Sunday, April 03, 2005

Death of the Pope and Cruelty of Catholicism

It was really disheartening watching the news reports on Pope John Paul II's death, not so much his passing per se but rather the cruelty of the Catholic Church of which he was head.

Death is always a sad affair. It should be. The starkness and apparent finality, the severance and loss of relationships with the people we love and who love us. It is our punishment for rebellious ingratitude towards God who made us and sustains us. And death in this world reminds us of the horror of eternal death that awaits us if we do not acknowledge God as our rightful lord in this life.

Mourning the death of the Pope is right, human and understandable. But these Catholics were mourning like people who hadn't heard of the resurrection of Jesus; their sobbing statements implied that death was the end of everything: no hope for the future, no certainty of what was to come, no assurance of their own resurrection and salvation from judgement. The Pope was a good man, they said, we are praying for his soul. The Pope was good but for all the good things he did for the world, the people he reached and blessed, perhaps he was not good enough to go to heaven. What hope is there for anyone else?

Even more grievous and heartwrenching is that these icy thoughts sink claws in their hearts while they kneel before their Catholic altar, still celebrating the season of Easter, singing the very answer to their hopelessness, unseeing eyes fixed on the writing on the wall in front of them, divine words of comfort proclaiming: "Christ is Risen!".

The cruelty of the Catholic Church isn't seen in its fanatical unjust witch-hunts in the Dark Ages or the horror of its Crusades in the Middle Ages. The cruelty of the Church is seen in the half-truths it dangles before its adherents. It tells of the resurrection of Christ and ensures that the Catholic Church celebrates this festival. But it doesn't explain the true joy of Easter, the truth that if told and known would be celebrated all year round and not just at Easter: that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that his resurrection proves to all that he was vindicated by God and that God has accepted this perfect sacrifice. So our sins have been paid for and if we trust in God, we do not need to live in fear of death, in dread of eternal punishment.

We can die in the confidence that because our Redeemer lives, we will see life again in the flesh. And on the Last Day, we will be able to see God face-to-face without terror of condemnation.

And though we mourn the passing of those who too trust in God, we mourn not despairingly or hopelessly, but with full knowledge and confidence that they will stand before God cocooned from his terrible wrath by the precious, effective blood of his Son.

Who will tell the Catholics the good news of the Jesus they know of yet don't know? Who will tell them of the comfort of their real Holy Father in heaven whom they know of yet don't?

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