Thursday, 3 October 2013
The Bible speaks often of the disease of leprosy, whether is be that of Miriam being struck with the disease in Numbers 12 or Our Saviour curing those with leprosy in Matthew 8 (and parallels).
The Old Testament was rightly concerned with the disease as it could bring a whole tribe to nothing. The only way of dealing with it, as there was no cure, was isolation. The individual had to be excluded from the community. This community had given them protection and identity. So having leprosy really was being cast out: cast out from your family and friends, your people and nation. And no one would welcome you.
And what is more, your loved ones did not do it because of any fault of yours. It was simply the result of a disease... no one's fault.
When Our Lord cured the lepers, He was not simply performing a healing miracle, like curing the paralytic. Of course there was physical healing but it was so much more than that. It was restoration, a bringing back to life again. It was a minor resurrection.
We have saints, such as St Damien de Veuster of Molokei (here), who ministered among them and eventually caught the disease, or Bp Fulton Sheen who speaks of his encounter with lepers here.
We understand the disease diferently now (called Hansen's disease) and it is largely curable.
With this history I do not know who should be more offended by the Pope's remarks ("the Court is the Leprosy of the Papacy"), court officials who have served successive Popes for generations, or lepers.