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IT is a pity that Ian Paisley’s blind religious bigotry directed at the Catholic Church can get such free rein in the press and with little or no counter comment.
His comments would most likely be dubbed inflammatory or worse if directed at any faith other than Catholicism.
That he is as ill-informed about the Protestant faith as he is about Catholicism is but a measure of his visceral bigotry which, like every sort of bigotry, can only exist on a bedrock of ignorance. In respect of his latest remarks that the Pope – “an anti-Christ” – claims the divine power to forgive sin, Paisley needs to be reminded that we are all, whether Catholic or Protestant, taught to exercise forgiveness, to forgive others their trespasses even as we ourselves are forgiven.
What is there to forgive, if not sin? The power to absolve sin entirely, to wash away all its traces is indeed effected by Jesus alone. No pope has ever claimed this power.
In the Gospel of Matthew (18:18), Jesus says to his disciples: “What ye shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; what ye loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Churches of all denominations “bind and loose” in terms of what is acceptable behaviour in their members.
The work of reconciling errant members or sinners to their true place in the community of believers is part of pastoral ministry.
It takes a defined shape in the Catholic Church as the sacrament of reconciliation. This is administered by all priests. It is no more the Pope’s prerogative than it is the prerogative of each and every priest, no matter how young or old, learned or simple.
Mr Paisley would be better employed if he took the time to study what Catholics, and indeed the majority of Protestants, really believe before launching himself into ignorant tirades that cast him back into the rabble-rousing, dangerous demagogue he was before he assumed a more statesmanlike demeanour. It would seem it was his demeanour rather than his disposition that changed.
In his further comments on the Pope’s alleged involvement in the cover-up of paedophile clergy, where was his voice when the abuse of children in the Kincora boys’ home in east Belfast was exposed? In this case the children were the victims of a paedophile ring whose leader, William McGrath, was a member of Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church.
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