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“Ask a Priest: Should We Speak Up When We See Things Amiss?”
Q: With so much going on that’s against our faith (abortion, violent protesters of various kinds, etc.), do we have an obligation to speak up? What if it’s around us and no one is talking to us, per se? It’s hard seeing such terrible things from friends on social media, yet is it my place to say something? I tend to stay quiet, but I get the feeling too many people are staying quiet. At the same time there aren’t many people who actually want to discuss things. They just want to hear from people with similar views. – A.M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You “get the feeling too many people are staying quiet.” There is a lot of truth to that.
People of faith need to speak up more in the public arena. The forces of darkness certainly aren’t bashful about promoting their views.
It’s one thing to say the right thing. It’s another to say in the right place at the right time to the right people.
If you see “terrible things” from friends on social media, it might be a great act of charity to offer a bit of fraternal correction. Help them to consider the Christian viewpoint. Otherwise, our silence can be construed as consent. This we want to avoid.
The best defense in this case might be a strong offense. That is, look for ways to let your views be known on an ongoing basis.
You might adopt a biblical passage as part of your signature in e-mails, for instance. “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). That kind of thing can signal to others where you stand on abortion.
When you do feel the need to say something, it might help to pray about it first. If you write an e-mail, let it sit for a while. Then re-read it and see if its tone is charitable. Folks are more open to hearing another point of view if it is done charitably.
You might consider, too, whether it’s worth trying to raise certain issues with people. You mention that some people just want to hear from others with similar views.
Folks caught in an echo chamber find it hard to hear opposing viewpoints, so you would want to be prudent. Attempts at dialogue with them might only end up making them antagonistic toward the Christian message. Remember Jesus’ warning about throwing pearls in the wrong place (Matthew 7:6).
Then again, not all issues have the same weight. Some issues are more debatable from a moral and prudential point of view.
A group might have some good goals as well as questionable goals, without its being explicitly anti-Catholic. This kind of thing isn’t on the same level as the killing of unborn children.
So, you might want to pick your battles well. You need not feel as though you have to speak up about everything. We don’t need to make daily life a constant string of arguments. Even Jesus picked his battles well. But when he did, he battled stalwartly.
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