Fall from grace often no more than spin

Fall from grace often no more than spinThis week we mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa.

She has been lauded by Christians and non-Christians alike as one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent servants of humanity. Recently, sections of the media have seized upon documentation prepared as part of her path to sainthood.

The quoted letters detail profound lapses in her belief in God. Some commentators have taken this to signify that she is a fraud, while others have said simply that she was an atheist who did saintly things. In fact, many saints have experienced a 'dark night of the soul'. This is largely what formed them in their saintliness.

What is most significant about these documents is that the Church chose to make them public. It resisted the temptation to hide them, in what would have been a misguided attempt to give the false impression that she was complete in her faithfulness to God.

The Church does not always choose to reveal cracks in its façade. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson recently made this plain when he asserted in his book that the Church has been more interested in managing rather than confronting church sexual abuse. Andrew Hamilton points out in this issue of Eureka Street that Bishop Robinson was ‘stimulated to write his cogently argued book because his Church seemed to give a higher priority to a good institutional reputation than to concern for truth’.

Andrew goes on to point out that the desire to protect a good reputation is not confined to churches. He says almost any organisation 'responds to criticism by rebutting it', but that the rebuttal is unnecessary if the institution is not afraid of the truth.

Sporting bodies in particular are loath to have the public know about the weaknesses of their players and participants. The case of Andrew Johns was obviously a nightmare scenario for the NRL. The administrators did not have much opportunity to minimise the significance of Johns’ minor London infringement after Johns himself told a TV interviewer that he had used drugs extensively for a decade.

Johns’ decision to be honest about his drug-taking will be rewarded. This was certainly the experience of Kevin Rudd when he resisted the temptation to cover up or minimise his visit to a New York sex club. His approval rating increased, much to the chagrin of his tormentors on the other side of politics.

In his article for this issue of Eureka Street, Tom Cranitch points to the wisdom of his ten year old son, who is willing to forgive Johns’ for his 'silly' illicit drug use. His son's perception 'underlined the ability of children to see the essence of matters clearly while older generations often get lost in the fog [of spin] around the edge'.



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