Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Slandering St Ignatius: I said in my excess, every man is a liar (Ps 115)

Rarely has a single politican managed to provide so many occasion for attacks on the Catholic Church on an issue other than abortion, so many opportunities to bring the catholicism (even more) into such disrepute, than Australia's most prominent Catholic, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who admitted on the ABC's 7.30 Report that he tended to get carried away in the heat of debate and tell porkies.

The problem was not that he admitted telling lies, and not 'gospel truth': as the media, his colleagues and everyone else has been quick to point out, all pollies lie.

The problem is his lack of apparent contrition or intention to try and do better in future.  Instead we are supposed to make sure that we get it writing before we rely on it (oh yeah, and just how many party platform promises before elections survive once the party gains government!).

And it is that failure to seek to learn, to do better in future that is giving  the media a field day.

Because perhaps the most fundamental tenet of catholicism is that we must constantly strive for perfection.  Catholicism does not - in direct contradistinction to some protestant brands of Christianity - teach that believers instantly become saints, immune to sin.  But neither does it teach that it is alright to continue to sin. Quite the reverse.

Left wing online journal New Matilda made the point admirably with a cartoon with Tony in his famous red lycra bathing suit in a confessional leaning back and whistling while the voice behind the curtain asks 'so nothing to confess then?'.

Far worse is the loathsome piece in the Sydney Morning Herald today that attributes his flexible attitude to the truth to his Jesuit schooling.  It concludes that "...Abbott will be comforted by St Ignatius's flexible take on fact: ''I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical church so defines it.''"

Well no.  St Ignatius famous aphorism is an acknowledgement that there is such a thing as absolute truth, and that the individual - clouded by their own biases and those of their culture - is not always best placed to discern that truth.  Instead of relying on our individual emotions, feelings and prejudices, St Ignatius is trying to tell us, rely on the traditions handed down to us from the Apostles; the truths entrusted to the Church and protected by it.

Mr Abbott needs to cut this stuff off at the knees and promise publicly to do better in future.

So do more than a few Australian bishops.

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