Thought for the Week

THESE days quite a number of religious folk are a wee bit sensitive. They feel under pressure, even under attack, in what they judge is a society increasingly hostile and critical towards religion.

They often cite the media as always giving space to stories which discredit the Church. For example: the clerics who sexually abuse children; the priest who runs off with a parishioner’s wife; the minister who embezzles or wastes the kirk funds.

While I have some sympathy with my fellow Christians’ touchiness, I think three things can be said which might be helpful.

First, we have nothing to fear from the truth. Yes, the media may often get things out of balance - favouring the screeching negative story over the possible, but frequently neglected, positive stories. But Christians should always be in the forefront of defending a free and responsible press as one of the precious blessings of our society. And the second point is connected to that.

The duty of a mature Christian demands a critical and questioning stance towards the values of society and abuses by the powers-that-be. But that duty also sometimes requires standing up against something in the Church itself. There are occasions when to do this will bring accusations of disloyalty and of assisting the hostile media. But truth is better than cover-up. Events in Ireland in recent years have demonstrated this clearly. Brave people have welcomed the support of the media.

The third thing is always worth remembering. When we face sensational stories exposing scandal within the Church, or revealing the clay feet of Pope, Moderator, Bishop, priest or minister, we should not be too down-hearted. The church is not primarily for saints, but for sinners. A bit like ourselves really.

Of the first 12 chosen by Jesus himself, one betrayed him, others fell asleep or ran for cover, and Peter, the heid bummer, denied him three times.

Denis Rice