‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’ (Matthew 18:21-35)
‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ (Luke 7:41-43)
“Please spare me the long Scripture quotes, please!” Said a publisher once and I tried to follow his direction. Reading this, he will be most certainly displeased because I started with two of the most important parts of the Gospel, both words of Jesus, and those are very hard to read. Whoever reads this and does not feel alluded to, is not paying attention. If those passages were read aloud slowly to every person at breakfast, we could eradicate self-righteousness for all times.
After studying Catholic doctrine for the best part of ten years —mostly reading the Fathers of the Church and the Catechism that was available at the time— I realized that the honest thing to do was to ask for baptism and join the Church. I thought I was going to enter the Catholic Church and I was right. But I did not understand the small print: I was going to enter the Church through a hole in the wall called “Postconciliar Catholic Church”. It was the late 1990’s and my approach to conversion was classic, not Postconciliar. The patron saints I chose for Baptism and Confirmation were St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Isidore of Seville. The first I chose because I shared with him a similar pre-conversion life story as far as vice is concerned. The second one I chose because he is a saint from Sevilla (Spain) and the patron saint of those who work analyzing information (and the Internet as well). My love for Sevilla has not diminished with the years.
I had no idea what I was getting into.
I was going to be baptized near Boston (in Lynn, Massachusetts) but I met an Argentine priest in some Internet forum and he offered me to be baptized in Rome. That did not work and the same priest baptized me in London. Notice this: I received my first communion from Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor whose ancestors hail from the same place in Ireland where my only Catholic relative (my paternal grandmother) comes from. He could very well be a far relative but I do not know for sure. That was sort of a small miracle.
I did not know anything about the “stealing of vocations”, for example. It never occurred to me that the Argentine priest was redirecting me away from the priest that was instructing me in Boston. Stealing a point, so to speak. Stupid me thought: “It’s summer, it’ll be nice to visit Rome!” but it turned out to be not Rome but London. And some obscure things were about to start happening. I got a bad impression from some topics of conversation and a few things that happened in those few summer days in London. But I was a new Catholic and I was not going to ruin that grace thinking ill of anyone, least of all a priest. Later on, as years went by I learned more about Murphy O’Connor, a conspicuous member of the St. Gallen group, and about that priest and the Institute that ordained him.
In time the big shock came. Someone gave my contact information to a man who called me from Portugal. I was living in Virginia at that time and two or three years had gone by since my baptism. Now I can say this, the man (also an Argentine) sounded funny. His manner of speaking was odd, a bit upper-crustish 1930’s Buenos Aires style but not quite. It made me wonder if he had been in a monastery for half a century without talking to anyone. He was also mellifluous to the point to raise my suspicions: “This guy is a homosexual” I thought —and I was right— during that conversation he invited me to visit his website. While I connected to that website someone from the other side loaded on to my computer a truckload of images that filled my hard disk. At the time my computer was ‘echoing’ everything to my employer because I was working with highly confidential information. So … my employer ended up copying everything that was surreptitiously being loaded into my system. Do you follow me? I hope so. It was not nice. It did not make the Catholic Church look good with my Pentecostal boss.
The surprise came after the phone call ended. My computer disk was full. And it was not a small disk. It had been filled to the rim with homosexual pornography. I could have had that creep prosecuted under Virginia law but I did not know that at the time. The shocking images were deleted, some I saved on a CD as proof and then I proceeded to expose the perpetrator all over the Spanish Catholic internet. Second shock: everyone took sides with him, and I was chastised for not being inclusive (put a smiley face here.) In the meanwhile, the very priest that had baptized me copied me on an email that was meant to reach the creep. That’s how I learned they were in cahoots and bent on doing me harm. A big brawl followed and I exposed everyone. I would not do the same today but that’s water under the bridge.
In time, the founder and director of the Institute where the priest had come was separated from his post and sent into exile. It was all by papal decree. The reason sounds almost boring and commonplace now: he liked to be touched by his seminarians. Touching. One detail, that seminary was supported and financially helped by a now famous ex-Cardinal lately convicted in a U.S. Boston court of abusing a young man since the victim was age 11. Even more touching.
So, I had there Cardinal 1, Priest, Creep from Portugal, Director of Institute, Cardinal 2, and … one more priest from the same Institute who made a not so veiled pass at yours truly with the words: “Cardinal McCarrick’s theology shows that carnal relations between men do not constitute ‘fornication’ since the meaning of the Greek word porneia has been lost.” Great, tell that to Jesus, He likes to talk theology. Warning: the weather may get a little hot. That priest was working for a then Monsignor (now a Cardinal) whose manners and “theological” tendencies are a bit on the rosy side: we have Cardinal 3: another Galenite.
At that point, I had a good idea of what I have walked into. Jesus was calling me into the fight but then I had a strange encounter with someone I did not know and I never saw again. She was a humble lady. Not to make this long story longer, that lady heard the same things you’ve been reading about here and calmly advised me to forgive them. She referred me to the parables of Jesus quoted above and concluded: “If you forgive them, your reward will be great. Leave their punishment to God. Don Corleone has nothing on Jesus when it comes to revenge. Think of your sinful life and do penance for your sins. Know a secret: God sent those men your way. He must have some important mission for you. You are being trained.” (Paraphrased, that’s the essence of what she said.)
I never saw the lady again but I took in her words and I sat down one day, thought long and hard about it, asked for divine help and I forgave them all, and I keep forgiving them as I see them almost daily in the media. You know who I am talking about. I see them walk step by step into a divine trap made of their own vices. They are almost stepping on the spot where Hell will swallow them whole. Poor deluded men who thought they can play games with a merciful God.
I learned recently of a poor man whose reputation was crushed by a ‘lay ministry’ —I do not know the particulars of that problem— I wonder how serious a problem can be for a Catholic to drag another Catholic to court and let virtual pagans judge between sons of the Highest Judge of all. See 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 for the Apostolic opinion about suing brethren in public court. Hey, those “lay ministers” should frequent the Canon when their busy squabbling schedule allows them.
Which leads me to the core of this story: why all that self-righteousness? I include myself, you only have to read some of the diatribes I wrote in this blog when I get impatient. But I have also got a taste of the self-righteous vein of my Catholic brethren at various times. You know, those men I told you in the paragraphs above were not quiet about my rants. They got busy right away trying to ruin my life but —funny thing—so far they have not succeeded. In fact, they have managed to achieve the opposite. My quality of life could be better, no doubt but by far is the best I have enjoyed in a few decades. In the meanwhile, some of the enemies I know are not precisely enjoying a good life. That lady was right: “Don Corleone has nothing on Jesus when it comes to revenge …” and it makes sense: Jesus is trying to save them too and to quote C. S. Lewis: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” There’s plenty of more pain where that came from, buddy!
I heard one of those men is going through some serious agony. Suffering to the point of impairment. I know who he is and God knows him also. Please join me in praying for him, and for all the motley collection of men and women that hate people they don’t even know. Your reward will be great.
Jesus, Prince of Peace,
You have asked us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit,
may all people know You and learn to work together
for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.
To You be glory and honor for ever and ever.
Extreme forgiveness is the best and most effective penance and it’s the way to Jesus’ heart.
“‘Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. ”
Think about it.