A Comment on the Public Discourse Surrounding Marriage and Contraception, and a Question on if I Sinned in My Silence

I was having a working lunch today at a local eatery, and I could not help but overhear three young women, late 20s I am guessing, discussing recent current events at the table next to me. They were speaking at a loud volume so I could not help but hear what they were saying. One in particular was really telling the other two everything she thought about many current issues, and she tried to sound like she “knew what she was talking about.” I say that, because it was clear from the things she was saying, she did not know what she was talking about, but was just repeating things I am sure she has heard in the public discourse and in particular the media.

With respect to contraception. She was railing against the current position of “religion”, but of course she meant the Catholic Church, She was further stating that if 95% of Catholic women use contraception she could not understand why the Church would not catch up with the times.

With respect to marriage, of course she was speaking on the gay marriage debate, she stated she could not understand why this was all because of Christians. Within a generation, she said, people’s beliefs will be different enough that the debate will not be an issue. She believes that marriage is non-Christian, and that Christians incorrectly state they started marriage.

I felt some sort of “movement” or “stirring” within myself to tell her that 1) although the Catholic Church does not believe a woman’s right to use or obtain contraception should be taken away they do believe it is intrinsically wrong, and as such they cannot in any way cooperate in its use by providing any financial support toward using it in any institution served by Catholic dollars, and 2) Christians do not believe marriage was started in the Christian Church. Marriage was created at the outset by God for the benefit of man, and Christ, as the definitive Word of God, revealed to us in His teachings God’s expressed intent of what it should be. We believe we cannot change marriage.

Alas, I said nothing. I got up and walked out, saying a small prayer that they could see the Truth and understand beyond what they currently do. Did I have an obligation to correct them, not to argue, but to clarify their misconceptions? The public debate right now on contraception and marriage is so screwed up. The Church’s positions are not well articulated to the average person, probably because of media bias. What are we to do about this? Was I feeling something I was supposed to respond to, and if I did not respond to it, did I sin? I thought to myself, what difference can I make talking to these people when there are so many more, but perhaps we are supposed to take this on one person at a time. I just don’t know. Please share specific examples you have found yourself in.

I really can’t answer the question to whether or not you sinned.

Sometimes, we “Do not cast pearls among swine.” Maybe the fact that you didn’t say anything was exactly what God wanted. Maybe He gave you the grace to be silent when it was actually the “ego” stirring. Just another perspective.

Trust that God will bring about something good.

I’d say no sin because it was neither the time (working lunch) nor the place (people trying to relax and eat lunch in a public restaurant).

I really hate that show, “What Would You Do?” because it’s so obvious which PC attitude they want folks to take and they have set up the stage in restaurants at times. Only on that show, the “loud diner everyone should bash” would be pro-life, pro-marriage…ha ha ha!

Seriously, you were not wrong to mind your own business.

Why do you think you woul have an obligation to walk up to strangers who were not talking to you and try to begin a debate with them while they are having lunch?

Not a debate. What I am asking is, if we hear people pronouncing something as a fact, like saying “Christians believe this about marriage”, and that is not correct, do we need to state what is the correct teaching? I am not asking whether or not we need to debate them, because that is not what I was thinking. I am asking, if at some level, when we hear something characterized as Truth that is not, are we supposed to do something about it?

I’ve encountered similar situations, and have had similar questions, definitely!

Just yesterday (July 12) I caught part of Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak’s More 2 Life show on Catholic radio, and the topic of discussion was “when to speak and when not to speak” regarding matters of faith. (Pretty timely, wouldn’t you say? :))

The person they interviewed (Damon Owens, Theology of the Body Institute Director) made several points that I plan to consider in the future, including:

  1. 1 Peter 3:13 - It’s important to always approach/respond with gentleness and reverence.
  2. Consider the degree of intimacy you have with the person–this will help you discern how much of an impact you will have, how open the person will be to what you have to say. (In general, the closer we are to the person, the more we can say.)
  3. Take the time to understand why the person is saying what s/he is saying. (I’m interpreting this to mean that there would need to be time for some “Why do you say that?” and “What do you mean?” questions.)
  4. PAUSE - to avoid an angry or flippant response (back to #1).
  5. Frame response in terms of "What can I say that will be for the good of the other person?

The July 12 podcast archive is here if you want to have a listen: avemariaradio.net/showArchive.php?id=hms

Number 2 stands out to me with respect to your situation. If you, a stranger, had approached their group, you would probably not have been received well. (They would probably think, “Who does she think she is?”) And then there would have been no opportunity for #3–if you said anything, it seems that it would just have been lecturing on your part; I doubt she/they would have been open to a give-and-take conversation. Also, where would you have physically positioned yourself? Sounds like you would have just been hovering over their table, that’s kind of intimidating body language…

On the other hand, I heard someone’s testimony at one point about a woman being in a hair salon and overhearing another customer telling her stylist that she was considering an abortion. Soon after the woman and the other customer were somewhat alone while their stylists were off doing/preparing something, and the woman took the opportunity to turn and speak to the other customer, saying something like, “I couldn’t help but overhear…” She asked about the other customer’s situation and encouraged her to consider pro-life options, and they kept in touch-- the other customer eventually let her know that she ended up not pursuing an abortion. But in that case, the two strangers were not out in a crowd, the woman had knowledge of resources with which to help the other customer, and the woman also sensed that the other customer was in pain and was somewhat open to advice.

Thank you for sharing this; it is helpful. I definitely see a large difference in the situation I found myself in vs.the woman in the hair salon. She took the opportunity because it was going to make a real difference in a decision that woman would make. I simply was only in the position to affect the opinion someone had, (although presumably these opinions influence decisions with regard to voting).

Jane, I agree with the others that you didn’t sin. Yet it’s probably a grace that you are developing zeal for defending what’s right in this topsy-turvy world! :thumbsup: Pray for the women, you certainly can’t go wrong with that, and pray for God’s direction for yourself in future situations such as these.

it probably wouldn’t have been a good time and place - witnessing is getting pretty darn tricky these days - it’s difficult - I’m periodically in a dither about what to do on Facebook, as anyone who’s read some of my posts would no doubt point out. :rolleyes: Anyway, it’s definitely good to keep on getting educated about how to evangelize in these times. I’ll be checking out the resource daisybee mentioned myself; it sounds very helpful.

Yesterday I was conversing with a dear friend who’s Southern Baptist and we were remarking back and forth that if we were to debate our different beliefs on Christianity, we would become all het up for no good reason. We both believe strongly about the issues like those you mentioned that we need to conserve our energy to be able to combat in the world. And sometimes we have to pick our battles even when it comes to those - if we wear ourselves out with small skirmishes that have little chance of success, we might be weakened for bigger and more critical battles.

In the end, it’s hard to say. Because sometimes it is possible to plant a seed in a quick encounter. But don’t become anxious about it; again, pray for guidance, wisdom, and strength. :blessyou:

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