Monday, July 2, 2012

A priest demonstrates how to defend Church with knowledge and virtue

Even if you have seen the video of a Kalamazoo, Michigan priest responding to a group of dissenting women after Mass, I thought I would pull some lessons out from my viewing and share them here.

Some will have you believe that Church teachings cannot be defended charitably.  The fact is, you can exercise the charity of instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinner while still being nice.  In fact, since God gives to each of us a free-will, it becomes all the more important to use an approach that will get people to want to listen, even when we think they will not.   Harshness will often cause others to put up a wall or simpy walk away.  We don't see any of that in Fr. Ted Martin's handling of this issue.  Credit also has to be given to him for not dismissing them, and for going out to speak with the women, knowing full well it was not likely to be friendly.

This priest shows that you can defend the Church soundly, while being nice.  Pay careful attention to the dissenting woman's response to him. While she doesn't get it, and barely allows him to get a word in edgewise, his cage is never rattled. He is armed not only with knowledge, but with virtue and grace. His good-natured manner disarms her anger at times. While no one could fault him for manifestations of righteous indignation, there is not even a hint of anger in Father that could be interpreted as hate or spite even though she is very rude and condescending to him. He goes so far as to invite her to make an appointment for more in-depth discussion, believing he can win (Romans 8:31)

This priest is no less concerned about the teachings of the Church being perverted than anyone else who knows the truth; but, what you are witnessing is a defense rooted in love for the person, and mindful of their dignity.  This is not a "style", but a grace-filled skill.   He is not interested in scoring points for the best zinger (which is actually self-serving); he is interested in winning the souls in his presence against seemingly overwhelming odds. That takes knowledge, extraordinary patience, skill, and a whole lot of grace.  I should add long-suffering to the list because I don't think I would have lasted three minutes without going off half-cocked (which is nothing more than lack of control).

By never losing his cool, he left the door open for future dialogue with his eyes on the prize (Luke 15:7).   It is tempting to laugh at these women (and I did); it's far more God-pleasing to keep that Scriptural passage in mind and pray earnestly for them (which I neglected to do until this reflection).  Love for God and neighbor demands it. It's that part of charity we sometimes forget about when we slip into making a sport of the bad behavior of others.

Thank you, Fr. Ted, for a humbling lesson in how to handle dissenters. Ad multos annos! May God bless your work abundantly!

This is over 18 minutes long, so watch it when you can invest the time.

Father decided to respond to the women in his own video seen in the frame below (the one above was actually shot and uploaded, apparently by someone with the group of women).  In fact, here is Part 1, when they were outside St. Augustine Cathedral as parishioners left after Mass, and before Fr. Martin came out).

Now to his responses to the women.  Here again, there is not a hint of anger, nor does he have a mocking attitude.  I think he shows genuine concern for them, and for others who may have been misled by some of what they said in their video.

And, he continues...

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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