Like a lot of people, my jaw dropped when I read last week’s report about a bishop’s comparing Pope Benedict’s suffering with that of the Jews during the Holocaust. Such comments suggest an insularity that borders on disbelief.
But then again, as someone who has worked with and admires many clergy, I can say that this parochial outlook is not entirely their fault. Sometime well meaning lay people inadvertently buffer their religious colleagues from the normal inconveniences of life.
Here’s just one small example that speaks to the larger issue: At a church school where I once worked, we were planning to build a new swimming pool, (Is this a familiar song?), but one member of the planning committee, the chaplain, insisted that, despite the growing interest in the swim team, we didn’t really need to expand the facility.
Why did he see things so differently from everyone else on the committee? It turns out that every time he went to use the pool, the swim coach gave him his own lane, so he had never experienced the challenge of sharing a lane with 4 or 5 other swimmers.
You could argue that the blame goes both ways. The chaplain might have been more perceptive and noted the many others in the pool, just as the swimming coach might have been less deferential and invited the preacher to just jump in with the crowd. Either way, the combination left our well-intentioned chaplain detached from the rest of us in a way that went far beyond the chlorine.