Back in the 1930’s when T S Eliot was writing his Nobel prize-winning play about the conflict between Henry II and his Archbishop, Thomas a Becket, a conflict that resulted in Becket’s death at the hands of four soldiers who may or may not have been carrying out the King’s wishes, he picked a title that reflected the true horror of the situation. He called it “Murder in the Cathedral”. A church or cathedral is supposed to be a place of refuge. Unlike Becket, Father Freed was not murdered on the very altar, but for “cradle Catholics” like myself, the horror is palpable. I haven’t considered myself a Catholic since I was sixteen but you don’t have to be Catholic or Christian or religious in any vein in to be deeply disturbed by this crime and the death of an innocent man who by all accounts was a gift to the community.
Thank God there is a suspect in custody. But we have already made the news on CNN and CBS and believe me, there is no more efficient way to destroy the reputation of a city than a notorious murder. Nor can we claim it’s the fault of the drug industry. No, this was an act of sheer evil, hard to comprehend but there it is. The candidates who seek office this year will all face the question: how do we combat evil in our midst while maintaining our civilization?
The Catholic Church is a huge and powerful organization which has been so poorly governed in recent years that systematic child abuse has been tolerated. That seems to be changing due to the refreshing candor of the new Pope and hopefully he will stay in office long enough to make some real changes. I will never be a Catholic again but I heart this Pope and while all the usual second-guessing and faultfinding with the police has already started, let’s think about the ways to honor Father Freed, the Pope and each other. The New Yorker’s year-end cover was a cartoon of the Pope making snow angels. Religion should have a sense of joy. Hard as it may be, it is our job to reclaim that. Even us nonbelievers.
As for me, I’m leaving my Christmas lights up a few days longer than usual. I think a lot of people are. They provide that sense of joy. We could use it this year.