For the last few weeks I have been reading a textbook on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In those days people talked for God, claimed to know God's mind and used God to justify evil deeds.
God was used as a reason for the crusades. People felt the crusades gave them a kind of get-out-of jail card for participation. Pope Urban called for Christian nobles to free the Holy Land. Some nobles saw an opportunity to send their difficult children on a foreign experience.
Somewhere along the line crusaders were promised indulgences. Indulgences remitted penances that would be imposed on a sinner in this life and parole from purgatory in the next. Some of those who took up arms apparently thought all their sins, past and future, would be forgiven.
Nothing is quite so vicious as a psychopath thinking God is on his or her side. The crusades weren't very successful except in tainting relations between the Muslim and western worlds while unleashing anti-Semitism.
Gott mit uns - God with us - was a motto of the army of Protestant Swedish king in the religious war known as the Thirty Years War. More recently the German Wehrmacht in the Second World War used the phrase. A friend of mine noted that claiming that God belongs on one's side is the ultimate argument.
In the Middle Ages a pope might issue an interdict withdrawing the benefits of the sacraments from the territory of a ruler with whom he disagreed.
In the Renaissance the church enforced its notion of science by coercion. The Inquisition denounced Galileo for his heretical teaching that earth revolved around the sun. They felt such nonsense was contrary to scripture. Everyone knew the sun circled the earth. The Inquisition threatened torture, forced Galileo to recant heliocentrism and placed him under lifetime house arrest.
God is not a problem, it is people who invoke God's name to rationalize power and control. Many people like Mother Teresa perform works of mercy in God's name.
The reason we don't see Catholic priests in Congress is that in 1980 Pope John Paul II demanded that all priests withdraw from elected office. At the time one priest served in United States Congress, Father Robert Drinan of Massachusetts. A Jesuit, Father Drinan was known for his antiwar, anti-Nixon and pro-choice stances in Congress.
It is with the memories and history lessons that I read with fascination an article in a local paper that the bishop of the Marquette Diocese, Alexander K. Sample, asked Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit not to speak to Marquette Citizens for Peace and Justice in Marquette. Bishop Sample's published statement on the Diocese of Marquette website confirmed the newspaper account.
Bishop Sample wrote, "Given Bishop Gumbleton's very public position on certain important matters of Catholic teaching, specifically with regard to homosexuality and the ordination of women to the priesthood, it was my judgment that his presence in Marquette would not be helpful to me in fulfilling my responsibility."
According to the bishop his responsibility derives from being the chief shepherd and teacher of the Catholic faithful in the Upper Peninsula. He sees his responsibility to keep before "my people" clearly the teaching of the Catholic Church on faith and morals.
Bishop Gumbleton was not to address the Marquette Citizens for Peace and Justice on priestly marriage or homosexuality. He was to talk about peace and justice which Bishop Sample wrote that the Church strongly advocates. However Bishop Sample was concerned that he would be unable to keep the issues of homosexuality and priestly marriage from coming up.
Bishop Sample does have a daunting role in the spiritual life of his diocese. Catholics hold diverse views of life and right and wrong. It is also difficult to determine how to keep the doors and windows of the Church open while censoring unacceptable questions on matters that a speaker does not intend to address.
The problem is that finding truth often starts with questioning.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Richard Clark, Escanaba, practices personal injury law throughout the Upper Peninsula.