A CATHOLIC PRIEST WRITES TO THE NEW YORK TIMES – MARCH 2015
Dear Brother Journalist:
I am a simple Catholic Priest. I am happy & proud of my vocation. I’ve been living in Angola for 20 years as a Missionary. I have read in a number of publications, especially in your newspaper, the amplified stories of paedophilic Priests, always portrayed in a morbid way with detailed research into past errors in the lives of these Priests.
There was one, in a city in the USA in the 70’s; another in Australia in the 80’s; & so forth, some more recent…. Certainly, all these incidents were condemnable!
…I feel enormous sadness about the immense harm that some men who should have been signs of the Love of God have been swords in the lives of innocent children. There are no words to justify such acts. There is no doubt that the Church must be on the side of the weak & most vulnerable. For that reason, all the measures that can be taken to prevent these acts & protect the dignity of the children should be an absolute priority.
But, isn’t it strange that there is so little news & such lack of interest in the thousands of Priests who are sacrificing their lives daily & dedicating themselves, body & soul, to millions of children, to adolescents & to the most disadvantaged of these in all four corners of the world?
I am sure the following would be of no interest to your newspaper:
That I’ve had to transport many starving children along roads that were mined during the 2002 war… in Angola, because the government has been unable to do it & NGO’s have not been authorised;
That I’ve had to bury dozens of children displaced by the war;
That we have saved the lives of thousands in Mexico by running the only health centre within a zone of 90,000sq.km & by distributing food & grain;
That we have been able to procure education & schools for more than 110,000 children in the last 10 years;
It passes without interest that, along with other Priests, we have had to rescue nearly 12,000 people in guerrilla camps, after they were forced to give up their weapons because the UN & government food never arrived;
It’s not an interesting news item that a 75year old Priest, Fr. Roberto, travelled all across the city of Luanda, caring for street children, guiding them to safe houses, so that they could be detoxed from the gasoline they inhaled while earning their living as flame throwers;
Teaching literacy skills to hundreds of prisoners is no longer news;
The other Priests, like Fr. Stephan, organise safe houses, so that the young, maltreated, beaten & even raped can find refuge there;
Nor is it of any interest that Fr. Maiato, 80 years old, visits homes for the poor, one by one, comforting the sick & vulnerable;
Today, it’s not news that out of 40,000 Priests & religious, more that 6,000 have left their countries & their families to serve their brothers in leper colonies, in hospitals, in refugee camps, in orphanages for children accused of sorcery or whose parents have died from AIDS,…. etc.
Or, especially, that most Priests are spending their lives in Parishes & Missions, motivating people to live better and, more importantly, to love better;
It’s not news that my friend, Fr. Marcus Aurelius, in order to save children during the war in Angola, transported them from Kalulo to Dondo, & that, when returning to his Mission house, he was machine-gunned on the road; that Br. Francis, with 5 female catechists died in an accident on their way to help in the most remote rural areas of the country;
That dozens of Missionaries in Angola have died from simple malaria because of poor sanitation;
That others have been blown to bits by mines while visiting their faithful; currently, in the cemetery of Kalulo, lie the tombs of the first Priests who arrived in the area …none of them older than 40;
It’s not news to follow a “normal” Priest doing his daily work; experiencing his troubles & his joys, spending his whole life with no attention in the community he serves.
The truth is, that we are not trying to make news, only simply, to bring the “Good News”; this News which, with no fanfare, began on ‘Easter Morning’. A tree that falls makes more noise than a thousand which stand & grow (talking about a ‘fallen’ Priest).
A great deal more attention is paid to a Priest who commits an error than to the thousands who give their lives for the myriads of poor & needy. I don’t pretend to apologise for the Church & its Priests.
A Priest is neither a hero nor a neurotic. He’s simply a normal man, who, with his human nature, seeks to follow Jesus & to serve Him by serving others. There is in us misery, poverty & fragility, as there is in every human being; but there is also beauty & grandeur, as there is in every creature.
When you insist on advancing such a painful theme in an obsessive & persecuting manner, while ignoring the bigger picture of their work, you create truly offensive caricatures of Catholic Priests, & these wound me.
I ask only, dear Journalist, that you look for the true, the good & the beautiful. It would greatly elevate your profession.
Fr. Martin Lasarte, SDB
(“My past, Lord, I entrust to Your Mercy; my present to Your Love; my future to Your Providence”)
(Taken from “Scandalous Mercy” by Sr. Emmanuel page 86-89)
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