Sunday, September 25, 2011

I fully expect to be slammed for this, but here goes nothing

Vox Cantoris has a post up, about this story. An elderly priest (actually I don't think the age of the priest matters much), was suspended because in denouncing homosexuality, abortion, and cohabitation, he lacked pastoral sensitivity.

Now, I will agree with Vox regarding the Pastor: in short,  I don't think that pastors should be sanctioned for not speaking with charity from the pulpit.

But they should be warned that when a pastor speaks without love, compassion, and yes, sensitivity, he runs the risk of sending the parishioners most in need away.

Now before everyone gets there hackles up, let me explain why.

When a pastor speaks from the pulpit, he may be speaking Catholic truth but the way he says it is just as important as what he says.

Two examples of what I mean:

1.    When I suffered my first miscarriage, it was a horrible ordeal. The worst part of it was that the baby had died two weeks before I had any indication that something was wrong or had gone wrong.

(By the time we ( my OB and/or I) knew anything I was starting to go septic so the OBGYN ordered a D+C.)

Less than a month later, the Pastor gave a homily denouncing abortion where he stated that "they don't call it an abortion, they call it a D+C" He also suggested that any woman who went in for a D+C was really aborting her baby. 

I knew that he wasn't talking about me, I knew, he was getting carried away with the zeal of the homily.  I knew that he didn't know how I suffered when I lost Christopher. But those words stung and hurt and tore open a wound that hadn't even started to scab over, let alone heal. I was ordered a D+C AFTER my baby died, not so my baby WOULD die.  What was the pastor doing speaking as though he had a medical degree?  In short, Father was wrong:  Not every D+C is short hand for a clinical/ therapeutic abortion.

I got up, and stormed out of the church thinking: What a jerk! I heard him hesitate as I walked to the back of the church and out the doors, weeping. Sometimes, the ones hurt by a pastor's words aren't the one's who are in the wrong, but the innocent ones.

I was determined never to go back to that parish again.  In fact, I insisted to Bear we find another.  A a Parish with a priest who knows the difference between a Therapeutic and a Spontaneous Abortion. (The latter is commonly referred to as a miscarriage) And preferably one who understood the medical procedure of D+C was not a code name for Therapeutic Abortion.

The pastor was right to decry abortion, but his words hurt the innocent. Anger and disgust in teaching Catholic doctrine may turn the sinner further away rather than have him step closer to God and the forgiveness that comes with repentence. There was no love in his voice.  No woman, who might have been in the pews who might have had a secret abortion would ever think of going to him for guidance after the fact. No post abortion woman seeking forgiveness and healing would think she would find it there, and could think that she would find it nowhere in the Catholic church.

2.    The same pastor went to a parishioner's house, to offer condolences for the death of their child.  The mother asked for a mass or prayer service, something for her still -born child ( I can't remember exactly what, I know it wasn't a funeral Mass).  He abruptly stood and said: "We don't do that for unbaptized babies" and walked out of the front door.

The Pastor was most likely right.  the Catholic Church cannot hold ceremonies for non baptized people.  Not even if there was no way to have the child baptized because of (Miscarriage or stillborn).    They had carried a child to nine months, the baby died before birth, there was no chance for a baptism. They needed some comfort from their shepherd, from their Church.  There was not even an offer for something else.   He offered no comfort from the moment he discovered the baby was stillborn. Their child had died and it felt like their parish priest didn't care! All they were permitted was a five minute burial service. 

I should add, sometimes, some good can come from this.  She stopped attending that church briefly, returned when another priest took over the parish, and returned with a mission.

RESULT: This led her, in less than 2 years, to write a book,  MORNING LIGHT: Miscarriage, Stillbirth And Early Infant Death From A Catholic Perspective,   forwarded by Archbishop Prendergast, and received an Imprimatur from Card. Ambrozic, and form Morning Light Ministry with the help and guidance of the next pastor of her parish. In 2000  the ministry received an Apostolic Blessing from Blessed Pope John Paul II.

The priest had been right.  There was nothing done for children who die in the womb or too soon after birth.  But he lacked the vision to see the need, and offer some comfort, offer to do something.

When a priest lacks sensitivity and compassion he misses the opportunity to help those that need it the most.

***

Now back to the priest in the Lifesite News item:

It may have been wrong to dismiss the priest for lacking sensitivity.  The pastor should be guided on how to speak with charity and compassion for those in difficult situations.

If you feel you should contact the bishop in question and respectfully ask that he be reinstated, then by all means, do so: both the above links will garner you his address.

But the pastor needs to know that 9 times out of ten the people in the pews are TRYING to follow the church.  They are there because they want to be better Christians, they are there because they WANT to follow God.  Being slammed by the very man who is supposed to represent Christ as you take tiny steps towards HIM, can frighten the timid soul and scatter him away, and may play right into Satan's hands.

When people say its uncharitable NOT to correct, they speak truly, but Correction without charity is not correction: it's offense and tantamount to derision.

No comments:

Scripture to keep in mind

Six things there are, which the Lord hateth, and the seventh his soul detesteth: [17] Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, [18] A heart that deviseth wicked plots, feet that are swift to run into mischief, [19]A deceitful witness that uttereth lies, and him that soweth discord among brethren. [20] My son, keep the commandments of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother. ***Cf:Douay-Rheims Proverbs 6: 16-20

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