Words Have Consequences

One of the experiences of studying to be a priest is that you get to see priests in their private lives, without the public face on and without the filter on what they say.  Sometimes, this is not a pretty experience.  I remember one such incident on Thanksgiving in Denver, during my novitiate.  As, perhaps unfortunately, tends to happen at such events, the brothers had had a few drinks, and people felt free to speak candidly.  One priest, who was quite elderly (and now deceased, so I will not name him), was beginning to get riled up about how great everything was in Catholicism in the 70s, and how everything had gone to pot since them.  He finished it off, however, with a single comment: "I wish that Turkish guy had finished him (Pope John Paul II) off."  I was horrified, and too stunned to say anything.  But, I should have.  No matter what disagreements one has with someone, it is never, never OK to wish death upon anyone, especially if you are a Christian/Catholic, and especially if that person is the Pope, who Catholics believe was chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church.  That's just not OK, and I am embarrassed I didn't say anything to that priest at the time.

In that context, let us consider the words of one Louie Verrechio.  I had not previously been familiar with the comedy stylings of Mr. Verrechio, until he was brought to my attention by a blog post by Mark Shea (no radical liberal himself).  Verrechio's blog, which can be found here, is certainly an interesting read.  One of his core themes appears to be that John Paul II was a radical humanist, as demonstrated by the fact that he talked about human rights a bunch and never talked about "the rights of Christ the King."  I would suggest that JPII never used the phrase "the rights of Christ the King" because this is a phrase that Verrechio invented, as I have never heard this term used by anyone, ever, and I don't have the foggiest idea what it means (since Christ is the Second person of the Trinity and thus omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, is it really meaningful to talk about His "rights"?)  Plus, is the point that there is something wrong with talking about "human rights"?  I suppose this is evidence for the ice cream theory--no matter what it is, you will find someone who is against it, whether its ice cream, or Mom, or apple pie, or in this case human rights.  In any event, the take-away is that John Paul II is up there with Noam Chomsky in the secular humanist hall of fame for Verrechio, and it is a travesty that he is being canonized.

All of this is the appetizer for the main course, which is his most recent post from yesterday.  The context of this post is some sharp words he received from Karl Keating, a person who describes himself as a professional Catholic apologist.  Again, not exactly someone who soft-peddles the hard truths of the faith.  Keating has a beef with the way Verrechio has all but accused Pope Francis of being a heretic.  It's not a massive surprise that a guy who thinks John Paul II sold out the faith would be over the moon about Francis.  Verrechio, however, doubles down his critique of Francis, and closes with the following:

Unfortunately, in Francis, we do not have that kind of pope. Let us all pray that this will change very soon, by whatever means the merciful Lord may choose. (emphasis in original).

Shea interpreted that line as a plea for God to kill Francis, and analogized it to the famous "will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" line that King Henry II said about St. Thomas a Becket.  As we know, a few of King Henry's associates took that as a request and murdered Becket, and Shea is concerned that someone will do the same and try to kill the Pope.

I don't think Shea is being alarmist.  Crazy, fanatical people have done more with less.  As St. Teresa of Avila said "Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours."  If someone believes that God wants a certain person to go away, it is not a massive stretch for such a person to conclude he or she is the one to do it.

I understand very well that we have the First Amendment in the United States, and there is no legal consequence for such talk.  I believe, however, that there are moral consequences for such talk.  A person is liable for his or her words, and the consequences that you can reasonably foresee from those words.  To me, these statements are over that line.  Just as it was not acceptable for that priest on Thanksgiving night to say what he said, it is not OK for Verrechio to say that.

On a positive note, I find it encouraging that folks on the more traditionalist end of the Catholic commentariat, such as Shea and Keating, are willing to call out people like this.  I think its important to establish the ground rules on what kinds of discussions are acceptable and what kinds are no.  It has the effect of toning down the temperature of the rhetoric, which is always a good thing.


Anonymous said…
Would have named the drunken priest if he was alive?

I'll be presumptuous and answer for you: No.

So your parenthetical adds nothing to your post.

Popular posts from this blog

On the Amice and Ghosts

Two Christianities

Quick Hitter: Why Pastoral Discretion Is Not a Panacea