By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 8/13/2020
Posted: 11/27/2007
Topics/Keywords: #Humor #OrganizedReligion Page Views: 3715
Didn't like the sermon? Sue!

Muslims believe that it is a sin to take a life under any circumstances, which is why they never engage in terrorism or suicide bombings. Hindus believe we are all One in Brahman (and therefore of equal importance) which is why they never developed a caste system. Christians believe in forgiveness, which is why none of them ever sue a pedophilic priest or minister.

Oh, wait. Some Muslims do become suicide bombers. Hindus do have a caste system. Christians do sue their leaders, and not just for serious offenses like pedophilia. In October, one Chicago area Catholic has just sued his parish priest over a sermon he didn't like.

It all started a year ago September, when parishioner and religion teacher Angel Llavana took exception to the Sunday sermon delivered by Father Luis Alfredo Rios, an associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Crystal Lake. Now, we've all heard sermons that put us to sleep or were unable to keep us from thinking of the lyrics to all our favorite Guns & Roses songs. I had to stop attending Mass with my Mom because the sermons always made me angry: They were either enthusiastically against something I was for, or for something I was against. But it never occurred to me to call the priest and complain about it! I figured, he was entitled to his opinion and I was entitled to not listen to it.

Not our friend Angel. He tried calling Father Luis and, when there was no answer, left a caustic voice message. "I attended Mass on Sunday and I have seen poor homilies, but yesterday broke all records," Llavano said, according to the lawsuit. Apparently Llavano, who is also a high school teacher in Des Plaines, is unclear on whether one sees or hears a sermon. Still upset, three days later, Llavano accused the priest, who had refused to talk to him in person, of "running away" from criticism.

Okay, so at this point we have a marginally competent teacher who has for some reason found it necessary to hammer his view on what constitutes a riveting sermon into the priest who professionally delivers them. No big deal, right? Just leave it alone, and Angel will eventually cool down, won't he?

We'll never know, because Father Luis didn't leave it alone. He also didn't leave it private. On the following Sunday, he not only used his sermon as a bully pulpit for lambasting Angel—by name!—he also played the answering machine tape as part of his sermon, so everyone could hear the inspiration for the day's homily.

According to the lawsuit, Rios told the congregation, "What should we do? Should we send him to hell or to another parish?"

Okay, so plus two points for introducing multimedia sermons to the parishioners of St. Thomas, and maybe two more for definitely keeping them awake for that sermon—but minus several thousand for common sense. Plus, the obvious question: Are both these guys twelve? What's next, shoving each other in the lunchroom?

Uh, no. What's next is that Llavano, who says he was "humiliated" by Rios, decided to take his humiliation up a notch and go public with it by suing Rios, his monsignor, and the parish for $50,000. Hey, I guess it's okay to be humiliated if you've got 50 bills with with which to console oneself.

Rios had continued in his sermon, "This is the person in charge of religious education here last year. That's why it is no surprise to me we had the kind of religious education we had. That's why we didn't get altar boys." Uh, I think the reason they didn't get altar boys is that the kids were more mature than the priest. That's just a guess, of course.

The comments, Llavano claims, caused emotional distress, damaged his reputation as a Catholic and unfairly questioned his skills as a teacher. The case is scheduled to make its first appearance in court February 11.

But seriously. What is it about religions that they seem unable to produce adherents who actually follow their own precepts?

I'm not talking about dogmatic controversies like whether Mohammed or his brother is the more pure source of Islam, or whether Brahma is really superior to Vishnu, or whether Mary was really a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Believe what you will; it might affect where you send your tithes but not the way you live your life.

I'm talking about basic morality, the purported reason for organized religion in the first place. Christ taught that there was never a reason for killing other humans. (He ate fish and lamb, so apparently he didn't mind killing other species.) He was absolutely clear on this subject. "Turn the other cheek," he said, if anyone struck you. The early Christians were noted for passively allowing themselves to be thrown to the lions rather than organize and fight back. (Perhaps if they'd been thrown to the fish things would have been different.)

So, how has that teaching, that precept, that very most basic premise of Christ's morality produced a generation of American Christians that apparently can't kill Muslims fast enough? (Certainly not all Christians feel this way; and it's unfortunate that their shared name causes them all to be painted with the same brush. But certainly the Christian "right", the most vocal of the bunch, the "base" of the Republican party, constitutes the 24% who still support Bush's invasion of Iraq—a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks and posed less threat to us before the invasion than it does now.)

These are the same people who used the 9/11 attacks to justify hating the same Muslims, who by and large are peaceful people (though no less prone to ignoring their religion's do-not-kill restrictions).

These are the people who hear Jesus telling them to not judge others' faults before eliminating their own, just before condemning homosexuals (easy to do when you're not one) and claiming to "hate the sin, love the sinner." If you aren't judging, how can you even claim to know what the sin, or who the sinner, is? To the pure, all things are pure. To the impure, anything is reason enough to condemn.

And so, instead of turning the other cheek, today's Christian turns to the other's checkbook as a way of dealing with blows. Instead of allowing themselves to be martyred, today's Christian can't even bear to be outed as an asshole.

I suggest that Father Luis' next homily be entitled "The Sermon on the Mounting Litigiousness of Parishioners".