Concerning Graciousness in Speech and Love for One Another – Yes, even on blogs!

In the last few days I have never had to refuse to post so many comments.

It started last Thursday evening when I posted a reply to the President’s announcement that he now favored gay “marriage.” I opined that I thought his understanding of Jesus and his reading of the Christian moral vision was flawed because it was partial. That it did not respect the often paradoxical nature of Jesus who was able to hold together what the world often cannot reconcile, e.g. love for sinner and yet a highly demanding moral vision without compromise.

Generally the comments were good and did not stray too far into politics, which was not the point.

But then, it would seem, a homosexual site must have linked to the site and there poured in highly negative commentary, much of it respectful, but much more of it so vile I will not describe it, other than to say if it was not riddled with profanity, it was loaded with deeply offensive personal attacks upon the members of the Church, other commenters, et al., and highly unfair, inaccurate and  hateful descriptions of the Church.

To some extent I have come to expect this when posting on the issue of homosexuality. While I remain committed to insisting that the vast majority of the homosexual community is respectful and kind, even if they disagree with the Church, there is a very vocal, and extremely hostile fringe, that does not brook any departure from total acceptance of the homosexual agenda.

That was round one.

Round two was today, when I had to delete and many comments as I accepted. The venom this time came from the right.

The Archdiocese it seems, had not gone far enough, according to many, in denouncing Georgetown University. Many opined that more was required. (And in fact there may be more to come). And while this is a fair enough position to hold, the fact that the strategy was not 100% what some thought should be done, caused some very acidic and bitter comments to come through. Many of these comments contained name-calling and attacks on the integrity and commitment both of Cardinal Wuerl and the Bishops in general. I could not post them. It is not the purpose of this blog to bash the bishops and denounce their leadership.

This is a blog of the Archdiocese of Washington and I am a priest of Jesus Christ and this local Church. It is my mission and purpose to build unity among the faithful and to bind them more closely to Jesus and to the Bishops, who, by His grace, are our shepherds. I hope you can understand that I could never post some of things I read today.

To be sure, we do not shy away from controversial topics here and I DO see a place for conversation that is, at times, frank and edgy. Debate is a fact in the Church and there is a forum for that here. The Archdiocese and the Cardinal permit this, it is after all their blog, not mine. But there have to be limits, and charity is an absolute limit. So is respect for the office of Bishop.

Most of the denunciation of bishops that takes place in this regard is regarding what is know as “prudential judgments,” they do not even involve doctrinal deviations. A prudential judgement is a judgement of the best way to attain a certain goal, say unity, or orthodoxy. Some strategies are long term in nature, others more focus on a swift and sometimes sweeping strike. In prudential judgments, reasonable people will differ on the best means to the end.

It is clear that some commentors on this blog want swift and sweeping action in many, many areas of Church life. But to be honest, that is not the usual approach of the Church, which often thinks in terms of centuries more than days and weeks. The nature of the Church, almost from the beginning is to thoughtfully consider, and move very slowly and cautiously.

Even given this historical perspective, many will still want swift and sweeping action. But the bottom line is, these are prudential judgments and there actually ARE different ways of proceeding. Strategy is as much art, as science.

And, speaking of strategy,  how about a little strategy when it comes to how we speak? I have considered myself,  and been considered a theological conservative by most of my peers. And while I have ministered in diverse settings (from the Traditional Latin Mass all the way to vibrant African American Liturgies), my basic core is what I like to term pastoral orthodoxy. I don’t cut corners and surely won’t water down the faith to be popular.

That said, I shudder of late at the terrible strategy of many of my conservative brethren in the Church who seem to think that bitter criticism and harsh invective is a way to win friends and influence people. It is not. Some people are the worst of ambassadors for conservative or traditional Catholic points of view. I cringe as I see what they write and say. Too often I just have to shake my head and press delete, even if I sympathize with their view. “Gosh,” I think, “Why did they have to say it that way? Why do they have to affirm one thing, by attacking other legitimate options?”

Regarding yesterday’s post I was so discouraged. The editorial in the Catholic Standard was a step in the right direction for those who think the Georgetown situation is egregious. I am in that category. But how sad it was to read, not encouragement, but ridicule, laughter and dismissive comments in large numbers from fellow conservatives, that the Archdiocese did not go far enough according to them.  But it WAS a step in the right direction from that point of view. And how valuable it would have been had conservatives praised the editorial and given encouragement for further action, saying to the hierarchy, in effect, “We’ve got your back if and when you need to move further forward in this. And when others denounce you for it, we will be there with you every step of the way.”

Frankly, fellow conservatives, we have to learn to be something other than a huge pain in the neck and the “complainers in chief” about every single thing. We should do more than make people cringe when they hear we are “on the other line.” Where’s the support, where’s the encouragement that should come when steps, even baby steps, are made in the hopeful directions?

Come on now, work with me on this! Lets combine more praise with necessary critique. Let’s soft-peddle the harshness and season our speech with salt. Let’s show a little more joy and the confidence of those who worship a risen and victorious Lord. And when good steps are made in directions we deem appropriate, let’s turn up the praise and speak with gratitude. Come on Church, work with me on this. Our Bishops need our prayers, encouragement and support. And even when we feel the need to tell them our concerns, lets find a way to curb our temper and speak graciously.

To be fair, some the authors of the comments I had to delete, I contacted by e-mail and explained my reason and they graciously accepted my critique. Others did not. Some resubmitted, others did not. I also am not without sympathy when it comes to the struggle of patiently waiting in a Church that moves slowly and cautiously.

Also to be fair, most readers and those who comment here don’t need to hear me on this. I beg your pardon and patience, if that is the case.

But the past few days have been awful. I expect hate and ridicule from the radical fringe outside the Church. But it really hurts when it comes from within.

Lets end with scripture:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:6)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph 4:29)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)

I don’t know, you decide who is who in this video and what it might ultimately mean:

45 Replies to “Concerning Graciousness in Speech and Love for One Another – Yes, even on blogs!”

  1. Well put Monsignor. We all need to guard our speech and keep charity, obedience and loyalty in mind.

    1. Love the video; the birds sinned and found they were naked. Very familiar lesson. 🙂

      1. I guess my brokenness is showing 😉 However the take home message for me was not the Adam and Eve story. Instead it was the image of the Cardinal as a big, goofy, friendly and kindly bird being pecked to death by us midgets, while trying to keep us from destroying ourselves. (Imagine the large bird in red feathers, and now superimpose the Cardinal’s face) .

        Photoshop, anyone?

  2. When I need peace and calm amid the political and moral tumult we face as Catholics and Americans, I often turn to St. Francis de Sales. There are a few relevant posts at especially “Patience Amidst Trials” and “Inner Peace.” God bless. Peace.

  3. Thank you for the video. And thank you also for your hard work on this blog. I honestly don’t know how you have time to come up with daily homilies for us, while being a parish priest. And I will remember what you have said, and try to post with more charity.

  4. “It’s MY world and you’re just in it !!”

    Just kidding, but when people adopt that attitude, at what point are they creating their world, their church, their God? At what point are they breaking the first commandment and committing mortal sin?

  5. “Regarding yesterday’s post I was so discouraged.”

    Now I feel bad. 🙁 I did not post on yesterday’s article, however I have posted some harsh comments on an earlier one regarding some actions of our bishops. Which, whether or not they might have been true, are unfair, because a bishop can’t even “talk back” on a blog, the way layfolk can. They must spend their entire lives biting their tongues. Mea culpa.

    Still, now that you have taught me how to pray a rosary properly, how about I go and pray the meditations for the priesthood that we spoke about? Let me see. Jesus commisions the 12 and sends them out to spread the Gospel, Peter “the Rock’s” confession, Jesus at the Last Supper, calling his disciples “friends,” Jesus after the Resurrection saying “receive the Holy Spirit,” The disciples receiving the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost.

    See? You are making a difference 🙂 I will go do that now. God knows that our bishops need all the help they can get.

    1. F.Y.I. for all people who pray the rosary: be sure to as for an indulgence, either for one-self or for a soul in Purgatory. Just praying the rosary can gain a partial indulgence, but it must be asked for. (There are other requirements for gaining an indulgence that those interested can look into themselves.)

  6. “While I remain committed to insisting that the vast majority of the homosexual community is respectful and kind, even if they disagree with the Church, there is a very vocal, and extremely hostile fringe, that does not brook any departure from total acceptance of the homosexual agenda.” “But how sad it was to read, not encouragement, but ridicule, laughter and dismissive comments in large numbers from fellow conservatives,”
    Derision of a person or, of what the person says, doesn’t contribute any real proof against the person or what they said. It takes facts, figures, data etc. If a person launches an attack that is purely emotional and without the facts, figures, data, etc; are they exposing a belief that they are in the wrong but mean to impose this wrongness anyhow?
    Having said that though, it is a sad truth that such attacks work.
    On the birds now, they didn’t know that they were right and wrong until they found that they were naked. Maybe it’s evil people who are determined to shout down, or silence by vituperative intimadation, rather than be exposed for what they do (naked?)

  7. I am so sorry that you have had to read hateful comments. I remember a beautiful homily by one of our seminarians (now a priest) who said we need to be like geese and honk, and let our bishops and priests know we’re with them. Every time I see geese, I think of us as a flock … honking.

    I love the Ephesians verse. We need it as a constant reminder at home, what with the squabbling and bickering that goes on amongst the children.

    God bless you, and bring you peace.

  8. God bless you, Monseigneur; you have the Holy Spirit’s gift of Wisdom.

    “And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God.” – 1 James 1:19-20

    “But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies.” – Matthew 15:18-19

    God bless and protect Holy Mother Church. And never let go of your flock, less we all end up featherless.

  9. So sad – true – that there is so much hostility in the posting and blogging over the entire internet. I think that so many are angry and frustrated and the internet has become a place to dump all that resentment about any subject that comes to mind. Converting from a Fundamentalist type Protestant faith, I tend to cringe when I hear my fellow conservatives go on the attack over theological matters. Thinking of the definition – an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of principles – I have come to realize that you can be a Fundamentalist in Catholicism as well. Unfortunately, this position is dangerous if not tempered with Love and Respect for others. My favorite JP2 encyclical is Veritatis Splendor as it reminds me that I can have the confidence to speak in my faith because there is truth and because of this truth an attack position is not necessary. Thanks be to God for his gentle kindness.

  10. So sorry to hear of these discouraging comments, Msgr.

    It seems most of us in the “excitement” of the gay marriage debate (myself included until this morning) have forgotten we’re put on this Earth to love.

    The hardest part is to sort out how to best love others, especially when you don’t agree with others’ actions. I’ll keep you and your ministry in my prayers today.

  11. Echoing JuneT71 “Converting from a Fundamentalist type Protestant faith, I tend to cringe when I hear my fellow conservatives go on the attack over theological matters. Thinking of the definition – an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of principles – I have come to realize that you can be a Fundamentalist in Catholicism as well.”

  12. Thank you very much for all the posts and not being afraid to address the controversial topics. There are many out here that read your blogs and appreciate all your posts. Many of them show true wisdom in an insane world or are good at explaining the why things are the way they are or why the Church does it the way it does. Keep up the good work. I loved listening to you at St. Mary of the Mills and I still love reading your posts.

    Pax et bonum,

  13. This doesn’t surprise me, I’ve found “conservative” Catholics to be little better than the “liberal” Catholics they so often ridicule. Nancy Pelosi should be excommunicated immediately for not listening to the Bishops, but let the Bishops speak out against unjust war or the death penalty and “conservative” Catholics disregard their comments as quickly as Pelosi does on Same Sex Marriage or contraception/ abortion. The Church and Her Bishops cannot be squeezed into either of the two religions of modern America – conservatism and liberalism – and they are attacked by both sides. I’ve become wary of anyone adding an adjective before Catholic to describe themselves and their views. We all need a conversion, a turning toward, the Lord and His Bishops.

  14. The aforementioned John DeGioia, president of Georgetown, has weighed in. And again, it is steeped in confusion. First, he confuses the extent of how Kathleen Sebelius is wholly inappropriate to be providing guidance to Catholic university students by saying that the invitation was issued in January before the contraceptive mandate was made official. The problem with that is that the mandate was publicly proposed last year before the invitation was made — thus, Georgetown already knew of her anti-Catholic actions when the invitation was made. Moreover, besides the despotic mandate, there are many prior objections to Ms. Sebelius, objections enough that her own bishop, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, has asked her to not present herself for Holy Communion (a request that Cardinal Wuerl has maintained, according to newsreports).
    Then, after speaking glowingly of Sebelius, DeGioia says, “The Secretary’s presence on our campus should not be viewed as an endorsement of her views. As a Catholic and Jesuit University, Georgetown disassociates itself from any positions that are in conflict with traditional church teachings.”

    “any positions that are in conflict with traditional church teachings” — just exactly what do you mean, Mr. DeGioia, with such a wholly ambiguous statement here?

    Let me be clear — merely disavowing “any position, etc.” in this manner is not good enough. It hides behind ambiguity and is thus yet another exercise in relativism, as we see with his next paragraph, “We are a university, committed to the free exchange of ideas. We are a community that draws inspiration from a religious tradition that provides us with an intellectual, moral, and spiritual foundation. By engaging these values we become the University we are meant to be.”

    That is not good enough. So, now, the issue has been joined. DeGioia has explicitly put his name to a public document in defense and advocacy of Georgetown’s relativism and moral/doctrinal ambiguities. And, if the newspaper editorial was in fact a semi-official from the leadership of the Archdiocese itself, his statement is an utter rejection and slap in the face to them. The door is open and the invitation made for an explicit and direct and official doctrinal response by the shepherds of the Archdiocese who have the right and duty to protect those in the Georgetown community from such confusion regarding the faith. They should take this teaching opportunity now as an act of truth and charity.

  15. My post was rejected, and I received an email from Msgr. Pope. While I did not think my post was hateful (and I certainly didn’t use any profanity), it was a good teaching moment for me. I failed to give any credit at all to the diocesan leadership, when in fact fair credit was due. I was reminded that we know with absolute certainty how this story will ultimately end: Jesus Christ wins! We are assured of it. So, in the meantime, we all need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember to approach our brothers (and especially our Church leadership) with charity, humility, and joy. At the same time, however, the faithful laity needs to constantly let our leadership know that we expect, and in fact demand, that they will defend God’s Church and that we are ready to help them do it.

  16. I don’t know if this is possible or desirable, but making people sign in with their Facebook accounts – thereby eliminating anonymity – might cut down on the nastiest of the comments. People can be a lot meaner when they can hide. Just an idea from this semi-anonymous poster.

  17. By the way, the editorial and post got a “dishonorable” mention over at the now undeniable anti-Catholic website dotCommonweal with this comment by one Alan Mitchell, who apparently is on the faculty of the Georgetown Department of Sacred Scripture — “The hysterics over this matter are unfortunate. The Archdiocesan newspaper published a very rude and insulting anonymous editorial yesterday bringing the level of civility to a low point. On the Archdiocesan web page a Monsignor, ironically named Pope, added oil to the fire with his inane commentary on the editorial. It is amazing how quickly people pile on.”

    1. There are Catholics who judge a statement first by its form, and only then by its content; they are far more severe against what they see as affronts to civility than against affronts to the truth. They will, for example, read a claim that “the vision guiding university choices does not clearly reflect the light of the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching,” and respond with, not, “That’s false!”, but, “That’s rude!” Such Catholics are well-represented among the writers and commenters at dotCommonweal’s blog.

  18. God bless you Monsignor–people seem to forget about verbal abuse. Children can really be harmed by it, but so can adults. We can make comments without attacking. Leave the rudeness and cruel words out. It does seem some groups are unable to abandon their hatred and rage… and they should not be posting. They also should have respect for you as one of our shepherds–taking the place of Christ..

  19. Dear Monsignor,

    I share your many of your concerns. While, on the one hand, some bishops disappoint me through lack of words and actions aimed at mitigating the scandal caused by wayward Catholics with huge platforms (not to mention Catholic institutions giving them one); on the other hand, our criticism should never wander into sinfulness (be it grave or venial) and manifest imperfections. The old saying, that two wrongs don’t make a right, applies.

    With some faithful, orthodox Catholics, the pain is so great over the damage done for 50 years, that they just lash out without considering the possibility that their response my cross a line which violates other, more subtle rules of our faith.

    It’s ok to communicate disappointment to a bishop. It’s ok to talk about disappointment over a bishop’s words, actions, or lack thereof. What is not ok is hatred of a bishop, and moreso, inciting hatred of a bishop, and inciting disobedience to prudential decisions where he has latitude. When a bishop steps out of bounds, the faithful always have recourse to the Nuncio or the appropriate congregation. Sadly, it is easier to be derisive and angry about something on the internet, which is the new, and broader, “public square”.

    Once again, I’m not saying that it is wrong to talk about decisions made by bishops with which we disagree on the internet; nor is it wrong to discuss prudential judgments they make with which we disagree, or about their silence on a matter we believe they should speak on. But, if such speech contains components of rash judgment, which is sinful itself; rash judgment can quickly turn into calumny (CCC 2477-78) all of which are sinful.

    People have a right to take their concerns to the Sacred Pastors, and to the Holy See. But if you send a scathing, derisive letter that comes across as someone foaming at the mouth, even the Vatican would likely file such a letter in the circular file. Everything we write on the web should be handled with the same kind of language you would use if you were writing to the Pope himself about a concern. That is a measure we ought to use, not that which reveals we are yielding to lower human nature to express ourselves.

  20. I’m looking for a good definition of the term “clericalism” and a few good examples of same.
    We here in Ireland have always deferred to our bishops and priests in all things, prudential, political, and polemical. We had always assumed problems were being deftly handled ‘behind the scenes’ by clerics who (we were assured) were providentially privy to the infinite nuances of diplomacy and tact.
    Anyone here who had the temerity to question a priest’s judgement, much less a bishop’s, was labelled an extreme right and reactionary. If so branded, social ostracism and silencing was imposed in a knee-jerk fashion by the ‘community’.
    You will note what a fine mess “clericalism” has wrought in the Irish Church.
    I suppose the American Church is above all that.
    God bless you Monsignor, and try not to interpret all contrary opinion as right wing or reactionary. Sometimes it is simply a contrary opinion rationally and passionately expressed.

  21. We would do well to remember the intercessory prayer to St. Isidore, Patron Saint of the Internet:

    Almighty and Eternal God,
    who created us in Thy image
    and bade us to seek after all that is
    good, true and beautiful,
    especially in the divine person
    of Thy Only-begotten Son,
    our Lord Jesus Christ,
    grant, we beseech Thee, that,
    through the intercession of Saint
    Isidore, Bishop and Doctor, during
    our journeys through the internet
    we will direct our hands and eyes
    only to that which is pleasing to Thee
    and treat with charity and patience all
    those souls whom we encouter.
    Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

    St. Isidore’s intercession has worked almost miraculously for me.

  22. As a political and social conservative, and a lifelong Catholic who loves our Mother Church, I am always dismayed to find myself linked to nasty bloggers and internet commenters. I notice here, for example, that those identified as part of the homosexual community are also described as being on the “fringe.” Why are the hostile and vile commenters from the “right wing community” not so described? Why do you, Msgr. Pope, merely describe them as “conservative”? Do you believe that they are truly representative of the mainstream of conservative thought? For they most decidedly do not represent me and it is hard enough work trying to keep up with all the misrepresentations of Catholic and conservative positions in mainstream information sources without having to do so on what should be friendly sites.

  23. Gosh, Monsignor, I’m sorry it’s been rough for you — and I’m appreciate your almost-daily willingness to teach/inform/encourage the worldwide Church …not just your own parish. Thank you for remaining obedient to your bishop/Cardinal. Obedience and respect are often missing when parishioners speak to their pastor/bishop/cardinal/pope. Thank you for the Scriptures you posted as a reminder! Many pastors are afraid of the backlash of pointing out errors or to make pastoral decisions. Their parishioners demand tht they be both moderate and — surprise! — pastoral– 24/7. This is not because they are afraid the donations will stop coming — as pastors, they must be more concerned about the souls of all — both accusers and accused. It is a constant tightrope to walk — and can burn out our pastors if they fail to spend ample time in on-your-knees-prayers.
    Yes, Georgetown’s ‘real Catholicism’ has eroded over the years and I appreciated this was clearly addressed as a ‘mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maximus culpa’ rather than point fingers.

    I found the Georgetown response by the Archdiocese to be incredibly pastoral. It reminded me of the mercy I received — as a former apostate — when I returned to the Church after 25 years. Thank God for that mercy — it gave me the courage to take the steps towards restoration and full communion (in all ways) with the Church.
    May the Church continue to extends such mercy…even to the ‘least’ Catholic.

    God bless you, Monsignor.

  24. I haven’t seen the comments since you didn’t publish them but I find it interesting that you wrote about this not with the comments from the homosexual crowd but only after supposedly right wingers within the Church expressed their opinion. Were the comments critical of the good Cardinal from the right wingers really worse than the first? Fraternal correction is an expression of love for others and many times a very important one. Cardinal Wuerl is also a church leader and just anger at his very soft approach with the non correction of liberals is not neecessarily ungracious. He is well known as a liberal himself(if you will print the examples I would be glad to provide them). How is it that Georgetown has become so secular if the Bishops have been doing their job. Things are the way they are for a reason. Looking to the leaders is neither unfair nor lacking in charity. The truth is that this country has gone exactly where the Bishops have led it and you shouldn’t get all flustered because some of us are being dragged along kicking and screaming.
    Your comment that”It is clear that some commentors on this blog want swift and sweeping action in many, many areas of Church life. But to be honest, that is not the usual approach of the Church” You are correct in terms of modern times but if you read what Christ and John the Baptist had to say I thnik you will find that immediate correction was not always out of fashion.

    1. I focused on the comments of conservatives, and faithful Catholics, because generally they’re those who read this blog. As I said again at the blog, I expect mean-spirited remarks from those outside the church and opposed to her, but to hear such remarks from those who are considered to be faithful Catholics, is very painful. Without getting specific, some of the comments about the bishops involved usage of terms such as coward, and references to bodily anatomy etc. These were in reference to the bishops and were written by those who profess to be believing Catholics. There are many disclaimers that I put in the text which I hope you’ll review, I am not singling out, but I do have special concern, that we Catholics remain unified and respectful of our bishops. fraternal correction, as you point out, is an important aspect of church life, but it is carried out very differently based on the nature of the relationship. For example, I never corrected for my father in the way I would correct one of my brothers. Your assessment of the bishops is your opinion, and that is all. They are not bad leaders, simply because you say so. It is a true fact that the whole culture is in major distress. As I point out, how best to deal with this is a matter involving many prudential judgments, over which reasonable people will differ. fraternal correction, more commonly refers to moral issues which there is greater clarity.

  25. Monsignor, thank you for your reminder here and in previous posts about the proper attitude toward our bishops even when we don’t agree with their “prudential judgments.” It has been hugely helpful for me in examining my attitude toward my own bishop and in being more conscious of whether or not expressing criticism of him and other bishops in conversations is really appropriate!

  26. “I also am not without sympathy when it comes to the struggle of patiently waiting in a Church that moves slowly and cautiously.” I have been guilty of impatience in this regard; nevertheless, I was GUILTY of impatience. All we Catholics must understand that, like Job, we were not around when God created the world, the Church, and its leaders. We all must remember our places in the hierarchy. If we have a point to make in an argument, then we must make it as pointedly AND as respectfully as possible, and not impugn the motives of others. Yes, we can cry out lamentations against the harm and violence done to innocents! But we must not allow ourselves or others to demean the humanity of those who champion injustice. Rather, a truthful exposition on the heartrending injustices being inflicted is sufficient defense. Those with human hearts will be touched by such a defense; those with hearts of stone will not be moved by ANY defense, and the damage to human relations caused by a coarse and insulting defense is completely ineffective AND defeats its own purpose.

  27. Point is fair enough, I suspect what has gotten many of us unhinged is the suspicion that not all the Bishops are really with “us” on the key issues. That is to say there is a nagging thought that deep down, in their heart of hearts they would just as soon the right to life movement say a quite rosary in the corner some and go away. Is that fair? Perhaps not….. But there does not seem to be a sense of urgency about the state of the culture war.. It is true on some level that to win over those who are opposed to you there is a limit to always going nuclear. Still there is a flip side that I do not think you recognize.

    We have some conservative lay Catholics seeing the culture deteriorating rapidly, And we are now playing mostly defense . We are no longer trying to restore the right to life of the unborn,rather the chief fronts on the culture war are questions like whether we can now prevent ourselves from being compelled to pay for abortion producing drugs. Whoever imagined that it would be “bigoted” to think it odd for men to marry men? IF you are mostly playing defense you are losing. We are playing only defense! More and more the places we would like to send our children for a Catholic education are more and more secularized, what Catholic universities or even high Schools are catholic? It does not feel like the new springtime of the Church out here Monsignor! There is great anxiety and anxiety will produce anger. It may not be totally charitable, but frankly I was always trained not to take it personally when a patient attacked me. There anger stems from stress that we should expect, this is true. If I am expected by the secularists in the medical profession to understand where the anger is coming from, should not the same extend to the Bishops? Of course we all should be more saintly but mea culpa some of us are stressed to the breaking point!

    That’s whats going on out here, I am not sure that the Bishops “get it” We do not have “centuries! We have kids to raise, and must pass on the faith best we can when Catholic institutions are often a hindrance. We need to try to avoid being sucked into cooperation with evil and losing our own souls while we simultaneously keep our jobs and provide for our families. All of this when the actions of some clergy and some Bishops seem to indicate all this adherence to all the rules is rather silly anyway. After all the Church no longer “teaches that stuff” For you who have no doubt that Catholicism is true, you may rest in the faith that in the end God will make it all ok. For many of us there is the nagging doubt, if the house appears to be burning down , maybe there was less to it than met the eye and maybe your faith is for naught.

    So fair enough, we should all be more charitable, but Monsignor the house is on fire and its a little hard not to shout. do you smell the smoke?

  28. I was at Catholic University when Ex Corde Ecclesiae came out, a few short years after the Charlie Curran scandal. Like many students throughout the country, we cheered that the Holy See had heard our cries and was coming to the strong defense of the Catholicity of colleges and universities, where so many had been robbed of their rightful patrimony. That was in 1990. Since then, our colleges and universities have continued their decline away from the Church (together with our hospitals).

    And many, many students and alumni have been rightly alarmed, and they have worked hard and sometimes loudly to address these issues. Full-time organizations have even cropped up, like the Cardinal Newman Society, to defend our Catholic schools.

    It is not a matter of criticizing the bishops or blasting the bishops or condemning them or denouncing them — it is merely a matter of pleading for help! and encouraging our shepherds to provide that help. Our students are being scandalized, they are being misled, led away from the faith — a large reason that we are living in a society-wide dictatorship of relativism is because so many have been victimized in this way while attending even so-called Catholic universities. Our students need help — NOW. The situation is DIRE.

    A very dear friend of mine who is a graduate of Georgetown Law has been waiting for over 20 years for such help. Although something of a national figure who has worked for the Church and has spoken publicly about her personal experiences with the scandal of Georgetown repeatedly in the past, this time she says she so mad right now that she isn’t reasonable about it.

    Mean and vicious and uncharitable attacks on the bishops is wrong. But encouraging them to do more — much more — than they have, and pleading for much-needed help, is not wrong. To be sure, they have a whole army of people ready and waiting to “watch their backs” and follow. But to do that, they need to get out in front, rather than having others take the lead here. Our Catholic schools need help. If need be, we’ll ask for the assistance of St. Catherine of Siena to wake some people up.

  29. Isn’t it nice to know when we die and meet Christ we will be surrounded by truth, there will be no need for reasoning or logic.

    We either love Him and follow Him or not. That simple.

    Our soul is “us” alone.

    Msgr if it is of any consolation, I think you are a Christly gentlemen. You are not here to win a popularity contest, you have only and continually impart His teachings. Their souls obviously need praying for.

    I like you Msgr.

  30. Just a quick word of encouragement from Sydney, Australia. A team of us run a Catholic news site for young people called – and we often link to your articles because they are so balanced and accessible. Thank you for all the work you do!

    We have certainly found that people can be a lot more vulgar when posting online, than they would be if you were having a disagreement face to face. I have found that many online bloggers do not realise that online abuse can be just as harmful as slapping someone across the face, just take a look at the tone of people on Twitter. it is so important for Catholics to get online and spread positive messages – and not join in the ugly chorus of negativity. Thank you for this fantastic article!

  31. Father, first of all I want to thank you for your ministry to the Church and for your blog column, which has certainly been a help to me in all of this confusion. I have noticed that all too many “catholic” blogspots have comment sections which read like excerpts from the snake pit of hell. Even our Holy Father warned us recently to beware of our speech and comments to each other, alluding to the statement in scripture that we should be careful lest we wind up biting and devouring one another.
    I believe there is something about the Internet that facilitates hateful commentary. I also believe that we need to stop ourselves and realize that anger, name-calling, venomous comments and criticism tend to multiply that very spirit. Charity, praising God, prayer, etc., will tend to multiply that spirit.
    It might help the believers in your blog audience to think before they hit the “send” button, hat kind of effect or response will this comment provoke in the recipient? Or, in the person being commented on? How would I defend this at my particular judgment, when our saviour will remind us that he counts as done to himself, that which we did (or failed to do) to others.
    Finally, I had somewhat of a mystical experience some time ago, when I was getting way too worked up over some very real evil in the world. I believe I was reminded, whether by Jesus or the Holy Spirit I don’t know, that “I can do very much with your prayers and suffrages with respect to this particular situation, but nothing whatsoever with your histrionics or raging or name-calling.” Ouch!
    I think that tolerating hateful or offensive commentary is taken by some as an invitation to submit even more, in the hope that it will be “published.” Therefore, I would respectfully ask you to take a very heavy red magic marker, so to speak, to all hate speech. Eventually, they will simply give up and go someplace else.
    Please be assured that I am keeping you in my prayers, together with the rest of the clergy, religious and laity who are trying to pick their way through this deepening gloom.

  32. I am so sorry that you had to go through that and read those awful comments. I don’t always comment (since I can be somewhat shy, and I don’t generally post or give my opinion on political or very controversial issues, though I am usually happy to e-mail or talk in person about it), but I do read the blog every day or every other day depending on my work schedule, and I appreciate that you take the time to write about these issues, and also write back to us in the comments. I know that you are extremely busy, and I am also grateful that you will write/talk about some issues that not many others will talk about. Thank you, and I thank the other bloggers and commenters for their posts and teaching me something new every day.

  33. Dear Msgr. Pope
    I feel your discomfort! Your words are important and water the field of faith which does, and will, bear fruit. Many of our enemies only want to silence you. Be not afraid or discouraged, you are not alone!

  34. The anger in the blogs is at times overwhelming and disheartening. In the past few days I have been thinking about the two greatest commandments from Jesus. I think that I have an understanding that in order to love God as Jesus commands we have to love our neighbor, because God is there. I really believe that if we start to consider how our actions of anger and intolerance and perhaps hatred toward our fellow humans on earth are also directed at God, however unintentionally, we might move to a place where we find common ground to talk and then to move forward to solve our differences.
    I actually suggested this at another blog and was told I wasn’t being Catholic, and was preaching minimalism. The problem is that the person who wrote this doesn’t know me and didn’t take the time to ask a question – why do you think this? Until we truly communicate with one-another I fear that the anger and hatred will only increase.
    I do not think of it as who started it, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we stop now and see God in each other. Bless you Msgr. and I do greatly enjoy your words.

  35. As a fifteen-year participant in Catholic blogging and online forums, I can attest that it has always been this way. The most experienced among us are adolescents–the equivalent of teenagers in a communication medium some of us may never master.

    The internet has sharpened the squabbles within the Church community. Before, one tempered one’s words and perhaps discerned one’s thoughts more carefully. Before 2000, you largely had to live, work, play, and worship with one’s brothers and sisters in Catholicism. These days, a body can alienate everybody in her or his parish, then find hundreds of allies online. A chatty person can then alienate most of those folks, then locate another forum of like-minds. And of course, there’s the anonymous/pseudonymous factor for those who enjoy ripping into other people with little or no personal consequences.

    Our host writes above: “It is my mission and purpose to build unity among the faithful and to bind them more closely to Jesus and to the Bishops, who, by His grace, are our shepherds.”

    In many ways, the blogosphere is not the optimal locus for this effort. The very nature of the internet works against this.

    Speaking for myself, I intentionally seek out people who think differently than I. It permits me to hone my positions after really thinking about them. I do attempt to read carefully what others write. And I recognize that I can be contrary with others in a way that I cannot or do not in my parish. Online, we lack uniformity, often mistaken for unity. In my parish, we are united in the Mass and the sacraments, a benefit we do not share on blogs.

    The internet allows people to find those who think exactly like they do. It is insufficient for me, for example, to be pro-life and opposed to abortion. I have to oppose Sec Sebelius’ speaking engagement at Georgetown, which I do not. I have to espouse the so-called war on religious freedom, which I believe is fundraising bait for political donations. Years ago, people insisted I sign on to oppose FOCA, which, as a student of civics, I knew was an absolute phantom and a pitiable embarrassment to the Catholic Right.

    I appreciate and respect our host’s foray into the Catholic blogosphere. To jam on his self-identifying riff, I would consider myself pastorally orthodox in unorthodox ways. That will win few friends. But it’s how I remain faithful. It probably won’t help the tenor of the blogosphere to realize that there is a wide, if not massive slice of faithful Catholicism to the Left of Msgr Pope. It’s part of the wonder of the Church how grace works so well with a variety of gifts and perspectives. Too bad so many of us choose to fine-tune our own flock and narrow it all down.

    The one good thing about all this is that I experience the Mass more vividly as the Holy Spirit’s opportunity to work grace and unity in the Church. If it weren’t for the sacramental life, the Church would have torn itself apart at the seams centuries ago. Lacking the ability to celebrate sacraments online, I suspect the internet will always be a forum for biting and tearing apart. It is our Galatian moment, even among those wh would otherwise be friends.

  36. Well said Msgr! I couldn’t agree with you more!
    And one more point about our church. I like how slow she moves, it seems to me it’s the best way to balance justice and mercy this side of heaven.

  37. Amen brother, well said. In my 55 years, I have yet to see anyone won over by mocking them or name-calling. Bravo for this post!

  38. Msgr, I’m sorry that you received so many negative comments on your blog post. While people, including myself, may disagree with your opinion and the teaching of the Church on same-sex marriage, there is no reason to abandon civility. I want to thank you for posting my comments. I have enjoyed reading your blog. You obviously put a lot of effort into it!

Comments are closed.