side, too. People buried in your secular media rarely see that. Can you spare me a few moments to say something about that?
GPL: Go on then.
GT: Thank you. Let me start by reminding you that the Catholic Church has more than a billion baptised members. That is, approximately one-sixth of humanity.
That’s the greatest single body of any organised religion in the world. Over half the world’s Christians are Catholic.
There are 400,000 priests and 700,000 religious nuns and monks across the planet. There are tens of thousands of Catholic institutions, too: hospitals, orphanages, schools, dispensaries, leprosaries, shelters, soup kitchens, etc. Never in the history of humanity has so much been done by a single institution.
The Church has literally clothed, fed and healed millions upon millions of people…
GPL: You’re right. It’s impressive.
GT: But, of course, our sensationalist media isn’t interested in that. In Ireland, maybe four percent of priests committed some kind of abuse. A few of those were brutal serial rapists. They’re the ones who got the media attention—not the Irish missionaries feeding the hungry in developing countries. Alas, that famous line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar comes to mind.
GPL: I think I know the one you mean: “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.”
GT: Yes, the material good alone is incalculable. Still, one shouldn’t be too materialistic here.
GPL: Materialistic? I’m not with you…
GT: Well, these days, there’s a danger of only seeing the material side of things. All the feeding, medical attention, harbouring the homeless, etc. Those used to be called the Corporal Works of Mercy. And, obviously, they’re tremendously important.
However, I didn’t even mention the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Like praying for the living and the dead. Naturally, the greatest act of mercy is the Holy Mass.
I said there were four hundred thousand priests on the planet. The majority of them say Mass at least once every day. Hundreds of thousands of times a day then, His Body and Blood are given to the world. The graces that flow from that are inconceivable.
They completely dwarf anything else the Church does for people in terms of healing and feeding their bodies.
GT looked over to his Crucifix. He bowed his head. And in a low voice he said, “Words fail, words fail utterly for this. Yet words are necessary. Everywhere people are being blinded to the stupendous reality here.”
Some moments passed. I hardly knew what to say. Finally, I ventured, “Well, I can’t comment on your Spiritual Works of Mercy. But I’ve been to Africa. I see what the Catholic Church is doing there. It’s a lot. And you’re right: the media barely notices it. People probably are looking at Catholicism in a superficial light, myself included.”
GT: Thank you, GPL. It’s a major problem. Few people bother to really examine matters closely. Instead, they just regurgitate clichés, media sound-bites.
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