Saints Behaving Badly: Nothing New

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by Jim Dougherty

Jim DoughertyIn the midst of struggles, early Puritan minister, Massachusetts Bay Colony political figure and Harvard president Increase Mather famously paraphrased I Cor. 10-13 as “Nothing has befallen you, but what is common to men, yea, and to the best of men.”

As Unificationists face the somewhat ironic spectacle of a movement dedicated to unity struggling to unify, amidst faction, division and strife, it’s important to remember we are not the first to stride, stumble, trip, and crawl down this path, and ask ourselves: “What has befallen us, that is not common to people?” — Nothing.

Most, if not all, of the problems we face are the same as others have faced before us. Those problems should not be dismissed or treated lightly, even if we’ve seen them many times before. Indeed, they should be taken all the more seriously as they have proven to be difficult, in many cases almost impossible, to solve. But neither should we be dismayed by those problems, or draw the false conclusion of discouragement because we still face them. Looking at history and what others have gone through can give us perspective, help us manage our expectations, and encourage us to work steadily on the problems we face with the many solutions at our disposal.

Great examples of historical church figures not always living up to our high expectations are found in Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints (2006) by Thomas J. Craughwell, a respected Catholic newspaper columnist.

Pope Callixtus I, for example, martyred in 223 CE and canonized, was originally a Christian slave of another Christian, Carpophorus, who had Callixtus set up a bank of sorts for fellow Christians, to protect and invest the savings of widows and orphans, and to collect donations for them. Carpophorus had come to believe that Callixtus was a man of some financial acumen who could handle the job, but it turned out that trust was misplaced. Callixtus succeeded in losing all the money invested, and embezzled some of it in the process. With Roman Christians stripped of their savings and enraged, Callixtus fled to the nearest harbor and booked passage on the first ship he could find.

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