Universalizing your own experience

Universalizing your own experience

There is a tendency I’ve noticed in my comboxes and on other blogs of folks who tend to universalize their own experiences, a danger which we need to be wary of.

Often these universalizers will say things like, “Every priest I meet in my hometown treats his vocation like a 9 to 5 job, therefore most or all priests treat their vocations like a 9 to 5 job.” Or they say, “I can find a parish church that is open at convenient times for working people, therefore parish churches are not open at convenient times for working people.” Another example: “I’ve seen several cases in the news about priests or bishops who live lives of luxury, therefore priests and bishops live lives of luxury.”

This simply isn’t true. The only thing such experiences tell you is that you’ve experienced them. What’s especially disturbing is when a good and orthodox priest pipes up to say, “Hey, we’re not all like that,” he is vilified and shouted down and accused of being part of the problem.

Some people are so full of anger and outrage that they’ve become pickled in it. They’re trapped in a Church they know is the Body of Christ, but they also see that it’s full of and led by such awful sinners. What can one do?

I suppose it doesn’t help that blogs are so often full of stories of various outrages and problems. Speaking for my own blog, I only intend such stories to be vehicles for discussing the way things are, the way they can be improved, and how we ought to deal with them in our own lives. But I can see how these stories can be used to feed the anger and outrage. They are fuel for the fire.

Quite honestly, I think there a few people who should stop reading blogs and stop commenting because it’s doing them no good. If you find yourself full of anger after sitting at your computer for a while, maybe you should stop. Stop worrying about the Church; It’s the Lord’s responsibility anyway. Stop worrying about what someone else’s bishop is doing, what some wacky theologian is doing. Concentrate on your own family and your own parish. Living with such anger is not physically or spiritually healthy.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
8 comments
  • Thank you, Dom.  I, too, read the posts and found the lack of charity appalling.

    No doubt, there are bishops and priests who fail to lead the faithful toward Christ—but there are many others who selflessly devote themselves to celebrating the mysteries with love and reverence, who tirelessly counsel the faithful, who reconcile sinners and instruct the young and old alike in the True Faith.

    The idea that one should withhold contributions to the Church because some priests and bishops have caused real scandal is vengeance, pure and simple.

    Parishioners should expect financial transparency but not absolute control over the budget of their parish; after all, the pastor is required canonically and pastorally to care for ALL the souls entrusted to him.  Just as in local governmental budget decisions, the final decision is left to a few who are entrusted with seeing the “big picture” and taking care of all, not just a few.

    And, for those legally minded, let us not forget that we are canonically obligated to support our parish, so that the works of the Church may continue.

  • As one who has frequently advocated withholding all “financial” support from ones parish I feel compelled to comment on Fr Clarks post above.

    I can appreciate and respect the difficult position you may find yourself in especially when it comes around to the bishops lenten appeal or some other diocesean fund raiser but I will adamantly defend my position that withholding financial support is not only an effective means to get the attention of some of these notorious bishops but I also think it is a moral obligation to NOT support them financially.
    And it certainly is not vengeance.

    If a bishop insists on using diocesean funds to pay for “Talking about Touching” or if he even tacitly supports some of the more infamous dissident Catholic groups then I’m not going to be part of that and I would encourage others to do likewise by withhold financial support and tell the bishop in a letter why you are doing so.

    I do support my parish but it’s not financially.
    I’m not saying I could not be convinced that I am in error on this but I think I’m on very solid ground here.

  • Keep in mind that not all dioceses levy a tax on parishes for the needs of the diocesan budget. In Boston, for example, all money given to the parish stays in the parish while the archdiocese gets its funds from the annual Catholic appeal.

  • Abe—you do not have an obligation to give to the bishop’s appeal or any other diocesan collection.

    You DO have an obligation to support your parish FINANCIALLY (see canons 222-223).  Note especially “223 §1 In exercising their rights, Christ’s faithful, both individually and in associations, must take account of the common good of the Church, as well as the rights of others and their own duties to others.”

    When you say, “I do support my parish but not financially,” how exactly do you reconcile what Canon 223 calls your “duties to others” with your unwillingness to share your treasure with them?  Do you also pay your tax bill “in kind” to the Federal Government (which, I’m sure, uses your money often for more odious causes than your local parish)?  If not, why not?

  • No, Chris, but you’re not saying that you want to withhold funds from your parish, as the other poster was.  The problem is, not every parish expense can be solved with in-kind donations, and even if it could, the only way it would work is if every need corresponded one-to-one with the parishioners’ gifts.

    Fact is, there are probably more people who could donate time to CCD than could donate oil to the burners to keep folks warm at Mass.

    There’s only one common denominator that allows for all of the needs of the parish to be met, and that’s greenbacks.  All people have to give time, all of them have to give their talent, and all of them have to give at least some of their treasure for ALL of it to work, and for ALL the needs of the parish to be met.

    It’s not possible for people to say, “I won’t give money because it might be mis-spent, I’ll only give time—or talent.”  If one person says it’s okay for them to do that, then by extension it should be right for all to withhold money and only give time or talent, and in that case, some needs will not be met.

  • “Keep in mind that not all dioceses levy a tax on parishes for the needs of the diocesan budget. In Boston, for example, all money given to the parish stays in the parish while the archdiocese gets its funds from the annual Catholic appeal.”

    Dom, isn’t that changing soon?  Parishes must begin using Quickbooks and the automatic payments to the archdiocese will occur after that…

    I’ll try to find my source on that…

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