The Heresy of Huffyism

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! I've discovered a new heresy in the life of the Church! And I've dubbed it huffyism.

You might recognize it if I give you a few examples I've recently observed:

. I write a column praising our Catholic school teachers, and receive ''huffy'' e-mails from some catechists in our religious education programs claiming that I obviously could care less about them;

. The prayers of the faithful at Mass plead for ''an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life'' and elicits a ''huff'' from the deacon who says he feels excluded;

. The appointment of a vicar for the huge Latino community is greeted with a ''huff'' by another group because they claim to be neglected, and now want a vicar for themselves;

. The visiting missionary, preaching eloquently on his order's work in Africa, receives a ''huff'' after Mass because he failed to mention the poor in our own city;

. The vocation director, preaching on the need for more priests in the diocese, gets a ''huff'' after Mass because women felt excluded;

. The priest urging prayers for an end to the Iraq war is greeted with a ''huff'' for betraying our brave troops, while the celebrant at the next parish who prays that our troops be protected is ''huffed'' after Mass for not condemning the war.

Care to add to the list? I guess this heresy is not as bad as the biggies such as Gnosticism, Pelagianism, or Arianism, but huffyism is nearing heretical status in the Church, and may just have to be referred to the Holy Office!

It stems, of course, from a faulty ecclesiology. Huffyism flows from a belief that the Church is an assembly of interest groups, similar to a political party. The Church has various constituencies, in this view, and they are all very sensitive. They are easily aggrieved. The Church then exists to satisfy their needs and promote their agenda. The worst sin is to ''overlook'' someone, or not to include someone or some cause. This oversight will then elicit the stinging rebuke of a huff, as we are told we obviously do not care about the huffer or huffette.

Huffyism, mind you, is found on the left and on the right. And it's sneaky, I have to admit, because people - like me! - can begin to get ''huffy'' about huffyism!

Of course, I don't think we need an Inquisition, or a new religious order, or a bonfire, or an encyclical to stamp out this new ''heresy.'' All we need is a renewed sense of ecclesiology.

Because it is not my Church - it is His Church. And it is a big Church. His Church does not exist to satisfy my needs; no, I exist to serve the Church's needs! The Church does not exist to promote my particular agenda; no, I exist to promote the Church's cause. The Church's duty is not to safeguard my prerogatives or preferences; my duty is to forget my prerogatives, pet peeves, and preferences for the sake of Christ and His Church.

If I find myself overlooked, or passed by, or left out, I could care less, for I'm not in it for myself; I'm in it for Jesus and His people. I'm hardly in the Church to be affirmed, but to affirm the dominion of Christ and to serve the needs of others.

If one gives in to huffyism, one becomes paralyzed, as one hesitates to preach, pray, or plan for fear of offending one or another constituency.

But, there's only one constituency in the Church; there's only one agenda; we are not composed of interest groups, factions, or parties. We're not in it for ourselves. We're in it for Him. We're not in it to win points or win an argument, but to lose all for His sake.

If we're overlooked, forgotten, taken for granted - I suggest that, instead of a huff we utter a halleluiah! TP