Remember that opinion column in my local paper that I responded to? It was the one from a disgruntled parishioner who was upset the pastor wouldn’t allow Voice of the Faithful to meet at our parish. Well, the topic was placed on the agenda for our parish pastoral council meeting last night. (I’m on the council.)
It seems that one of the members of the council to exception to my dismissal of VOTF as divisive and underming the faith. When I ticked off all the teachings of the Church that VOTF’s web site promotes dissent from, the guy angrily shot back that he didn’t need some cardinal or bishop assuming he was not intelligent and couldn’t consider the arguments for himself. Then he said that he agreed with some of things (he didn’t specify) and that many Americans did too. So what, I said, if a million people agree on something it doesn’t make it right. We went back and forth with him saying that my words were prejudicial against VOTF, and I agreed because I had studied the group and made a considered decision based on that to be prejudiced against the group. What’s wrong with being against something after deciding it does no good.
At some point I realized—and others on the council did too—that the argument and the drive of some people to join groups like VOTF is less about thoughtfulness and logic than it is about emotion and especially anger. The fellow on the parish council was actually shaking with anger at one point.
In such cases, argumentation isn’t always the best way to deal with it. My own natural inclinations in such situations is to either live up to my Italian heritage and fighting fire with fire or to completely dismiss the problem, avoid conflict, and vacate the battlefield. Thank God, I didn’t do either. I’m tired of people—including myself—who believe the Church’s teachings, but won’t attempt to counter dissenters with reason and a cool head. So I waded in (praying to the Holy Spirit under my breath) and I think I got my point across. If I didn’t convince my fellow councilmember, at least it encouraged the other councilmembers who approached me after the meeting to thank me for my defense of the Church.
You may interested in knowing the result of the debate. We decided that there are probably many people with the same feelings as the newspaper writer and the councilmember and that the best response is education. Most Catholics don’t even know why the Churches believes as she does, so we may as well let people make their decision to dissent based on the whole story and not partial understanding. Therefore we’ll be having a special seminar—instead of having VOTF come to the parish—which will be called “the role of the laity in troubled times” and we’ll discuss why the Church believes as she does. It should be interesting.