A corporal work of mercy.

A corporal work of mercy.
Click on photo for this corporal work of mercy!

Saturday 16 March 2013

Father Forget responds

In a story titled, Toronto Star trashes Catholic priest for raising sexual immorality, misrepresents Archdiocese, LifeSiteNews has further developed the matter, Diocesan spokesman publicly rebukes Toronto priestIn an interview with LifeSiteNews, Neil MacCarthy, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto indicated that he spoke with the Toronto Star reporter for twenty minutes. However, it would appear that Mr. MacCarthy, who was extensively interviewed, was not actually misquoted, but selectively quoted. 

Father Charles Forget, Pastor at St. Leo the Great, in Brooklin, Ontario, attached to the weekly bulletin a standard "examination of conscience" brochure. For those who might have missed it (can't imagine how if they went to Mass on Sunday), women of the parish with children in the two elementary schools inserted the examination of conscience into identifiable envelopes, sealed them and delivered them to the schools for distribution. There were only two complaints from parents were received at the parish who later went on to write vile and possibly criminal remarks on the Brooklin Moms Facebook Page and contacted the Toronto Star. "You haven't heard the last of me" one screamed. Vox has confirmed that the reporter at the Star is now a member of the same, Brooklin Moms Facebook page. It seems that the protagonist in this matter who wrote extensively in the comment box at the above link works for a firm aiding in people obtaining divorces. It is now clear that the objection was not the form itself but the action sins listed, particularly those of homosexuality and lesbianism as revealed in direct correspondence.

Father Forget has written in his bulletin for this weekend an explanation to provide clarity to the parishioners and the facts. In the interests of truth, Father has given permission to post the bulletin remarks on the matter here.

The people of St. Leo's Brooklin are very fortunate to have such a Pastor. May God bless Father Forget and the people at St. Leo's as we enter Passiontide: 

H  A   T   R   E   D
“Gossip is hearing things you like
about people you don’t.”
Hatred is such a strong word and an awful thing.  It can lead to calumny, (a misrepresentation intended to harm someone else’s reputation - Merriam Webster Dictionary), cause the ruin of another’s life or even put the other persons’ life in danger in the extreme.  I love the above quote I heard on a radio program a while ago because it hits the nail on the head.  We tend to think of gossip as a light form of talking about other people’s lives, faults, shortcomings, behaviours and actions but at the heart of gossip is often hatred for another person.  Speaking about someone else can also be a forum for us to falsely feel better about ourselves as we compare ourselves to someone else we strongly criticize.
Brooklin is a relatively small community where people tend to know and recognize one another more than they would in larger urban centres.  I am sure it is no surprise to anyone in our parish of the situation I have been facing with a small group of people who have been fueling flames of hate towards me, the Catholic Church and pretty much anything they can wrap their tongues around and their more recent venture to go to, what one blogger so aptly called “a Catholic-hating, Catholic-bating media outlet” with the hope of goodness knows what. 
Stories grow and have a tendency to become embellished and take on another life.  I feel the need to write here what has taken place to enable our parishioners to know the full truth should they hear all manner of versions from the media and talk on the street.  As my mother used to say, “Error is half way around the world before truth gets its’ boots on”.
On Sunday February 24th I inserted in the parish bulletin a two-sided sheet called an Examination of Conscience (which I didn’t compose) and explained in my announcements that this was intended as an aid to those who might want to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation taking place two days later.  Many parishioners told me they used them and I received no complaints or comments at all.  The following day I sent to the homes of every Catholic parent who has a child in one of our two elementary Catholic schools, envelopes containing the same Examination of Conscience along with a cover letter explaining the Examination of Conscience and an admittedly blunt, straight forward message about the need for Catholics to attend Mass each Sunday and that not do so constitutes serious sin, a sin that some parents pass on to their children who will continue to do what their non-church-going parents have taught them.  Twenty years of priesthood has shown me that a soft, sweet and flowery letter would not have impacted anyone. Considering our times of moral relativism, a loss of a sense of sin and a general attitude among some Catholics that all that is necessary in life is to “be nice”, I felt the language had to be honest and challenging.  All of the envelopes, marked with the name of the parish, were sealed by women of the parish who have children in both of our schools and these were distributed to the schools to be taken home by children to their parents.  (We use this exact process twice a year in sending home sacramental information to any parents who might otherwise not know what is going on sacramentally in the parish and the Catholic School Board does the same in our parishes.)
Two days later I received a phone call from one parent who was furious at what I had sent to her home.  She told me her envelope was not sealed and that her daughter had opened it and read a word she asked her mother about.  But that was not her point of upset.  Her anger was over one of the sins mentioned in the Examination of Conscience which she took great exception to and taught her children that it was okay in their family.  The issue was over the actual Examination of Conscience and how dare I as a priest send that garbage to their home.  Our phone conversation was short and her last words to me were to the effect that this would not be the last I would be hearing from her. 
This same woman is also on a local Facebook group of mainly Brooklin moms and she started a tirade that invited a handful of other moms to join in on the fun of mercilessly attacking me personally, my priesthood, the parish, the Catholic Faith and Catholic schools and organized religion in general all the while still calling themselves ‘Catholics’.  Messages were sent that could never be repeated in civil company much less a parish bulletin and it was obvious that the instigator was bent on fueling the flames all the more in her attack.  She finally came to the conclusion that ‘someone’ (but not her) needed to go to the media with this and the assurance that anyone who spoke to the reporter could remain anonymous.  She could serve my name up to the likes of the Toronto Star but she and others could remain incognito.  Most convenient.
Sadly, the real issue that started this whole shemozzle – a person taking exception to Catholic teaching – has been lost as with the Star article the ‘anonymous’ now claim that the issue is that I sent the letter home with their children, unsealed.  And it certainly didn’t help that a representative of the Archdiocese said to the reporter that my letter wasn’t ‘pastoral’.  But the letter was not the bone of contention at all and hasn’t even been cited by the Facebook group – it was the content of the Examination of Conscience that Jesus wrote in the sand in this Sunday’s Gospel.
Perhaps my letter and the attached Examination of Conscience hit such an unexpected nerve because those who are filled with rage don’t understand the role and call of the Priest of Jesus Christ.  There is a moral imperative upon every priest as a shepherd of souls to speak the truth that has been revealed by God, in season and out of season.  While some have reduced the Gospels to a group of days in the life of a man, people of faith know them to be a Living Word, able to, with great power, convict us and comfort us, challenge us and give us hope; to warn us and defend us, to teach us and to guard us.  Jesus is that One, the Son of God, our Saviour who has revealed to us all that we need to know in following Him faithfully with our lives.  Jesus is the One who founded the Church upon Peter, the Rock.  Jesus is the One who instituted the Priesthood in order that the Sacraments He entrusted to the Church might be administered, the Gospel preached, the sinner converted, Holy Mass to be celebrated and Christ made present.  Each priest is called by Holy Orders to “preach, teach and sanctify” and to call sinners to repentance, himself included.  As a priest and pastor, sending the Examination of Conscience to Catholic homes was a part of doing my job.
In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (3:20) whom God appointed as a “watchman for the Israelites”, we read about the same responsibility for souls that every priest is charged with:
“It may be that a righteous man turns away and does wrong, and I let that be the cause of his downfall; he will die because you have not warned him.  He will die for his sin; the righteous deeds he has done will not be taken into account, and I will hold you answerable for his death.  But if you have warned the righteous man not to sin and he has not sinned, then he will have saved his life because he has been warned, and you will have saved yourself.”
One comment posted on a Catholic blog put it so well:
“The call of the conscience is very unpleasant indeed, but then again, so is the strident noise of the fire alarm, and we don't normally complain about it when it saves our lives. So do we really value our spiritual lives the same way?”
Good point.  Sometimes it’s ‘pastoral’ to shout!  (Fr. Charles)


Barona said...

Fr. Forget is to be commended for his loyalty to Christ and His Church in preaching the Gospel.

Patience said...

It's terrible how much damage can be done by attacking someone online. Fr. Forget sounds like such a refreshingly honest priest. I feel bad that he didn't get any public support from the archdiocese but I guess given their attitudes; it's not surprising.

Anonymous said...

Fr Forget was only telling the truth and I guess for some the truth hurts and being a catholic i totally understand where he's coming from

Vox Cantoris said...

Dear Anon at 1:26 on April 10, 2013.

I am not prepared to post your comment for reasons obvious in its content but I will say this.

1. Jesus was a "polarizing influence." He did not come to bring "unity but a sword." The people that refuse to hear the truth and prefer to have their "ears tickled" will resent the admonition against sin.

2. Jesus said, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." It is not the priest that places a "heavy yoke" it is our sins beginning with our pride which is the root of all sin.

3. Name-calling is not helpful. I would instead urge you to pray for a softened heart and for your pastor.

God bless.