Friday, April 14, 2017

Sacrilege and Holy Week

I hate posting this, am embarrassed because I have to,  but it is necessary.

One of the sad aspects of this Easter is what appears to be the "facebooking of sacrilege."  Yesterday (Holy Thursday) morning a post with photo appeared on my page or whatever it is called.  The title was something such as "my new favorite Easter card." It showed one of the many versions of the ancient icon of Christ the Pantocrator.  It was reposted by a vowed religious.

The icon, of which there are many versions, shows Christ with His right hand raised, often times with two fingers outstretched as if administering a blessing.  A book, sometimes opened and sometime closed, is resting in the crook of the left arm.  The gaze is directed at the worshipper. That gaze locks the worshippers eyes in His.  It is difficult to look away. If the book is open the pages are inscribed with what is probably Holy Scripture.  I am not certain as I have no Greek.

On the post the words of scripture were erased, a very simple couple-of-second procedure with photoshop.  In place of the word of God is a hand shadow of a bunny meant to appear as if coming from Christ's hand.  One caption noted that it is the explanation of the beginning Easter bunny. 

That a member of religious order would find this even remotely amusing, to say nothing of funny and worthy or reposting, is appalling.  See your spiritual director STAT!  One commenter on my response, non-vowed as best I can tell,  was suggesting an overreaction because Jesus must have a sense of humor.  That tickled my sense of humor right before the anger fuse ignited because rather than saying, thinking, or admitting that perhaps this isn't appropriate, he lapsed into the kind of defensive posture characteristic of children (see Anna Freud's The Mechanisms of Defense for a fuller explanation) followed by a few ad hominem attacks that included the accusation that I am a judgmental Pharisee.  I wasn't judging.  I was making a diagnosis.   There is a difference. 

The remainder of the conversation deteriorated.  A few people are now blocked.  I will admit to closing that conversation with a favorite Anglo-Saxon word used as an adjective prior to mentioning a body part.  No regret for that.  Sometimes an 'intensifier' is needed to get the point across. 

Later in the day another sampling of  so-called humor for Holy Week appeared.  A poorly done depiction of Batman and Robin.  Balloon over Batman:  "Hurry for the washing of the feet." Robin replies: "Holy Thursday Batman."  Why?  That is the burning question.  Why must Catholics embarrass themselves, the Church and the rest of us?  Why would a member of a religious order even acknowledge such trash?  Why would he post it as a little humor for Holy Week?  Is it possible to take the order he represents seriously?  Has a certain type of Catholic, both vowed and lay, become so desperate to be seen as hip, cool, funny, with it, laid back, modernist, or entertaining (Don Rickles is dead, a replacement is not needed) that thought and reflection have been replaced by the kind of disinhibited behavior generally seen in drunks?  Drunks generally can't figure out the difference between appropriate and wildly inappropriate or between the sacred  and obscene.

Was there an icon of Christ the Pantocrator making the Easter bunny on the pages of Scripture anywhere in the Coptic Church that was bombed on Palm Sunday?  Would the vanishing Catholic communities in the Middle East find amusement in superhero cartoon characters mocking the rituals of Holy Thursday?

I suspect one of the reasons people flee the Catholic Church or move into fundamentalist sects is the jokey approach some ostensible Catholics and, tragically, some priests and religious, take toward it.  The level of disgust I had to struggle with yesterday during Mass made it difficult to concentrate.  Fortunately I was concelebrating. The Batman crap popped up after Mass.  It took a long time to calm down the enraged fury.  It is still simmering.  But, all things considered, I would rather confess to the sins of anger and f-bombing than the sin of participating in and encouraging blasphemy.   

Father, forgive them, for they are totally clueless.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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