Pope Francis suggested it would be better to be an atheist than to lead a double life, exploit people or manage a greedy business. “So many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others,” Francis said during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, CNN reported, quoting Vatican Radio. “How many times have we heard — all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere — ‘But to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that: scandal.” “But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another.” The Vatican later issued a note clarifying that the pontiff was simply saying that God’s grace is free to all, even atheists, CNN reported. Francis’ sermon was an extension of Thursday’s Mass readings, which include a passage from the Gospel of Mark. In it, Jesus says it is better to be drowned than to cause others to sin. Drawing on that passage, Francis gave a blunt example. He said he imagined a wealthy Christian knocking at the gates of heaven and saying, “Here I am, Lord! … I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this … Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?” To which Jesus may reply, according to Francis: “Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.’ That will be Jesus’ response to these scandalous people who live a double life.” It is not the first time Francis has referenced atheists. In 2013, he said that heaven is open, potentially, to all people. “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” he said. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone
A lesson in bad manners from the University of Hong Kong
An undignified public feud between two top officials is a poor reflection on our top seat of learning, but sadly typical of our divided society
The internet and politics bring out the worst in people. Consider the latest public spat at the University of Hong Kong between council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and William Cheung Sing-wai, head of the Academic Staff Association.
A fine example these two academic leaders have offered their students in manners and etiquette! Or is it that they are taking after their own rebellious and insolent pupils? Either way, it does not reflect well on Hong Kong’s oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning.
In an open email exchange, Cheung accused Li of being “a liar” for failing to deliver a review of governance standards at the university, and said he should quit as a favour to everyone. Despite Cheung’s rudeness, Li might have taken the initiative to clarify whether or not he planned to deliver the review. Instead, he fired back a sarcastic reply in which he implied Cheung had “no intelligence or rationality”.
“After all, stupidity has no cure,” he wrote.
Cheung wrote back, suggesting Li himself suffered from the incurable condition and would make sure everyone knew about it.
Not long ago, such expressions of contempt among scholarly gentlemen would have been communicated behind closed doors. What is disturbing is the casual manner in which two academic leaders openly exchanged mutual disdain for all their staff and students to see. That’s something you usually associate with trolls in internet forums. But then, that is characteristic of political discourse in Hong Kong these days, and radical HKU students have been at the forefront of localist politics.
It’s now perfectly okay to express raw feelings and hate, unmediated by rational considerations, in the legislature, in public forums and on television.
That is perhaps to be expected given the bitterly divided state of our society. Our political conflicts have become so nasty and intractable that any once-held standards of social behaviour and tolerable opinion have been thrown out of the window. Civility is only possible when we all implicitly acknowledge social and political norms.
Nowadays, those very norms are being contested.
Still we expect our political and academic leaders to behave themselves – or at least show more wit when they insult each other.