and he graciously gave me permission to re-post it here:
I don’t use Facebook Messenger, but somehow today I ended up on a page that listed nearly a hundred old messages to me–messages that I hadn’t been aware of, most of them several years old.
One of the newer ones, from January 2016, was from the son of a once-fairly-prominent professional anti-Catholic whom I knew years ago. I even appeared in a debate with the man. The son wanted me to know that he wasn’t like his father, whose anti-Catholicism he deplored.
This is what the son wrote to me. I’ve changed or omitted material that might identify him or his father:
“I have been reading your comments on my late father–the ‘Rev.’ X, founder of [name of anti-Catholic ministry]. I am his first born, went to [a Protestant college] and was groomed to follow on with his ‘mission.’ I remember from the very beginning with the Conversion Center and Alex Dunlap in NYC who was my dad’s mentor as he went down his road to bigotry. I was brought up to help him in open air meetings [. . .] and was brainwashed as a child.
“Fortunately God has granted me intelligence, and as I studied the Scriptures I came to realize what a bigot my father was. Of course one of his best mates in the late 60s was [internationally-known anti-Catholic]–say no more.
“As I rejected his beliefs, he and I became estranged as he was a religious control freak. I had and have many close Catholic friends and refused to believe that they were going to hell. My last conversation with him was in 1997–the week Mother Teresa and Princess Di died. He came to [city] where I lived at the time and proceeded to begin our conversation with his belief that they were both in hell. That was the last straw for me and we never reconciled.
“For the record it has never shaken my belief in God. I couldn’t go near a church for decades but am now a member of [denomination]. Just wanted you to know that his bigotry died with him and unlike Falwell et al. I did not become the ‘Rev. X, Jr.’ God bless you.”I sent this man a long thank-you message and apologized for not having seen his message until today. I hope that he didn’t think I was rude for not answering promptly.
I hardly can imagine what it must have been like to have such a father, whom I knew only slightly and in what one might call a professional capacity. I didn’t know the father as a family member or even a friend would know him. He died some years ago.
I often have wondered how men such as he thought in their last days about their years of laboring against the Catholic Church, which they so regularly misconstrued and misrepresented. Was there remorse, regret, rethinking? Was there repentance?
Such men led many astray or, at best, confirmed others in their pre-existing prejudices. Did those men ever come to wonder whether they had made a colossal blunder, as though looking through a telescope from the wrong end, so that everything looked distorted? There’s no way to know, of course, absent being present at their deathbeds–and maybe not even then.
I pity the son who wrote to me: so much pain for him, so much disappointment. I hope time grants him healing. It already seems to have granted him generosity.
Be kind to everybody you meet, for we are all fighting a great battle.