There has been much to criticise in the Catholic Church recently. And Catholics have not been shy about naming the serious wrongs that have been done in the name of the Church or by people within the Church.
The Church has also not been short of critics in the media and political life – often they protest with good reason.
I don’t know if the Church would’ve faced up to the dreadful crisis of abuse if it wasn’t for the media and external oversight. But, every day there is verbal abuse, distortion, innuendo.
Many Catholics tell me they’ve stopped reading secular newspapers. One man told me recently that he used to love reading the papers, but now he dreads turning the page because of what he might see: more contempt heaped upon the Church which he goes on loving, despite everything.
In certain media and political circles, there is a special contempt – even hatred – reserved for all things Catholic. Some of the venom heaped upon the Religious Sister of Chairty recently was, in my opinion, nothing short of incitement to hatred.
When a well-known novelist recently called upon her Twitter followers to throw a stone at a priest if they saw one, no-one batted an eyelid. Had this woman called for a national ‘stone-a-Muslim’ day in the same way as she called for the national ‘stone-a-priest’, one wonders if there would have been outrage.
Church-bashing has also become a pastime in our national parliament. Hardly a day goes by that doesn’t see an ill-tempered tirade against the Church and Catholic values. The representatives of the hard left are the worst – but they’re rarely alone. Just last week, Bríd Smith, the People Before Profit TD, in a particularly rabid rant called for the Church to be dumped “in the dustbin where it belongs”.
One wonders who Ms Smith would throw in the bin first? The elderly nuns that now make up what’s left of the Religious Sisters of Charity? Bro. Kevin Crowley and the Capuchins who run the soup kitchen in Dublin? Passionate and untiring voices for the vulnerable like Fr Peter McVerry or Sr Stan Kennedy?
Ms Smith may not like some things the Church stands for (it’s a free country), but surely she wants a country where no-one is consigned to a dustbin? Where no-one is made to feel left out because they don’t quite go along with whatever the consensus is on any given day?
It’s baffling that some people who claim to speak up against intolerance and bigotry have no difficulty in using inflammatory language against groups in society that they find objectionable.
And here’s the thing: many people are either unwilling or unable to call out anti-Catholicism for what it is. If Ms Smith stood up in the Dáil to call for the binning of Muslims, Jews, people with disabilities, or any other group in society there’s rightly be outrage. But, Catholics? They’re fair game.
It isn’t right. And it isn’t on. Catholics need to become better at standing up for themselves. We need to be unafraid and unapologetic in calling out bias, unfairness, characterisation and downright bigotry. Sensible politicians on all sides also need to start standing up for a bit of fair play. Anti-Catholicism shouldn’t be allowed to be the last acceptable prejudice.