ROME, APRIL 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Every year, the forces of evil get very anxious as we reach Holy Week. After six weeks of purification and prayer, we reach the great celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and our reconciliation with God. Satan is a sore loser.
So the Christian celebration of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection is accompanied by the yearly ritual of Christ-bashing in the mainstream media. You will recall that just a year ago Newsweek Magazine celebrated Easter with a cover story titled “The Decline and Fall of Christian America,” while the Discovery channel aired a documentary that portrayed Jesus as a political opportunist.
This Lent, the attacks have been more pointed, targeting Christ’s vicar, the Pope. The last few weeks have seen a frenzy of accusations against the clergy, the bishops and the Pope himself regarding cases of sex abuse in Germany, Ireland and the United States. The strategy has been that of pre-Geneva Convention warlords: fire as many shots as possible into the air and hope that something will hit the mark. Since the media are held to no rules of engagement, innocent casualties and wanton destruction are welcomed as tactics to weaken the adversary.
Daily headlines pairing Benedict XVI with sexual abuse reveal little substance and much specious reasoning, while the editorialists have been vying, like bullies in a school yard, to see who can deliver the sharpest kick.
To the secular minded it seems inexplicable that the Holy See doesn’t leap to its own defense, brandishing sheaves of files, swiftly rebutting each accusation, and decrying this defamation from the cupola of St. Peter’s. This is not Rome’s way. Not when the Landsknechts sacked Rome in 1527, forcing Pope Clement VII to flee for his life; not when 86-year-old Pope Pius VI was trundled off by Napoleon and driven around Europe until he died; and not when the Italians claimed Rome and drove Pope Pius IX into exile within the Vatican walls.
There are two main reasons for this. For all their pretensions, newspapers are not a court of law. They are bound to no rules when considering evidence, nor is there a process for establishing the worthiness of witnesses for the prosecution. They can pick and choose what to publish and what to silence, or simply ignore. The media’s self-styled tribunals bring more sales for the editors and more reasons and resources to keep attacking the Church, but little in the way of justice.
Moreover, in media courts, you are assumed guilty until proven innocent. In this arena, the press calls the shots, and slings the mud while all the Holy See can do is wipe it off. Much like the trial of Christ, there is no chance of acquittal here.
Christ’s unjust trial and condemnation, however, never was a story about those who betrayed and beat him. Jesus is the hero and brought out the best in many, even as he went to his death. Simon of Cyrene, who helped bear Christ's burden, Veronica who became the custodian of his image, and even the late convert Longinus, who pierced the side of Christ with his lance -- all these are remembered by name, while the reviling mob and persecutors are lost to history.
The trials of Benedict XVI have similarly produced some heroes. Bill Donahue of the Catholic League has brought the battle to the doors of the newsrooms. Relentless and inexhaustible, he has extracted apologies and forced retractions like David repelling the wolves and lions from his flock.
Among many others: George Weigel, Sean Murphy, Father Raymond de Souza, and most recently, Cardinal Levada himself, have spent hours sifting through each accusation, checking facts and brandishing their writing talents to persuasively rebut each new accusation randomly thrown by the press. Why do they do it? So the Holy Father won’t have to.
The tempestuous fury of the mainstream media stands in sharp contrast to the Roman mood. After record numbers for Palm Sunday Mass, the atmosphere in Rome is prayerful and serene as we approach the Holy Triduum.
While the secular world wrestles with its fascination with sex and scandal, the Christian faithful join the prayers of the Holy Roman Church in this the most blessed time of year. The Pope’s job is not to jump when the New York Times calls, but to reap and distribute the graces won for us by Christ. Here in Rome, that is our fixation.
The often overt hatred of the Catholic Church these days constitutes a last Lenten temptation for us. Like Jesus' three temptations in the desert, Satan offers us three as well: a temptation to despair for the future of the Church, a temptation to turn our attention from our Paschal renewal, and a temptation to despise those who have shown such scorn for our faith and our Holy Father.
Like Jesus, we must resist. It is up to us to remember that our Kingdom already has a news service, and it is the Good News that we proclaim this week.