Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Brace yourself for the annual media assault on Christian orthodoxy

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 15, 2011

Holy Week is nearly upon us. Brace yourself for the media onslaught.

All eyes will turn toward the Church during this coming week. For believing Christians, that means an intense period of prayer. For most major media outlets, it means another chance to throw darts at a favorite target.

Each year, as Easter looms on the horizon, ambitious scholars and journalists and publicity-seekers seize the opportunity to debunk Christianity in general, or criticize the teachings of the Catholic Church in particular. This year will be no different.

  • This is the time of year when the “Jesus Seminar” often trots out a new theory about what the “historical Jesus” really said. No matter how slim the evidence is to support this theory, and no matter how transparently the scholars put their own pet ideas in the Lord’s mouth, and no matter how thoroughly the real historical evidence (which matches the Gospel narratives) belies the theory, the story captures headlines. Why? For two reasons. First, most workaday journalists are so ignorant about Christianity, they don’t realize how preposterous the theory really is. Second, many journalists are delighted to thumb their noses at Christian orthodoxy.
  • This is the time of year when an archeologist announces that he has made some amazing new discovery, which—he claims—overthrows important assumptions about the Christian faith and/or the early Church. This year we already have one contender in this category: an Israeli researcher who wants us to believe that he has found the nails with which Jesus was fixed to the Cross. To be fair, this claim is not necessarily offensive to Christian beliefs. But the claim is also viewed with skepticism (to put it mildly) by serious scholars. The same researcher made the same claims months ago, without attracting much attention. It’s no coincidence that the story is circulating again now, as Holy Week draws near and journalists look for new angles.
  • This is the time of year when commentators prepare their own essays on what they see as the inadequacies of the Christian faith, and especially the Catholic Church. Just as surely as the Pope delivers his Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday morning, the pundits will deliver their thoughts on what the Pope should have said and done to reform the Church. This year, regrettably, the critics will have plenty of ammunition. The astonishing insensitivity of Bishop Vangheluwe, coupled with his hideous betrayal of trust, has provoked justifiable outrage in Belgium, and stoked the fires of the sex-abuse scandal once again. In Ireland, a new report is expected any day now on the mishandling of abuse complaints in the Cloyne diocese; we have every reason to believe that the report will be harsh. Here in the US we have the new outcropping of the same scandal in Philadelphia. We already know that the PBS show “Frontline” will examine one flagrant case of abuse and cover-up. You can be sure there will be other such reports.

Don’t be surprised by the media onslaught. It’s coming; you can count on it. Be prepared: not just intellectually but spiritually. Don’t let the negative stories upset your equanimity, or distract your focus from the real business of Holy Week. Yes, the Church will suffer once again from the scorn of the pundits. But isn’t this the appropriate time for us all to accept the suffering, as our Lord accepted the Cross? Keep in mind, too, that after the sneering and the spitting and the mocking and the shouting we arrive at the glorious triumph of Easter.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Apr. 16, 2011 5:25 PM ET USA

    It would make sense, during a season where people attempt to become closer to Christ, that Satan would retaliate with attacks on the good, true, and beautiful.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Apr. 16, 2011 11:38 AM ET USA

    Isn't it odd: we can count on the deer to rut in September, the cows to calve in March, the snow to fall in November, and Satan to move in during Holy Week. He may be evil, but he is still a part of creation.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Apr. 16, 2011 9:30 AM ET USA

    "Faith is what someone knows to be true whether they believe it or not." Flannery O'Connor's wry sense of humor reminds us that Truth transcends. One of my favorite gospel stories is that reporting how Our Lord "marvelled" at the faith of the gentile Roman officer who requested healing for his servant. O'Connor adds: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd. Oddly enough, Passiontide provides a wonderful opportunity to embrace Our Lord and his Cross wholeheartedly once more.