Maybe We Shouldn’t Be Angry.
Earlier today, a friend of mine and I were chatting on Facebook and she sent me a link to a picture on a Facebook group page. The picture was one of Pope Francis with a quote from him about economic justice. Here’s the picture:
I looked at the picture and then started reading the comments below it. “Unfavorable” and “critical” would be two nice words to describe their content. It reminded me of different sites I’ve been on before where Catholics and non-Catholics (some of whom are hostile towards the Church) just go at it — sometimes it looks like a contest with the grand prize going to the one who most lacks in charity. Sometimes the Catholics win.
I remember that comments like the ones I saw on that picture on Facebook used to really make me angry. People would make remarks about how the Catholic Church is hypocritical, how we ought to focus more on the poor instead of worrying about all of the money we have tied up in the Vatican, how we need to keep an eye on the clergy and hand priests over to the proper authorities when they abuse children instead of covering the whole scandal up. I didn’t think any of it was true, and I thought the people who said things like that just had an axe to grind with Catholicism. I used to get so mad at those people! I might have won a few of those “lacking in charity” competitions myself, a fact which I can’t say I’m proud of.
But you know what? All of that anger that you feel towards people who say things against the Church, all of that frustration…it gets you nowhere. Today, when I was reading those comments, I realized something: maybe remarks like that shouldn’t make us angry at all. Maybe we shouldn’t simply dismiss the people who write them as “anti-Catholics”. Maybe comments like the ones I read can actually help us, as a Church, to be better.
Now, I’m not saying that every critical remark is going to be constructive or even accurate. I’ve seen more than enough comments where people twist facts to suit their agendas and other comments where people simply don’t know what they’re talking about — so no, I’m not saying that every single critical comment points to a real problem that needs to be addressed. What I am saying, though, is that these remarks tell us what people are thinking about Catholicism. They tell us what kind of image we’re putting out there, how we’re being perceived by people — and they just might also show us where we’re falling short and need to do better. For example, you might read a comment that sounds like the author has absolutely no idea what the Church teaches about homosexuality because the person seems to have the idea that the Catholic Church hates homosexuals. Maybe the problem here isn’t that this person hasn’t read the Catechism paragraphs that you diligently quote for him, but rather that this person has seen Catholics make rude and offensive comments against homosexuals. In that case, we learn that we need to be careful about what we say and how we say it, lest we give people the wrong impression about the Catholic Church as a whole. It is not something that we should get all worked up and angry about — it’s a learning experience for us, and a chance for us to show the love and patience of Christ to another human being.
I’ve seen Catholics sit around sometimes and complain about people being “anti-Catholic” and saying rude things about the Church, critical things about how the Church is run and the things that we do. BUT WE COULD CHANGE THAT. We could be better.
You can’t sit around and complain about people calling the Catholic Church hypocritical when YOU cheat your employees out of their wages, or when YOU pass by the homeless person on the street without a thought, or when YOU judge other people harshly without truly seeking to understand their situations and help them. I’m not afraid of what people say about the Church. What we should be afraid of is that they may be right. That’s we have to worry about! People may say that the Church covers up priests who abuse children, that clergy members and laity alike care more about their money than the poor they are supposed to be caring for, and other things as well. Is it true? Instead of getting angry or sticking our fingers in our ears, we should listen and evaluate what the other person is saying. If what they say is true and is a real problem within the Church, then we ought to address it and be grateful that someone brought it up.
You guys, WE ARE THE CHURCH. If someone is complaining about the Catholic Church being hypocritical, realize that the solution to the problem isn’t yelling back at that other person rudely or writing a letter to the Vatican. The solution starts with YOU in your own life, in the way you live every single day. I’m not worried about today when people criticize us — at least that means that they have a high standard for the Church. They’re calling us out for not following what Christ taught, and I’m grateful for that. No, I’m worried about the day when people say nothing about the Catholic Church because they no longer expect anything good from us. THAT’S the day I fear.
When you guys see rude comments about the Church, I beg you to take a deep breath. Don’t answer with hatred or anger. Pray for the person who said it, that they might find peace. Then pray for the Church, that she might address the problem that the person has brought up (if, indeed, it is a problem). Lastly, pray for yourself, that you might have the strength to go out and be what Christ has called you to be. If we all go out and truly live our faith, the Church will be much better for it. The poor will know that we stand with them and love them, those who need hope will have it when they see our example, and the world will see the face of Christ in us.
“If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”
-Saint Catherine of Siena
Posted on December 27, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged anti-Catholic, Catholic Church, catholic church hypocrisy, catholic church sex abuse, dealing with criticism, dealing with criticism catholic, rude comments catholic. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.