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: