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Letter: Backs priest and integrity

"From their fruits you shall know them." Anyone who has encountered Father John Parr, either in his parish or this community, knows of his integrity, healing spirit and dedication to his faith and to people, all people.

Yet some feel free to attack him with nasty e-mails and phone calls, slanderous gossip and protests in the cloak of being "pro-life," "Catholic," etc. It is a return to those recent years where attacking the personhood of others was in vogue, a badge of honor, propagating vicious Web blogs and chain e-mails, dividing and diminishing this community, creating a culture of self-righteousness and hate.

Let's not go back there. Bullies will be bullies, and they rarely care about facts or the people they tear down. But let's not listen to them or vote for them or put them on boards or pay any attention to them in their frequent letters to the editor. We, as the community, cannot give them power. We have the power to accept their opinions respectfully, but not their slander or attacks on others.

We have the power to quiet the nastiness by standing up. So first, I ask that all of you who have met Father Parr, to swamp him with supportive phone calls, e-mails, etc. And also other such leaders, such as Sister Bernadette, Principal Mary Piasecki, St. Patrick's social justice committee members, public school board members, school staff and elected officials, etc., because they get treated with the same nasty disrespect and self-righteous underground and aboveground smear campaigns at different times.

I also challenge myself and others not to write or make angry e-mails or phone calls, gossipy comments or Web blog entries that we wouldn't want to be made fully public in our name or that serve more to tear someone down than to do anything else.

We all need to stand up for what we believe -- absolutely. But in a democracy, we must learn to do it with respect, sticking to issues, values and the facts, and not attacking the personhood and intentions of others, twisting facts and situations to fit our agendas -- especially if we call ourselves Christian or Catholic or "pro-life."

Otherwise we allow a kind of verbal terrorism to rule our community -- and we all lose. And we undermine the very causes and values we believe in.