Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Anger, Hate, Love, Prayer and Trashing a Maywood, California, Catholic School

One of the challenges - and opportunities - for a practicing Catholic living in America involves what we're taught about hate. I'll get into more detail a little later in this post, but the short-short version of Catholic teaching on hate is that we're not supposed to hate people. Any people. Any group of people.

You've probably run into someone who insists that he or she is Catholic, and is a sort of poster child for some sort of hatred. What can I say? Some people are jerks, and some jerks are Catholic. And we all can use prayer. More of that later, too.

Since Catholics who understand and practice their faith are neither part of America's dominant culture, nor inclined to support all of its policies, it's easy for us to feel a bit persecuted. Sometimes, I think, with some reason.

But that's no excuse for hating people. At all.

Isn't Religion All About Being Angry?

In my adolescence, I came up with "First Church of Holy Hate," to describe what I was hearing on the 'good Christian' radio programs, and from other sources. That was the sixties, and some of the older generation were going through a very rough time. (May 25, 2010)

But, despite the impression some Christians give, Christianity isn't all about hating people. Yes, you'll run into the 'good Christian' who explains why the Bible is against everything he doesn't like. But that joker isn't necessarily a 'typical' Christian leader. Despite what you'll read and hear in the more 'sophisticated' American enclaves. Actually, it's hard for me to see any of the world's major religions as particularly hate-filled.

Try to imagine the Dalai Lama throwing a Molotov cocktail, and you'll see what I mean. On the other hand, maybe using the Dalai Lama as an example isn't a good idea. As I wrote in another post:
"...I don't know it this is still the case, but back in the day, people who were convinced that religion was bad and that religious beliefs made people do bad things - also thought the Dalai Lama was a nice guy.

"But that wasn't a contradiction, since the Dalai Lama wasn't religious.

"Can't argue with logic like that...."
(April 12, 2010)
Don't let that 'open-minded' approach fool you. I'm not one of those well-meaning folks who think that all religions are pretty much the same. But I try not to be the sort of chauvinist who says, in effect, "I'm right, and anybody who doesn't agree with me is a doo-doo head." (May 16, 2010)

What's Wrong With Being Angry?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn't discuss hate all that much: but there's quite a bit about what fuels hate: anger.
"...Anger is a desire for revenge. 'To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,' but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution 'to correct vices and maintain justice.'95 If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, 'Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.'96..."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2302)

Anger and Decisions to Hate, Decisions to Love

Keep reading the Catechism, and other Catholic works, and you'll learn that anger, by itself, isn't good. It isn't bad, either, by itself. What's good or bad is what we decide to do about the anger. Hate isn't necessarily bad, either - but that'll take a bit more explaining.

The seven capital sins, by the way, are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1866) "Wrath" is what's often called "anger:" and those two words don't mean quite the same thing.

I'm getting off-topic.
This is Not a Hate Crime

(from PZ Myers, Pharyngula (July 24, 2008), used w/o permission)

This photo is an example of academic freedom and self-expression, as practiced by an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, a few years ago. Some Catholics here in Minnesota raised a modest fuss about the gentleman's decision to drive a nail through a consecrated Host; throw it, along with a pages ripped from the Quran and an atheist's book, in the trash; photograph the lot; and post the photo, along with an explanation for his inquiring, open-minded action.

The University of Minnesota, Morris, was nice enough to remove some of their website's links to this bit of self-expression, but explained that the sacrilege was perfectly okay. The assistant professor, you see, has "academic freedom:" which includes the right to do outrageous things like that, without experiencing consequences. While my tax dollars help pay his salary.

I am not happy about that.

The academician's act certainly was not a hate crime, in the American sense of the word.

Still, it was a horrific act of sacrilege.

In fairness, I rather doubt that the learned associate professor realized quite what he was doing. Non-Catholics in this country may have a vague impression that Catholics believe in a 'magic cracker,' as one wit put it: but probably know little if anything about the Real Presence. Even a distressing number of Catholics, at least here in America, are clueless as to what - and who - a consecrated Host is. (Catechism, 1378, 1379) I hope the fellow who pushed a nail through that Host didn't know what he was doing.
This Might be a Hate Crime

(from the Maywood, California, Police Department and Jeff Allen (Flickr); via catholicnewsagency, used w/o permission)

That's a frame taken from a Catholic News Agency's video about a particularly nasty bit of vandalism done at a Catholic school associated with this church:

(from the Maywood, California, Police Department and Jeff Allen (Flickr); via catholicnewsagency, used w/o permission)
St. Rose of Lima, Maywood, California

At least two people broke into the school, wrote "666" as a way, I presume, of expressing their feelings, and stuck a cross - upside down - in a stove. I don't think that was very nice.
Maywood Vandalism: Nothing New Here
I'm not, however, all that surprised that the crime was committed. Disgusted, revolted, angry, almost nauseated: yes. Surprised, no. The attitude toward 'those Catholics' is, in several American subcultures, bitterly negative at best. It's hard to shake the impression that many Americans, from the distributors of that "Death Cookie" comic to the editors of The New York Times, see the Catholic Church in much the same way that American organizations like the KKK did, back in the 'good old days.'

And, no: I do not see any evidence that the Klan is involved with this vandalism. I do, however, think its quite likely that a 'klannish' sort of festering hatred is involved in the motive.
Oh, Come On: How Bad Can It Be?
I first learned about the Maywood Catholic school incident through cnalive, the Catholic News Agency's Twitter account. Here are a couple more frames from a Catholic News Agency video, and the video itself:

(from the Maywood, California, Police Department and Jeff Allen (Flickr); via catholicnewsagency, used w/o permission)

(The CNA video has been reduced in size to fit this blog's format. If it doesn't display properly, you could follow the link to the YouTube source.)

"Vandals attack St. Rose of Lima Catholic School"

catholicnewsagency, YouTube (May 25, 2010)
video, 1:16
"In an apparent hate crime, vandals broke into the kitchen of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Maywood, Calif. desecrating an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and a cross and spilling foodstuffs everywhere."
(catholicnewsagency, YouTube)
St. Rose of Lima is a "bilingual community," according to the Catholic News Agency video: which raises the possibility that hatred toward Catholics and Catholicism wasn't the only - or even the primary - motive.

Whatever the motive: How bad can it be? Quite bad.

The good news is that nobody was hurt or killed. For that we should all be grateful.

How People Respond to a Hateful Act

I've got very strong feelings about what happened at the Maywood Catholic school. But I've learned that reason is a more reliable tool than emotion, when it comes to evaluating facts. If this post seems cold, or uncaring: maybe it's because I want to stick to what's real: and giving in to an emotional flood wouldn't help me achieve that goal.

Reader comments following one article, "Los Angeles Catholic school vandalized, religious items desecrated," Catholic News Agency (May 25, 2010), display an - interesting - range of attitudes. As usual in cases like this, they were displayed in reverse chronological order, withthe most recent comment on top:
"Subscriber comments:
"Published by: Hera
"Kenya 05/26/2010 09:26 AM EST
"The US government & the EU & are so PROMPT to attack & condemn the laws of countries when Homosexuals are incacerated [!] or face a death sentence. But they have NOTHING to say whatsoever in the desecration of a Christian Churh. [!] And BBC who is alwyas [!] at the forefront at dennouncing the homosexual 'persecution' as a priority news item NEVER bring up this persecution of the Church when it happens in the 'free & rights based' America but never tires to do so in Muslim countries as though it is OK for Americans & not so for Muslims. Yet,ironically many in the Obama administration claimed to be Christian during their campaigns."

"Published by: Darla Lucas
"Springdale, AR 72764 05/26/2010 09:18 AM EST
"In circumstances where the hatred is so obvious, there is nothing more powerful than prayer.

"Published by: GerryL
"Land O Lakes, FL 05/25/2010 11:23 PM EST
"Lord, forgive them for they do not know what they do.
"Published by: Lynn
"So. Illinois 05/25/2010 10:03 PM EST
"The above commenter is truly perceptive and a discerner of spirits. We must pray to appease Our Lord & Lady concerning this evil attack. I have a newspaper clipping of a similar IL. vandalism where the boys spraypainted Our Lady of Grace's face with a Swaztika [!] symbol. One boy has repented of his actions and made some type of reparation. Praise God."

"Published by: Tim Henning
"Pasadena, CA, USA 05/25/2010 08:09 PM EST
"It is a sad day when people behave so much worse than any animal. This is a case of extreme selfishness, immorality and cowardice--the kind of act that resembles terrorism. We should reflect on what happened to our society that we could have such things happen."

"Published by: Nate
"Minnesota 05/25/2010 08:07 PM EST
"The only way one will not see any of the 'mainstream media condemning this' is if one refuses to pay attention to the mainstream media; the L.A. Times reported on this. The ideology of advocating for the oppressed and the poor (the ideology of the ACLU) is the ideology of Christ. Accusing 'liberal organizations' of tyranny and of being enemies of 'Our Lord and his Catholic Church' does nothing to bring about reconciliation. Please refuse to engage in the polarizing rhetoric of hate, and instead engage in the life affirming rhetoric of peace, love and justice."

"Published by: Nate
Minnesota 05/25/2010 07:20 PM EST
Francis, let's not respond to hate with more hate. This vandalism is deplorable. Why do you feel the need to label and grumble against organizations and people that are utterly blameless in this crime. Creating false dichotomies only escalates hatefulness and division. Let us work toward reconciliation, peace and unity through charity and humility.

"Published by: Francis
"Wareham Ma 05/25/2010 04:24 PM EST
"You won't see any of the leftwing, marxist, masonic and liberal organizations and people like the ACLU, the 'Southern Poverty law center', the ADL or the mainstream media condemning this. Our Lord and his Catholic Church are fair game to these people because Our Lord and his One True Church are considered the enemy and stand in the way of the people that I mentioned above from bringing their ideology and tyranny to the masses."
I sympathize - a little - with Francis. There have been times when America's old-school news media decided that a particular bit of news wasn't "fit to print" - perhaps because they didn't have room in the paper, or perhaps because they couldn't imagine that anyone would, for example, really burn down a construction project in the name of conservation.

That doesn't happen very often, though: not now, anyway. That's why I always check before claiming that journalism's old guard has suppressed a story. Generally, I find some sort of coverage: although sometimes off in a specialized department.

That's yet again another topic.

The point is, Francis failed to notice the CBS and other articles on the Maywood vandalism - and also made some fairly wild charges about organizations that have no apparent connection with what happened in Maywood. I suppose the same charge could be leveled at me, for introducing the KKK. But note: I was careful to use the Klan as an example, not as an active agent in this week's crime.

The bottom line is that assumptions are assumptions: and it's not a good idea to present them as facts, unless you've done your research.

I'd have more sympathy for Nate, if my background didn't encourage me to see phrases like "polarizing rhetoric of hate" as ways to describe any statement that is not supportive of the day's politically correct view. Nate has a point though: it's best to restrict confrontations to topics that really matter. At least, I hope that's what he meant.

"Reconciliation" sounds nice, and so does "life affirming rhetoric of peace, love and justice." The latter reminds me of the groovy days of my youth. I've also lived in a subculture where phrases like that mean, "sit down and shut up if you don't agree with us." But then, Nate is convinced that the ideology of Christ is the ideology of the ACLU - which sounds an awful lot like the old "Jesus is an American" sentiment of the wacky right.

Oh, well.

Back to Anger

As I wrote before, anger isn't good, and it isn't bad. That's not my opinion, by the way:
"The term 'passions' refers to the affections or the feelings. By his emotions man intuits the good and suspects evil.

"The principal passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger.

"In the passions, as movements of the sensitive appetite, there is neither moral good nor evil. But insofar as they engage reason and will, there is moral good or evil in them.

"Emotions and feelings can be taken up in the virtues or perverted by the vices.

"The perfection of the moral good consists in man's being moved to the good not only by his will but also by his 'heart.' "
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1771-1775)
There's more: 1765-1766, for example.

So, am I angry? Yes, I am angry that someone decided to trash a school - and I'm particularly angry about what was done with the cross, and that stab in the eye of a picture.

Sure: 'it's just a picture.' But let's say that, instead of a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it was a photo of a prominent figure like Martin Luther King. A picture of a person isn't 'just a picture.' It is a representation, a symbol, of that person. Hurting the picture does no direct harm to the person: but it is a powerful symbol of the intent or desire to hurt the person.

I don't know what the point of stabbing her right eye was, but I recognize that quite a few non-Catholics, and some Catholics, don't understand Mary. ("Our Lady of Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas" (August 11, 2009))

How Do I Really Feel About the Maywood Vandalism?

If I let go, I'll be gut-wrenching furious about what vandals did in that Catholic school. That wouldn't do me any good, and would serve no useful purpose.

I'm not trying to understand what sort of warped motive led people to commit those acts. Right now, that would help feed a rage that - again - would serve no useful purpose.

I do intend, as soon as I wrap up this post, to pray for whoever committed these acts. Not pray that they burn in everlasting fire! That kind of trouble I do not need. Like Matthew wrote:
" 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you...'...."
(Matthew 7:1-2
What I plan to do is pray that the people who committed those crimes decide that what they did was wrong, and re-evaluate what they believe. And, I'm going to ask for help in cleaning up my own mind.

No pressure, but it wouldn't hurt if you prayed for those folks too. And, the parishioners at St. Rose of Lima in Maywood. They're hurting now, I suspect.

Related posts:
In the news:

A tip of the hat to cnalive, for the heads-up on their article.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.