Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Listen twice, speak once

It's a hard lesson to learn, sometimes particularly so for those in a position explicitly designed for speaking. Like catechists.

Have you ever had one of those times where you didn't do anything necessarily wrong but you know later you could - and should - have handled it better? That was me this weekend at and after our RCIA session. In one of the previous sessions the candidates were asked to think of one issue or teaching of the Church they had a problem with. Near the end of class one of the candidates remembered the request so they brought theirs up one at a time.

First, confession - not a theological issue per se but rather discomfort at doing it. Hey, you know what, most people have some level of apprehension about it so it's no surprise someone who has never done it before would be nervous. The way I look at it at this point is that if someone like Fr. John Corapi can manage a life confession after what he did and went through and came out not only alive but more alive than ever, I think I should be able to manage it myself. That one was a relative piece of cake.

The next one though, well, I'm not sure I could have botched much worse had I intended to. This one was, you guessed it, women's ordination. Naturally, being the bull in a china shop that I am, I couldn't just say "it's a sensitive issue that the Church feels unable to change her position on." Nope, I went in with engines at full throttle and started with Ordinatio sacerdotalis and then brought up the CDF's responsum ad dubium regarding the question of OS and infallibility. Since I managed to cram all that into about four of the ten minutes we'd had left, I then brought into it the whole issue of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body regarding the complementarity of the sexes. And somewhere in all this I also stuffed the fact that no one has a "right" to ordination, man or woman, but that it is a gift given by God through His Church.

Sheesh, after all that I think everyone was a little unsure of where to go. Then someone noticed they were about to be late for Mass and everyone packed up quickly and left. I will be left wondering, did I do damage to the person who asked such a simple question, who opened up her concerns, by being to aggressive and entirely insufficiently pastoral in my answering. That question will haunt me for some time, I am sure - clearly I have much to learn from the good Pope who, even from his seat of great power, speaks in a soft and loving tone.

Now here it gets just a little more interesting. As we were leaving, I asked one of the other candidates what her issue was since we didn't get to it in class. Suffice it to say this time my answer was far more smooth, far more attenuated to her position even though I brought up things such as the principle of double effect. Strange how, in the space of five minutes I went from attack dog to sheep dog without checking my principles or letting things to unsaid only for the sake of comfort. I'd like to think I'm learning, but I just don't trust myself that much just yet. Perhaps it was a gift from God to remind me to listen twice and speak once and, as goes the line, "Never defend. Never attack. Always clarify." Much to ponder, indeed.