My family is one of those expansive, Irish Catholic clans which has been richly enhanced by the presence of priests, nuns, brothers, and in far larger supplies, devout (but down to earth, not syrupy sweet) lay folks. Spanning several categories, we have church workers, theologians, dedicated volunteers and others involved in a wide array of church activity and leadership.
Over the years, I had the chance to meet a lot of “leaders” of various types, and by association, hear about others who had a bigger presence still. What surprised me very much as a teen was to learn how rudely some bishops, in particular, would be treated while out in public – it’s as if they had a big target on them! (And this was long before the pedophilia scandal broke.) Why is it that if someone is especially visible, total strangers feel entitled to accost them and say terrible things to them? We know that it happens to celebrities, so I suppose it shouldn’t be so much of a shock that it happens on a lesser scale to those who are likewise in the spotlight to a lesser degree, such as bishops and probably also priests, theologians and others.
I’m no church leader, and no star either, but because I do a lot of marketing (in my case writing on my many blogs) for my real estate practice, and do some public speaking on social media and realty related things, I’m somewhere on the low end of that continuum of being at least a little bit in the spotlight. It is sometimes odd to be out in public and find someone staring at me. Jim, my husband, will reassure me that I don’t look bad or funny, it’s probably that someone recognizes me and is trying to figure out how they might know me. Ok, that is not so awful, if a little weird sometimes. But recently I experienced one of the negative side effects of being known, so I wanted to mull it over here today, now that I’ve processed it a bit, and by extension, connect it to the faithful harassing church leaders because of their public position. (more…)