I found Fr Robert Barron’s video essay on persecuted Christians linked at the Anchoress blog yesterday. Fr Barron concedes this poignant piece was “prompted, at least in part” by the NCRep’s “Person of the Year.” Let me come down on the sides with equal vigor and offer a few questions in turn.
I think I’m pretty consistent in my disdain for popularity contests. I understand that NCRep wants to take another poke at Archbishop Wuerl and the way he and his USCCB Doctrinal Committee blundered their way around Professor Johnson’s book. The NCRep is mainly about politics. Although they have covered the authentic persecution of Christians in the past. Most notably, Catholic girls and boys victimized by both predator priests and management-challenged bishops.
In their defense, NCRep does maintain a “global community” page, and has indeed covered news of violence against Christians for a good bit longer than the Word (has been) on Fire. How often do you find your diocesan organ covering something foreign that’s not Rome or somewhere the pope might be visiting? In the last month, I see NCRep pieces from Kenya, Nigeria, Bahrain, Iraq, and Ethiopia.
Fr Barron, in turn, suggests the real persecuted Christians might be a better collective recipient of “Person of the Year.” And maybe he’s right. But why stop there? Why not make a survivor of attempted martyrdom a cardinal? I’m serious.
We can watch the promotion of a jovial guy who’s always ready with a friendly quip, a visit to Irish seminaries, and who since ordination has never had to worry about his next meal, paycheck, or pillow. Or fuss much about his retirement. And if Rome isn’t prepared to grant a red hat to a rape survivor, a lay missionary, or even a parish priest in Africa, what about a bishop somewhere outside of Western Christendom who has shown real fortitude and faith in the face of personal danger? What’s the alternative? Big cities and Vatican hallways draped in red.
I appreciate Fr Barron is passionate about making movies. I’ve always thought of him as an excellent spiritual writer. But I think this episode of petulance is a little unbecoming. If there’s a twenty-first century Schindler’s List to be made, he has my full support. More so if he wants to promote making a home for Christian refugees here in the US.
Religious persecution is a serious matter in the world. I hope we can find our own struggles for justice in that regard prompted by something a little more deep than a media article about a theologian and a bunch of baffled bishops.