I’m going to do something that many people will find very strange: quote Frances Kissling. But please hear me out, with the understanding that I, like every orthodox Catholic, absolutely abhor the ideology advanced by Ms. Kissling. She and her group, “Catholics” for a Free Choice, are responsible for leading millions of souls into error by supposedly arguing that one can be Catholic and still support the murder of one million infants each year (all while publicly admitting that she rarely attends Mass and that she is, essentially, a Catholic in name only). So, having established that I by no means am attempting to defend Ms. Kissling or her views, consider the following statement from her on Catholic League President Bill Donohue:
“There is something about this man and his attacks on women that is frightening. There was a while when I refused to go on air with him [for television appearances] because – you know I am a very strong person – but I felt physically threatened by this man. He never physically threatened me, but I felt like I was in the presence of an abuser. So for a long time I just refused because it was too degrading to be in his presence. I got over it eventually and have done a few things with him since. I understand that he is so offensive that he does himself damage; as long as I can maintain my equilibrium with him attacking me in the most vicious ways possible – that only does me credit and makes him look like the abuser that he is.”
Now, I suppose one could argue that Ms. Kissling’s view should carry no weight among Catholics; after all, she is a self-proclaimed enemy of the Church. But I have to admit that what she says makes sense. It seems that when we use Truth and charity to justify ruthless and merciless attacks on those who oppose the Faith, we do not do these principles of Truth and charity any service. Rather, it only strengthens our enemies; in the case of people like Ms. Kissling, it makes them somewhat of a heroic figure in the eyes of the non-Catholic public, a lone protester standing up against the tyrannical Church. Is this really an image we want to perpetuate?
I have read many of Bill Donohue’s press releases on almost every topic imaginable, and I have to believe that he is a huge factor in the perpetuation of this image, which of course reflects negatively on the Church which he purports to defend. From his implicit “blame the victim” attitude when it comes to the sex abuse scandal (he suggested that the teenage Mark Foley should have been a man and simply punched out the priest who was abusing him), to statements such as, “You stuck your middle finger up at the Catholic church, and we just broke it, pal,” which cross the line into vulgarity,
My main question is whether this kind of aggressiveness is really the most effective method of defending the Church in today’s hostile world. I, for one, would do everything in my power to stop my Protestant friends from seeing his website, because I don’t want them to get the idea that all Catholic apologists (and, by extension, all orthodox Catholics) are bullies. I would rather point them to people like Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating, et al., who are not afraid to proclaim the Truth but do so with due respect to the sensitivities of those who hear it. When non-Catholics, and yes, even anti-Catholics, encounter the Church’s defenders, they should not come away feeling like they have just encountered an abuser. If anything, they should come away surprised, surprised that a member of what many of them believe to be the most corrupt, most legalistic, most joyless Church in the world could be so filled with joy and compassion, that Catholics could be so Christ-like. That would seem like a better way to convert the Kisslings of the world, treating them the way that Christ treated the woman at the well.