A Climate of Harshness

Reading of the 1968 genesis of the FDLC on PrayTell, I was struck by this sad account of two episcopal temper tantrums:

(A) couple “untoward” things happened (not necessarily in sequence but grouped together in subject matter). First the delegates were bawled out, and I mean really laced down, by two members of the American hierarchy, Cardinal Cody and Bishop Leo Byrne of St. Paul. One of the occasions for this “dressing down” was the “far out” convention Mass (which the delegates had not planned). The bishops didn’t like the “communion-in-a-basket”, the flutist in a slinky skirt and hipboots. The other occasion was just a general scolding for being a part of the “lunatic fringe”, rabble rousers, revolutionaries with no respect for rubrics, canon law, grace, or anything that’s good and holy.

I was speaking with a colleague earlier this week about her parish, and her perception of a persistent mode of punishment from Authority there. I prefer not to go into details (as I don’t have her permission to relate them) but when I read this paragraph above, I was struck by the congruence.

Cardinal Cody was a known resister to liturgical reform. (I don’t know anything about Bishop Byrne.) It seems clear to me that this sort of harshness happens independently of a person’s ideology. Count me a doubter on the notion that progressive liturgists or traditionalist clergy are typically mean-spirited in their dealings with others. I suspect it’s a matter of poor upbringing rather than ideology. And a healthy dollop of fear.

I recall one episode where I witnessed a similar dressing-down of a colleague by a bishop. It was all I could do to keep my shoes rooted to the floor, turn my back, and pretend to ignore. My intervention would have been harsh in turn, and likely not to render much help to my friend.

I can’t say I have a quick fix to offer. I think harsh authorities bleed credibility. It’s not an easy thing to turn on and off, like a kitchen faucet. I can foresee circumstances in which a parent, boss, teacher, or leader wants to communicate she or he is angry. How to present that as one factor, then get on with an exchange–I can’t say I’ve mastered that. But it’s necessary to the point where I tend to distrust any angry outburst.

As a parent, I can relate there are very frustrating times, even in rearing a very good daughter. I can say I’ve regreted every episode of my harshness. What has been better for me as a parent is setting a good example, and presenting my child, in a calm way, with a proper series of choices.

I perceive something of the Cody-Byrne style of harshness in the current liturgical climate. A few commenters on PrayTell, the Chant Cafe, and other sites barely conceal their glee at being able to stick it to a group of other Catholics.

Any success stories out there in bringing refreshment to the climate of harshness?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to A Climate of Harshness

  1. Mark says:

    My only comment is bring back the “Traditional Mass” then we would not have these problems. Thats all I have to say.

  2. Mike says:

    My only comment is bring back the “Traditional Mass” then we would not have these problems. Thats all I have to say.

    That is the most absurd statement I have ever read anywhere about anything. Ever.

  3. Right now I wouldn’t speculate on to where you would assign my place on the “Harshness Amplitude Meter,” Todd. But we agree that harsh attitudes have seized the day in St. Blogs, both in public and private exchanges.
    It’s particularly odd that in comboxes it seems no one can agree on anything, that up is not down, that left is not right, and despite all of the referenced rhetorical volleying, no one seems at all disposed to put down their gifts, reconcile with their sibling, and then proceed to the altar together to offer worship and praise. When you mentioned “smoke” in a comment regarding a since redacted PT article, I immediately thought: “Folks, what part of ‘Say yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no, all else comes from the Evil One’ do you not get?”
    When your friends start implying you are inclined towards appeasement at all costs to stave off war, then who needs enemas?

  4. FrMichael says:

    I think this “climate of harshness” exists mostly in Catholic journals and blogs. Well over 90% of US Catholics are unaware of either and this “climate” exists only because of more local issues.

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