“So Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.
Pilate said to them – ‘Behold the man’.” (John 19:5)
When I pray the third Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary – the Crowning With Thorns – I am always struck by the same thought. I consider the meekness and humility of Jesus in that moment and – above all – His silence. Having first been condemned and then scourged, He is now mocked; the soldiers twist thorns into a crown, place them upon His head and put a reed in His hand as though it were a sceptre. And they call Him ‘the King of the Jews’, mocking Him even more. Beaten, weakened, whipped, He is now verbally defiled even as the words suggest deference. It is truly a pitiful scene placed before us in this Mystery.
This morning, I read an online discussion which tore at my heart. The author wrote about a number of friends of his who, he said, had decided to leave the Catholic Church because they had had enough of the vilification and hostility they were receiving from Catholic people – all because they are gay. He noted also that there are many who will preach to these people about the error of their ways, their sinful lifestyles, and where it will lead them. He noted that such people say they are “speaking the truth in love” – and yet they are doing anything but. This reminded me of the Crowning With Thorns and the phrase ‘King of the Jews’ – words suggesting one thing when they actually mean something quite different.
It is very easy for people to speak on subjects about which they know very little – and to do so as though they have every right to pontificate to others; as though they (and they alone) are standing on some moral high-ground; and to do so by couching what they say as though they are speaking on behalf of the Church, which they most certainly are not. Even if these generous and garrulous souls honestly believe themselves to be “speaking the truth in love” – they are gravely mistaken, for love has no part in this, nor do mercy and compassion. I need not note here that such people will generally do all this from an anonymous perspective – and they would rarely engage in such a discourse in ‘real’ life and face to face with another person. Equally, such people tend to very carefully curate those subjects upon which they will pontificate – they are invariably sexual in nature, rarely touch on anything to do with social justice and blindly ignore everything else while rampaging freely across the lives and emotions of others. And, as was the case under discussion, with tragic results – people left the Church as a result.
We need to be very careful if we present ourselves as ‘Catholic’ in the online world; doing so allows us the opportunity to do incalculable damage – primarily to others, but also to ourselves – and that is damage for which we will one day be called to account. Perhaps not in this life – but most certainly in the next. If our pronouncements fly in the face of the clear teaching of the Church (which calls us to treat every person with deep respect and which forbids any form of unjust attack or discimination), and if they lack so much as an ounce of decency, compassion or empathy for another person – then what is ‘Catholic’ about it? What is ‘Catholic’ about us?
Perhaps we need to consider whether we are in a position to pronounce judgement on any other person or if – like Christ crowned with thorns – we would do better to remain silent.