If there’s a cardinal sin to be made, count on the Catholic church
Kevin McKenna The Guardian.
Its errors run from toting a saint’s relics around Scotland to an invitation to a reactionary priest
Sun 8 Sep 2019
A grim little vaudeville act is currently touring some of Scotland’s Catholic parishes, featuring the remains of Thérèse of Lisieux, a long-dead French nun.
Thérèse died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 in 1897 and was canonised in 1925, becoming Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. By all accounts, this young woman developed an exemplary devotion to her faith and was the author of some beautiful (if slightly ripe) spiritual tracts.
I’m not sure she deserved the fate of having some of her remains bumped in and out of cars and through the hills of South Lanarkshire and Paisley for the devoted titillation of the faithful.
These relics of Saint Thérèse are considered to be “first class”, this being the ultimate seal of Vatican authentication. To be accorded this distinction, they must be parts of the bodies of the saints, such as fragments of bone, skin, blood, hair or ash.
Apparently, poor dead Thérèse (or parts thereof) has been getting ferried like this throughout the Catholic world since 1994. Is there no one to call a halt to this unedifying distortion of faith? Can we not let this blameless lassie rest in peace?
The church, still reeling from the global crisis of clerical sex abuse, is keen to encourage devotion like this.
In secular society, we similarly raise up those who have performed feats of heroism that inspire us to make more of ourselves or to come to the aid of those in need. Behold the Scotland national football team. Our squad hasn’t qualified for a proper international tournament for 21 years and has long been tormented by the feats of better generations.
The ghosts of great Scottish managers and players still haunt Hampden Park and our modern performers seem mesmerised by their shadows as they struggle to master the basics of the game.
Thus, there were more people interested in attending Scotland’s rugby international against Georgia than our footballers’ encounter with Russia on Friday night. Perhaps we could seek permission from the families of Bill Shankly, Jim Baxter and Jimmy Johnstone to exhume their bodies in the national interest.
A lock of Shankly’s hair or Baxter’s left metatarsal or a bone fragment from Jinky’s hips, which he used to swivel and pirouette away from defenders, could be secured and placed in a casket. These could then be borne aloft through the neighbourhoods that reared these great footballers for the purposes of rekindling interest among these communities for our national sport. Perhaps, too, something of the sorcery interred in their bones might escape into the feet of a passing urchin and transport him to greatness in a dark blue jersey.
When the church’s spinmeisters urge its followers to bow down in medieval veneration to the bleached fragments of dead heroes you know that political machinations lie beneath.
Our secular aristocracy relies on the fecundity of the royal family or the sacrifice of its soldiers in contrived theatres of war to avert our gaze from problems nearer to home. And the Roman Catholic church, still reeling from the global crisis of clerical sex abuse, is keen to encourage supernatural devotion like this for the purposes of redirecting scrutiny of its own grievous failings.
The success of the Reformation lay in freeing people from the spiritual slavery of Rome, where the bones of saints and counterfeit fragments of the Holy Cross had become an industry. The profits from this paid for the ruinous and brutal Crusades (and the beginning of Islamophobia).
The reformers offered a purer and less unequal route to heaven and the mercy of God, unencumbered by profiteering, exploitation and superstition.
It wasn’t just a theological revolution, but a temporal one, which seemed to say that you didn’t need to wait until you entered paradise to experience equality and fairness.
While Saint Thérèse’s relics continue on their ghostly tour up and down the hills and glens, the visit to Scotland takes place of the American cardinal Raymond Burke, perhaps the most powerful Catholic churchman after Pope Francis.
Burke, who has long viewed the current pope’s relaxed and compassionate views on human sexuality and the environment with deep suspicion, has become his greatest critic. He has thus become a totem for rightwing Catholic conservatives, a powerful and influential lobby, which is currently being wooed by Donald Trump and his chosen acolyte in this field, Steve Bannon.
Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence that Thérèse’s posthumous visit to Scotland is occurring at the same time as Burke’s live one, but I hae ma doots.
I do agree that the hierarchy and clergy cynically manipulate the simple faith of many of the laity in order to shove their criminal behaviour into the shadows.
Many of these men are in reality atheists and agnostics who pretend to be spiritual.
They are the lukewarm types that Jesus said he would spit out of his mouth.
The problem too is the confusion of spirituality and superstition.
True spirituality involves facing life’s challenges head on and navigating your way through them.
Superstition promotes escapism from reality into the realms of white magic.
You see it in Confession – the Sacrament of Reconciliation with priests giving Hail Marys and Our Fathers as penances.
First prayer should not be a penance. It should be a pleasure and joy.
Secondly such penances should be linked to the sin. The penance for theft is restitution. The penance for lies should be to be given the obligation to correct the lie.
The hierarchy and clergy want to keep the laity in the dark caves of superstition and to obedience to God through obedience to them.
As for St. Therese, there is no doubt that she desired to know God and to do His will.
Interestingly, there have been reports that she was ordained a priest on her deathbed.
As for Old Mother Burke? Well what can one say.