Blog post from CWS member Mary Pezzulo, originally published on Patheos.com
21st October 2018
I don’t know how to tell you that you shouldn’t mock people in spiritual crisis.
If you are a Christian and that is not obvious to you, I don’t know what more I can say.
I don’t know how to tell you that you’re not supposed to kick people when they’re down.
Fighting back against bullies who live to hurt others– well, we can debate about that. I always say, the ad hominem isn’t a wrong tactic if you’re turning mockery back onto a powerful person who showed up just to mock and antagonize. They came merely to tear people down; you turn their own demolition back against them like judo to protect the people they’re hurting. A “traditional” pastor in a pom pom hat who makes fun of everyone, misleads his flock and calls gentleness the trait of a sissy? I’ll call that person out to his face, harshly, because he might hurt someone who can’t fight back. A person who claims to be the best example of Catholicism while misrepresenting Church teaching and trying to attack people? I will fight back. Someone who claims to be a brilliant scholar but won’t do any research on what certain people believe about themselves before writing an article, not to disagree and dialogue respectfully but to make cruel fun of them? I’ll poke fun to deflect the cruelty. He didn’t show up for reasonable debate, it’s futile to reasonably debate back. I do that often, and maybe I shouldn’t. I certainly go too far sometimes. I am far from an exemplary person. But I don’t see that this policy is unreasonable or cruel.
But someone who’s in need, someone who’s in crisis– someone hurting badly because they have desperately tried to cling to Christ and found their fellow Christians trying just as hard to pull them away– that’s not a person it’s okay to tease, ever.
That’s a person who’s suffering enough, and you should try to help them. If you can’t help, you should at minimum not make it worse.
Yes, I’m thinking of one case in particular right now, of a friend who left the Church and a bully who published an article rejoicing that she was gone and calling for others to leave. But that’s not an isolated incident. Lately I have seen so many examples of my friends trying to hold fast to their faith, and finding fellow Catholics their worst antagonists. I have witnessed bullying time and again, bullying of struggling Catholics by smug Catholics who honestly seem to think they’re defending Christ when they chase away souls. I’ve been through quite a bit of it myself, lately. I have blogged about some of those incidents, and there are others even worse I keep to myself. Sometimes the cruelty takes my breath away, even though I should be used to it by now.
I can’t get used to it and I refuse to get used to it, because it’s wrong.
The Church ought not to be a torture test.
It ought not to be a gauntlet you have to run every Sunday and hope you can endure whatever blows people aim in your direction.
When you are with fellow Catholics, physically in a church or in a group online or in any other forum, it ought not to feel like you’re dangling from rope bridge over the pit of hell, with your brothers and sisters in Christ stomping on your hands to try to earn the title of Last Catholic Standing.
It is wrong that a brother or sister in Christ should be driven to feel that what we hold and teach is a lie, because of the witness of terrible Christians. And it is worse that we should turn on the person who’s been driven to feel that way, and claim her faith wasn’t good enough in the first place, rather than examining what we’ve done to drive her to that point– to drive anyone to that point. It’s beyond the pale that you should rejoice that you’ve tormented them into leaving.
Yes, theoretically speaking, a Catholic should hold fast to Christ no matter the circumstances, even unto death. But that doesn’t mean that we ought to be making Catholicism into a death match. We are to strengthen one another, in love.
I am morally certain that when Christ returns on the last day, He will not ask us how many people we chased away from His presence for not being the right kind of Catholics.
I believe that when He comes, He will appear as the person we despised the most, the person we thought was most unworthy, and ask why we drove Him away.
I’m terrified just writing that, because it condemns me as well as everybody else. We all need to repent, to forgive as we have been forgiven, and to love. I do as well. If I’ve done that to you, I am sincerely sorry and I ask you to pray for me.
If you’re still attacking people who found the Catholic Church to be a death match and ended up with their faith killed, I don’t know how to tell you you need to stop.
It’s abusive, it’s wrong, and someday you will realize that you attacked Christ.
(Photo image https://www.karmicecology.com/body/environment/the-benefits-of-tension/)