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Our Desk: In nomine Patris

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image João Pedro Lau

Throughout human history, many great mistakes are perpetrated in the name of divinity. Numerous individuals manipulated religious doctrine in order to justify actions usually driven by a crooked intention.
We witnessed one such event last week, when it was revealed that the University of Saint Joseph has decided to terminate its contract with scholar Eric Sautede.
USJ rector Peter Stilwell has made it very simple and clear that the lecturer was sacked because he talked too much. He even claimed that the doctrine of the Catholic Church was “non-intervention in local politics”.
As a priest, he probably could pull some books off his shelf and point out to us some articles about how the Church should mind its own business and refrain from getting involved in local politics.
However, I would like to invite him to look at several important figures of the Church, who were actually doing the opposite of that so-called “doctrine” of his.
Pope Francis, I believe, has recently been acting in quite a political manner. His visit to the Middle East and the invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to pray together, though a religious act is in fact a clear political statement.
Before he was the pope, Francis was also known as being a political rival to the former and current Argentinean Presidents. This is because of his belief that some of the government’s policies are in contrast to the teaching of the Church.
We can remember pope Saint John Paul II as well. One of his greatest legacies was his contribution to the liberation of Poland from behind the Iron Curtain. When he was the archbishop of the Krakow archdiocese, JP II was a vocal critic of the then communist regime. After becoming the pope, he visited many countries and made speeches that were certainly very politically provocative.
Let’s also revisit the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador who was assassinated while celebrating a mass. Although he was initially thought as a conservative man, a good friend of his, Fr Rutilio Grande, was murdered, after which the Archbishop changed his stance and started fighting for the poor and social justice. He is considered a martyr by many and the Vatican has already launched the canonization procedure for him.
Last, but certainly not least, Jesus Christ went against the ruling class by pointing out many unjust rules the Pharisees had taught the Israeli people. He advocated for the poor and preached forgiveness, instead of hatred, as well as embracing the social outcasts. Though his intention was religious, his actions were as political as they could be because the disruption they caused to the ruling class was immense.
I am not sure if Peter Stilwell forgot the above names and their good deeds because he is too busy studying his church doctrine, or it is simply that he is willingly ignoring these stories and teachings because he is seeking something else; something a priest or a university rector should not consider as a primary concern.
We all know that the USJ lacks funding in building its new campus. Some, including me, are suspecting that the sacking of Eric Sautede is related to this.
I would give the rector the benefit of the doubt over this. Maybe there are some inside stories that we do not know; maybe the problem is really on Eric Sautede and not the university as the rector has claimed.
But if my suspicion is proven to be true, I would like to remind the rector of the following words of Jesus: “No one can serve two masters... You cannot serve both God and money”. Amen.



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