Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Open Letter to the Catholics in the Combox

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I'm calling you brothers and sisters because that's exactly what you are. You are my siblings in Christ. You are also each others' siblings in Christ. We are lucky, aren't we, to have so many siblings?

Siblings are for life. They can love, uplift and support each other in the darkest of times.

They also know exactly how to tear each other down.

Being brothers and sisters means that we know each others' weaknesses. We know what buttons to push. We know what we can say to get each other really worked up. 

Usually, in polite society, people refrain from hitting those buttons. We try not to make each other really angry on purpose. We try, generally, to be considerate of others' needs and opinions. We try to be respectful of each others' weaknesses. We certainly don't expose those weaknesses for everyone else to see. We're brothers and sisters, after all.

Lately, we have forgotten to act like brothers and sisters who support each other, because we're focused on something way more important.

We're too busy trying to prove we are RIGHT. 

I know. We all have things about which we're passionate.

You think people should be more tolerant of families with young (potentially distracting, noisy or wiggly) children at Mass? Or maybe you need Mass to be quiet and prayerful, and you find the noise of children sitting near you unforgivably irreverent?

You need to breastfeed your hungry baby to keep him from crying during Mass and feel you shouldn't have to leave the church to do it? Or maybe you find the sight of someone breastfeeding in public distracting and awkward (at best) or completely scandalous (at worst) and think it's completely inappropriate?

You think Pope Francis doesn't focus enough on abortion and isn't doing enough to speak out against sin? Or you think Pope Francis should be working more to help women exercise a bigger leadership role in the church? Or you think Pope Francis is the first Pope ever to really care about or speak on behalf of the poor? Or you think Pope Francis is trying to destroy the relationships between the Church and Catholic-owned businesses in the US? You love Pope Francis and think he is saving the Church? You really dislike his style and think he's ruining the Church?


You think that. Your well-formed Catholic conscience tells you it is so. You are sure you are RIGHT.

Unfortunately, you know that person in the pew across the aisle from you, the one who arrived at the opposite opinion with his well-formed Catholic conscience? He's sure he is RIGHT, too.

Everyone likes to be RIGHT...and while most of us are probably not going to start wrestling out our differences in the aisles after Mass, we have decided it's okay to rip people to shreds in the comment box anytime they say something with which we disagree.

I get it. These issues are important. You see it as your job to correct the error of your brothers and sisters in Christ. You can't stand that people are misrepresenting Church teaching. You find it arrogant that people who hold a different opinion than yours also believe that they are speaking the truth. You have to advocate for what is correct, or what's just, or what's RIGHT.

I am no moral relativist. I don't think everyone is equally right. I don't think that whatever you believe is totally okay, no matter what it is. I believe in truth.

I also believe that we, as Catholics, have bigger problems than worrying about who among us is most correct.

There is a whole world out there that is not in love with God. There are people who have never been introduced to Jesus. There are people who got a very unpleasant introduction to Christianity and will never give it another chance. There are people starving. There are people dying in civil wars. There are sad people, lonely people, suffering people. There's work to do.

Jesus told us that we are the light of the world.

Unfortunately, some of the darkest places on the internet right now are the comboxes on Catholic blogs.

Please, please, please- for the sake of good manners (or if not for that, for the sake of appearances), can we stop attacking each other for having the WRONG positions? If you need to privately tell yourself hundreds of times a day that those people are WRONG, that's fine. If you need to yell at your computer screen that those people are misrepresenting Church teaching, that's fine. If you need to talk to your priest about how blankety-blank angry it makes you when those people constantly bring up their pet issues, that's fine, too.

What isn't fine is forgetting that those people are your brothers and sisters. 

Guess what the mainstream media loves even more than telling people that Pope Francis is completely changing everything about the Catholic Church?

A bunch of Catholics who seem intent on tearing each other apart.

At the end of the day, no matter how much we might disagree, we still go to the same table for dinner. We are the Body of Christ. We're united in the Eucharist. We're family. There are plenty of disapproving comments and disparaging remarks made about our family by the rest of the world. Do we have to make it so easy for them by exposing each others' weaknesses?

It is important to be passionate about the pursuit of truth, but not one of us has it all figured out yet.

We don't have to agree on everything.
We don't even have to like each other.

Even so, brothers and sisters, we don't need to tear each other apart.

Enough already.

Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.    

 Colossians 3:13-15