Friday 9 January 2015

How to Cope with Blasphemy

I was at Boston College when the Danish Mohammad Cartoon Crisis kicked off, and that is when I became very interested in the link between Islam and murderous rage. I wrote two papers about it: one about whether or not a virtuous newspaper editor would choose to print the cartoons, and one about Thomas Aquinas on righteous anger. Since I had always been angered by blasphemies against Our Lord Jesus Christ, His mother and His Heavenly Father, and since my theological education stressed interreligious dialogue, I proposed to investigate if perhaps the Muslims were right to scare the living daylights out of blasphemers, torch their buildings, etc. (Naturally I drew the line at once at personal assault and murder.) Is violence in God's name ever justified? After all, Catholic Emancipation in the UK and Ireland came about only because George VI's advisers convinced him that if he didn't sign it, the Catholics would rise up and slaughter every last Protestant in Ireland.

My classmates were troubled by my interest in Islamic violence although I am not sure whether it was because they were worried I approved it or because I noticed it at all.  One quite vigorously protested the idea that Catholic Emancipation resulted from George IV's fear of murderous Irish Catholics, but he didn't have any evidence that it didn't, whereas I had evidence that it did. Another came up to me after class to tell me he was worried about my ideas. This was years before the Boston Marathon bombing, of course, although 9/11 was not far from my thoughts every time I set foot in Logan Airport.

It strikes me that part of my sympathy with Islamic rage about blasphemy had to do with complete helplessness over the thoughts, beliefs and actions of billions of other people. As a teenage pro-life activist, I was very shocked that there wasn't much I could do about thousands of Canadian women hiring doctors to poison or tear apart the growing infants in their wombs. Being a typical Canadian, actually looking such women in the eye and saying, "Please don't kill your baby" did not come naturally to me. Thus I held a sign instead and got screamed at for not minding my own business, being "a sexist, racist, anti-gay, Born Again bigot" and a "***** Christian."  Man, that got depressing.

Meanwhile, at the University of Toronto various undergraduates actually thought it was somehow bold, attractive and transgressive to offend Christians, especially Catholics and Evangelical Protestants, or at least to have a laugh at their expense, or assume that such morons did not go to university at all. Well, happily for Christians, the Gospel tells us that we are blessed if people hate us for being Christians, so every snide remark had its golden gift. Disrespectful use of the sign of the cross, of chapels, of statues of Our Lady and of depictions of Our Lord Jesus Christ were another story. Images skip right over reason to the passions, and my passions seethed. But Christ counsels peace and forgiveness, and my father condemned my removal and destruction of a stack of blasphemous student newspapers, and so I was left to stew in my own righteously angry juices.

What I did not know then, as I know now, is that Christians CAN DO SOMETHING to respond to blasphemous expressions, and it is absolutely brilliant and Christlike. The Christian can pray and fast in reparation for the profanities of others, voluntarily humbling himself and suffering a voluntary if token"punishment",  as it were, like feeling a hunger pang or acute boredom, so as to somehow make up for the injustice done to God.  And the whole community can do this together during the beautiful liturgy called Benediction. The rite is called "Act of Reparation for Profane Language" and the version I know goes like this:

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus. 
Blessed be His most sacred heart.
Blessed be Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and immaculate conception.
Blessed be the name of Mary, virgin and mother.
Blessed be Saint Joseph, her spouse most chaste.
Blessed be God in His angels and in his saints. 

Naturally man's offence against the majesty of God is unimaginable huge and dire--too huge and dire for man to get his mind around--but no mere man could ever make up for it. It took Someone both God and Man to do that. However, we can in our limited human way do something, and by doing it on behalf of others, we do it in imitation of Christ.

While looking at photos of solemn people holding up pencils in the streets of Paris to show their disgust at the Islam-inspired murders at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, it occurred to me that they would better have spent their time writing or drawing their disgust with Islamic violence and publishing it. True solidarity with someone means taking the risks they take, which is why true solidarity with the poor means becoming--or remaining--poor.

On Facebook and through my blog yesterday, I managed to annoy two people, a young Saudi stranger who made the choice of typing that "Europe must learn that there are red lines" and an anonymous combox commentator who claimed to be a Muslim (below). The young Saudi stranger said that he was reminded of the words of Hitler--I imagine he thought that would hurt my feelings--but did not respond to my query "Which words of Hitler?" The anonymous commentator said that she was upset by my article.

I hope she was not as upset by my article as I have been by the recent murders by Muslims in the name of Allah in Quebec, Ottawa, Sydney and Paris, not to mention the ongoing theft, expulsions, rapes, beatings and murders of Christians and others in the Middle East. I wouldn't willingly  cause that kind of pain to anyone. Meanwhile, as you see, I am still alive and undisturbed about my own personal safety. Of course, I am a bit nervous about my next plane flight, but that has nothing to do with anything I personally may think, say or do. It has to do with (A) Islamic terrorists' hatred for absolutely everyone in the whole world who does not believe what they believe and (B) the state's failure to live up to its most basic reason for existence.


  1. Excellent post, Seraphic! Although I am a steady reader of your blog, I rarely comment. But I felt it a necessity to give you a positive note on this post :) Particularly your encouragement for benediction & the divine praises in reparation for blasphemy.

  2. I think that is the problem I have with the people, even Catholics, who go around saying "Je suis Charlie" or even emphasizing the similarity that expression's similarity to the name of Our Lord. The secular hagiography of people who, when given the chance, would blaspheme any religion, including Holy Mother Church, disturbs me; Charlie Hebdo is no saint. The main difference in here between these barbarians (who seem to be denounced even by Hezbollah) and Catholics should not be righteous angee over blasphemy, but in how we respond to it.

    By the way, I am of the opinion that the reason such response is commin among some Muslims is that orthodox, non-Sufi Islam doesn't have the same tradition of contemplation that would inspire the Laudes Divinae. A sign, of course, of the fact Holy Mother Church posessesvthe full truth, no?


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