Sunday, 15 March 2015

Saying Hurtful Things

I have been trying to place the best possible interpretation that I can imagine on the woeful lack of leadership and teaching about crucial moral issues (like, say, sin, and especially sins that are endemic and socially acceptable, such as contraception, adultery, fornication, homosexual practice) by our bishops, individually (with noble exceptions) and collectively.

I remembered the bishop I spoke to many years ago, who set me on the path to becoming Bitter and Twisted, as I recount here. Essentially, he didn't want to upset anyone.

And more recently, another member of the hierarchy has told me that they are extremely sensitive to the difficulties that people face, as an explanation for various concerns I raised (these sorts of things...)

So one possible interpretation is that the bishops just don't want to upset anyone. 

Whilst a laudable aim, there are some problems with that, if it is elevated above the central mission of the Church, to proclaim Christ's saving truth, in order that people repent and believe the Gospel, so that they may be saved by Christ's Redemptive Work, operating through the Sacraments, and thus attain eternal life.

Of course we should strive not to hurt others unnecessarily; but that is a secondary good, not the primary one.

Furthermore, when I read the Gospels, I see that Our Lord would frequently say ‘hurtful’ things. Imagine how the Syro-Phoenician woman felt, when told she was a dog who should not eat the childrens' food;  or how the Samaritan woman at the well felt, when Our Lord named her sordid 'lifestyle choices;' or how St Peter felt, when Our Lord said: vade post me, Satana! Or the pharisees, when they were called all sorts of offensive names; or Martha when she was trying to make everything perfect for Our Lord and was rebuked; and I could go on. 

For Him, truth and love are inseparable, and He confronts people with the truth, in order to call them to repentance, and thus to become open to His love. That seems to me where the Church is failing in this country, which is why our confessional queues are empty, and so, eventually, are our Masses.

Secondly, the unwillingness to hurt the feelings of any one group inevitably hurts the feelings of another. Thus the kindness extended to the divorced and remarried, if it goes so far as to imply they have a right to live with a new partner, becomes extremely cruel to the abandoned spouse, particularly when she or he has stayed faithful to the marriage vows in obedience to the Church. Or the welcome extended to homosexuals, if it condones or celebrates those who are openly living in same-sex relationships becomes extremely cruel to those who are tempted to same-sex relationships, but pursue chastity, in obedience to the Church.

Further, if one consistently compromises with the truth in order to avoid giving offence, there is the risk that one eventually loosens one’s grip on it. For how ‘hurtful’ it would be to say that someone in a loving relationship needs to repent.  The Church can’t really mean that… and so on. But if that loving relationship is in fact adulterous (and Our Lord was quite clear about this) then it is sinful: and sin will damage those who indulge in it, so it is no kindness at all to collude with it. And so, as I say, one loosens one’s grip on the truth.

So yes, we should avoid saying hurtful things where we can; but never at the cost of compromising the truth when that needs to be said. And if our role is a pastor or catechist, then we have a responsibility to proclaim the truth, in season and out, not to compromise it for 'pastoral' reasons - because we have the example of the Good Shepherd to follow.

1 comment:

umblepie said...

Very good post,thank you.