Listening to Those Fallen From Grace

The CNS News Hub linked this Rhode Island Catholic column from their relatively new bishop, Thomas Tobin. It seems rather timely given the vigor of St Blog’s discussion these days, especially those who feel I’m an unworthy sort to be telling them they might be all wet:

So too, an unworthy preacher can deliver a truthful message. I’m conscious of this in my own ministry all the time. When I speak about abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, immigration or any other public issue, I make no claim to personal sanctity or moral superiority. I could be (and in fact am) an abject sinner but the message I present is valid because it’s rooted in the Gospel of Christ and the teachings of the Church, realities strong enough to overcome my personal peccability.

An angry caller to a radio talk show I was on a few weeks ago challenged me on this precise point. “You’re a hypocrite,” he fairly shouted. If he was expecting a fight he was disappointed. “You’re probably right,” I agreed. “I think there’s some hypocrisy in all of us whenever we fall short of what we want to be.”

I think leaders become obstacles when they don’t lead by doing. I remember losing respect for a high school teacher when I found him deep in gossip about students with other students.

As a parent, I feel the need to be careful, especially when I’m confronted with a variation on a topic I might preach on to my daughter. Am I keeping up my end of the family life? When I take the hard road on something I’d rather be more lax about, I try to set a better example, and I hope it makes my child’s decisions easier.

All too often the discussions online focus on rights. Hypocrites have no rights. Error has no rights. The fact is that pointing out deficiencies is a responsibility, not a right. When rooted in charity and mutual respect, correction has a hope of taking root. Though I may grumble about it on occasion, the fact is that I appreciate when my wife, my colleagues, my pastor, my friends, or even my daughter calls me on something.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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