Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Gotcha" Catholicism

Last summer I did a post about a same sex wedding announcement I saw in the New York Times, not at all unusual for that paper.  What was unusual was that it stated that "a Roman Catholic Priest assisted at the wedding, " Through Google, I figured out that there was a priest in Connecticut  by the same name as that in the announcement.  I immediately emailed both the priest and his bishop, and I also immediately posted about it on my blog without confirmation that I had the correct priest.  It turned out that I did have the correct priest, and a week or so later the bishop in that area formally reprimanded the priest who promised never to do this again.  Neither the priest nor the bishop ever answered my emails.

Even though I turned out to be correct, I should have waited until everything was confirmed and given the bishop time to act as he saw fit before I started making any kind of public accusations.  The reason I'm writing about this is because it is a prime example of how the laity should not act towards the clergy in the Catholic Church.  I have been pretty harsh at times on the clergy, and I would like to do a mea culpa right here and now in that regard.

Certainly when we see priests and bishops, or any member of the Church acting in a way that is contrary to Church teaching, we need to do something about it.  We should never stand idly by when we know someone is acting in a scandalous way and involved in serious sin.   But is the proper response to immediately take it to the Internet and announce it to the world?

The advice given to us directly by our Lord in regard to dealing with scandal can be found in Matthew 18:15-17:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Our first concern should always be for the soul of the one involved in the sin, to try to bring him (or her) to repentance, and secondly to avoid scandal so as not to put other souls in danger.  As Jesus Himself told us, the matter should be kept as quiet as possible unless and until the one involved refuses to repent.  Then, and only then, should it be made public, and it should only be made public if it is necessary to mitigate public scandal, such as the priest assisting in a same sex wedding.  Even then, everything we do should be aimed at leading the person to repentance.  We should never do anything that unnecessarily humiliates or demeans in an any way.  We should never play "Gotcha!" games with people's souls as I did with the priest in Connecticut when I immediately jumped on him without knowing anything other than what I read in the Times, and not even sure that I had the correct priest.
I Corinthians 16:14 says, "Let all that you do be done in love."  Since love means wanting what is best for the other, the ideal is that everything we say and do in our interactions with others should all be with the thought of how my actions will  help them find the way to Christ and eternal life.  I fall far short of this ideal as I believe most people do.  Far too often I react to people out of a sense of injustice or hurt feelings, or thinking about "what's in it for me", and scariest of all, I react out of pride, feeling superior to others.

GK, Chesterton, one of the wisest men of the 20th Century, said this:
What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.
Think about it.


1 comment:

  1. Good work and good advice. I've been sitting on a problem for a while, and I will follow your wise words here. Thanks.


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