Why don’t we take a moment to catch our breath on this frantic sprint to dehumanize half the human race? This is not some lame attempt at both siderism. I’m simply asking everyone who’s angry to ask sincerely, “How likely is it that I’ll win this war using the tactics I’m using?”
Ms. Nelson often has the unpleasant task of telling parents they cannot honor friends with the godparent role because they are not Catholic or because they are in an invalid marriage.
“No one gets involved in church ministry because they want to make people unhappy,” Ms. Nelson said. “It’s very difficult. If this person is taking tentative steps [toward the church] and is hit with obstacles, he’s going to say, ‘Why did I bother?’ and give up. And then I’ll think it’s my fault he’s turned away from Jesus.”
She tries to present the church’s teaching on godparents as a positive opportunity rather than a list of rules. “But sometimes the rules bring people back,” Ms. Nelson said.
When she went looking for help from the church, she was still susceptible to the idea that everything was her fault. One priest said it was a shame she was suffering, but all she could do was offer it up. Another told her she had a demon in her.
But a third priest listened to her story . . .
This is one of the most important pieces I’ve ever written, and I’m very grateful to the courageous and honest women who shared their stories with me.
Photo by George Hodan (Creative Commons)
Those looking from the outside can readily see that severely depressed people do not actually need or deserve death, no matter what they say. Instead, they need and deserve to be rescued from the dark lies that call death their only choice.
There is no easy answer to intense human suffering, but one thing is sure: We do not show love by enabling despair, by affirming the lies that make death attractive, by keeping other humans in a dark hole. Love is truth, even painful truth. Love never affirms lies.
But if we see this so clearly in the case of senseless, tragic suicides, why do we hedge when it comes to abortion?
Call-out culture is well-established—so much so that we are now seeing more and more calls to pull it back from an insatiable mob response and to make our call-outs productive rather than simply reactive.
As Catholics, we have a special responsibility to examine how we wield our spears. It is not only the safety of the community that we must consider but the souls of the people involved, including our own.
Image By Hubertus1977 [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Social media, for all its benefits, has made it all too easy to find a group of people who will take your lowest impulses and hoist them on high, praising and burnishing them until they look like something fine and heroic. As you form relationships in the group and come to know and trust your new friends, and as the group members reward each other for holding fast to its ideals, the thing that used to make you feel a little uneasy about yourself slowly becomes your identity, the thing that fills you with pride.
This is how alt-right groups function. This is how terrorist groups function. This is how abusively rigid traditionalist groups function. And this is how dissenting groups function. Dissent comes to feel normal, even heroic. The subject matter in each group is different, but the psychological dynamics are the same.
My husband and I both went to confession one afternoon. I got out first while he was still in line, and he asked me who was in there—the Nigerian nit-picker, the almost-deaf crank or maybe Father Distracto? I reared back in mock horror, rolled my eyes heavenward and whispered, “Um, it’s Jesus.”
photo credit: Freaktography Confessional Booth in Rural Ontario Abandoned Church via photopin (license)
They say that God never answers “no” to a prayer. His only answers are “yes,” “not yet” or “something better.” I believe this, in theory, but in practice, “not yet” feels much worse than you would expect. You understand the justification for waiting: If we force events that are not ready, things may go terribly wrong, and who will be there to save you then?
But that does not make the pain any less. There is no escape. You still have to labor the long way.
Check out the epistles, written to Christian communities that had already been catechised: Half of these letters have the very distinct air of a fifth-grade teacher whose class has no idea how to do long division even though they just spent the entire month on it, but darn it, she will go ahead and tell them again because that is what she is here for.
That is what we are all here for. If we know something good, we have to tell it over and over and over again because God knows we needed to hear it more than once ourselves.
We will never get to the bottom of it. One virtue most modern people could stand to cultivate: looking in the mirror, seeing our vices, our virtues and our sweet, melancholy, guilty entanglements—and simply shrugging. Let God sort it out.