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The Last Post…

…which was cross-linked elsewhere today, has been taken down after prayerful consideration.

Not because I believe any of it was essentially false, but because it was read by a number of people who apparently misunderstood — for whatever reason — what I was intending to convey. And if what I’ve conveyed misses the mark, bad post.

Ultimately, I think I failed in expressing frustration and sorrow, which was the driving emotion of my post, and I believe people read my tone as if I were spewing them out of my mouth, to borrow a phrase. I also should have done a better job in voicing my legitimate care and concern for individuals who have been wronged by people in the Church over time.

This was not at all my intention in criticizing the article, discussed here. Part of my accepting the call of Our Savior to the priesthood was in the realization that I could bring something positive to the Church by dedicating my life to Her, in a time where the Church is in need of young men and women with a love for the Lord.

Perhaps this is why the topic of people going the other way evokes such a passion within me.

At any rate: mea culpa.

14 Responses to The Last Post…

  • Hi, Father — Apologies if the original intent behind your post got away from you through my cross-posting it at IC. I appreciated your point and understood you *not* to be criticizing those who were leaving the Church, but the idea that you could reach those people better through something like an exit survey. Please do keep up the thoughtful analysis!

  • Annie says:

    I think you can help people who have been hurt directly or who are worried about the abuse problem. It mainly consists of acknowledging their concerns in a pastoral way and sometimes that is all that is needed. Other times it is not enough but you have to try anyway.

  • John H says:

    I saw your decision to take down the posts as capitulation to the hierarchy of the church. The older I get, the more I see young priests without much life experience recycling very conservative ideology and showing almost no insight with regard to the gospel. Like all families, the Catholic Church has and will always have to endure scandal, hardship, and power struggles. Perhaps the reaction to the comments that you received would have been allowing more speech to continue…….Please consider that next time.

  • Fr. Josh Miller says:

    Actually, John H, I stand by what I said. I just believe the tone in which I said it was unhelpful to a lot of people, as was evidenced by the violent emotive response. It has nothing to do with “capitulation,” and everything to do with an old maxim from rhetoric: “It may be true, but it might not be helpful.”

    As far as “speech” goes, I have no problem with people posting here or elsewhere. Never really have. But if the reactions I get are so wildly off-base, then the post itself is not constructive nor conducive to intelligent discourse.

    As for my theological aim, it is to present orthodox Catholic thought. This is, in the end, what I promised to do at ordination, and anything less would be a failure to live up to the promises I have made.

  • KBeth says:

    Josh Miller took down the original post and now makes the dubious claim that he didn’t really say or didn’t really “mean” what he clearly said- which was completely hostile to Christ and the scriptures in the deep-seated general contempt he displayed towards people who *need* to walk away from abusive priests and a proven environment of abuse in the Catholic Church in order to *heal*.

    Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth (or the keyboard) speaks– and the fact Miller reaffirms his words show clearly that his heart is *not* one filled with LOVE.

    “Mea culpa”– but he stands by everything he said? What does he then want to be forgiven for? Is it EVERYBODY ELSE’s fault– he’s the victim here?

    For the record, Josh Miller claimed in the original blog post he already knows why people leave the Catholic Church and “there are only three reasons”– then he said he could not possibly learn anything from ASKING the actual people what happened.

    The hand cannot say to the eye “I have no need of you.”

    Now Miller audaciously references Laodicea when referring to people who leave the Catholic Church. This is wholly outrageous considering that it is the CATHOLIC CHURCH ITSELF which is in current times suffering from the disease of lukewarmness– the people who claim the moniker “Catholic” in the modern times largely have no knowledge of official Church teachings or the scripture and do not care to learn. Being Catholic is a matter of culture and about 45 minutes on Sunday to the majority of people populating the modern parish.

    To be clear, contrary to the manner in which Josh Miller has referenced it, Christ in the Book of Revelation threatened to spew the ENTIRE PARISH (including the pastors, logically speaking) from his mouth– not the people who *left* Laodicea to find a place where they could thrive in another community of Christians who were on fire with LOVE for JESUS!

    THANK GOD for the Baptists and other protestant churches who reach out in compassion and love to nurture people who have left the Catholic Church and to give them true encouragement to LOVE JESUS with all their hearts!

    One of the primary reasons Josh Miller says people leave the Catholic Church is PAIN, but he takes no notice that the pain actually has to be deep and highly excruciating before a Catholic person finally gives up. He in fact immediately dismissed their pain as trivial and meaningless.

    Had Miller the true heart of a priest he would not be wasting his time playing around on internet blogs and instead would be seeking what he could do to reach out to those REAL PEOPLE in PAIN and HEAL them.

    Apparently such healing does not comport with Miller’s idea of “Orthodox Catholic thought.”

  • KBeth says:

    Well, crap- I can’t edit my post.

    I read the Laodicea reference quickly and though it is true that the Catholic Church is beset with the disease of lukewarmness, etc. Josh Miller did **not** actually compare the people leaving the Catholic Church with the Laodiceans. I would correct my post on that important point of fact if I had the ability.

    But I still feel quite strongly that the pain of people who feel the need to leave the Catholic Church has been highly trivialized.

    And I still see an attitude that “giving up” on these people in their pain is the only option.

    I am also thankful that other Christians such as the Baptists see these souls as important to Christ so much so that they ACTIVELY GO TO THEM IN LOVE instead of just sitting in their churches congratulating themselves on what great doctrines they have.

  • No, KBeth, giving up on people is not the only option. What I’m saying is that a survey is not going to help me get to them where others have failed.

    KBeth, what I am calling people to is endurance. Fortitude, one of our virtues. You can’t reform a system you find deficient by stepping back from it, and deciding to throw rocks through the windows. Likewise, you can’t step out of the Catholic Church and then expect that the healing you need will become available to you. All of the great reforming movements in the Church happened precisely because people didn’t turn tail.

    If it sounds like I’ve trivialized anyone’s pain, however, I am deeply sorry. That wasn’t the intention of this post. The point of the post is that we have dual responsibilities: the entire Church has the duty to see that wrongs are righted, and the individual has a duty to attend Mass, to endure.

    Not attending Mass is a moral decision rather than a consumerist one. When you decide to step away from Mass for any given period of time, that’s a moral decision which — if you are in step with the Church — involves moral consequences.

    And when we look to dispense ourselves from moral consequences, we create alibi. It’s a story as old as Adam and Eve. What I’m trying to get through here is that that those alibis come through three forms. These are, at the end of the day, really why people stop going to Mass. Because someone has been hurt, they move on. Because they’ve become apathetic to the religious question, they stop going. Or because they figure that they don’t need the Mass and the Eucharist to find their salvation, they wander.

    Does this mean that I’m not receptive to their pain? Does it mean that I’m washing my hands from them? Does this mean that I don’t want to help right the wrongs? Of course not. But by the time they’ve reached that point, the anger or the hurt or the apathy keeps me from having access to them, because they’ve removed themselves from the place where I might reach them, i.e. through the Church. What I was expressing was frustration over this very simple fact, and yet you continue to accuse me of being heartless. Just the opposite is true, however: I care about this sort of thing because I *DO* want to draw them back. If it wasn’t a source of frustration and heartache for me on a personal level, I wouldn’t have bothered writing about it.

  • Greg says:

    Hi, although I’m a Protestant, I want to with a Happy New Year to all of my Catholic brothers and sisters.

    I’m OK where I am right now, but if I ever wanted to become a Catholic, Father Josh is the guy I would go to for wise counsel. I would beat feet from all the way down here in Texas up to Illinois just so I could ask him to help shepherd me through the process.

    Some of you have been very kind to mention the fact that Baptists and other Protestant groups have been there to offer ministry and membership to Catholics who have wandered away from the church.

    Protestantism is much more focused on the evangelical zeal of every individual member of the congregation. Many of the people sitting in the pews regard it as their personal responsibility to reach out in love and solidarity to those who could be thinking of wandering from the flock.

    So I would have to ask Father Josh’s critics, what have you personally been doing to reach out to those straying members? How many of you have been sitting in coffee shops talking with a fallen member about Christ’s love and the viability of the Mass? How often have you been inviting them into your homes and including them in various gatherings to surround them with love and support?

    This is what Protestants do. Things are not simply left up to a hierarchy, and so the critics of Father Josh need to ask themselves what part of their responsibility are they leaving in another’s hands to do?

    Frankly, Father Josh has become a priest in a much more difficult time religious-wise. When I was a kid, there was the Protestant church and the Catholic church. Now Christianity competes with Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and virtually every major world religion. My doctor is a Sikh, and I used to live down the street from a Hindu temple. My wife works with Hindus from India. And since our country has gone ape with multiculturalism, this is the very kind of exposure that our young people get in the university systems.

    And as universities are always trying to hire prestigious Nobel prize winners and other celebrity professors, even Notre Dame has professors who do not even believe in God, let alone the viability of the Mass. As a consequence, the secular element along with the multicultural element create a much more ambiguous platform on which to base one’s faith. It’s the whole culture that has been affected by all of these different intellectual strains.

    Most of the Christian kids I know have a greater knowledge of what karma is than some of the intricacies of their own faith. The most successful ministries in the West are television and the movies. And as you all know, religion does not play a significant role in any of these mediums.

    All of which is to say that woulda-shoulda-coulda is not going to get anyone closer to the ideal of retaining more Catholics with a reverence for the church and the Mass and the many wonderful things that the magnificent Catholic church offers.

    My advice to those of you who are disappointed by departing members would be to get busy in your own realm and start actively reaching out to these people. Get together with them personally, not for acts of salesmanship, but to explore the mutuality of your faith needs and to let them know that they are loved and needed and that they provide something special in the Catholic church that would be lost if they were not there beside you.

  • Jacinda Ramsey says:

    Sorry Father Josh but you are missing the entire point. As a matter of fact, I KNOW I am sinning, I think most of us do actually, by not going to church and not receiving the Eucharist. I don’t want to sin… I still consider myself a Catholic, a sinning one, but a Catholic.

    When I was in college, 20 years ago at a face to face confession I told the priest I felt God was calling to me to religious life. My grandparents and parents had been members of that church for years. I had been president of the youth group etc. He laughed. Laughed and said he really doubted it. It cut me deeply but I stayed faithful to the church. I was president of the Newman Center in college. I thought, new place, new parish. The director had an alcohol problem and was VERY liberal; we lost most of the students. I tried to get someone from the diocese to investigate or just help us and was told we were a group of trouble makers. Another state and two dioceses later trying to discuss problems with priests who had no time. Once I asked a priest to bless a rosary for my child. I felt like I had asked him to crawl 10 miles on his hands and knees! This isn’t one problem with one parish and one church and one priest. Every instance I have mentioned (and a few more that weren’t) destroyed a part of my identity as a Catholic. I have shed so many tears. I realize I should have “Fortitude” and keep coming back for more but I am so afraid that to continue to have “Fortitude” will begin to erode my faith in God altogether!

    I finally stopped attending mass regularly because looking up at the priest during the service made me so angry I couldn’t take communion. I tried looking up at the cross the entire service, I tried looking down at the floor. I tried keeping my eyes on the missal. Even if I had never spoken to the priest (and I haven’t belonged to a parish since the rosary incident) I would become angry. I have been to confession. I have talked to a counselor. And I have prayed. And prayed. Many of my friends have left the Church or stopped attending mass for similar reasons.

    “Likewise, you can’t step out of the Catholic Church and then expect that the healing you need will become available to you.” So am I suppose to believe I can get it from where the injury came from in the first place?

    “You can’t reform a system you find deficient by stepping back from it, and deciding to throw rocks through the windows.” I agree, but what DO I do?

  • Jacinda, thank you very much for adding your comment. I appreciate it.

    When I hear these things — and you are not the first to bring such horrors forward — I always go through a mixture of anger and sadness. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such things at the hands of individuals within the Church, in the deepest sense where “sorry” means “sorrow.” It especially grieves me that you received that kind of reaction from a priest within the context of the confessional. Having heard similar stories in detail, I can tell you that often the reaction you receive is often from the priest sorting out his own baggage, and rubbing it off on you. It’s deplorable.

    As for your sincere and very good questions in light of your circumstances, I can only offer an anecdotal response.

    Anyone who enters the seminary is going to be hurt through the delinquence of people within the Church. I experienced it, and there is probably not a single young man or woman in formation for the priesthood or religious life who has not suffered at one point because of it.

    And I know exactly what you mean about that resentment hitting you at liturgies. Perhaps it didn’t affect me as deeply as it does you, but I’ve been there, and I know what it means to struggle with all that other baggage we bring with us. I do it every single day as I attempt to put my faults and failings out of the way when I celebrate the Eucharist.

    But ultimately what gets/got me through that sense of being wronged, or that desire to just take off when Fr. So-and-So was saying Mass, is that I’m not there for him: I’m there for Christ. I’m there for that grace in spite of the fact that the guy up there might be a mean old cur.

    In the end, I made it not about the guy who was standing up there, or the fact that the homilies were dry, or any other thing: I made it about the Eucharist. And in doing so, my love for the Sacrament grew. My sense of fortitude grew, because I knew what I was seeking (growth in holiness) ultimately wasn’t going to be provided to me by anyone other than God, through the grace of the Sacraments.

    In the end, it’s all about seeking the grace to push past all the exteriors and my own pains. I used to joke with my friends about some of the Masses I’d go to outside of the seminary where the liturgy wasn’t the greatest, and I’d say, “Well, at least the Eucharist showed up!” But that’s exactly it. The Eucharist did show up.

    And that’s all I need.

    God bless you, Jacinda, and know of my prayers. Please pray for me as well.

  • Dan says:

    “Had Miller the true heart of a priest he would not be wasting his time playing around on internet blogs and instead would be seeking what he could do to reach out to those REAL PEOPLE in PAIN and HEAL them.”

    I’ve seen these accusations before concerning priests who blog. If the priest is wasting his time, then that charged definitely can be leveled against any of us who ‘travel’ and comment on the internet. “…instead would be seeking what he could do to reach out to those REAL PEOPLE in PAIN and HEAL them.”

    Well, that applies to all of us, not just Fr. Miller–look into the figurative mirror when charging such–”For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

    God Bless Father!

  • Thanks, Dan!

    Actually, I see reading blogs as a way to continue my intellectual development, and to just keep in touch with what’s new and poppin’ with the people.

    I’ve always seen blogging as a kind of extension of ministry in my free-time (which is considerably less than when I began, pre-seminary).

    Recently, priests were encouraged to keep blogs and use new media as a form of teaching. The guy who did the encouraging?

    Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Dan says:

    Father,

    On the positive side, even if someone responds to a blog with anger and lashes out at you, at least the person has been engaged. Someone who isextremely angry at the Church or with priests, but then takes the time to comment on a blog is a sign of someone searching and reaching out.

    It is an opportunity for engagement…to begin a conversation, so yes it is fantastic for priests to utilize social media.

  • Pingback: Should we conduct exit interviews for lapsed Catholics? | Crisis Magazine

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