Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Dangerous Loss of Objectivity and the Destructive Results of TMI*

When you find out you have a medical problem and you seek a cure do your research criteria include finding a doctor riddled with the same disease which you are suffering? If you have AIDS, does the doctor you seek out for a cure lose credibility in your eyes if he or she cannot prove they also suffer the same malady? Of course not.

When a person wants to find a good doctor their last concern, if it is even considered at all, is that the doctor needs to have the same disease as the patient in order to prove they are capable of curing it. This might prove a capacity for sympathy or fellow-feeling, but that is all it might promise to guarantee. The typical medical bill is a high price to pay for a mere shoulder to cry on.

This mode of reasoning which considers emotions of least importance is called objectivity: the good doctor for me is the one with the knowledge, experience and skills to cure my illness. But this experience does not come best or only through having the disease itself. The kind of medical experience that is of benefit to a patient is the objective viewpoint and expertise built up through seeing the disease firsthand in others in various modes of development or occurrence, the observation of various cures and their results, the long process of trial and error made possible by professional and vocational commitment and longevity. This is readily seen and instantly understood by the patient who has confronted the evidence of his or her illness.

Such objectivity seems to be lacking in other areas. Does a priest have to publish emotional rantings about a love affair to prove he understands the lovelorn? Does a married person have to go into tear-soaked confession of past indiscretions in a public forum in order to aid the fidelity of engaged couples? Wallowing in such emotional displays and self-aggrandizement might demonstrate such persons to be confused and leave them vulnerable to making asinine errors in judgment which endanger their vocations and the faith of those who seek them as an example, but that is all. And in the end such self-revelations boil down only to so much selfishness.

Unfortunately many Catholics, who make loud and prolonged protestations of support for the priesthood, hold to this and other errors which undermine the very priesthood and the vocations which they so vociferously seek to convince themselves and others that they so value.

Please do for priests, the Church and yourself the service of seeking them out, not so that they might prove that they are capable of sympathizing with your particular situation because they are able with great detail recount their own foibles, errors and sins and thus prove their capacity for fellow-feeling. Rather seek them out in order to seek out Christ who alone is capable of never confusing sympathy with self-seeking, but who loves only as God, completely for the other. Redeeming love and mercy in Christ for the believer in need of salvation is the purpose of the priesthood.

The disease of gossip and the gluttony for information about the private lives of others which feeds emotional fantasy is dangerous. Lives, families and vocations founder on the rocks of the anti-culture of TMI*. Think before you post on Facebook. Think and PRAY.

And frequent confession wouldn't hurt either: objective, factual confession. Not more emotional spluttering and babbling. Leave that to Facebook.

*Too Much Information

1 comment:

timh said...

Oh Father, you’ve read my mind in so many areas, and summed it all up so well! I hadn’t even realized they were so interrelated. Our pastor is a ‘late’ vocation-a widower with children and grandchildren. So many parishioners use him as an example of how a married priesthood would be preferred. They think he understands their problems so much better than previous pastors because he was married. I do think this undermines the celibate priesthood, even while I see firsthand how his family suffers… [My objection to the ACTS retreats-this month is the second anniversary of my retreat-is exactly what you described as tear-soaked confessions of past indiscretions in the (everything said here is confidential but) public forum of the weekend… But priests themselves can feel the need to sympathize-in confession once, the priest told me of an experience where he was a victim of theft and also had difficulty forgiving and seeing Christ in the thief… And, even though you began with the example of a good doctor and her objectivity, a family member who suffered a recent miscarriage, found her OB telling her of her own multiple miscarriages. (In this particular instance, I chose to share my awe at God’s miracle that any healthy child is, considering all that could go wrong, rather than comparing tragedies; what would you have done?)]
I will follow your advice and be on guard for the TMI factor, seeking only Christ’s love and mercy in the priesthood and continuing to pray for our priests.

Thank you for visiting.

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