Theory and Application in a Complex World

In addition to my writing for this blog regularly, I also write a weekly email blast geared to the parishes I serve in its specifics (yet applicable to all in its general content.  You can see last’s week’s email blast at 

I started the email blast about a year ago.  Recognizing the one-year mark, in last week’s email blast, I included a link to a survey asking the readers for comments.  To date five people have completed the survey.  One comment struck me about the blog articles I write.  It is that comment that I would like to focus on today.

The person wrote, “Sometimes, I think that Fr. Jeff preaches or writes too much about correct moral behavior without enough consideration of the complexities in the lives of people and/or the times and culture in which they live.”

I am grateful for this comment as it gives me a chance to reflect on what I write, both in content and in purpose.

Yes, I write about “correct moral behavior.”  I see this as part of my calling from God, to help people know what our faith teaches.  My biblical understanding of this calling is rooted in Ezekiel 3:17-21.  I believe God wants me to help people recognize their sins but not to judge them.  I want to help them have a well-formed conscience

As to the complexities of people’s lives, it would be true to say that I have not experienced everything others have.  That is true for all of us.  It is also true that I don’t have the complexities of life that come with raising children of my own.  I don’t have to deal with the complexities of LGBT ideology in schools in the way families do.  However, that does not mean I have no awareness.  In fact, when I write on such topics, part of the prompting comes from what I hear from those who do have to deal with such issues.  (Please know that I do not often speak about the conversations that prompt me to write because I am respecting the privacy of the people who talk to me.)

On other issues, I have very much experienced the complexities of the issue.  For example, when I write about end-of-life issues, my mother suffered with emphysema and COPD for several years, dying in the end of lung cancer.  I, with my brothers, very much had to deal with end-of-life decision issues.

When I write blog articles, I try to offer what our Catholic teaching says on the issue but I don’t get into all the complexities.  Why?  Often, all the complexities would go beyond the scope of a blog article.  For instance, when I wrote on same-sex attraction (“Towards Dignity and Truth:  Compassionate Dialogue on Homosexuality”) and addressed many of the complexities, it resulted in a 17 page paper.  When I wrote on gender ideology (“Towards Dignity and Truth:  Compassionate Dialogue and Pastoral Response on Transgenderism”) and its many complexities, it resulted in a 52 page paper.

I would like to regularly address the complexities of issues.  Yet, that is difficult in blog articles but the complexities should not be ignored either.  In some cases, such as with the application of Just War Theory to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the complexities are discussed over a series of blog articles.  There I did not intend to write a series but it developed from the complexities that become visible in the initial weeks of the fighting.

When I do not address complexities of the issues, I invite questions.  There is a comment link in every new blog article.  While I might not be able to address every complexity, I will address what I can.  On some issues, like end-of-life decisions, sometimes each situation is unique enough that my recommendation is that you speak to someone with a solid understanding of Catholic teaching to discuss how it applies in each situation.  The teaching does not change but we need to be mindful of the situation.  

I hope I never appear to ignore the complexities.  I hope I never appear to judge.  People are free to make their own choices.  I want to, and I know it is part of my calling, to help them have a proper understanding of Catholic teaching to make good choices.

When you face complexities in life, I hope you seek to know what our Catholic faith says on the issue(s) you face and that you ask questions when you need to.

I hope I do not sound like I am making excuses for not writing on all the complexities.  Again, I am grateful for the comment I shared and I pray it leads me to write better and more helpful articles.


Fr. Jeff

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