Last Friday in (What A ) Year For Priests, I announced that I would spend next week answering questions about priesthood. I gave two examples of questions from people on staff. After citing the question about celibate clergy giving advice to married couples, I added this paranthetical comment : [My instant reaction to that one was, “Heck, if I limited my advice to things I knew about, you’d never hear from me again.”]
My intent was to be humorous and certainly not [yet] to address the question. Yesterday I received an email from a reader who informed me that I had given “an insulting terrible answer” and that I should be “ashamed at” myself. The reader added, “If we can’t trust you with honestly answering questions like this one what can we trust you with?”
I’m writing this now, not to elicit sympathy or to complain about the reader’s negative reaction, but to reflect with you on how shaken I am that a flippant comment can cause such a strong reaction in someone else. I should know better, but I am always surprized at how anything to do with the Church tends to evoke strong feelings and emotionally-charged rhetoric.
It’s made clear in About This Blog that “although he is a member of the Society of Jesus [Jesuits], the views he expresses in this blog are not necessarily those of the Jesuits or Loyola Press,” but I am always aware that I am taken, at least by some, as a kind of spokesperson for the clergy, if not the Church.
Where does this leave us? Do I have to censor myself at every moment to make sure I write nothing that could be taken as offensive? Can I afford to be light-hearted at all? What, if anything, to do?
I only know that I sit here with a churning stomach…