Guest blogger Fr Harvey Nicolaitan SJ, is a master of modern media. With a degree in Communications, he is a well known author and guest on reality TV shows, Fr Nicolaitan is the author of My Little Rainbow Bridge- a children’s story about being kind to trolls. He has been invited to speak at many of our nation’s greatest Catholic intellectual powerhouses. A member of the Vatican Confectory for International Dissimulation, he advises bishops on effective mis-communication. Fr Nicolaitan is contributing a series on “Rules for Radicals or How To Be A Successful Catholic Dissident Today”. 

In this sixth session we will be going into more detail on How to Be a Successful Catholic Dissident Today! I’m so glad you are here. All are welcome! All are welcome!

I’d like to run through a quick review for newcomers. The new way to be a Catholic dissident is much more subtle than the old way, so it takes some careful thought and study. Luck for you I have become a bit of an expert!

In our first session we spoke about how never contradicting Catholic Church teaching. In the second session I stressed the importance of building up a positive media network.

The third session dealt with “Choosing Your Dissent” and we looked at the ways to begin normalizing behaviors and opinions that Catholics have always considered “sinful.” Isn’t that an ugly word? So judgmental. But let’s move on. Quickly, Session Four continued my advice on how to manage your message and begin to make so called “disordered” behavior to be seen as just “differently ordered”.

In the last session I outlined how to deal with your opponents. You rise above the fray and cast yourself as a martyr. You must never compare yourself to Jesus, but allow your friends to whisper how much you suffer just like Jesus did. I explained how you must never attack your enemies. You get your friends to sling mud, call names and go on the attack while your piously smile and proclaim that “you are always faithful to Catholic teaching…”

Now today I want to speak a bit further about how to normalize abnormal behaviors. Remember we use the illustration of trolls who live under the bridge and kidnap and eat baby goats. The first step was to change the language. The trolls’ behavior is not “disordered” it is “differently ordered.” You must get rid of any sort of black and white definitions of what is right and wrong. There are two ways to do this: The first we call “sentimental pastoral”. The second is the use of tough cases.

So then the “sentimental pastoral” approach. You must explain that real life is never quite so easy as the rules might make out. Things are always more complicated. You must stress that the rules, of course, never change. You are faithful to Catholic teaching. Always remember that. However, you must point out that real life requires extra compassion, extra mercy and an extra measure of understanding. The pastoral approach is what you want. This is the word we use for stressing the individual situation rather than the universal law. The way to do this is to use a sentimental appeal.

Let me give you an example using trolls under bridges again. If you want to normalize the trolls’ behavior you say, “But these trolls are also victims! They have been brought up in desperate social conditions living under bridges! They have only ever known the violence and desperation of such circumstances. They too have suffered!  We must understand their situations and be merciful. If they continue to kidnap and eat baby goats we must accompany them and try to understand what makes them do this. We must not expect them to change immediately, but perhaps as we accompany them we will also come to know, through dialogue with them, that their behaviors are, for them, not disordered at all.

You get the idea.

The second method is what we call tough cases. For very hard and fast rule you can come up with theoretical situation in which it would be unmerciful to apply the rule. With the case of trolls under bridges eating baby goats you could say, “But let us suppose for a moment that the father troll sees his wife and little trolls starving from hunger and furthermore, someone has built a fence around the bridge trapping them under the bridge. You could add that the father troll only takes the baby goats who are clearly wounded or disabled in some way and that they would have died anyway and he makes sure when he kills the baby goat that he does it mercifully and quickly.” Wouldn’t it be right in those circumstances, for him to kidnap maybe just one baby goat to feed his starving family?”

In these two ways therefore, you will be able to undermine not only the black and white rule, but more importantly you will undermine the whole idea that black and white rules have any use at all.

It is time to finish our session. Remember to pray for us Jesuits as we struggle so hard against the Pharisaical, legalistic, hide bound and angry Catholics. So many of them are converts too! This saddens me greatly and reminds me that I must pray for them.