January 1, 2020
Blessing on you this Christmas season!
As is my custom, for the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I will be re-posting the Top 6 posts of the past year. Today I offer the top post of 2019, a homily posted on June 30, 2019 entitled Beware That You Are Not Consumed by One Another…
I am not a political person and I don’t like confrontation. I am particularly uncomfortable when it comes to calling people out on their behaviors. That being said, in preparing for my homily, I felt like I needed to address the recent firestorm enveloping our Catholic high schools.
I sent a text to Fr. Jim early in the week. I told him what I was thinking about and asked for his input on whether or not I should go there.
To be honest, I was hoping he would tell me to stay away from it. I was hoping he would tell me not to go there. The circumstances make me uncomfortable and I wanted to use Fr. Jim as my excuse to avoid talking about it.
No such luck. He told me it was important to go there.
I just finished my twenty-fifth year working in Catholic high schools. Nineteen of those years have been in administration. Working in Catholic high schools has been a joy, but there have always been challenges. It has become even more challenging in light of recent events.
I am concerned that Church teachings and the authority of the Archbishop are being challenged. I am equally concerned that anyone feels alienated from the Church. However, these types of challenges are inherent in all organized religions and have occurred throughout history. So, while this concerns me, it is not what worries me the most. What concerns me the most are the aggressive and reckless responses to the conflict.
There have been some thoughtful responses. Some people have entered into dialogue with their parish priest, pastoral ministers or with each other. Others have gathered together peacefully to acknowledge their feelings and pray.
On the other hand, there have been many comments made by Catholics as well as non-Catholics – on both sides of the issue – that have been hurtful and insulting. Parties involved have been attacked, often by people with little to no accurate information.
I have no right to tell anyone how to think or feel. However, my clergy position offers me the opportunity to stand at a microphone in front of a congregation and ask them to reflect on and pray about how we act on those thoughts and feelings and encourage them to help others do the same.
In my current role, I have had the opportunity to work closely with the leadership of Roncalli, Brebeuf, and Cathedral, as well as with Archbishop Thompson and the leaders of the Office of Catholic Schools. I know all these people well and consider them friends. All are good, faith-filled, loving, and compassionate people.
Like many of you, I have family members and friends from the gay community. I have worked with gay colleagues in the world of education – dedicated, loving people that cared deeply for their students.
When any of the parties involved say how heart-wrenching this conflict has been, and how difficult decisions were to make, I believe them. My heart hurts for them as well as for everyone impacted by the decisions.
When they say that their decisions were made prayerfully, I believe them. They are prayerful people and I am confident their decisions were made with the help of prayer.
For anyone to say – and it has been said many times by many people – that the decision of the Archbishop was made out of hatred and bigotry is irresponsible. It is hurtful and insulting and demeaning to the office of Bishop.
To cavalierly say – and it has been said many times by many people – “Good riddance! We’re better off without them!” in regard to Brebeuf, the Jesuits, or those that lost their jobs is irresponsible. It is hurtful and insulting and demeaning to the good work they do.
When it became clear what I would be talking about in my homily, I wondered whether or not the readings for this weekend would offer any scriptural support on the topic. Sure enough, I received proof once again that God speaks to us through the scriptures.
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Galations, we heard, For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.
What a profound message in regard to this situation in our local Church. Our freedom allows us to think, feel, and act any way we please. However, if we cannot control our response to conflict – if we cannot offer a measured response based on reflection, prayer, and knowledge of the facts – we may well implode. Or, as Paul writes, our behavior may cause us to be “consumed by one another.”
Interestingly enough, I worked on this homily while sitting in a large room at the City-County Building with many others summoned to jury duty. While we waited to see if our name would be called, we were shown a 16-minute video about the qualities of a good juror. It encouraged those who would be called to serve to be attentive and take in all available pertinent information. It cautioned us not to give in to first impressions or preconceived notions. It asked us to thoughtfully weigh all the evidence.
That is what we should do before we insert ourselves into or respond to the current conflict. And because we are members of the Body of Christ, in addition to all of the qualities of a good juror, we would add the need to pray. The decisions that guide our responses and behaviors must be made prayerfully.
I hope you are not sitting in the pew thinking that this issue does not concern you. It concerns all of us. It may not involve us directly, but we should be informed. We should not speak to what the Church teaches if we don’t know what the Church teaches. We should seek to understand. A copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church should be in the home of every Catholic family. It is OK not to know and understand. It is not OK to be unwilling to seek knowledge and understanding.
There have been a number of times over the years that a student has come to my office and asked what the Church teaches on a given topic. Sometimes I know the answer. Other times I am uncertain, so I pull out my copy of the Catechism and say, “I’m not sure. Let’s find out together.”
So, what can we do? To begin, we can seek understanding. We can help educate others or point them to resources. We can encourage others to refrain from using hurtful or toxic language when we hear it. Most importantly, we can pray for everyone involved. When we do this, we will be praying for the health of the entire Church. If we turn a blind eye or make no effort to keep our “brothers and sisters from biting and devouring one another”, we may very well be a witness to our Church consuming itself.