A Ministry to the Hateful and the Hated

It sometimes feels like being the bridge between two angry worlds. And it’s heartbreaking – not because people are angry, but because people have such good reason to be angry.

I’ve recently had opportunities to meet men and women who have been incredibly hurt by members of the Church. Priests, Christian family members, and spiritual mentors and guides have hurt them physically, sexually, and emotionally. I’ve heard stories of physical and emotional abuse, rejection, and hatred at the hands of Christian leaders. I’ve looked into the pained faces of beautiful men and women and received words of anger about the Church and Her members. 

I used to think that when people leave the Church, it’s because of an abstract decision to rebel, a moment of weakness coming from a cold and mistaken rationalization. But now, perhaps more than ever, the world knows this is not always the case. As a Catholic, I’m especially aware of the ways in which Church leaders have very concretely hurt the most vulnerable members of the Church.

And as I’ve gotten to know some of these victims, I’ve realized that, even if those most directly responsible will not accept culpability, I must. At Spiritual Friendship, we tend to call upon our churches to make us more fully members of the Christian community. We long to more fully serve the Church and to love and be loved as fully integrated Christians.

But if we wish to more fully be a part of the Church, we must also accept the burdens, pains, and sins of Her other members. As a Catholic, I am culpable for the sins of my diocese. And when a victim of abuse or hatred has anger or resentment towards the Church because of these sins, my vocation calls me to be the recipient of this anger. If I am to be an advocate of justice, I must suffer for the sins of my Church – not because I am ashamed of Her or reject Her, but because I know that She is called to be purified through suffering. I am called to be a servant of my Church and my diocese, and part of my service must be a willingness to die for the sins of Her members, just as Christ has died for my own sins.

My vocation is to reject the legally protective and infuriatingly abstract sound byte of, “Mistakes have been made,” and to instead preach the words, “I am truly sorry.” We must have the humility of a priest I heard pray to God for forgiveness “for the sins of our diocese”. This calling is especially important for gay Christians, because our gay brothers and sisters have so often been the victims of the selfishness and pride of Christians. Many gay men and women are very hateful towards the Church, often because Her members have been hateful to them.

So our calling is to stand as a bridge between these two worlds, to take responsibility for the sins of our communities, and to be the loving and willing recipients of hatred. We are called to be a ministry to the hateful and the hated. We are called to humbly accept anger and to respond with the joy of the Gospel.

Chris DamianChris Damian recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame and is currently pursuing degrees in Law and Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. He can be found on Twitter @UniversityIdeas.

11 thoughts on “A Ministry to the Hateful and the Hated

  1. Thank you so much. There has been a letter making rounds in social media from an ex-monk who has sheltered homeless gay teenagers. He has essentially blamed the teaching of the Church for giving parents permission to boot youths out of their homes. How can Mother Church prove him and other critics wrong?

  2. Hi Chris,

    I agree with the spirit of your post. I too want to accept the suffering that comes from sin and in particular the suffering for the sins of the Church. I to want to want to help purify the Church through my suffering and take the cross for her sins as Christ did. But just as Christ I can’t accept culpability as I’m not culpable. I will take up the cross but I will not assume the guilt.

    Blessings

    Rosa

    • Thanks for the link, Rosa! I’m always in need of further study in theology. The distinction does strike me as an important one. We don’t take upon God’s anger for our sins, but we must be willing to accept the world’s anger for our sins and to respond with mercy, just as God would respond. So, our “taking responsibility” for others’ sins isn’t taking upon ourselves God’s wrath, but, rather, taking an act of mercy both for those who have sinned and for those who have suffered as a result of that sin.

      • Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to read the link. What is very important to distinguish is between taking up the pain an suffering of the sins of others (the consequence of their sins) and taking up the guilt. You can offer to suffer for the sins of others but you have no part in their guilt. You (and I) are guilty of our own sins but not of others sins. Everybody has to bare their own guilt. But we can bare the consequences (suffering) of the sins of others. This is redemptive suffering. We can also very sorry for the sins of others in particular for the sins of other members of the Church.

        Thanks

      • And yes , you got it right… We should take the consequences of our sin and of others sins, however they might show up, the anger, the hate, whether it comes from the victims or from the predators or from the world at large.

      • But, unlike Christ, we need to be aware that we often, even without conscious awareness, have taken into ourselves the sins of others and made them our own. Yes, when my society or my church has sinned, it is too often the case that I myself have participated in that sin. I’m gay, and yet some of my actions and attitudes do indeed reflect the prejudicial and unchristian thinking that has so long been directed against people like me. It is often in exactly those areas where we think we are spotless that we are most culpable. Self-examination and repentance are always the first step to be taken in attempting to follow Christ.

  3. Hi Ed,

    Yes, we need to take a very deep look inside and acknowledge and repent for any sins committed and even be very aware that we might not catch some of them because of our blindness. Feeling guilty for our own sins is healthy and just.

  4. This is how I see myself — as a bridge between the Church and those the Church has hurt. I was spiritually abused by a group within the Church — that is, my love for God was manipulated for other ends; the whole story is complicated. It was an experience that left me wounded in many ways and my faith shaken. Most of those who were with me in this group have since left the Church out of hurt. And more than anyone else, I see these hurting people as my flock, the people God most wants to reach through me.

    It’s hard. There is no answer to “I love God, but I can’t bear to step foot in a church,” or “So many other things were a lie, I wonder if God’s existence is too,” or, “I think that God loves me, but I can’t make myself believe it.” There aren’t really any words that help. But walking with people as they go through it, letting them know that you CAN come back to faith despite it, and telling them that God *never wanted this to happen to them* …. it’s something that these people need and deserve, even if they never do come back to the Church. It’s a calling that you sort of have to have suffered to do at all.

  5. Pingback: Around the Horn :: 4.24.14 | Treading Grain

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s