St. Stephen was stoned to death, pressed beneath a pile of large rocks as a punishment for his belief in Christ. St. Sebastian was later tied to a post and pierced through with arrows. St. James, beheaded; St. Peter, crucified upside down. St. Lucy had her eyes torn out. In some pictures, she carries her eyes on a plate before her face, as a symbol of her faith.
I mention these items of Christian scripture and Catholic tradition to call attention to the bloody martyrdoms of the early church. Suffering the disrespect and violent persecutions of the Romans was considered a virtue, a sign that you were earnest in your faith.
How the Catholic Church has gone from celebrating the bloody eyeballs of St. Lucy to enduring the whining of Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh ("Diocese Protests 'Disrespect' at Carnegie Mellon University Parade," May 1) is a mystery that I, as a practicing Catholic, cannot make sense of.
I think I speak for many Catholics when I demand that Bishop Zubik stop embarrassing the church. Thin-skinned reactions to student art projects have no place in the church, historically or now. We are the church of martyrdom, of turn the other cheek, of "blessed are you when people insult you" (Matthew 5:11), not the church of Jesse Helms reloaded or political correctness gone feral.
Please, Bishop Zubik, the exodus of the young from the church is enough of a problem without you pushing them out the door with a Pollyannish screed against youthful over-exuberance.
New York, N.Y.
The writer is a professor of religion at Pace University.