Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Luke 23:34

Over the years of counseling and confessing, a priest finds certain trends, common threads of experience. For some it is a pattern of sinful habits. For others it is difficulty dealing with others. One of the patterns that I most encounter is anger.

I don’t intend to infringe upon the intimacy of confession or counseling for the sake of giving examples, so I will use a transcript from the Academy Award winning film “Crash”. (Pardon me if I use a film that has some morally offensive scenes and language, but nowadays it’s hard to avoid). Toward the end of the film, Jean, played by Sandra Bullock, is talking on the phone with a friend:
“Carol, I just thought that I would wake up today and I would feel better, you know? But I was still mad. And I realized... I realized that it had nothing to do with my car being stolen. I wake up like this every morning! I am angry all the time, and I don't know why.”

Feeling “angry all the time” is reflected in everything we say and do, and because of that we end up offending those around us, especially our families. Anger, after all, is one of the seven deadly sins. At the same time it is one of our very human passions.

Consider what the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about passions:
The passions are the feelings, the emotions or the movements of the sensible appetite - natural components of human psychology - which incline a person to act or not to act in view of what is perceived as good or evil. The principal passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger. The chief passion is love which is drawn by the attraction of the good. One can only love what is good, real or apparent. (Compendium 370)

Stop! Read that again. We are drawn to and act upon what we perceive as good. Hatred, fear and anger are adverse reactions to what we perceive as evil. Now here’s the rub: how much of what we perceive as evil really is. Hold on! Don’t jump to conclusions. I haven’t made my point yet.

Often in confession I ask the penitent who feels anger to take a deep breath and think back: how many times in your life have you acted out of a real desire to do harm to another person. It can happen. But the fact is we often end up offending others, not out of a desire to do harm, but because we let things slip, or are not aware of their sensitivities.

Then I ask, think of the person who most offends you. Do you really think that person wakes up every morning scheming of how to make your life miserable? To date, I have not had one person answer “yes” to that question. Nevertheless, we perceive ill intentions in others acts, and that makes us angry.

How profound are Jesus’ words from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) The Pharisees acted according to what they perceived what true. Was their perception correct? Of course not. Did some truly act out of a desire to do evil? Maybe so. Can I know who and why? Never. Therefore, am I in a position to judge them?

As I look back at events, acts and persons entwined in my journey since I entered the Legion, I cannot pinpoint any intentionally aimed at doing me harm. Most were caught up in a system perceived to be good.

But if I act on any of the sentiments of anger, I only do harm to myself, and may end up doing harm to others. I need to recognize the sentiments of anger and frustration and act on them in a way that is healthy for me personally and edifying for the souls under my care.

I cannot resent or hold a grudge against anyone, not even Fr Maciel. It does me no good. That doesn’t mean I accept or approve of his actions. Nor does it mean I accept or approve of the errors engrained into the methods of the Legion. That will be dealt with when the Holy Father sends his delegate and indicates how the Legion is to be purified.

For my part, I have spoken openly and freely with the apostolic Visitor, and I have written extensively to Fr Alvaro and my territorial director about what I see needs to be done.

Looking toward the future I am excited about starting over. I await anxiously the decision of the bishops I have contacted, and I am getting ready spiritually and psychologically to make that transition.

15 comments:

  1. Fantastic post on anger. I know many who could benefit from it's wisdom.

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  2. Father, I truly pray you are accepted into the Diocese of Columbus. It would be a blessing to have you in our parishes! God bless you. I will offer my next Mass for you.

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  3. Sorry anonymous, I haven't applied to Columbus.

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  4. Thanks for this post, Father. I agree that anger is not a good place to stay. I also think there is the opposite position to getting angry and it may be even more unhealthy than the anger and that is called denial. It is a great coping mechanism to ward off pain for a while but to live in it too long allows us to miss out on the reality of life, love and being fully real and human.

    I could never understand why in the first months after the scandal broke, LC priests would say time and again in their talks that all the LCs are serene and peaceful. There is such a thing as righteous anger and I think it was necessary for me to go thru that stage before I got to forgiving Fr M for what he did to our Church and so many innocent priests (like you), lay and children and to my own faith life. I have gone thru a tough year and I am finally more peaceful after I raged, cried, prayed, read blogs to find truth and walked around confused for a while.

    When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I was in denial for several weeks because I could not bare the pain of facing the fact my mom was going to die soon. Once I was able to work thru the denial and look at the facts and process the pain, hurt, anger, frustration, I could get to truth and acceptance and love my mom in a beautiful, real way before she died. I am so thankful I did not stay in denial and the Lord pushed me to truth. There were so many gifts I received in the acceptance of that cross.

    I always worried that the LC was encouraging and indirectly manuipulating the RC women to be peaceful, not read the blogs or other info and stay in denial and they were not providing any tools to heal and process the pain. They were not doing that on purpose to hurt people but only following Fr As lead and what they were taught by Maciel.

    The Pope finally gave the words we all needed to process the pain - Maciel was a man "devoid of religion" and the system he set up needs a profound reform. We needed to hear the truth to heal and Fr Alvaro was not willing to even go near there and actually continued to communicate the opposite (broken vessel, write straight with crooked lines, be forever grateful to Maciel) so we were left utterly confused and not able to heal. We could not even leave in peace and I had to peel away layers of guilt, fear and pain upon exiting RC even when I knew so clearly Jesus asked me to leave.

    Thanks for blogging about your journey. It is time for the healing to begin. I will pray for you.

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  5. I heard a whole talk on anger based on the Summa. It was great. I love St. Thomas. The talk focussed on anger as a healthy response to a real evil. Some of the ways the sin of anger comes in is when it is either disproportionate to the offense (ie: too much anger for an small offense) or not enough anger (dis-passionate- there is a grave offense and no one is using anger to motivate oneself to act in accord with justice), and as you mention perceiving an injustice when there isn't one.

    I recognize this is your blog about your personal journey and how you are sorting out your leaving the LC. Anger, however, is not good or bad..it's a feeling. Feelings just are. It's what we do with the feelings that are important. And for many, anger is a healthy and proper response to this whole cult. Without expressing that anger in a healthy, safe way, one can actually continue to fuel the anger in a more detrimental way. Why? Because the intellect knows an injustice has been committed and when one continually rationalizes it away, it is like telling the intellect a falsity -- that an injustice really didn't happen, you just perceived it.

    A real injustice can have just anger as a healthy response. And a healthy way to use just anger is to channel that energy into righting the injustice.

    The dysfunctional system of the Legion manipulates and hurts people. This is an injustice. Anger is a healthy response in many of the cases with those leaving. Even if you are not feeling angry (which is great), it doesn't mean others who do feel angry are not justified (and btw, I'm not suggesting you are saying that; I'm just putting it out there in case people are wondering if anger is OK).

    I'm so glad you are leaving the Legion.

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  6. Dear anon out of RC,
    Thank you for the insight. I agree with what you said about denial. A person in denial will of course not get over the anger, and that is not healthy. That is why facing our emotions head on and dealing with them in the light of truth is so necessary. Otherwise, anger could turn to vengence, and we not only remain victims but turn into agressors.

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  8. Thank you for bringing St Thomas into the discussion. He is, of course,BRILLIANT. Read the Summa on anger, its causes and effects

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  9. I agree with you Father, but my experience in the Legion was that anger was written off as the irrational behavior of the weak. Fr Bannon never got angry, at least not in public, and that made him the perfect priest in LC terms, and therefore a model for the rest of us.

    Emotions should be respected for what they are, indicators of one's interior state. If you are angry, elated, distraught, perplexed, etc... then you have something that needs to be resolved, not disguised so as not to appear weak.

    Anger is the most logical response any of us can have towards those who decided to protect the order over the individuals that comprised it.

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  10. Dear Noah,
    You are absolutely right. I agree totally. But remember, my post was dealing with unjustified anger. "I'm angry all the time and I don't know why." I could write about justified anger, but readers comments are saving my the trouble.

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  11. Dear Fr.
    Thank you so much for doing this. You are helping me to make peace in my mind and heart toward the other Legion priests whom I felt a lot of anger towards. One of my children was emotionally scarred by the movement, and to some extent I felt some of the legion priests I knew were responsible as much as the founder. Please continue to show others like us, that not all Legionaries are without compassion and are in fact true pastors- we need you for the sake of the Church and for Her healing.

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  12. Thanks for posting the summa which deals with anger. Our speaker addressed a lot, but obviously it wasn't exhaustive. The main thing that impressed with me with the subject of anger through Thomas' eyes is how "modern" he seemed. (Imagine that? Who knew? A Catholic philosopher from the middle ages having something relevant for the modern world? :) ) I spent a good year with an excellent psychotherapist to help me deal with anger in a healthy way and to help me get past the idea that anger was "bad" (which had been drilled into me by the RC methodology -- can't show real feelings in a cult) -- and here St. Thomas had said the same sort of message in the middle ages. I was actually so thankful to God -- it reconfirmed for me that authentic Catholic theology (not cult theology), respects the whole human person: intellect, will, passions, emotions, memories...and helps us integrate our whole person (of course, I'm assuming the cooperation of grace in this integration) into an authentic human being. When I left RC a line from Ratzinger echoed in my heart quite often. I paraphrase: The most authentic human person that ever lived was Jesus Christ...the more human we become, the more Christian we become. I'm slowly healing and learning this more and more. Blessings on your continued journey.

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  13. Father, and my brother. What a courageous and loving thing you are doing for your community. I truly believe that the Lord placed you in the Legion for the healing that He,through you, may offer those who have been hurt. You have the complete support and prayers of your blood family.

    I have read your blogs and subsequent comments to our mother. It has had a profound impact on her unrelated, but parallel experiences of betrayel, frustration, and anger.

    Thankyou so much for sharing your journey, for all of you sharing your comments, as this promotes greater understanding, healing, and prayerfulness. Father, I intend to pass this blogsite on to my locals, because, in your loyalty to the LC, you had said very little in the past. This will help us all reconnect with you, not only a talented priest, but also a loving brother, son, and friend.

    On behalf of your home community, we love you, fully support you, and of course, pray for you!

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  14. "in your loyalty to the LC, you had said very little in the past"

    I think this is where some of the pain and frustration has come from. Maciel created a loyalty (thru the structures/vows/ formation) to LC/RC that superseded truth and relationships and succeeded to protect him even after he died. Our loyalty should only be to Christ and his Church. RC should have just been a tool for us to help us achieve that, not a chain to keep us enslaved in pain, fear, and guilt if we left.

    When an LC priest speaks up about the major problems of Maciel's methodology in a loving but firm way - healing abounds. It finally feels like people and thier healing is being placed above loyalty to the Legion and I think that is what God wants. It is so beautiful to read the healing journey of others who have left RC. Thank you Father!

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  15. Blessings to all I have no comment of substance. reading the blog and comments is facilitating my personal journey. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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