The Bible

Lent starts tomorrow with Clean Monday (yeah, the two calendars are at opposite extremes this year!). Thomas Hopko often suggests a Lenten book or reading list on his podcast. He offered that up last week. I forget the book he suggested; it didn’t interest me, but before he got to his suggestion, he said that he likes to remind people of the following before every making a specific suggestion about spiritual reading:

The Book that we all must read and reread and reread again is the Holy Bible and particularly the New Testament and the Psalms that are often called “the Bible in miniature” in the form of prayers and supplications and songs before the face of God. So anyone in the Christian tradition who wants to know God … should be constantly reading the New Testament and Psalms. … We should be Bible reading people and we should do it by discipline. The Bible is still the Holy Scriptures of our church.

Of course this is obvious, even a truism. But it’s refreshing to hear a scholar, an author of many books, and one of the great living experts on the spiritual writings of the Church, remind us of the basics in such a way.

So, whether you’re over half way through Lent or just starting the journey tomorrow, have a blessed Lent.



Mark Salter, Maureen Dowd, and Bishops

Generally speaking I like Mark Salter, who is a frequent contributor to Real Clear Politics, but his latest article defending the Roman Catholic Church from the likes of Maureen Dowd and her ilk rather misses the point. Salter offers up the standard gratuitous perspectives (he disagrees with some of the Church’s teachings, the Church deserves critique, etc.), but while his respectful queasiness with the Church is perfectly acceptable in an odd and self-centered sort of way, he feels its inappropriate for her to insult the church, and especially for her to quote “gay and self-declared lapsed Catholic” Colm Toibin, whose witty inanities are frequently offered at the expense of the Church.

Maybe if I read Maureen Dowd or Colm Toibin I too would be outraged, but that’s hardly the point. The church hierarchy has set itself up to be lampooned, condemned, and ridiculed. As a public institution, the Church has it coming.

Rather than outrage, Christians should feel shame. “Bishops must be above reproach.” (1 Timothy 3:2), and in this day and age, whether it’s something as trivial as the red Prada tennis shoes that comes with Papal privilege or as heinous as allowing the rape of our children, and the violent destruction of culture (here I have in mind the Canadian native residential school system, a large percentage of which were run by the Roman Catholics), the Church and the bishops deserve every bit of ridicule they get … and quite a bit more jail time!

Mark Salter is especially upset by the fact that Toibin et. al. are accusing the Church of hypocrisy, when they themselves are hypocrites. I will simply note that if the bishops lived above reproach they wouldn’t be so hypocritical in the first place. In other words, by nature, bishops and their ilk are judged by a higher standard. We shouldn’t be surprised when they get ridiculed when caught in the act of being hypocritical.

It’s neither Maureen Dowd nor Colm Toibin that make the Church look bad; it’s the Bishops as well as us regular folks. Conversely, it’s not Mark Salter’s whining that will make the Church look good. The only thing that will make it look good is holiness, humility, and above all, authentic love.

Somewhere out there is a holy and humble bishop that serves his people faithfully. Therein is Christ glorified. Of course it goes without saying that the New York Times will find that about as newsworthy as the fact that the sun came up this morning. And that’s as it should be. When our leaders are above reproach, the world is as it should be and no one notices. Thanks be to God.