Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Give Another the Benefit of the Doubt

Question number seven: When one priest's utterance is mistaken as speaking for the Church don't we have a problem?

Last year a priest caused a great sensation for the sermon at a Mass concerning current affairs. All the citizens took an interest in what was said because of the extensive coverage by the mass media. The media was happy to see the attention given to the coverage.  The central theme is what is important and was emphasized, but much of the mass media took one section of the sermon expanded and distorted the meaning in the report.

Jesus when  he talked to the poor his words were gentle but when he talked to the the unrepentant leaders he used harsh language. If the government was communicating with the citizens, said the priest professor, there would be no need for these Masses and strong language used in the sermons. The irregularities committed by the government departments has aroused a lack of trust, and the failure  to communicate with the citizens has engendered criticism in a segment of the population. This  is difficult to deny.

Jesus has told us that those who have ears should listen. Whether a person accepts what a priest says in a sermon is up to the listener. He may agree or disagree. Jesus in what he said and did, however, we have examples of excess. In the temple purification incident Jesus wielded a whip and overturned the chairs and tables of those selling in the temple. Was this not a means to help the priests and pharisees  see the stubbornness that  was preventing them from becoming free.

In first Corinthians 13:7: Love is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes." We often use the phrase 'to give another the benefit of the doubt'. It is a legal term and one we should use more often in our dealings with others: to understand the other and put ourselves in the other person's shoes. It would make for a different world.

In the Catholic tradition we have many axioms that come from the rules of law learned from the past.

"When the rights of either are obscure, the defendant is to be given the benefit of the doubt."

"Odious things ought to be restricted, while favorable ones ought to be extended."

"In obscure matters the minimum ought to be followed."

"No one can change his mind (judgement, advice, decision) to the detriment of another."

"He who is silent seems to consent."