Addressing misconceptions: The plight of elderly women and Catholic Church

In many regions of Ghana, and perhaps across Africa, elderly women often face the unjust label of witches from their own children, other family members, and even their communities. These women endure castigation and exclusion within their communities, subjected to derogatory and abusive language. To make matters worse, they are sometimes publicly ridiculed, and in certain instances, they are forced into exile, abandoned by their homes, families, and communities.

These marginalized elderly women, unjustly branded as witches within their communities, find themselves defenceless and abandoned. They experience a deep sense of betrayal and abandonment by the very children they raised, nurtured, and made sacrifices for. In some cases, this profound sense of betrayal leads to mental breakdowns and even suicidal thoughts.

Sadly, the Catholic Church currently finds itself in a similar position, being likened to a “witch” due to anti-Catholic sentiments expressed by other Christian denominations and even some disgruntled Catholics.

The Catholic Church, often referred to as the “Mother Church,” possesses inherently feminine qualities and boasts a rich history spanning centuries. Being the first Church established on the foundation of the Apostles, in accordance with our Lord’s declaration to St. Peter (as recorded in Matthew 16:18a), the Church’s longevity has led some non-Catholics to perceive her as outdated and thus falling into the category of a “witch.”

Many Christian denominations, and even some Catholics, castigate the Catholic Church, resorting to defamatory and derogatory remarks such as dismissing her as “not a Christian Church” or claiming that her leaders are associated with the beast mentioned in the Book of Revelation, marked by the number 666. Some even go as far as labelling the Catholic Church as “Anti-Christ” or a “satanic Church.”

The heartbreaking parallel between the plight of these elderly women and the Catholic Church is that the former are primarily traumatized not by outsiders who label them as witches, but rather by their own “children and grandchildren” to whom they have devoted their best efforts. In my opinion, a woman who gives birth to and raises her child to adulthood, only to be branded a witch, should instead be celebrated as a “good witch.”

In a similar vein, if the Catholic Church is deemed a “witch” by some, despite her foundation being established by the Apostle Peter (as the first Pope) and her enduring adherence to the Gospel values taught by Christ, then the Catholic Church can be considered a “good witch.”

For instance, the Catholic Church has unequivocally taken a firm stance on moral and social issues such as abortion, the use of contraceptives, homosexuality, in-vitro-maturation (IVM), and euthanasia (assisted suicide by lethal injection). Upholding the belief in the sacredness of human life and the inherent dignity of every individual, the Church faces relentless attacks as a supposed “witch.” If this perspective held by certain Christian denominations and individuals is not rooted in ignorance, then it is undoubtedly a belligerent absurdity to consider the Church, founded directly by Christ through His apostles, as a “satanic Church.”

Regrettably, on social media platforms, when Catholic-related topics arise, one is astounded by the comments made by “Fellow Christian denominations” and even some Catholics, condemning Catholicism as lacking a scriptural basis.

Having personally studied Scripture diligently, I can unequivocally affirm that a significant portion of Catholic teachings, catechesis, and worship practices (the Liturgy) are firmly grounded in biblical principles.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that even the Gospel of John acknowledges that not everything has been written down, and if all were recorded, the Bible itself could not contain it all. The Church also draws upon other sources, such as the magisterium and traditions, to support her teachings.

In addition, Jesus Himself proclaimed in the Gospel of John that He would send the Advocate to continue teaching and helping His disciples understand all that He had taught them.

One of the reasons why Christianity is not making a substantial impact on society, particularly in Africa, is due to the unhealthy competition among believers. This competition breeds division, with notions such as “my church is superior to yours” or “my pastor possesses greater power than yours,” leading Christians to castigate one another. As a result, the real enemy—the devil and the evil around us—gains strength, and evil proliferates. This is precisely what the devil desires and rejoices in when Christians behave in such a manner.

Truth be told, just because I may not comprehend someone else’s approach or way of doing things does not automatically make that person wrong or satanic. The unfortunate aspect is that many people who speak ill of the Catholic Church have never even stepped foot inside a Catholic Church. Most of what they think they “know” about the Church is based on hearsay.

Take, for example, the frequently asked question by some non-Catholics and even some Catholics: “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” This question assumes that Catholics actually worship Mary.

Similarly, one could ask if praying the Rosary is found in the Bible. Interestingly, equivalent questions could be asked about other modern tools and aids we use, such as the internet, mobile phones, and laptops, which assist us in propagating the Word of God. For the record, the Catholic Church is willing to teach and share relevant instruction with anyone genuinely seeking to understand her doctrines and practices.

The unhealthy competition among Christian denominations in Ghana, and indeed Africa, has given rise to numerous fraudulent churches, pastors, priests, bishops, and prophets who exploit people, particularly during challenging times, all in the name of Christ.

Sadly, this situation has also placed genuine men of God in a predicament, leading some to imitate the practices of these self-proclaimed pastors and false prophets. Their fake preaching and false prophecies have become the benchmark for what is considered “preaching the gospel” today.

Various sectors of the country’s population have called upon the government, through the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, to collaborate with the Christian Council and the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference in order to implement measures to root out these religious exploiters, who are undoubtedly criminals in disguise.

Looking ahead, respect and tolerance are crucial factors that can strengthen Christian unity. The Lord Jesus Himself, in John 17:21, prayed for unity among His disciples, saying, “Father, may they be one as you are in me and I am in you.” This desire for unity is not achieved through divine magic; rather, it requires sincere efforts on our part, fueled by faith and goodwill, to cooperate with God’s grace in order to achieve that oneness. While we may not worship or profess the same way, there is much that can bind us together in Christ. Just because I am not a Catholic and do not worship as Catholics do does not make the Catholic Church a “satanic Church.”

Furthermore, it is worth noting that, despite the hardships they face, these elderly women branded as witches still take pride in being mothers and remain proud of their children and grandchildren.

Likewise, the Mother Church, the Catholic Church, will forever be proud of her role as a mother and will continue to teach her children the ways of Christ for the benefit of future generations.

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