shouldn't be used to discredit a respect for life that lies at the core of our faith.
Regretfully, because the work of the Church will always be carried out by mere mortals, it will never be fully insulated from the sinful actions of its practitioners. There is no denying that deplorable and inexcusable sexual scandals between priests and children have left the Church wide open for justifiable claims of hypocrisy. Of course, these are sins of individuals not of the belief system set forth by Christ two thousand years ago. It is important to remember that these acts are abhorrent and antithetical to the basic tenets of a faith that holds sacred the protection of the innocent and the defenseless. Somehow the scandals of organized religion have been used to discredit the faith upon which these religions were based.
Logically, this argument makes no more sense than rejecting democracy due to the sins of a failed Vice Presidential candidate or the beauty of sport due to the deplorable acts of a college football coach. Because we are all sinners, we should all remember French author de La Rochefoucauld's observation that "hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." Our universal imperfections should not be used to deny the existence of sin or to discredit the value of righteousness.
The basis of our faith is that there is a saint and sinner in each one of us and that we are all ultimately worthy of redemption. These are noble goals that reveal the beautiful humanity of our religion. If they carry with them a downside, it is that it too often allows the Church to make excuses for those charged with carrying out its mission when they sin, to give them another chance, and fail to hold them accountable here on Earth. In order for it to burnish its image of a great bulwark against sin and personal failing, the Church must continue to demand more, not less, of both those charged with administering the faith as well as the faithful themselves.
As a product of the New York State Regents system, I remember well my freshman year social studies class (they have long since abandoned calling it history) which focused exclusively on Asian and African Studies. I remember learning all about Muhammad and memorizing the five pillars of Islam.
In retrospect this seems odd to me know for at no time during my education in the public school system was I ever taught about the existence and influence of Jesus, arguably time's single most important historical figure. One doesn't need to be a Christian or accept the "mysticism" that surrounds his life to recognize the truth in this. There has been no other man that quite changed the course of history the way Jesus has and continues to do. It can be argued that his intense focus on forgiveness, rather than on retribution, was the basis for the great progress of Western Civilization. Asking us to "turn the other cheek" rather than "seek an eye for an eye," allowed humanity to look forward, not to lead perfectly just lives but better ones.
I've been going to Church my whole life with varying degrees of regularity. I can't say that I've always fully understood the readings and homily but I can say that whether I attended mass in my hometown, at college, abroad, or at my current parish on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I've never heard a priest implore anyone to do anything other than to be humble with oneself, to be patient and kind with others, and to reject the temporal anesthetics and earthly temptations that do little for those with a conscience other than distance themselves from their innate goodness and personal freedom.
And so in this Christmas season, I have a simple plea for tolerance among the "ists": Try to remember that Catholics have been, and continue to be, one of the great protectors for the "uns" - "the unemployed, the uninsured, the unwanted, the unwed mother, the innocent fragile unborn baby in her womb, the undocumented, the un-housed, the unhealthy, the unfed, [and the] under-educated, as put by the late great Governor of New York Al Smith, the first Catholic to run for president of the United States (1928), once believed, and as Cardinal Dolan recently reminded us,
"For two thousand years, the Catholic Church has remained the world's largest charitable and educational organization - running hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the poor and the aged, founding the college system, developing the scientific method, and establishing the laws of evidence - all cheerfully and without fanfare."
For all those inclined to revile the Church and what it stands for, practicing Catholics like me have a humble request - attend any mass at any time at any Catholic church in the world. It won't take more than an hour of your time, you won't be asked to convert, and I can promise you that the priest will encourage you to do only one thing - love thy neighbor as you might love yourself.
Seeing and understanding the great rituals of the mass as a method for helping people achieve this great goal might allow you to see what I see, and hear what I hear, when I go to church on Sunday.
----- Jason DeSena Trennert,a graduate of Georgetown University and The Wharton School, is the Managing Partner of Strategas and the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Firm's broker-dealer subsidiary, Strategas Securities, LLC in New York City. He is the author of the popular investment book, New Markets, New Strategies, published in 2005 by McGraw Hill.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: anti-catholicism, tolerance, evangelism, Jason Trennert
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