"Zeal for your house will consume me" (Ps 69:9)

Thoughts of a parish priest…

Discussing the faith with people who disagree…


Have you ever had a conversation with someone (often times another “Catholic”) who is upset with something about the Church? I have had many of these conversations as a parish priest and find that most of the time people are (righty) angry about things, but often times don’t have accurate information or have all the facts correct, which usually means their anger is misdirected.

Sometimes this is due to people getting their information from secular news sources or hearsay from friends or coworkers. Other times it is because the Church has failed to educate them well in matters of what the Church believes and teaches.

I recently watched this YouTube video of a priest friend of mine discussing matters of faith with some protesters outside his church a few years ago. The initial reason for the protest was the Vatican’s visitation (or investigation) or a particular group of nuns (LCWR) who were suspect of embracing things that were contrary to the Catholic Faith.

The video (and this blog post for that matter) is not really about the Vatican and the nuns at all. As you will see, these folks are quite angry about a number of things, most of which they have misunderstood and that has been the source of their anger and frustration. I will say that I think the priest in this video displays supernatural patience and charity in dealing with their angry protest and how rude they were to him, continually interrupting him and ganging up on him not allowing him to answer their questions. I think the virtue that he possessed at this moment is necessary for all of us having similar conversations, and I will be the first to say that it is not easy at all to do so.

I think the video also highlights that fact that many people have a variety of thoughts about the Church and what it believes and what it teaches. I think the priest does a fantastic job in challenging these people to clearly articulate what it is that they believe and their failure to do so illustrates that many are arguing from emotion and passion that is oftentimes not grounded in truth or reality. Note their persistence in what the Second Vatican Council was about and their inaccuracy in understanding it.

I often hear people say that they can get different answers from different priests or different Catholics and how this causes them such confusion in their pursuit of the truth! I had one parishioner ask a couple of years ago why I prayed for the souls in Purgatory, because the priest who was there before me taught them that Purgatory didn’t exist!

It is always tough when put in opposition to another person, especially another priest. But I always give the same answer – it is not about what I believe or any other priest believes, it is about what the Church believes and to find the answer we need to go directly to the sources themselves.

We are so blessed to have the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the compendium of what the Church believes, which was published in 1992. While it doesn’t read like a novel, it is an excellent reference when discussing what the Church believes and teaches. It is only when we have all the facts and information that we can truly enter into a conversation that is based on more than emotion and feelings about any given issue.

I strongly recommend that every Catholic home purchase a Catechism! Let us all strive to understand what the Church truly believes before we engage in a conversation relying solely upon emotions and feelings.


5 thoughts on “Discussing the faith with people who disagree…

  1. I think it is terribly sad to see all parties in this video act in such a childish manner. These women do attack this priest but he speaks with an arrogance that is just simply foolish. When he dares to go to the school system to compare sex abuse; priests and our church ought to be held to a higher standard — we should be proud as a church that we are held to a higher standard and call others to the same. Finally, your assertion that ” priest there before you” taught there was not purgatory now creates a climate where anyone can go through the list of priests in your parish who were there before you and try and deduce who that may have been. Why would you do that? Might I urge you to edit this and simply say “another priest”?

  2. Thanks for your comment Mark. I would say that I didn’t specify which parish it was that the comment was made to me. Seeing that I have been in several parishes, it would be difficult to figure out who it was. I certainly understand your point and I was simply trying to highlight how confusing it can be to the lay faithful when they receive such conflicting teachings. But I also don’t think it is wrong to challenge those who use the pulpit to teach heretical views. I am not sure why Fr Martin addressed the issue of the schools, but I will say, knowing him personally, that “arrogant” is not a word that accurately describes him. Having people show up to protest on the steps of his Church after Mass with a video camera in his face, I think it is worth giving him the benefit of the doubt seeing how patient and kind he was to them.

  3. This priest was amazing.

    I am not sure I would have stood there being videoed while someone else took notes (without even saying who she was) while being part of an obviously one-way conversation (attack). This woman had absolutely no interest in what the priest had to say nor in truly learning what the church teaches. This was a poorly veiled session to yell at a priest and grandstand for the other women around her, culminating with a posting to YouTube.

    Rather than respecting the priest for the time he took despite her rudeness and ignorance, these women post this clip in what they believe is an apparent victory against that which they obviously despise, in my opinion, that being a male figure of authority and intellect in a church which they hate.

    In the end, this woman has done a disservice to herself. Her antics give fuel to the misguided who see passion as that deserving of merit regardless of how misguided it may be. It reminds me of the ongoing protests of women who seek a female priesthood, unwilling to listen to what is taught and why it is believed, while looking for any chance to create a scene. I find it fascinating that so often those who want so much to illustrate what they believe is right, do so in such wrong ways.

    There is nothing worse than someone who knows everything about something that they know so little about. If you have an argument , at least make an informed appearance. Schedule a meeting, not a hijacking. Come with an open mind, not a psyche riddled with rage. Seek help don’t push it away. And frankly, don’t speak for Christ and his church unless you first attempt to practice what it teaches.

    Overall, such incredible disrespect to a priest and human being. For someone who wanted to speak so much about abuse as did this woman, she was actually being quite abusive herself.

    The most telling moment – her last comment identifying herself as not being part of a parish or church. That for many, may be the good news. Whether she realized it or not she simply identified herself as not being a part of a cohesive group that shared central beliefs with the hope of moving closer to God.

    She has no definable mission but her own. She frankly couldn’t even stay on track with delivering what she felt was the message of the sisters. She is on a mission of anger (nothing more, nothing less) which, in the end, will likely lead to her own self-destruction. Help stood in front of her in the welcoming spirit of a young priest willing to listen and remain calm. She either decided not to recognize it or is so blinded by rage that she can’t even see it anymore. Sad. She may not have that chance again.

  4. ONE of the reasons that I was drawn to the Catholic Church and became a Catholic:
    Consistency with regard to the doctrine concerning free will.

    If you don’t agree with the church – you are free to leave.
    If you want to stay- seek the truth and be obedient.
    Either way God loves us.
    For me I will continue to be obedient to God’s truth through the Catholic Church. My experience of this is of freedom and joy.

  5. Going to a certain Catholic school in the vicinity of Boston has given me ample opportunities to hear a lot of the arguments that the lady makes in the video, but I still do not think I can understand most of them.

    One of the cases where I am most at a loss for words, is the wild interpretations of John 14:6-7. I really do not understand how a definite article (in this case “ἡ”) can, under any interpretation, come to mean something indefinite. This is not a theological argument (though the fact that the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church to this very day interpret this passage literally is not without consequence), but a simple linguistic argument. Unless one is in the business of denying that logic exists, “the” means “the” and not “non-the (a.k.a “a”).” This is the kind of stuff that you lose points for in Elementary Ancient Greek tests!

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