If So

We’ve all heard it:

If anyone was offended by what I did or said, I apologize.

In our deeply litigious culture, this kind of statement is common. Especially from people in the public eye. Maybe they don’t want to get sued. I was in a traffic accident once–a fender bender. It was totally my fault, and I wanted to admit it. My insurance agent counselled, “Admit nothing.”

Many of us have gotten better at recognizing bad apologies though. Or when we hear it, the little antennae on our heads quiver a bit. We know something is wrong. The translation:

I didn’t intend to hurt anybody. Because of my lack of intention, I am innocent of this charge. I’m still good. And maybe people who got damaged are too sensitive.

A statement shows an unwillingness to listen, to actually hear a person’s complaint. It’s essentially narcissistic, which is why we hear it often from celebrities: politicians, musicians, athletes, CEOs, and the like.

I got into a similar exchange in a liturgy discussion. A friend was complaining about the subjective bad treatment he has witnessed from mainstream Catholics to tradition-leaning ones. I was asked:

Have you ever listened with an open heart to the “embittered Latin Mass folks” side of the story?

And I responded:

As a matter of fact, yes I have. And I’ve recommended places for them to worship when I knew their area.

I know Chicago pretty well, so I’ve referred more than one person to Saint John Cantius. I also do the internet pretty well, and I can research a place for a drop-in. I also have some contacts here and there to check with people on whether or not a place with tradition is also a “good” parish in a wider sense of the term. A colleague might tell me, “I hate the Latin Mass, but I concede the priest and parishioners at St So-and-so are good.”

To be clear, as a professional, a place like St John Cantius would likely never hire me. And if a place doesn’t hire me, I generally only go there when I’m on an actual travel vacation. When I’m on vacation, I more often go to a friend’s parish (if I’m somewhere I’ve lived) or to a cathedral or monastery. Depending on my wife’s mood for tolerating my hoity-toity taste in Sunday liturgy. I don’t think I’m being hypocritical by sending a trad-leaning person to somewhere I wouldn’t go. I think I’m being honest with where I think they might like to go.

Anyway, this was the response:

If so, then I commend you.

“If so” actually torqued off somebody else on the thread. But it does show a similar pattern. “I have my subjective experience, and maybe you’re being less than truthful.”

It does show the divisions in Catholic run deeper than mere liturgical taste. There is serious mistrust afoot. In my parish’s first attempt at livestreaming worship, we were on ther spot for Holy Thursday. (Our archbishop said that recording Triduum liturgies for later viewing was not acceptable.) Our parish camera and computer guys were testing out different equipment through Lent, trying to get things better with each effort. Commendable, right?

Unfortunately, two pre-liturgy snafus made it less than a good experience for one traditional-leaning parishioner. I got an angry-looking text Good Friday morning about the lack of reverence. Why were people laughing and joking before such a solemn occasion and drowning out my piano prelude? I tried to reassure my friend that I was one of four people in church, and nobody was doing any such thing. Check the recording, I was told. (I didn’t think we were supposed to drop it online, but it was there.) And yes, my super-quiet piano imitation of plainchant had a light background of chatter. It was noticeable, but not really bad, in my opinion. A new microphone was picking up everything on the system, including a presider who had his mic on in the sacristy where the clergy were talking. And the piano was poked up pretty loud to the point where the notes were distorted. I told my friend the new equipment was turned up too high and a priest has his microphone turned on. But the parishioner would have none of it. And after another long text of complaint, I realized I wasn’t going to spend the first morning of Triduum arguing the various merits of our parish versus another.

In these times of pandemic, a lot of nerves are getting frayed. I think the best we can do is recognize it when it *might* be happening.

About catholicsensibility

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