8 July 2013

Lack of thought, lack of gratitude

One of the problems that comes with the Internet is its instantaneous nature. When one had to publish in paper and other mediums in years gone by, one had time to give their words a second sober thought, to rethink what one wrote originally, and alter it, or strike it completely. One had time, in other words, to think.

With the Internet, however, a simple keystroke and one's first thought is published and instantly available to a worldwide audience. It is a medium which encourages shooting from the lip, and discourages thinking things through. I thought of this earlier when my wife showed to me something she found on Facebook. A well known priest (I don't have Facebook and can't look up and link to the thread, and therefore shall not mention him by name) has started off a thread by complaining about people who refer to married deacons as a "deacon couple" and goes on to speak about how people are mistaken about the historical nature of the deaconess. Naturally, this sparked off yet another debate. That's not what I am going to write about.

This is: A woman later chimes in by saying that her husband is a deacon, and that she had to take the theology course with him as part of his training before he could become a deacon. "Does this count for nothing?" she asked. Yeah, yeah, replied father. You get four years off purgatory. I hope, very strongly, that this was just a thoughtless moment on father's part, that he spoke before he thought the whole thing through. And that perhaps he may regret it. I doubt it, given the nature of other threads, and comments and such I have read from the man, but I hope so. This kind of flip dismissal is unworthy of a priest, or any man of thought.

When the Vatican was approached years ago by women who were asking for an allowance of female priests, the Vatican did not blow them off, but rather recognised their desire to serve, and respectfully explained the position of the Vatican. This is the pattern of the Vatican: "We understand what youa re saying and why, however..." Being flippant, on the other hand, shows no respect, and only alienates people.

He has also failed to recognise and, again, respect the enormous burden that having a deacon for a husband puts on the wife. In my diocese, a deacon does many of the things a priest does, but as an unpaid volunteer. This means that the deacon will be away from home more often, so all the burdens of running the house, or buying groceries, or tending, feeding, helping with the schoolwork, and putting to bed of children falls upon the mother. She will find herself alone more often, and with less help, as she picks up all the burden the husband leaves behind to take on the burden of being a deacon.This is why, in my diocese, a permanent deacon is on a contract that is renewed every few years, and both the deacon and the wife sign the contract. She has an absolute right to refuse to sign, and if she doesn't sign, her husband will not be a deacon. Period.

Father should have recognised this. He should have said something along the lines of "You are doing a good thing by permitting your husband to be a deacon, and taking on all the responsibilities that you do so he may serve God. In your own way, you too are serving, and the Church is grateful for that." Instead, he chose to blow her off and insult her. Assuming their dioceses are like mine, and, like mine, in desperate need of men and women willing to serve, was this wise? Is she more or less likely to sign off on her husband serving another term as deacon knowing that it means for her more work, more loneliness, less time with her husband, and absolutely no respect and perhaps even contempt from the people who are most directly helped by the deacons, namely the priests themselves? Are women who read this comment likely to encourage the husbands to become deacons, or are they more likely to think that their husbands becoming deacons won't be worth the trouble on their part?

Father owes her an apology. And he would do well to let a few moments of quiet reflection pass before he hits the "post" button.

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