Thursday, March 8, 2012

Speaking the Truth with Love

After my post yesterday, I began thinking about why I feel the need to discuss controversial topics such as this on my blog.  It would be much easier to just avoid standing up for my beliefs when people attack them, or easier still to ignore the "signs" that seem to point me directly to a topic.  Within this past month, I have been emailed quite a few articles about IVF and selective reduction, Phil is teaching it to his students in his morality class, and has been asked to talk to the elementary school teachers in our Diocese about it at their faculty retreat day.  The topic keeps coming up over and over, and I felt compelled to write about it.  In doing so, I exposed myself to people who don't agree and even lost a follower on my blog yesterday.  Coincidence?  Probably not.

About a year ago, I reviewed the book Motherless, and got this comment:

It really bothers me that you said this book "had to do with creating life outside the normal, morally acceptable means."

Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to conceive on their own, without reproductive assistance. Does that mean that they are any less entitled to having or wanting a family?

I guess I am neither normal nor morally acceptable in the eyes of some, which I feel is very, very sad.

I replied with this:

I agree that not everyone is lucky enough to get pregnant the old-fashioned way. But I also don't think that having children is a right...I think they are a gift. I would be devastated if I could not have children, and would be completely open to looking into anything I could do within the moral boundaries of my Catholic faith to help me conceive a baby. I would also pursue adoption. What I wouldn't do is try to create life apart from God's design. These are just my personal beliefs, and I am so sorry that they made you feel sad. I will pray for you in your struggles with infertility and hope that one day you can know the joy of becoming a mother :)

 I also left a comment on her blog asking her to email me if she wanted to talk further.  Instead she UN-followed my blog.  Her comment still makes me feel such sorrow.  I am sorry that I made her sad, and I am sorry that she can't see the harm in using IVF, and I am sorry that I couldn't convince her otherwise. 

I am so blessed to have a wonderful and faith filled family, a family-in-law, real-life friends, bloggy friends, and coworkers who almost all share my Catholic beliefs.  So it is not very difficult or courageous to speak my mind on moral topics on my little platform here.  It's like preaching to the choir.  If I offend someone because of my beliefs, then I don't really care, but if I offend someone because of the way I say something, or the way I act, then I am sorry.  

I stand firmly behind my morals and values and my opinions presented on those, but I don't want to push people away with them.  I want to attract people with them.  People followed Christ because He spoke the truth in a loving way.  He didn't back peddle on his teachings in order to gain more followers, nor did He preach his message in a vile or hate filled way.  Christ was not here to be popular or worry about who liked him.  Can you imagine him counting his friends on Facebook, or followers on his blog?  Puh-lease.  We need to be strong yet compassionate, and it's a work in progress for me. 

I don't know how to deal with the children who were conceived through IVF.  I don't know how to talk to twins who were conceived through IVF but should have been triplets if their parents hadn't chosen to selectively reduce the pregnancy.  If  they know this, and feel, as their parents do, that killing the triplet was the "right" thing to do so that they could be born healthy, how do you try to teach them in a loving manner that what their parents did was wrong?  Luckily I don't need to be the one to directly talk to them, but the topic will come up in their theology or morality or biology classes, and I would hate to be in that teacher's shoes.  I hope the students will be able to feel loved while hearing the truth, but I can foresee that they will get defensive and sad and upset.  It's human nature, and nobody wants to hear that they (or their parents) have committed a terrible wrongdoing.

A few years ago, my cousin who is Catholic got married to a non-practicing Jewish man in an outdoor ceremony with a Justice of the Peace.  She invited us all to her wedding, but because she is Catholic and wasn't having a Catholic wedding (no Catholic priest presiding), we couldn't in our conscience attend.  By attending, we would be saying that we approve of the marriage, which would be completely against the teachings our the Catholic Church.  Luckily, I was able to use the valid excuse that we couldn't attend because we had company visiting that weekend.  It was the truth but it was the cowardly way out.  My mom chose to go the brave route and sat down and wrote a loving letter to her neice explaining why she couldn't attend their wedding, and urging her to do what it takes to get married in the eyes of the Catholic church.  And you know what happened?  Everyone got upset at my mother.  Sometimes speaking the truth falls on deaf ears, and causes more distress.

But sometimes, speaking the truth can actually change a person's life and save their soul.  Last night I went to my Women of Grace meeting and one of the women in the group is becoming a Catholic this Easter. Her husband is Catholic but they were married outside the church, so three days after Easter, they will be married in the Catholic church.   Two weeks ago, our pastor pulled her aside and said he noticed that her husband was still receiving Communion.  She said, yes, he is Catholic.  And our pastor said that because they aren't yet married in the eyes of the church, her husband can't receive the Eucharist unless they are living as brother and sister.  He told her this in a loving and funny way (making sure she knew what "brother and sister" meant) and she talked to her husband about it after.  They decided they would spend this Lent living as brother and sister until they could be married in the Church. 

What a great example of how to steer someone towards the truth while not pushing them away from it.  So I know it can be done, through prayer and the grace of God.  And that, my friends, gives me hope.


  1. Excellent perspective, Colleen. Definitely something I need to think about and pray on. I err too much on the side of caution (and by "caution" I mean not wanting to offend people. As opposed to not wanting to offend God, which is a much better way to exercise caution) because my blog audience is fairly diverse and I'm so concerned with that "pushing away" you speak of instead of, hopefully, drawing them in. Sigh. It's hard to know exactly how to approach a public platform...

  2. I am such a coward when it comes to speaking the truth. I get to be a little defensive and tongue-tied and then I get mad, then cry. It ain't a perdy picture!

    I ask God for help, but for right now I'm just trying to lead a morally upright life and hoping others see the joy I have in my life because of it. Maybe that's a cop out, I don't know.

    It is so hard to be a follower of Jesus. But he didn't say it would be all sunshine and rainbows! We we warned, haha!

  3. I think you're doing things in a Godly, loving manner. For every one time you mention the grave evil of IVF, you mention how children are a gift from God at least 5 times over.

    If anyone comes away from your writings with the impression that you've condemned the CHILDREN of IVF instead of condeming the PRACTICE, then they're not giving your words the careful attention they deserve.

    It's like this, and I'll use an extremely personal example, my husband and cohabitated before our marriage- with all that entails. I won't justify our actions, and I don't want anyone else to do so either. When I read Catholic bloggers talk about how difficult it is to argue against homosexual marriage when heterosexuals have done such a crap job of upholding the sanctity of traditional marriage, I don't get defensive. I don't feel like they're telling me that my (now Sacramental) marriage is somehow wrong because of the sins I committed in relation to it. I am thankful that they're speaking the truth in love.

    Same thing with this topic. I have never ever seen a single blog that condemned the children of IVF when speaking against the practice. People can choose to unfollow and rant and send defensive emails to individuals all they want- it won't change Church teaching because that teaching comes from God.

    Now tuck this away for October when we're on mile 8 and I want to cash it in. Say, "Hey Cari, tell me about your views on IVF" and watch me rant my way through another 5 miles.

  4. Colleen, I still recall the anguish your mother was in BEFORE she wrote the letter just trying to figure out how to put the message in a context of love. Love is not easy. Perhaps a lot of people got upset with her for what she did, but that is just yet another example of the Cross she set for me. She also taught me that someone is always watching even when we don't think so; whether good or bad, we are setting an example for someone.

  5. When good men do nothing, evil prevails. Not sure where I heard that but I believe in my heart that it is true.

    I like your convictions, Colleen. I like that you have a backbone. I do not blog too much about issues because most people know where I stand. I also believe most people know what is right or wrong...but choose wrong anyways because of their OWN desires and not Gods.
    I have my own issues I am working on. Not yet a saint but sure trying.

    ps...I spoke up about something in my very liberal family..only once....oh man...never again. yup that would be backbone.

  6. You are awesome. And brave. And an inspiration.

  7. I think we are in a time where we must speak up. The trick is to do it in a way that might evangelize, or at least get people to challenge what they are being fed by the world. I don't have a Catholic community - no family that is Catholic - some friends from church but my "life long friends" are not and I've lost one of them this year because she can't deal with me speaking up against the HHS mandate. I think your post was respectful. My kids have so many twins in their school - I often wonder about the discarded siblings. Sad stuff. It's nice to know others care too.

  8. I love what you wrote--you did a great job!

    I always heard that it's wrong to go to the wedding, but we can go to the celebration, which can make the explaining a little more loving...

    I'll pray for that woman, I see she is pregnant, (I looked in your past link and comments)

    I have spoken my mind too much probably, people usually get mad like in the case with your mom, it's lack of understanding, and grace. Hard to even feel humble about it when everyone gets mad about just standing up for your faith.

  9. My husband is the type to just come out and say the truth I the type to be politely quiet. He had spoken about many moral topics to family and they all hate him for it. IMO we don't have good relationships with extended family because he is so outspoken and everyone is so unopened to hearing the truth.

    On my blog I don't speak much about stuff since as you said its preaching to the choir and 2 I Am busy.

    But someone needs to speak the trutH so it might as well b you :)

    I don't think you come across as crass or unloving so don't worry. It's the truth.

    As far as someone commenting on such manner and you feeling upset well you don't know what is going interiorally inside them. Maybe your words are getting through to them but it just seems as if they are not. You don't know what they are thinking deep down in their heart at night. Or maybe years later they will change their mind. So don't discourage.

    And as for the children of ivf as I mentioned in previous comment asb they come to adulthood most will learn the truth and they will either accept it or be horrified. Just as everyone either accepts the truth or not. For now they are just kids and are innocent so I would treat them as any other child. They aren't guilty of a thing their parents on the other hand used fear to rationalize evil.

  10. I stopped following, just for a couple of days, not because of what you said, but because of some of the comments others said. I go the battle ground of social media evangelization quite a bit on facebook, intentionally, and yet, the blogger space is my 'happy place', the comments that followed my comment were taking away from my 'happy place' so I hit unfollow so as to not read them! The ol' hubs and I had lots of discussions that night about how exactly Jesus dealt with sin, and it appears that with sinners (prostitutes, tax collectors, etc...)he always loved/formed relationships/then offered correction. Now, to the pharisees, he always started first with rebuking them, then inviting them to love :) I think that is intentional. I also have read a crud ton of Church documents, and as I said the other day, love is always the tool that opens people's ears to truth. I didn't find your blog on IVF unloving, I was merely commenting on how very tricky the topic is to properly evangelize. The best strategy is always of course, to witness the beauty of the churches teaching (which many women who struggle with infertility do beautifully every day) and show that beauty and love behind every teaching. I have 're-followed' your blog, for that particular post is now buried and I don't have to read the comments :) Just to again let you know, I did not find your original post lacking in any sort of love...I did find the comments following a pretty poor witness to how Christ would approach the person struggling with infertility and considering IVF. (not your comments!)

  11. It's tough to deal with the controversial. I couldn't leave it alone and it got my "feelings" in trouble with anonymous commenters. Good for you, for sticking to your guns. You're right and it's an unavoidable truth.

  12. Saw this on the ol' 'FB' today, and it reminded me of this conversation...
    "Do not accept anything as truth if it lacks love
    and do not accept anything as love which lacks truth."
    -- Bl. Pope John Paul II

  13. Hi Colleen, I just found your blog and am curious about the wedding that you mentioned. Apologies that this comment is on such an old post btw; I don't even know if you will see it. Anyway, I'm confused by the wedding thing. Does your mother attend the weddings of non-Catholics where both partners are not Catholic? If her niece is no longer a practicing Catholic, was it the fact that she did not officially rescind her membership to the church that was the issue? I'm genuinely curious. Thanks!

  14. Sorry, I just reread the wedding thing, and it seems that it was more the fact that the niece was getting married outside the church but is a practicing Catholic.


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