“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48)
We’re very happy to present this new show from Dr Robert Tilley on how the Bible is Catholic, and how we read it as Catholics.
In this first episode, Dr Robert Tilley tells a story that will make the blood boil, and what this says about the great responsibility we have been given by God.
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Please note: This episode makes reference to cases of sexual assault.
Reading the Sacred Text is a continuation of Dr Robert Tilley’s popular The Bible is Catholic lecture series.
In Romans 3:1-2, St Paul asks what advantage did the Jews have over the Gentiles, and he answers by saying that they had been given the very oracles of God. That is, that Israel was blessed not least because they had been given the words of the Lord, the word of God. But we might ask what this advantage looked like, practically speaking? And the short answer is that it meant Israel was especially well placed to be able to identify the workings of injustice. The longer answer is what follows and be warned it stirs the blood somewhat.
A few years ago now the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story that positively made the blood boil. As the report itself pointed out it wasn’t a new story for what it detailed had been going on for some decades now. Nevertheless, for all its importance after a couple of days the story had all but disappeared! I guess like others I hoped that this was because the police had taken over and were investigating the serious allegations. Only, one had the sneaking suspicion, prompted by past experience, that this was probably not the case. One suspected that the decision had been made to let those involved sort it all out even though the matters concerned were criminal in nature. It appeared as if the story had been voluntarily suppressed – but for what reason? I suspect that old nemesis political correctness – but you be the judge. Be warned though, it’s a story that will make your blood boil! Only, do not let your rage prevent you from listening all the way through for I would like to think that on having heard all that there is to say that your faith as a Catholic will have been deepened.
The newspaper report had to do with a Muslim college in Auburn, apparently the young men there are renowned for sexually harassing women, so much so, a number of women have even alleged rape. It is beyond dispute that women are regularly abused at this college: that they are sworn at; made to submit to degrading behaviour; and pressured into things they would rather not do. One incident the newspaper reported was of forty of these young men, all naked, surrounding one girl, all the while subjecting her to a torrent of vile abuse. At sporting events they will surround female competitors and shower them with insults in order to put them off their game.
These young Muslim men play on fear, on their greater physical strength and, it seems, on the certain knowledge that the religious authorities, the Imams, the college authorities, and, for that matter, the police as well, will do nothing.
If that doesn’t make you angry then what about this: most astonishing of all is that this behaviour has been going on for at least two decades. Indeed, those who have attended the college, who found the behaviour disgusting, say it has been going on for much longer than that. So it’s not just once but many times over many years that the relevant authorities have done nothing. What do they think, that this is trivial behaviour, something merely ‘naughty’, to be winked at, boys being boys, just young men letting off steam?
Let’s get this clear: rapes have been alleged, harassment has been regularly reported, abuse is a by-word, and the only thing that happens is that now and then one of these ‘naughty’ boys might be told to leave by term’s end. Nothing, nothing is being done – the college authorities, the police, the Imams for whatever reason do nothing to put a stop to it. This is unjust! Morally and criminally unjust!
What, is it because Muslims are above the law? Oh yes, we all know that if this were any other college then you could be sure that the politically correct media would be all over it: the police would be thoroughly investigating the allegations, we wouldn’t hear the end of it in the secular liberal media. The North Shore and the Eastern suburbs opinion makers sipping at their lattes would be outraged. There would be calls for Royal Commissions! But not when it’s Muslim college out at Auburn.
Justice demands that we do not look away. Justice demands that we put a stop to this. Justice demands that these Muslims…., hold on, sorry I’ve made a mistake…how embarrassing…this is awful…I must really apologise to Muslims and to any Muslim college. You see, all the things I said were happening in the college were reported in the SMH only the report was not about a Muslim college in Auburn but about St Paul’s, the Anglican College at Sydney University.
Let’s take a breather. How are we feeling now? Any different? The same standards still apply, right? I mean our blood is still boiling isn’t it?
Funny isn’t it, now that Muslims aren’t in the picture or images of young men who are let us say of a more swarthy complexion, one can feel the blood cooling down. After all, these Sydney University college boys are good lads beneath it all! Furthermore, it is behaviour that has not been confined to St Paul’s College. Some of you might remember how, back in the 1990s, similar things were reported happening at St Andrews, the Presbyterian College at Sydney University. Let’s reflect on this fact a little: that was back in the 1990s, many of those young men would now be among our top-flight lawyers and barristers and business leaders, even politicians. Or perhaps don’t reflect upon it because it’s a rather scary thought! Let’s leave it as blind spot, one that serves to hide what it is we all really know is there but do not want to address.
A good example is the Chaser team, those wacky boys who have become rather well-paid celebrities. Known for their courageous satire, their merciless expose of our societies hypocrisies – and yet most of them were Sydney University boys from the 1990s, indeed a number were college boys, and they were there when all these things were going on! Strange isn’t it, but I cannot recall them ever addressing the carrying-on in the colleges by the offspring of the rich and powerful.
Anyway, you probably don’t remember those incidents even though they were written up in the press. Perhaps you are too young, but I do not think you are too young that you can’t recall the story that opened this column for that was reported only four or five years ago. And then there were the more recent incidences and allegations concerning St. Johns the Catholic college at Sydney University. As I say perhaps you don’t remember these events. But I’m pretty sure you do remember those incidents reported in the papers of young Muslim males raping and harassing young women. Thing is, those men do tend to end up in prison for anywhere up to ten to fifty years.
Thing is, God is no respecter of persons and God hates injustice. Indeed, according to the Bible God positively loathes injustice and that especially in those are of the people of God; in other words those who own the oracles of God. If there is one thing more than injustice that God can’t stomach it is hypocrisy, for hypocrisy protects injustice by reason that it both justifies and conceals injustice.
When Jesus condemned the Pharisees he was not condemning Judaism but the corruption of Judaism. And on more than one occasion Jesus gave his sternest warnings to the apostles and other disciples, not least concerning not abusing the little ones placed under their charge – which ought to give those clerics who perpetrated and covered up sex-abuse pause for thought (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:47). The principle is summed up in Jesus’ comment to the effect that “to whom much is given, much is expected” (Luke 12:48). As Catholics, which is to say as members of the Church that is the Body of Christ, much indeed has been given to us and thus much indeed is expected of us. We not only have the word of God that is Scripture but the word of God that is the Apostolic Tradition handed down to us by the successors of the Apostles. We have truly been given entrusted with the oracles of God!
The fundamental principle of grace is that it is given to us so that we can be a means of grace to others. Grace is not given, first and foremost, to us for our benefit; it benefits us when we use it to benefit others.
Jesus said to the hypocrites, to those to whom much had been given, that they had made the “word of God of no effect” (Mark 7:13), meaning by this that they had effectively nullified the power of the word of God. And this raises the question as to what the effect of the word of God ought to be. Thankfully the Bible tells us for in Hebrews 4:12 we read that the “word of God is a sharp two-edged sword that pierces through to the join of bone and marrow, soul and spirit,” that it thereby reveals our innermost hidden intentions and machinations, those things that we want to remain hidden. In short, the word of God principally works not so much as to reveal God but us.
In revealing who we truly are and the kinds of machinations and duplicities we practise against others and against ourselves the word of God clears a place for the revealing of God. In other words, the word reveals to us that we are not God, far from it; we are closer to being a devil. If there is no true and often painful revelation of who we are and what it is we are capable of doing we run the risk of making the word of God of no effect and we do this by turning it into a weapon to damn others thereby justifying our hatred of them.
Jesus is the Word of God to whom the words of God in the Bible ultimately point us. It is pertinent, then, that a good deal of Jesus’ mission was to make the blind see – to have us see what it is we would rather keep hidden behind the blind spot, and that especially from ourselves.
The Bible is Catholic, to the Church is given the oracles of God, and it is so for many reasons that will, I hope, become clear in the course of this series of talks. The thing is that after St Paul said that Israel was advantaged in that she was entrusted with the oracles of God, he then went on to explain what this meant. In Romans 3:9-20 it means that Israel is best placed to know that they and everyone else are sinners and that all are in need of the grace and mercy of God.
For every Catholic the Bible is Catholic but for each of us as individuals it ought to be Catholic if only because it prompts us to a searching out of ourselves and gives to us a consequent desire for repentance and reconciliation.
Finally, when the Bible does reveal God it reveals that He loves justice and hates injustice. And when God became incarnate He became fully revealed. So it was that when Jesus Christ scourged the Temple of profiteers and hypocrites it was revealed that God has blood that boils.