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Moments in Time Church debates

By Gary Macy

Catholics are often rightly upset by the tone that arguments within the church can take. It helps sometimes to remember that, alas, this is not something new. For example, here is an edited excerpt from a letter that the great theologian of Antioch, Theodoret, wrote upon hearing of the death of St. Cyril of Alexandria: “At last and with difficulty the villain is gone. The good and the gentle pass away all too soon; the bad prolong their life for years. Knowing that the fellow’s malice has been daily growing and doing harm to the body of the church, the Lord has lopped him off like a plague. His survivors are indeed delighted at his departure. The dead, maybe, are sorry. There is some ground of alarm lest they should be so much annoyed at his company as to send him back to us. Great care must then be taken, and it is especially your Holiness’ business [the patriarch of Antioch] to undertake this duty, to tell the guild of undertakers to lay a very big, heavy stone upon his grave, for fear he should come back again.” Our exchanges seem quite civil in comparison to this.

Gary Macy is a theology professor at the University of San Diego.

National Catholic Reporter, May 21, 1999