I’m in Maryland this weekend for a family wedding, so blogging will be light. But late last night, I got the following e-mail from a longtime reader.
I think that you must be near saintly to be able to put up with so many of the comments that are placed on your blog. I have greatly enjoyed it and have really appreciated the information and news that you have brought to it. I think that you have done a wonderful job of selecting a wide range of articles and that they are well balance.
However, more and more I find a lack of Christian charity in so many of the comments from a select few. Their caustic comments and lack of care for anyone not following their standards of Catholicism is beginning to have a very negative effect on me. I also think that any non-Catholic reading them is going to be repulsed from the Church instead of being attracted by it.
I have to admit that I am not always orthodox in my beliefs, but like many others I believe the Church is big enough for everyone. The responders I am referring to do not agree with that. As I was thinking about this the other day (actually at 2:00 am when I couldn’t sleep) in came to me that the Church is like a vivid mosaic. One cannot make a mosaic with a single color tile, and perhaps not with tiles that are all identical in shape. Yet these people would seem to want to do exactly that. I find that this kind of outlook is poisonous to my spiritual well being, and worse, I am finding that I want to respond in kind to their venom. I know this is foolish, they are isolated in their own beliefs and nothing is likely to penetrate their defenses, least of all anything that I might say.
So I am writing to tell you that for the time being, at least, I will not be visiting the Deacon’s Bench. I do want you to understand that it is not your posting that have bothered me, but the comments post in response. Today’s respone to your excellent posting of Sr. Mary Ann Walsh’s blog was the final straw. I was tempted to post this, but decided that I would not give them the satisfaction of saying “good riddance”.
Keep up the good work, and I will be back in the future.
This comes on the heels of an e-mail exchange I had with another reader, also dismayed at the tenor of some in the blogosphere:
Normally comments don’t bother me and disagreements don’t bother me: it’s all part of the big dialogue, but lately all it is doing is fomenting doubt within me. Am I right in my thinking? Am I a good Catholic or a fraud? Am I wrong? Why can I not cotton to the Catholicism-by-hammer school of thought, and why is it so difficult both to articulate what I instinctively believe and know about God — some of that being that He cannot feel properly witnessed to when the witnessing takes on the form of hate and the nastiest of judgments — and what I believe my primary job as a Christian must be: to love everyone, to remember to be merciful, to kiss it all up to God in the end. I can’t get my head to wrap around “the ONLY good Catholics are thus and such and the rest are bringing the church down.”Everyone wants to be Jesus in the Temple. They don’t realize that his moments with the knotted cord were mere moments, and born of his authority. Which they do not share.
To which I can only add: “Amen.”
It’s gotten out of hand. The Bench has become a place of hostility, fundamentalism, sniping, finger-pointing and Pharisee-like intolerance and spite. That’s not what I intended, and it’s not what I want. People should not leave this place feeling worse than when they arrived. I want people to be challenged, yes, but also provoked to think and dialogue and pray. I do not want them shaking their fists at one another.
So, for the next several days, comments are closed. Take the time you’d normally spend throwing rocks at one another to pray. Pray for our priests. Pray for our bishops. Pray for the people in the pews around you who may not be perfect Catholics, but who are Catholic nonetheless — wounded, broken, hurting, clinging to whatever faith they have in a merciful and loving God. It’s been said that we need to be kind to one another, because everyone is fighting a great battle. It’s true. We may not see the smoke, or hear the cannons, but everyone around us is waging a personal war of one kind of another. Maybe it’s trying to feed a family and pay a mortgage in an economy that is relentlessly awful. Maybe it’s a battle for dignity and self-worth. Maybe it’s the struggle to maintain hope in a time of insistent hopelessness. Maybe it’s wrestling with demons we can’t even imagine. But it’s there. Honor that. Pray over that.
Respect the personal trials and travails of The Other we seem to eager to demonize. Strive to love those we seem convinced are so unlovable. And let’s all strive, as well, in these mid-summer days of heat and hate to find some semblance of peace.
Spending quality time with The Prince of Peace is a good place to start.