When the Pastor is Preaching What?

My column at First Things today:

And why expend angst and energy about maybe-mentions of Earth Day when there is genuinely bad theology being preached from the pulpit, as a friend relates here:

I was willing to overlook the Good Friday sermon saying Jesus didn’t die for our sins and focusing on NAFTA. But I cannot overlook the Easter sermon that says Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead. We were told that the empty tomb was just symbolism and that Jesus’ rising from the dead wasn’t corporal, “like something out of a Frankenstein movie,” but more like how when your parent or spouse dies and you feel their presence around you. It’s pretty bad when you tell your children not to listen to anything the pastor said.

While my friend did indeed wonder—with great sadness—whether this might be a parish-changing offense, rather than simply bolting she and her husband have made an appointment to talk to their pastor first, for the sake of clarity, and that’s the right thing to do.

Too many Catholics hear a disturbing sermon like this one and simply move on to another parish, or they begin to allow that badly seeded theology to take root, which is much worse. Running away from a parish with a disoriented pastor dooms one’s fellow parishioners—especially if they have been poorly catechized—to eating from his poor crop and being left undernourished. That cannot build up the Body of Christ.

You can read it all here!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    A very good essay Anchoress. I can’t comment there, so I’ll do so here. I agree just leaving the parish would be too drastic a move based on only one such theological error. I like your suggestion of speaking with the pastor first, but that might be a bit intimidating for some, or even most. Would a letter to the Bishop detailing what was said be appropriate? I ask it because in my ignorance I don’t know whether that makes sense. If anyone can answer, please do so.

  • Mary W

    Run, don’t walk, to the Bishop’s office!

  • Gerry

    I’ll post my question again – what happened?

  • http://www.savingourparish.com Gretchen

    Please tell us what to do when your ‘pastor’ is not a priest, but a pastoral administrator. And your bishop is the one appointing lay people over the ‘sacramental ministers’, aka priests. And then what do you do after you’ve had numerous meetings with the administrator and things keep devolving. Appeals to the bishop elicit ‘tsk tsk’ letters that express full support for the parish staff.

    The whole idea that we have the right to judge when an individual or a family have had enough shows me that some Catholic bloggers have no idea what is going on in dioceses around the country.

    The fact that your article urges parishioners to lovingly evangelize the “priest” illustrates my point. Our priest must answer to the pastoral administrator (in our case a deacon, but in most other cases in our diocese a lay person). Our priest’s pastoral authority has been taken from him and handed over to a staff run by laity. He has no authority to change a thing in our parish.

    If only you knew…