19 April 2012

In response to an anonymous "friend in Jesus"

Back in January I attended a Cursillo weekend where I received a letter from "a friend in Jesus" who wrote:
Dear Fr. Darren [sic]: I am writing this letter to you in hopes that you again become acquainted with Jesus this weekend & remember what it is like to feel that unconditional love.  I hope that you will remember that there are many who love & serve Jesus, each of us in our own way.  I have seen your postings on FB & am appalled at the negative & hateful way you speak to people because they do not follow every nuance & letter of the law.  The way you speak is not in the spirit of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps you need to look inward & ask yourself what it is you are hiding or running from.  Perhaps these people have something you no longer have - the love of Christ livining [sic] in them.  Ask yourself why you no longer have a parish - Is it the way you treat people?  You didn't use to be like this.  Read Matthew 23 - quit being a hypocrite.  I'll be praying for your conversion.
I've been meaning to respond to this letter for some time, but until now it has remained at the bottom of a stack of papers.

To be quite frank, I'm not really sure to which comments or posts on Facebook to which this person.  The only thing that comes to mind is a time when I challenged some people's vicious and hateful attacks on Bishop Finn when he said people should not hold hands during the Lord's Prayer at Mass.  What I said is that someone who claims to be a faithful Catholic cannot at the same time hurl attacks at a Bishop because of what he says about matters of liturgical practice.  I still stand by this statement and will not back down from it.

Many people were very offended that I would dare to defend the Bishop and challenge their adult-style temper tantrums.  I may have responded a bit over-zealously to their comments, but my tone was certainly not at the same level as those attacked Bishop Finn with words filled with much hatred.

Part of the trouble here, I suspect, is that tones of voice are not easily inferred through the written word, especially when passions are high on both ends.

The person who posted the comment that sparked the diatribe later apologized to me for the childish behavior that ensued by other commenters; that was not in the person's original intentions.

If this is what led to this letter, I believe I know the identity of the anonymous writer, but because I do not know with certainty, in fairness I cannot ask her.  To that end, I will answer the letter here, which will also be posted to Facebook.

I should first like to point out that anonymous letters have no place in the Christian life (this is why most people simply ignore anonymous letters and throw them away).

Jesus said, "If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone" (Matthew 18:18).  This requires a personal encounter, marked by genuine love and concern.  Such love and concern cannot be shown - and, indeed, are quite absent - from an anonymous letter.  The only people who write anonymous letters are people who lack integrity.

One might say that Jesus doesn't like anonymous people.  Remember what he says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kindgom of heaven...  Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you'" (Mathew 7:21-23).

Those who know me well know that when challenged or corrected in a respectful fashion, I do listen openly and look to see their point of view.  The anonymous "friend in Jesus" gives me no opportunity to listen and no actual concerns to which I can respond.

The writer presumes a great deal and - without quite saying so - claims to know my heart, which also has no place in the Christian life.

It should be remembered that Jesus is not a "nice guy;" nice guys are pushovers, and Jesus certainly was not a pushover.  He spoke clearly and forcefully.  I wonder what "the spirit of Jesus Christ" means for this writer.  Certainly it is not present in the same Jesus who "made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area" (John 2:15).  Certainly it is not present in the same Jesus who said, "You are like whitewashed tombs," the very passage cited by this anonymous writer (Matthew 23:27).  Nor is it present in the Jesus who condemns "you brood of vipers" (Matthew 23:33).  Nor is it present in the Jesus who says, "So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16).  Jesus acted always in love, yes, but he was not always nice.

The reason I no longer have a parish - or three parishes - is really quite simple: Bishop Paprocki called me to work with him as Priest Secretary and Master of Ceremonies to the Bishop and as the Associate Director of the Office for Vocations.  These combined tasks cannot be done while also serving regularly in a parish.  My current assignment has nothing to do with whatever I said on Facebook that greatly offended this person. 

I will be happy to discuss this anonymous person's concerns in person, in a charitable and civil manner, but this "friend in Jesus" must first come forward.  We may not come to a full agreement on our different views, but a discussion can certainly be had and difficulties perhaps resolved.


  1. Father, I have had similar experiences with people such as that (as have some of my priest-friends)who act like they know your inmost intentions and such. Good for you for standing with the bishop and holding your ground.

    I am just shocked by the gall this person had to even insinuate that your lack of a parochial assignment had anything to do with anything you may have said. Besides, if you were such a "problem priest," I strongly doubt your Bishop would have you as his MC and Associate Director of Vocation. Srsly. That whole thing besides being incredibly rude and inappropriate was just farcically illogical.

    BTW, you don't write anything negative or hateful. You just call it as you see it. Truth is Truth. Nothing more. Nothing less. Those who caterwaul about it are just acting on a subconscious/conscious knowledge of the fact that they may just be wrong.

  2. Fr. Darin, it is obvious that this person has never gottin the real meaning of the Cursillo movement. That is Christian Leadership. Perhaps it's do to a lack of maturity. I apologize, on behalf of the cursillo family, that you would even have received such a letter. We can only offer the truth. It's up to the individual to have the mentality and spiritual maturity to receive it. You are correct...throw it in the trash, that's what it is. Peace, Gary Hodgson