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I was inadvertantly called evil today

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

The small town culture shock continues. Today my wife and I went back to the local Catholic church down the street, but at a time we hadn’t tried before. Apparently the pastor is on vacation so a visiting priest presided.

The visiting priest begin his homily saying “There was a new phenomenon which began in the 1960s called theological dissent, when it became common to disagree with the church. If this were the 1600s they would be called Protestants but now they are called theological progressives.”

He went on to say “this dissent is evil. To stray even the least little bit from the teachings of the church is explicit evil!” He then went on to explain the specific form of evil/dissent which is abortion. This was the entirety of his message for the next 15 minutes: “abortion is evil, dissent from the Catholic church is evil.”

He continued with the rhetoric about how Notre Dame is no longer a Catholic institution because they invited President Obama to speak at commencement. This is August 30, is this all this priest has been preaching about for the past three months? I can’t believe people are still harping on this!

Today is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time and the readings were:

Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8
Psalm 15
James 1:17-18,21-22,27
Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

What do these scriptures have to do with dissent and abortion? The homily ought to be a continuation of the word of God, not our own political soapbox. I do not believe the word of God was preached in this church on this day.

Being a Protestant Christian, I couldn’t help but focus on his opening when he called dissent and Protestants evil. I was so profoundly hurt by this homily. My wife (who is Catholic) expressed her apologies for the priest’s homily. She told me “I do not belong to the church which preaches these things; this is not the Catholic Church I know!” Never have I heard such an active destruction of the unity of the Body of Christ. Not to mention his own dissent of Catholic doctrine which teaches that Protestants have a real, however incomplete, union with the Catholic church by virtue of our baptism. Consider a Protestant who might be thinking about entering the Catholic church. Would this homily help or hinder someone’s decision to enter the church? Or perhaps someone who has been affected by abortion. What hope can be provided to that suffering soul if you bash them with just how evil they are? Would this homily help or hinder someone recovering from the destructive powers of abortion?

As I left the church I shook the preacher’s hand. I looked him right in the eye and said, quite calmly, “Father, I am a Protestant Christian and you called me evil today.” A brief second went by, and a few eye-blinks. He was clearly taken aback. He stuttered for a moment and began to back pedal. “Well,” he said “I wasn’t saying Protestants were evil, I was talking to people within the Catholic church, those who should know better.” I responded “Please be aware of what you are saying and how it might harm the unity we all hope for.” He came back with a weak apology “That’s certainly not what I meant. I’ve been a priest for 23 years and have never called Protestants evil.”

He patted me on my shoulder as I left and a woman behind me in line shook the priest’s hand. I overheard her say “bravo on such a wonderful homily.”

Be sure to read the followup!