No one ever apologises for mistakes which are typical of people who are undocumented, uneducated and ignorant in religious culture. An article by former Vice-President of Catalonia, Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira.
The cultural level of a society and its individual members does not depend on the knowledge they have of their own identity (national, cultural, linguistic, political, religious) and the relations they establish with it, but precisely on what they know about others and the interactions they can have with them.
Knowing much of what you consider your own, and therefore “normal”, does not make you wiser if, at the same time, you know practically nothing of what distinguishes other members of the same society for whom the notion of “normality” is totally different.
It is a flagrant evidence of ignorance, among other adjectives and none of them positive, to treat others based on mental schemes, a lexicon and a vision of their world that are not theirs, but ours, since we are the ones who speak from our singular situation.
No one would dare to present Pope Francis as the great Catholic rabbi of Rome, Spanish Cardinal J.J. Omella as the great Catholic mufti of Barcelona, the archbishop of Valencia as a patriarch, the bishop of Solsona (a city in Catalonia) as archimandrite, or to refer to the high mass on Sundays as the great Catholic service of worship and praise.
If someone were to do so, he would instantly appear as an undocumented person, lacking an elementary level of culture that would make him unable, not only to go out into the world with the necessary basic knowledge, but also to live in a civilly mature society that does not ignore the diversity of beliefs, ideologies and options of thought existing in a country such as Spain.
That is exactly what is happening in the Protestant world in Spain every day that the sun rises. The ignorance, the lack of culture, the lack of knowledge that so many media and so many professionals regularly display in relation to what is already the second religious option in Catalonia and the Valencian Community, and the third in the Balearic Islands, both in terms of the number of believers and the number of places of worship, whether temples or smaller chapels, is taking on colossal proportions.
A newspaper reports, without blushing, in a caption with a picture of a Presbyterian pastor: “This is the Protestant priest who celebrates the Protestant mass on Sundays”. A little of general knowledge would be enough to avoid ridicule, and you don't have to be an Einstein of the Protestant Reformation to know that Protestant communities, congregations or churches are headed by pastors, who, by the way, do not celebrate mass, but preside at services and preach. To be fair, it has to be said that they have been right about the day of the week. To each his own, even if it is the ones who always make the mistake. However, Protestants hold services on Sundays, not masses.
Another newspaper, one of the largest in the country, reports that in four of Barcelona's nine districts there are already more “evangelist churches” than Catholic ones. It seems that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John must be very busy and can't keep up with their schedules. These are the four evangelists and, at most, one could call that to those who preach the Gospel, a term generally used for those who are not pastors, but not to a community as a whole, let alone a building. I assume that they are actually referring to Protestant or, in any case, evangelical churches, but not evangelists. It is rather embarrassing to read news like this, especially in front of German, Swiss, British, American or Scandinavian friends.
In a place where, strangely enough, there are still people who speak Catalan, a public radio station reports on a massacre in a Baptist church in Texas by a madman armed with rifles and submachine guns. To expand on the information, they explain that there have been many victims because, as it was Sunday, obviously everyone was at mass.
If this is true and everyone was at mass, how is it possible that there were so many dead and wounded in a Protestant church where they do not celebrate mass and not in a Catholic church where they do celebrate it? Totally incomprehensible, even though it is well known that in the United States they do strange things...
I watch a thriller set in a Scandinavian country and a couple who have lost a relative say that the next day they will go to the church to discuss the funeral arrangements with the priest. You see them a day later in a church where there are no images, no holy water font at the entrance, no saints, no virgins on the walls, no confessionals. And it turns out that they are talking to a woman. Could it be that the priest is late for the appointment, has forgotten it, or do Catholics already admit women to the priesthood? Well, no. This is a Protestant church, where they don't have priests but pastors and, in this case, a woman pastor, a clue that is more than enough for them to understand that the church is not Roman Catholic.
But no one ever apologises for these mistakes, which are typical of people who are undocumented, uneducated and ignorant in matters of religious culture, nor does anyone rectify them for the future.
Perhaps, one day, without having to renounce their ideas, beliefs or convictions, we will speak with knowledge and respect for the ideas, beliefs and convictions of others. After all, we are all others for others. Us too.
Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira is a philologist and author of “Història del protestantisme als Països Catalans” (History of Protestantism in the Catalan Countries), professor of the history of Protestantism in the Master on Religious Diversity at the University of Girona, curator of the exhibition “500 anys de Reforma protestant” (500 years of Protestant Reformation), and translator into Catalan of Luther's 95 theses. He directed the Chair on Social Diversity at the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona).
Carod-Rovira was Vice-President of the government of Catalonia and member of the Catalan parliament.
This article was originally published in Catalan in the newspaper Naciò Digital.