Thursday, August 10, 2006
What at least one Catholic in the Kansas City area needs. Our new pastor made his opinion on one facet of American Catholic parish life well known:
It didn’t take long! Within three weeks of my arrival here, I received my first anonymous letter. I read about half a page before recognizing that the author’s intent was malicious. Then I turned to the last page to discover that it was not signed, so I tossed it into a nearby trash can. I saw enough, however, to learn that the writer thinks that I don’t say Mass right, that I’m too liberal, that I don’t respect our Bishop, that Saint Thomas More Parish is not really Catholic, that the tabernacle is in the wrong place and that half of our Altar Servers - the female half - dishonor God.Then his bulletin column continued:
The only value I noticed in the letter was a couple of references to “your parish” suggesting that s/he isn’t a member of our community. I sincerely thank God for that.The non-anonymous parishioners in my life have uniformly applauded this refreshing expression of frankness:
I will not read anonymous letters for reasons that I think will make sense to you. First and foremost, it is impossible to respond directly to the writer. Also, it is a cowardly form of communication that I cannot condone. I realize that every family has a function as well as a dysfunction, and that our parish family is no different. Rather that contending with passive-aggressive or other disorderly behaviors, I prefer that we deal with matters of significance head on, face-to-face, and with the positive desire to build up God’s kingdom here at Saint Thomas More. It is okay to disagree; more than okay. It is normal. It is not okay to viciously attack, divide, and tear down. People of good will can always find common ground upon which to build, so let us do our part to work together in healthy and holy ways to carry out the Gospel that has been entrusted to us and the mission that has been set forth by our Lord.What a way for a correspondent to make a good first impression. Most priests and staff members in your average Catholic parish will respect a difference of opinion communicated with respect and in a positive way. And in the minority of cases where respect is not forthcoming, at least a person offended against can refuse to pass on the bile to the next unfortunate sap that trots along the way. But communication with any flawed human being carries a certain risk. As we get to know a person, the risk factor goes down. But deep down, many of us harbor teeny suspicions that a loved one might slam us to the ground some day. But as my wise pastor suggests, does that mean you live your life as a coward?