By Barb Arland-Fye
A man walked into the newsroom of the secular newspaper where I was working as religion editor and asked to speak with me. He had a thick packet of information about his denomination that he wanted printed in the newspaper. In the course of our conversation, he spoke derisively of the Catholic Church and called it a cult.
His comments were intolerant and surprising. I had never heard the Catholic Church referred to as a cult.
Around that same time, a reader complained about a column I had written concerning a former Catholic who found his spiritual needs better met in another church. The reader thought the article was anti-Catholic and threatened to report it to William Donohue of the national Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
How could anyone have interpreted the column as being anti-Catholic? I wondered.
Now, as editor of a weekly, diocesan Catholic newspaper, I see anti-Catholicism from outside the church and a perception of anti-Catholicism within it.
People are passionate about their faith and sometimes inflexible in their attitude toward others with whom they disagree.
In this week’s “Question Box” with Father John Dietzen, a writer asks how people can refuse God’s love and be atheists. In response, Fr. Dietzen cautioned that “we of Christian faith or other believers, sometimes instinctively tend to cut God down to our own size, to our way of thinking and acting so that he will fit comfortably into our very limited minds and plans.”
I remember being involved some years ago in a discussion about the concept of judgment and how God would judge us. I was certain that dictators such as Stalin and Hitler were roasting in hell; but others challenged me on that assertion. Only God could judge the souls of these evildoers, they reminded me. I think about that when I make a judgment about someone or something.
It’s easy to slip into that mentality because I want to be right — just like the man who told me the Catholic Church was a cult.
I’m not alone, based on reaction we receive to what is printed in The Catholic Messenger. We’ve had more requests from readers wanting to submit guest opinions rather than letters to the editor, which are limited to 300 words or less. But space is limited, so we encourage writers to submit letters to the editor, which allows us to share a variety of opinions. Situations that warrant a guest opinion include:
• The Catholic Messenger’s collaborative agreement with St. Ambrose University to publish monthly a column by a faculty member of the theology department. The columns are intended to enlighten and prompt dialogue on faith-based issues.
• Statements by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Iowa’s Catholic bishops on issues of importance to Catholics.
• Letters by Catholic Relief Service’s president, who writes about social justice issues.
• Columns from National Catholic Rural Life Conference on issues touching upon hunger, poverty and rural life.
• Updates from the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Iowa’s bishops.
• Columns by Catholic News Services’ syndicated writers.
• Viewpoints from priests and women religious of the Diocese of Davenport and from individuals offering a fresh perspective on a topic or issue.
My hope is that we can encourage dialogue, not discourage it, and as a result eliminate anti-Catholicism, whether from outside or within the church.