Recently at Mass (not at an Anglican tradition parish), the priest gave a sermon in which he touched on hatred held in the world for the Church. Our interest piqued, he then disappointed us by attempting to explain away this animus by saying that “We [Catholics] are to blame. I am to blame.” Had he been addressing original sin, he might have been on to something. However, he continued, the world sees us as “bigots”, and the cause may be “hate” on the part of Catholics.
All priests are called to preach love. (Jesus: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” –John 15) Love is at the heart of the Gospel. But to affirm the false premises of those who hate the Church would be a most lamentable misstep. That we are all sinners is a given, and in a community of 1.2 billion people there will always be some whose faultscontribute to animosity for the Church. But this topic cannot be handled justly without reference to the words of Jesus. Did not our Lord say that there were those who hated him, and that if they hated him they would hate us? Should we not rush to defend Jesus from any accusation of hate? Why not then his bride? The straw man of hate-filled Catholics is, after all, an unoriginal slander, and the Church has always been known for her zealous charity.
Rather, hatred for the Church follows on hatred for Jesus, her founder. The words of our Lord on this point should be our comfort. The very next verse of John 15 is “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first.” Those speaking for the Church are particularly obliged, in preaching the Gospel, to rebut the mendacious suggestion that authentic Christianity is bigoted. We know this to be false, so let us have the courage to say so and give thanks that we’re in good company.
Then let us double down on love.