What amazes me is the fury with which I was hit for musing, on one of my blog posts months before my blog stalkers ever found them, that if our churches were to merge, I would have to go to the priest of the merged church for help:
Richard’s church and mine are both very small and in financial trouble; the archdiocese has suggested they merge. The two churches don’t want to merge, since they’re in different counties, and somebody would have to move. But the option is still on the table.
If the churches merge, I will have to go to the priest with my concerns, and show him the proof that Richard is a convicted child abuser, to establish my credibility and prove that he is violent.
Because Tracy has bullied and verbally abused me as well, I will have to also show him an article I found on a contract one church drew up with a member who had been charged with molestation, a contract which was meant to help the member find redemption, but also consider the needs and fears of the victims. We could modify it for our own needs.
For one thing, this was hypothetical and may never happen, because our two churches do not want to merge. I posted that a year ago, and nobody has done anything to move toward a merge.
For another, when one person in a church has been abused by another person in that church, going to the priest/preacher for help and protection is perfectly valid and may be necessary to provide protection. For example, see the article I linked about the contract one church drew up.
Disagreements between parishioners are one thing, but we’re talking actual abuse here, which caused me extensive spiritual damage as well. It is my right–even in the Constitution–to go to my priest with concerns like this.
From what I could determine from Richard and Tracy’s vague and threatening e-mail (see Now I’m Being Stalked), this is the action which they warned me they would sue me for.
Also, asking for spiritual help and counseling from a priest, preacher or other qualified parishioner, to help with another, is not only perfectly valid, but commanded by Christ for handling disputes (Matthew 18:15-17), so that the body will not be divided.
So by threatening me, Richard and Tracy are fighting Christ. A mediator would be absolutely necessary in a small church, in a situation as abusive and volatile as this.
[Update 9/6/14:] Not only that, but a police officer told me I had the right to do this and could not be sued for it.
Since my blog stalkers tried to use threats of lawsuits to keep me from handling this dispute properly within the church if our churches were to merge, I can only assume that it was because they know they’re in the wrong. That they don’t want their abusive actions to see the light of day.
Keep this in mind as a red flag, because such threats are common from abusers, whether the victim has already told, or to prevent the victim from telling, those who could help.
Others have been through this, such as Julie Anne Smith, who have tried to have such a counseling session/meeting with their abusers, but the abusers have refused, choosing to sue instead.
(So far, Julie Anne Smith has won, all charges against her dismissed with the plaintiff paying her legal fees, while another blogger’s suit is just beginning. But over and over again, I find plaintiffs losing such cases.)
Disfellowshipping from the church is only to be used for extreme cases, and I never intended for my blog stalkers to be disfellowshipped even if we did get that far.
The contract described above, is what I wanted, to stipulate that they keep their distance from me and not harass me, so I could feel safe at church without fearing for my emotional, spiritual or even physical well-being.
But the unwillingness of my blog stalkers to recognize their own part in things and apologize, even after we have spoken to my priest, and for them to react so harshly against the idea of counseling with the priest, leaves me free to disfellowship them from me.
But this page on resolving disputes between congregants, from a Protestant denomination, sums up quite well why this is so vital in a tiny church:
Many branches of the church of God are small in the number of members. Most of our individual congregations are quite small too. There were positive and negative aspects of the large congregations of our former fellowship.
Because of the much greater numbers of people in our old congregations, there were more opportunities for friends and companionship, but there were also more opportunities for offenses.
This fact also allowed the offenders and the offended to “resolve” their differences by merely ignoring one another and gravitating to another set of church friends. We do not have that luxury in our tiny congregations today!
We have very limited opportunities for friendship and fellowship within our tiny congregations on our little “church islands.”
Remember that our little church congregations are small islands of truth and righteousness, isolated and surrounded by the vast ocean of Satan’s world.
We need to stick together. We should not be giving offense to our beloved brethren, and neither should we be so touchy and sensitive that we are too easily offended.
Let us strive to get along together and to love one another with the godly love that is unique to the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
If our churches were cathedrals, or at least as large as my husband’s church (500), we could easily lose sight of each other in the crowd (and neither church would be in financial straits and talking mergers, either).
But no, our churches are so tiny that you can barely move without bumping into each other at some point. A person can barely speak without everyone in the room being aware of it.
In mine you have the little sanctuary and a little office upstairs, and the basement downstairs, and that’s it: no classrooms, even. Theirs is even smaller.
My priest is already aware of the situation, but because our churches have been reticent to merge, there has been no reason to ask for a formal contract as described above, or for formal counseling sessions involving my blog stalkers. The best means has been to simply avoid each other (though stalking my blog hardly counts as “avoiding” me).
Most of the time they’re not at my church, so there is no problem with this, and I have felt no need to go further. But my church is in the final stages of negotiating a salary for my priest; if he rejects it, I don’t know what will happen.
If the idea of merging is put on the table again because of our recent, sudden change in finances, then I’ll have to ask for formal help–or go to a church which is farther away, but free of this drama completely. Or if they start coming to mine on a regular basis, I will have to ask for formal help, because I won’t uproot myself from my own church.
And they will not be able to sue me, will have no right to, because I have and will have broken no law–and because it would be a violation of my rights.
Neither option is appealing. But if I have to ask for formal counseling, it is well within my rights as a parishioner and an abuse victim–and my blog stalkers would have absolutely no basis to sue me over it.
I would keep out opinions of motivations, etc. and stick to what happened and how it made me feel, not out of fear of a lawsuit, but because it would not be right or tactful to bring such things into counseling sessions with a priest.
It’s not his job to sort that stuff out, and I would be far better served by keeping things clear and to the point, no speculation. I’ve noted that people involved in custody battles are advised this as well.
In other words, what works for venting to friends in cyberspace, is entirely different from what works for negotiations, and could actually work against the desired result.
Why this would so disturb my blog stalkers that they would call it a “threat” (when it wasn’t even directed at them, just musings written months before they found my blog), and threaten me with a lawsuit if I did this, I have no clue.
You can easily see that there was no hint of a “threatening” tone in the “offending” paragraph. Unless, of course, they recognize what they did was wrong, and that this would force them to face that.
What I do know is that their threat is groundless, and because of our First Amendment, the courts would not even touch it. How churches deal with contentious members, is entirely up to the churches.
I am 100% supportive of outing these fools by name. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t understand that outing them is a direct consequence and they should deal with it. They don’t.
Instead, they seek low-life attorneys willing to send cease and desist letters to scare us into thinking we’re committing a crime.
We’re not!! It’s called freedom of speech.
If they think we’re lying and hope to sue us for defamation, libel, or slander, they need to prove that in court. The burden in U.S. courts is on the complainant, not the defender. I believe it is opposite in some countries, including Canada and the UK. –Paula, Lance Armstrong’s Jailhouse Confession