Recently I had the delightful experience of interviewing author and convert Sally Read about her new biography, “Night’s Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story” (Ignatius Press, $17.95). Read is a convert to Catholicism who grew up not only atheist but extremely anti-Catholic.
She made a lot of interesting points during the 20-minute segment on my radio program, but one in particular struck me in light of what we’re facing right now with the division in our country following the presidential election and the level of anger and hate being spewed at conservatives (and especially Catholics). Read insisted those who are most angry at the Church are those who are mostly likely closest to becoming not only Christian but Catholics themselves.
She was speaking from personal experience. Read hated what she thought the Church stood for. She was a staunch feminist and believed in women’s ordination and contraception. She had a hard time accepting the Church’s teaching regarding marriage between one man and one woman. She saw the Church as an oppressor of women — and a lot of other people, for that matter.
But for whatever reason, she was also drawn to the Church. It was her research for a book on female sexuality that led her to interview a Catholic priest. Read said she had no intention of interviewing a priest, but when her Catholic friends refused her request for fear that she was writing a negative book on Catholicism, she really had no choice, as she needed a Catholic response. She described the priest as not only extremely kind but also extremely intelligent and very knowledgeable about the Church’s teachings. She couldn’t understand how someone so nice and so smart could actually be Catholic — and a priest, no less.
Her comments got me thinking. Our protective instincts might be telling us that when it comes to all the vitriol we’ve been facing, we should ignore all the noise and run far away. Who could blame us? I’ve heard from so many people who are so tired of the name-calling and other insults that they just need a break from it all. I’m certainly not suggesting we make the 2016 election the topic of New Year’s dinner conversation, and as the holidays wind down, it could be just the time to give the discussions a rest. After all, knowing the level of angst, the mashed potatoes and gravy could likely end up everywhere but on our plates.
That said, shouldn’t we, like the priest in Sally Read’s journey, be willing and able to answer questions and address concerns or fears regarding the Catholic Church?
The extremely strong reaction some are having toward the election results remind me of many of the women and men who protest the Silent No More awareness event at the steps of the Supreme Court each year on the anniversary of the court’s decision that legalized abortion through nine months of pregnancy. Often, many of those same pro-abortion supporters who refuse to listen to the testimony of those who have gone through post-abortive healing are themselves hurting very badly. Many of those who spent time denouncing the pro-life witnesses have eventually joined the pro-life ranks because someone was willing to talk to them lovingly instead of returning their attacks with counterattacks.
Maybe the reactions, as Sally Read explains, are really opportunities in disguise — gifts God has given us to further the New Evangelization. We can be the witnesses so needed in a world desperate for a real understanding of human dignity, which can only happen through Jesus.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXM Channel 130.