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Church of Nice or Church of Nasty?

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

There is much disparaging blather about the modern Catholic Church being the “Church of Nice” but what’s the alternative? Church of Nasty?

The problem with these two extremes is that they really do exist and they reveal the faults of the two sides of Catholicism. The modernists are the Church of Nice while the traditionalists are the Church of Nasty.

Of course I generalize to make my point. Before everyone gets all huffy I fully realize that not all traditionalists are nasty just like I realize that all modernists are not spineless bowls of jello.

The general point still stands. When Christians fall into the trap of being the Church of Nice they place being kind and generous and understanding above the virtue of truth. They’re all mercy and no justice.

When Christians fall into the trap of being Church of Nasty, on the other hand, they place the law, rules and regulations above the virtue of forgiveness. They’re all justice and no mercy.

Its my conviction that most of this is based on personality types. Some people are just naturally more kind, loving, generous and forgiving and dismiss rules and regulations with a lofty wave of the hand. Others believe the world can only have peace if everyone obeys the rules. Order and structure is required. All that lovey dovey stuff? Meh.

This is our human fault, to stress a strength and forget the opposite strength. Balance is difficult.

The only people I know who balances the two perfectly are Jesus, Mary and the saints.

What we see in Our Lord, his mother and the saints is a remarkable blend of tenderness and toughness. They are tenderhearted to the weak and lowly. They are tough and unrelenting on the unrepentant, the proud and the self righteous.

Church of Nice and Church of Nasty? Maybe we should change terminology and talk about a church that is Tough and Tender.

That’s what I want for my own life and what I want for my parish and what I want for our whole church.

Nice vs. Nasty is a false comparison which only exacerbates division. “Nice” implies softeheadeness, spinelessness and weakness. “Nasty” doesn’t imply anything. It’s just what is says: Nasty.

Tough and Tender? That’s more like it.

Its summed up, isn’t it in Jesus’ encounter with the woman taken in adultery.

“Neither do I condemn you.”: Tender.

“Go and sin no more.”: Tough.

Article Originally posted Patheos

Review & Commentary

  • Newton Finn

    A bit of unifying wisdom in a divided world gone mad