A letter from a simple priest, which the New York Times is not going to publish
Loved brother journalist,
I am a simple Catholic priest. I am happy, and proud of my vocation. I have lived in Angola as a missionary for twenty years. It gives me great pain to think that people who should be ministers of the love of God are instead a danger in the life of innocents. Nothing can justify those acts. There is no doubt that the Church cannot be on any side but that of the defenseless and weakest members. It will always be an absolute priority to protect the dignity of, and prevent harm to the children. I see reported in many news outlets a morbid reporting, in detail, of the crimes of some pederast priest in the U.S. that happened 40 years ago, or in Australia in the 1980’s. The actions of these priests are certainly condemnable. However, they are presented by the media not in an objective manner, but in a sensationalist, amplified manner; full of preconceptions and hatred.
There are thousands and thousands of dedicated priests, who are consumed with their work assisting millions of children in the most underprivileged areas of the world, and yet you show no interest in these stories. We have had to transport ourselves, with no assistance from the government, to attend to many undernourished children in Angola, because their leaders offered no solutions. We were not authorized to, but did bury many, displaced by war; cared for those who returned to war-stricken areas; saved the lives of thousands of people in Moxico, by means of a unique aid station as well as the distribution of seeds and food; and offered the opportunity of education to more than 110,000 children, but you are not interested in reporting this. You will not publish the story of priests aiding in the sheltering and feeding of nearly 15,000 people after the surrender of the guerrillas, because no aid was sent by the government, and aid from the UN never arrived. It is not in the news that a priest of 75 years, Fr. Robert, crosses the city of Luanda by night, caring for boys of the street, taking them to a home where they can recover, and also aids hundreds of prisoners. Other priests, like Fr. Stefano, spend hours caring for boys who are beaten, mistreated and the victims of violence, and need refuge. Neither will it be reported that more than 60,000 of the 400,000 priests and monks have left their families, and this earth, serving their brothers in leprosy hospitals, refugee fields, orphanages, children who have been orphaned by AIDS, in schools for the poorest children, places with no hope, or overall in parishes and missions giving love and motivation to their people. It is not “news” that my friend, Fr. Aurelio Marks has saved youngsters during the war in Angola, and has transported them to safety, under machine gunfire, or that Brother Francisco, with 5 lady catechists, died in an accident going to help those in rural areas, or the many missionaries in Angola who have died trying to give sanitary aid, and medical aid to those with malaria. In the cemetery of Kalulo there are tombs of priests who served 40 years. A “normal” day in the life of a priest is not covered in the media; days of difficulties and joys, dedicating his life, without fanfare, to care for the community in which he serves. The truth is, we don’t seek to be in the news, but we would like to see reported the “Good News” that began quietly on the night of Passover, the Last Supper.
“A tree makes more noise when it falls, than a forest that grows”. I am not trying to vindicate the Church or the priests. A priest is neither all good nor all bad. He is a simple man who wants to follow Jesus and serve his brothers. He has sorrows, faults, and frailties like every other human, and also beauty and kindness, as in all creatures. To insist on being obsessed with persecuting priests, and losing sight of all the good they do, creates a cartoon, a caricature of Catholic Priesthood in which I feel like a victim. Only one thing I request, friend journalist; look for the Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful as well, and that will make your profession a noble one.
Fr. Martin Lasarte, sdb