25 June 2011

The Inexcusability of Prejudice


Prejudice is an unfortunate aspect of human nature. It is all around us in virtually every part of life. It is formed in us unconsciously. Yet, it is something that we can control, albeit it with some effort, and we must seek always to control. To be clear, elimination of prejudice against sin such as the modernists propose regarding activities such as sexual immorality is not a benefit to the soul or to society, but a reduction in the strength of one's faith. One is called to oppose sin, and if we are "prejudiced" against it, then rightly so. This is not the type of prejudice of which I speak, however, when I say that prejudice is inexcusable.

Prejudice develops as a result of environment. Things around us make an impression on us. Words people speak leave their lasting mark on us. This is one reason we refer to children and teenagers as being at an "impressionable age." Their minds are fresh enough that it is easier to leave a lasting mark. Yet, even more mature minds of great intellect and reason are subject to this. Remember the Latin phrase repetitio mater memoriae, i.e., repetition is the mother of memory. Repeat something to someone enough, and they are likely to believe it. This is all well and good when that something is the truth. However, when it is not necessarily the truth, the repetition may form a prejudice in the minds of those who hear it. Once an opinion is formed about someone else, no matter how wrong it may be, it is very difficult to eradicate. Even when conclusive evidence is presented challenging a prejudice with certainty, there is still a natural tendency to hold firmly to the prejudiced views. People often love gossip and scandal and prefer to believe the worst of others.

For example, the United States sadly has an anti-Catholic streak running through it, which I would not call a lingering prejudice from a bygone era, but an active one actively nurtured by those who are opposed to Catholics of any form. In the Bible Belt, home to fundamentalists and other flavors of protestants, anti-Catholic rhetoric is rampant. Children are raised to believe Catholics are evil, not really Christian, against the Bible, and other slanders. They naturally believe this as they grow into adulthood, and their prejudice remains with them. In fact, the prejudice was formed at such a young age in many cases that they don't even remember its formation, but rather just take their prejudice as Gospel truth. And then they pass their prejudice on to their children, and the cycle continues ad infinitum until someone has the courage to stop it. 

As a more specific example of anti-Catholic policies in the United States, there once were many laws prohibiting the wear of religious garb in public schools by teachers. These laws were aimed specifically at keeping clerical and religious habits out of the classroom in order to prevent Catholic influence. The laws were supported by such unsavory groups as the Klu Klux Klan, whose hatred was so vast that it extended past blacks and Jews onto Catholics as well. These laws have been repealed by the grace of God in all but two states (Nebraska and Pennsylvania), and this, coupled with anti-discrimination laws pertaining to religion, should help end discrimination against clergy in the schools.

The prejudice against Catholic in schools is not limited to secondary education, however. It exists in universities as well. Even so-called Christian universities that claim to be ecumenical act in a manner suggesting they are deathly afraid of even the hint of Catholic influence that might enter into their halls. Those coming from any of the 30,000 or more protestant denominations, even though their views are often violently opposed, are welcomed in general. But not Catholics. At an institution of higher learning, a place of free thought for the purpose of seeking truth, this is even more reprehensible.

In society in general, there is also bias. Due to a massive scandal within the Roman Rite in the US, people have developed a prejudice that priests are more likely to be pedophiles. They hold to this view even in the face of any evidence to the contrary. Some men are afraid to enter the priesthood and some priests are afraid to wear their habits or collars in public for fear of being thought to be a child molester, even though they are not. With prejudice, you see, truth is moved to the back seat of the bus.

People were afraid of John F. Kennedy being Catholic, thinking that perhaps he should be disqualified for being Catholic. Today sometimes people lose job opportunities because of their Catholic faith. There is a bias against Catholics, and especially against clergy doing what their religious requirements mandate. The list of anti-Catholic prejudice perpetrated by Protestants and secularists is virtually endless. It is very difficult indeed for anyone today who wishes to live out their Catholic faith in all aspects of their life as they ought to do.

Even within the Anglican Church, there is a frequent prejudicial bias against the word "Roman." And, some in the Roman Rite have a strong bias against anything "Anglican." Those who stubbornly hold on to their views against others within the Church Universal simply based on labels, even in the face of a mountain of evidence proving them wrong, fail in their Christian duty. Clergy who do this are not worthy of the sacred trust that has been given to them. 

Despite progress such as the repeal of the religious dress ban for teachers, the long-standing prejudice against anyone in a clerical collar or indeed anyone who is openly Catholic may continue. People must actively work to eliminate their prejudices, and this requires an act of will. People may choose to hold on to their prejudices, or they may choose to try to eliminate them. It is a matter of personal choice, and for this reason, stubbornly holding on to prejudices, even in the face of contrary evidence is an inexcusable act against one's fellow man.