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Letter from a Catholic Priest to the New York Times

on Tuesday, 01 January 2019. Posted in Testimonies

Father Martin Lasarte, with the order of the Salesian of Don Bosco, left his native Uruguay at a young age to go on missions to Angola, in Africa, where he spent 25 years. In April, 2010, he wrote the following letter to The New York Times, which refused to publish it. Here are excerpts from his letter, which has been reproduced on several websites:

Dear brother journalist:

I am a simple Catholic priest. I am happy and proud of my vocation. I have been living in Angola for 20 years as a missionary. In a number of publications, and especially in your newspaper, I have read stories about paedophile priests. The stories are always presented in a morbid way with details of the past errors in the lives of these men. (...)

I feel enormous sadness about the immense harm that some men, who should have been symbols of the love of God, were instead swords in the lives of innocent children. There are no words to justify such acts. There is no doubt that the Church must be on the side of the weak and most vulnerable. For that reason all the measures that can be taken to prevent these acts, and protect the dignity of children, should be an absolute priority.

But, isn’t it strange that there is so little news and such a lack of interest in the thousands of priests who are sacrificing their lives daily and dedicating themselves, body and soul, to millions of children, adolescents and to the most disadvantaged in all four corners of the world? I am sure the following would be of no interest to your newspaper:

In 2002, I had to transport many undernourished children from Cangumbe to Lwena, Angola by road because neither the government was available nor were the NGOs authorized. I had to bury dozens of small bodies from among those displaced by war. We have saved the lives of thousands of people in Mexico through the only medical post in 90,000 square kilometers. As well we distributed food and seeds. We have given the opportunity of an education and schools in these 10 years to more than 110,000 children…

It is not news that more than 60,000 of the 400,000 priests and religious have left their homelands and families to serve their brothers in a leper colony, in hospitals, refugee camps, orphanages for children accused of sorcery or whose parents had died from AIDS. These men have served in schools for the poorest, in vocational training centers, in centers for people with HIV and above all, in parishes and missions, where they motivate people to live and love. (...)

It is not news to follow a normal priest doing his daily work, experiencing his troubles and his joys, quietly devoting his life for the community he serves... A great deal more attention is paid to a priest who commits an error than to the thousands who give their lives for the sufferings of the poor and needy.

In priests, as in every human being, there is misery, poverty and fragility. However, there is beauty and grandeur too, as also exists in every creature. When you insist on advancing such a painful theme, in an obsessive and persecuting manner, while ignoring the bigger picture of their work, you create offensive caricatures of Catholic priests. This hurts me.

I only ask, dear journalist, that you look for the Truth, the Good and the Beauty. It would greatly elevate your profession. In Christ,

Fr. Martin Lasarte, SDB


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