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Is the Church criminal?

If you haven't already heard them, here are the slanderous words: The Catholic Church is "the greatest criminal organization outside the mafia."

Michael Enright, new host of the CBC This Morning,, arguably the top radio post in Canada, offered that remark in 1997. It amounts to "a serious attack (on the Catholic church)," replied assistant secretary-general of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Bede Hubbard. "Even if what was said was bad and ill-humoured, some people are taking it seriously. Some people take this as an accurate picture of Roman Catholicism."

Really? In this age of enlightenment, the Internet and a Vatican web site, would people really believe that? Who better to ask than other Christians? I called around Toronto and asked: "Is the Catholic Church a criminal organization?"

The puzzled but friendly minister at the Church of the Torontonians said: "Oh, I don't know. I don't know. But if you're looking for the Lord you can come and visit us."

I was certain the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, with its monumental mission, had probably done its homework. But the serious-sounding male minister was less reassuring. "Hmmm," he replied and after a long pause, stated officially, "I cannot comment on this."

Said a pastor at Rexdale Alliance Church: "I would never say it was a criminal organization. We might not agree with all the practices and doctrines of the Roman Catholic church but they do believe in the deity of Christ and the authority of God's word. Praying to the saints and the use of indulgences--I can't see that from scripture. But the Catholic Church has stood up against so much of society that is going down the tubes -- like women pastors and abortion."

The only one at the Evangelical Banfield Memorial Church when I called was a youth coordinator, who said: "I don't think so. If you go into specific countries like Russia, the Catholic Church has a lot of control. I wouldn't term them as criminal. Over history, different churches have been involved in criminal acts. But overall the Catholic Church is a religious organization that does help people worship God."

"The Catholic Church is not a criminal organization," said a woman pastor at the Danforth Gospel Temple, the first Christian who was dead certain about it. "The Catholic Church is far from that. They attempt to do what they believe the Bible teaches."

"I would not agree with that statement," said a leader with the Christian Reformed Church. "It has its own area of brokenness no doubt. But my experience with it is positive."

Said a pastor at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church: "The Catholic organization is like a country. The Vatican is a state and has ambassadors. They are a very big organization. There has been involvement in criminal elements. Books have been written that certain popes died before their time because money was involved. They backed Hitler's program until he became unpopular. But they are not organized for gangland activity. You also don't have to go too far to find good things. When you get big, (criminal actions) come with the territory."

Said a sweet-sounding female voice, the secretary at Boon Avenue Baptist Church: "Oh, I don't think that's true. But don't take my word for it. I see so few (Catholics)."

These conversations were beginning to get me down. What the heck, I decided, I'll call a Zen Buddhist Temple. "Not at all," said the Buddhist leader, when asked if the Catholic Church is a criminal organization. "I can't believe that. I was a Catholic most of my life. Then I got into meditation and wanted to be part of the clergy and a woman can't do that in the Catholic Church."

Remarked a philosopher at the school of philosophy: "What a nutty thing for someone to postulate. I'm not a criminal either."

The frightening thing is that of the 10 practising Christians I talked to, most of them pastors, only three could say with any degree of certainty that the Catholic Church is not a criminal organization. How could so many Christians be so uninformed? How could so many Catholics allow them to be so uninformed? If this isn't a wake-up call to learn our faith and transmit it, I don't know what is.

Patrick Meagher is a freelance writer living in Toronto.
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Author:Meacher, Patrick
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Jan 1, 1998
Words:724
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