How to Right the Bishops

I have carried a few posts earlier this week about Joseph Gentolini, and his ministry of writing to the bishops. This is a strategy I would like to see far more people adopting. These are some guidelines Joseph one wrote for Dignity on how to go about it. I find these suggestions constructive and helpful. I commend them for your own serious consideration:

14-Point Summary When Writing Our Bishops

Building the Relationship

1. The goal is to develop a relationship with the Bishop, not to send a quick letter and then be done with it. Realize that this will be a long-term communication process. If you can, try and arrange a meeting with your Bishop. If not, then write him.

2. Know your purpose in writing: to influence? To vent? To Blame?

3. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. “You” statements usually come across as blaming. This is not what you want to do.

4. Do not use words that convey intense anger. This goes along with #2. You may be angry, but try to take out the “blaming” or “accusatory” language. This only puts the other on the defensive and makes it more difficult to hear your words and message.

5. Be vulnerable – you have to share yourself – your thoughts, feelings, and spirituality. Be humble and not arrogant.

6. Speak for yourself. Do not judge or assign motives or intent. Talk about how Church teachings have hurt you.

7. Whenever you have the opportunity to see the Bishop, make sure you introduce yourself again. My partner’s nieces have been confirmed and I made sure I went up to meet the Bishop again, telling him that I was working on another letter to him. Several years ago, he told me that he “enjoyed our communication through the mail.”

8. Be respectful, if only for the office the Bishop holds in the Church or, if you can’t respect the Office, respect his person.

Other Important Thoughts on Content and Prayer

9. Tell your story about being a gay or lesbian Catholic – the pain and the joys. If you are in a relationship, make sure he knows this and what it means in your life.

10. Use the Bishop’s own language and symbolism if you can. For example, in one of my letters, I used the language of the Catechism on racism to make a point on gays and justice. After Always Our Children came out, I thanked him and told him that I hoped all parishes received a copy. I also told him that it was orthodox just the way it was and urged him not to allow any changes.

11. Don’t hit all of the issues in one letter. Take them each as they come up.

12. Don’t forget to look at the Diocesan paper, even if you find it offensive. If there is an article on homosexuality or related issues, see if there is a letter you can write to give your point of view. This is another way to communicate.

13. Allow God to act – I am not responsible for the results of what I do or say – God is! Let the Spirit use you – this takes an act of faith.

14. Finally and maybe most important, pray for the Bishop and the Church and let him know that you keep him in prayer.

COPYRIGHT 2007: Joseph Gentilini, Ph.D.

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One Response to “How to Right the Bishops”

  1. Phillip Clark Says:

    This is wonderful advice and a very helpful list of important points to keep in mind when addressing our shepherds on this most personal and meaningful issue.

    Since, for financial reasons, I haven’t been able to get enrolled in community college on a regular basis yet, for most of my time I also have been writing letters to prelates, politicians, and other personages whom I admire and who hold dear places in my heart concerning various causes.

    To date, I’ve only written to prelates within the Church that have been sympathetic to the cause of LGBT equality (such as Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, and Cardinal Martini of Milan). I didn’t see the point in writing individuals who seem to be dedicated to destroying and preventing us from living out the very livelihoods we are trying to defend. Yet, recently, I’ve come to see things differently.

    Before, I’ve committed myself to writing to my bishop, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore about these issues but I decided that I wanted to sign the letter anonymously and not leave a return address on it either. As I’ve thought about this more intensely I’ve decided that I will in fact do the opposite. In my previous judgment I thought that in order to save my fate and status within my church I shouldn’t include my name, so if in a worse case scenario a gay witch hunt was to occur within our Archdiocese I could maintain my good standing, at least for the moment. Now, I’m not afraid of that anymore, because I’ve realized, even if my notions were completely prudent this is defeating the purpose of writing a letter to my bishop in the first place. No matter what the ramifications of my sending this letter may be, the fact is that when we write our prelates on these issues and attempt to explain things to them from our perspective, although we should try to avoid being too overtly negative and condemning, we are explaining our lives as we know them and as we have come to know them. Therefore, I shouldn’t be afraid to sign my name on the letter. Deciding not to do so shows that I’ve allowed myself to be a captive of the very fear and ignorance that the bishops wish to sow among the faithful. On the contrary, signing my name shows my courage and the very fact that I am secure in my own self despite what their verdicts on my “way of living” may be.

    This show of confidence I think will be most effective in illustrating our points to our shepherds on this issue. Confidence and eloquence can only help to possibly persuade and open the door to a new train of thought on the part of our bishops.

    If it can happen to Harold Ford Jr. why not them? Still, that goes without acknowledging all the internal political and ideological intracacies of the minds of the bishops as well as the hiearchy of the entire Church. But still, I remain an optimist, and will continue to see at as a small mission of mine–as Joseph has as well–to enlighen our bishops on what our lives truly are as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.


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