Letter to a Priest

Dear Fr. Back-Up,

I am a good Catholic woman, but I am going to stop attending your church.

I was so angry during your last homily that I almost walked out in the middle. You’ve done that before, made me angry while pontificating, and I think I’m going to opt out.

First, you mentioned a pastor in Canada who is being sent to prison for a hate crime. You say he was simply preaching the Word of God, but Father, I read that letter that got him in trouble. It was a hate-filled diatribe against homosexuals, whom he believes are trying to oppress straight culture and “consume” children. He “declares war”. If that is not advocating for violence against homosexuals, I don’t know what is.

He doesn’t present one well-reasoned ecumenical argument against gay marriage. (And I know they are out there.)

He wasn’t preaching the Word of God. I don’t recall Jesus saying anything about declaring war on anybody, including homosexuals. He (Jesus, that is) advocated for forgiveness and love. The letter I read advocated for neither.

Second, “the world” doesn’t hate me because I’m Roman Catholic. “The world” doesn’t hate me because I’m a parent, and no one hates my children. “The world” doesn’t hate elderly people and want to kill them because they’ve fulfilled their usefulness. I’m not sure where you get the idea that “the world” is out to get us and is filled with hate against us.

And even if a person or a few purport to hate us, for whatever reason, shouldn’t they be met with love and forgiveness? Isn’t hate a sign of ignorance and prejudice, and shouldn’t that be fought on every front β€” not with violence, but with knowledge? Didn’t Jesus himself sit down with sinners and eschew hypocrites?

I’m not a scholar, and (obviously) I’m not a priest. Maybe I am naive in the belief that I hold that people, basically, are good, and everyone is deserving of love. Ignorance and rudeness should be met with humor and as an opportunity to teach, not as a chance to rant and rail against ignorance and rudeness, and to tell “the world” how righteous one is because one is hated.

In the end, Jesus said, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.” If nothing else, that is a road to take.

In Faith,
A Roman Catholic Mom who Sincerely Hopes to be Elderly Some Day

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28 thoughts on “Letter to a Priest

  1. *clap clap clap* I don’t know any other specifics than are in this post, but I have to say: too many people (from many walks of life) are spurning love and forgiveness for hate and war, and often use either religious reasons or some kind of religious platform to self-justify their actions.

    I think there needs to be a lot more calling-out of this kind of behaviour, and pointing out that perhaps the less violent methods (from the respective religion related to that person) would be a more helpful response for the world. I hope it would make at least some people think a little before they act the next time.

      • No, I hadn’t seen that Onion article. That’s awesome! It really sums up the message that so many need to hear, too – oftentimes The Onion is outlandish, but they tend to hit the mark quite often.

        In this case, I could almost believe it to be an actual report, except for the ten minute physical manifestation for a press release bit. It certainly sounds like the kind of thing that would be expressed by the deity of many monotheistic religions. It certainly is the overarching theme of them: Love One Another. How about we all try that a bit more? (A bit less spouting off about “those people”, whomever someone may be referring to by that phrase for any reason, would be good, too.)

        I think we’re in general agreement on this. πŸ™‚

  2. AMEN!!! Great post!

    This is exactly why, although I attended Catholic Mass every Sunday for the first 22 years of my life, I hesitate to call myself a Catholic anymore. I say, “Well, I was *raised* Catholic…” because I am more spiritual than religious. I refuse to follow the paths of those who go to Church yet speak/act without tolerance and love, nor will I allow my children to be taught anything but tolerance and love. Yes, I still go to a Catholic Church, because I enjoy having that space and time to pray. But to me, it is more important how I live and treat others OUTSIDE of that Church.

    • Yes, I have no intention of leaving the Church. I, too, need that space and time to pray. I believe very strongly in God and in Jesus and in a lot of the tenets of the Church. (I refer to myself as a practicing Catholic.) It’s when intolerance is preached from the pulpit that I take very strong exception. Going to church (not my home parish, fortunately) when this priest is up there is kind of the Catholic version of Fox News.

  3. *applause*

    I, like Melissa, am of the “raised catholic” sect. I do believe in a God, I just dont think hes got a cover charge payable to the church every week to get in. In my experiences church seems to be a way to make people who are horrible in their day-to-day lives feel better because they say sorry every Sunday. Personally I prescribe to the live your life to the best of your ability every day, be kind and thoughtful regarding those around you and be aware of how you effect your environment and those that are in it…and if you do those things, are genuinely sorry when you do something wrong or hurtful and try your best to be a good person that you will be loved. If going to church and taking that time is what you need to feel closer and more spiritual then I commend you for it…it just isnt my cup of tea. The hypocrisy of the church makes me amazingly angry, especially in its views of homosexuality. I went to my nephews play for an acting group through a church in the south hills….and I sat and listened to the theme of the play – that god loves you no matter what and as long as you have faith and believe he will help you through whatever hurdles you come across, just have faith…and i wanted to rage. What happens to these kids that are taught this message who do discover in 6 or 7 years they are gay and are shunned & abused by this same church? It very literally made me stabby….I sincerely wish the church actually practiced the tolerance & forgiveness it preaches, set the example it claims to and stayed the hell out our bedrooms where it doesnt belong at all.

    • I am sorry that your experiences with the Church have not been good, and I understand your anger at the perceived hypocrisy. Many β€” I would say the majority β€”Β of the people in the Church DO practice love and tolerance and forgiveness (and acts of charity, etc., etc.). But the Church’s press stinks, and the stories of the good religions do in the world are outweighed in the public’s eye by the bad. Churches are human institutions, and therefore flawed, and that’s why I think it is vital to really hear the message of the Gospel and practice what Jesus had to say. And that’s why I got so angry Sunday because the Gospel was beautiful and all this priest wanted to do was rant about hate.

      Keep being a good person, and fighting for tolerance in the world. We humans don’t understand the truth of God’s love, but that doesn’t mean we should be stopped from spreading it and believing in it.

      • Oh they were by far not all bad, but as you said its the bad ones that stick out more than the good. I was very active until the church we went to was sent a new priest that I just did not like – and that whole 1 bad apple ruins the bunch thing. Ive been to a few other, more looser, styles of church where the message is tolerance, goodness and love and that I can totally get behind, just in my home churches I have seen more ugly & not-so-jesus like behavior being carried out in the name of God and I cant abide that…so I dont. So I choose instead to keep my faith with me, and do what I can to make the world a better & more peaceful place…and thats the best I can do.

        On a side note I do not get this – most of the people i know who are practicing church goers feel very much the same way you & I do as well as your other commenters thus far…..when will Rome catch up and realize that zealotry & hypocrisy are not going to save anyone…but adapting to the current times and needs of the people may be better? Your faith should be a comfort to you all the time, and they seem to treat it more like a burden. I just dont get it.

  4. Very well said.

    Unfortunately in many churches, Catholic and Protestant alike, this world view exists and is promoted. Not very Christ like.

    • Yes, but while the priest misrepresented the story of the Canadian pastor, I didn’t mean this post to be a diatribe against the Church. The priest was saying that the world hates US for being religious. For having faith in God and Jesus. I just don’t think it was an uplifting or hopeful message β€” not that the Church has to be all sweetness and light. The priest at my home parish talks an awful lot about dying, but his point is usually about living the good (i.e. faithful) life, not doom and gloom.

  5. @mindymin: You totally nailed it. This priest acted like my choice to be a practicing Roman Catholic and a mother were BURDENS to me. And even though the world would despise me for my choices, I should just ignore “the world”, but he offered no comfort. And that’s what I get the most from my faith: comfort. (and, very often, joy.) And while I bitch plenty here about my children, I think I also communicate the love, joy, and, laughter that I experience in the act of raising them.

    Rome needs some women running around. I’m telling you, I sincerely believe in my lifetime that the Church is going to see the light, and start ordaining women. And that will change the culture of the Church for the better. (They aren’t going to let anyone get married, though. Just not gonna happen.)

  6. RPM,
    I hope you actually sent the letter. If people don’t complain, nothing can ever change. That need to have a reason not to preach the way he does… he’s probably up there thinking he’s fabulous.

    “Look at the eyes flashing on that pregnant lady… she must really be digging this…”

    • Yeah, I second Bluzdude; I’m not usually one to actually take that last step and send the information to the appropriate people, but I agree that it should be done, or the right people will never even hear that someone has a problem with anything that was said or done. Even if they choose to ignore that fact (which they shouldn’t, but still), they’ll at least know about it.

      Good conversation on this post!

      • I have thought about it, and haven’t decided yet. It’s not my home parish (thank goodness!), so he’s a priest I only experience once or twice a year. It’s the church I attend when I’ve missed all the masses at my own church! πŸ™‚ But it’s certainly not out of the question. I may include the line about listening to him is like listening to the Catholic version of Fox News. I do think he should know not everyone is buying his line, and there are thinking people in his congregation.

        And I have the best conversations ever in my comments! (Well, with the exception at the shenanigans at That’s Church, of course.)

  7. @albamaria30 Yeah, that’s the key – not so much to “BLAST HIM!”, but just let him know that people DO have minds of their own, and will consider his message carefully, and not just follow blindly. (At least, some people will.) So, he should be more well rounded (?) and considerate with his messages, and certainly less hateful…

  8. “I’m telling you, I sincerely believe in my lifetime that the Church is going to see the light, and start ordaining women.”

    Um…no. That wouldn’t be “seeing the light”. That would be heresy. Read Mulieris Dignitatem.

    “They aren’t going to let anyone get married, though. Just not gonna happen.

    Actually, celibacy for priests is not dogmatic or doctrinal, but merely a discipline. It can be changed. Heck, Eastern Rite Catholics (Byzantine, etc.) already have married clergy (always have), as do the Eastern Orthodox. Also, there have been more than a few married Protestant clergy who converted and became priests.

    • I will have to look into that. I don’t think priests should marry; I do think women should be ordained. Not that I want to be, mind you. That’s my opinion on the matters.

      Thanks!

      I do know that about celibacy, and about converted Protestants. And I don’t see anything wrong with that policy, as it were. I just know as a married person myself the idea of taking that on along with having “a flock” sounds overwhelming. Something (to my mind) would have to give.

      • “I do think women should be ordained.”

        Bear in mind it’s not a matter of sexual equality or social justice. It’s that females aren’t the right “stuff” for the sacrament of holy orders. Every sacrament requires proper matter (“stuff”) for validity. Marriage requires a man and a woman; the Eucharist requires wheat bread and wine; baptism requires water; and so on. The sacrament of holy orders requires a male.

        “I just know as a married person myself the idea of taking that on along with having ‘a flock’ sounds overwhelming. Something (to my mind) would have to give.”

        I’m inclined to agree, as apparently was St. Paul (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). I’ve also noticed that preachers’ kids tend to be some of the most messed up people I’ve known.

  9. I feel so blessed that my Priest isn’t like that. I had a priest like that before and it made me run screaming from the church (figuratively) πŸ˜‰

    I don’t know what I would without church, it’s so important to me. I agree with you, that priest is just wrong.

    Maybe one day you and I can be priests…but until that day, here is hoping that all the Fr. Back- Ups out there fall to the wayside.

    • “maybe it should become a matter of social justice or equality, though”

      That doesn’t make any sense to me (or the Church), though. A female can no more be a priest than two men, two women, or more than two people can be sacramentally married.

      Anyhow, getting back to the original post, I agree that there’s a difference between “thoughtcrime” and advocation of violence. Still, Canada is heading in a dangerous direction with respect to free speech and expression (or lack thereof).

  10. I call myself a “recovering catholic,” stopped going to church because it made me so angry all the time. Plus I found the whole Passion story very traumatic as a child…I remember crying in church on Palm Sunday during the part when the congregation says “Crucify him!” I did move beyond the guilt and fear (a little) as I got older, and I do agree with many of the gospel teachings, but I never felt really connected to the church as it seems you do. Yoga and buddhism makes more sense to me. whenever I attend a good yoga class it feels a lot like church; and yoga is so much about love, acceptance, and doing your best to be the best person you can be, and to love one another. Do no harm.

    I really think you should right that letter…but be careful.. he may take the FOX news comparison as a compliment:)

    • I am moved every year by the Passion. Sometimes I cry, too, but I am always humbled.

      I have a thing for Jesus. (not like that.) Which is why while I completely respect finding ways and means to peace and love (and doing no harm), I return again and again to the Church and the Easter story. I’m going to write more about this soon.

      xoxo, my friend.

      • Transubstantiation? That’s one of the reasons I’m not Catholic. Anyway we read 2 Peter 2 in church today. The Bible warned us about fake priests (fake teachers). I haven’t looked up what the catholic version’s translation says. Also Acts 15. I love our church.

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