News broke this week of an alleged al-Qaeda plot to bomb a U.S. airliner with an updated version of the failed underwear bomb of Christmas Day 2009. Not that anyone doubted it, but clearly al-Qaeda still has the U.S. in its sights.
However, there might be other less visible plots, plots that don’t involve explosives. At least not of a chemical variety.
On May 4, the Irish Times reported that newly declassified documents found in the Pakistan hideout of Osama bin Laden after his May 2011 death indicate that he was advised to use anger against the Catholic Church to convert Irish Catholics.
The Combating Terrorism Centre, a private research base at West Point, posted the documents on its website early in May. Included is a January 2011 letter from a U.S. al-Qaeda spokesman that described Irish Catholics as “fertile ground” for conversion, “particularly after the rage expanding against the mother church (Vatican) as a result of its scandals and policies refused by many of its public,” reported London’s Catholic Herald.
Yes. There is anger and confusion in the church — about clergy abuse, but also about the role of women and women religious, voter responsibilities, politics and who can receive Communion, and even about the closing of parishes and schools.
And some angry people have left, although, in 2011, 25 percent of U.S. adults still identified themselves as Catholics, roughly the same percentage as in 2000.
In Ireland, adult Catholics are dropping in numbers, but only from 86.8 percent in 2006 to 84 percent at the 2011 census figures just released.)
Still, are we, or Irish Catholics, angry enough to turn to away from Christ?
The Irish Times, using the 2011 census reports that, “Far and away the most significant non-Christian religion in Ireland today is Islam” … an increase of 51.2 percent from the 2006 figures. There was also a 76 percent increase in Irish Hindus and 33 percent in Buddhists in Ireland.
However, the Times added, the increases were “even more staggering” in the number of Orthodox Christians — up 117 percent — and evangelical Christians — up 73 percent.
Now, no one should think becoming a Muslim has anything to do with being part of al-Qaeda. Terrorists come in all — and no — religious flavors. Convicted Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh received the Catholic sacrament of anointing before his June 11, 2001 execution.
But the message to take from this latest al-Qaeda news is not of anger, but of a need to show to the world that the Holy Spirit given to us at Pentecost is a spirit of unity.
As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “I … urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).
When the world sees us truly living in this spirit, no one will ever think they can turn us from Christ, or against each other.