Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Question for My Readers: and a Sadie Frown

What a strange day yesterday was. Paul and I got home from taking Sadie to the park in town (she is obsessed with slides and tunnels) and Paul left for work. I'd taken Sadie upstairs for her nap at Nani's house and had gone back downstairs to work on a mother's day present that I had wanted to get in the mail this morning. I decided to check my blogger dashboard first, and just around that time, mom came into the room and said that someone, we'll call this person Mrs. X, had just pulled in the driveway.

Now there is a tiny bit of background story here. First I'll start with the more recent background: This weekend we had a garage sale as part of the county wide garage sale. Towards the end of the first day Mrs. X came by and filled a big bag full of stuff she wanted. It wasn't the kind of stuff that people "need..." They were all frivolous little things like a silky scarf that had belonged to my grandmother, some beautiful lotions we'd gotten for her before she passed away this summer, stuff like that.

While she was shopping she kept talking loudly, across the driveway, about how she'd forgotten her purse and money at home (kind of a big thing when you're out shopping!) and how she'd give me the money later at Church. I didn't say anything when she said that and she finally got the message and brought the entire bag over and said she'd bring the money back later and pick it up. I have to say, I felt relieved. I didn't feel comfortable selling things that belonged to other people (much of which was my late grandmother's, and we were selling off the things no one wanted to divide the money between her heirs...) on credit, to someone who I was fairly certain would never pay us back...

Which brings me to the second part of the back story: Mrs. X used to watch our house when we went out of town. "Watching our house" really just means feeding my parents' horses twice a day... a job that does not require coming into the house. The last time she watched the house though, she acted a little bit odd. She demanded the house keys from my mom, saying she just wanted to make sure the cats were alright and that she'd change the litter boxes (we were going out of town for a couple of nights and they have access to food, water and three different litter boxes...). When we got home the litter boxes most definitely had not been touched, but there was quite a bit of evidence that someone had been making our home, their home... And later some people in the house noticed that some belongings have now been "misplaced."

We'd all like to believe that they really have been "misplaced." However, after yesterday, I am less certain.

A normal person would come up to the front door and knock if they wanted something from the owner. Instead, as my mom put her shoes on to go outside, she heard Mrs. X rummaging through the stuff out in the garage (and the inside of the garage was never part of the garage sale... everything was out on the driveway, where we are still working at putting stuff into boxes to go to their various destinations). When my mom walked out she quickly picked up a bag, clutched it against her chest, and said "I'm here for my stuff" and tried to leave.

My mom knew that she had not paid. I had actually just told my mom the price that I'd given her for the bag of stuff and had added that if she'd wanted a beautiful set of blue glasses that my husband had put in the sale, I would sell them to her for a very, very low amount (I'd told her that amount at the sale... and was only selling them to her for that amount because I know her and because she went on and on about loving them...). Instead my mom saw that she'd shoved the glasses into the bag on top of all the other stuff and was trying to leave without paying for anything.

When my mom stopped her she tried to give her a lower amount, and then finally a little more and when my mom insisted on the price we'd agreed to she said that she would "give it to the kids at Church" and put the stuff in her car and left.

My mom is a very sweet, quiet person. She came back in the house really upset.

And very quickly, pregnancy hormones surging, I was very upset as well. I was upset because I felt like she had taken advantage of that fact that my mom is so sweet and quiet. And I was upset because it was pretty clear that she was going to take everything and leave and hope we didn't notice. To top of the entire thing, I have to say that I was annoyed that she kept playing the, "we go to Church together" card when she'd driven miles out of the way, and snuck into our home to steal.

Like my mother, I am usually very shy. So she was shocked when I grabbed the keys to her car, asked her to watch Sadie, and drove down to the local meeting hall, where Mrs. X spends most of her time with a glass of wine in her hand. She was just walking out with another hall member and her teenage daughter (another surge of annoyance that she'd brought her teen daughter with her to our house to steal).

I was surprised at how calm I sounded when I got out of the car. I said, in my sweetest voice, that I was really very sorry but that I couldn't give her my husband's belongings on credit. And then I reached into my pocket, because she'd given my mom an $1.50 extra for the glasses... and the $1.50 I'd shoved into my pocket to return to her was gone... As much as I didn't want to give her the glasses, because she had just tried to sneak into the garage and steal them, I didn't want to owe her a penny. So I finally followed the first thought that popped into my head and gave her one of the glasses back and said she could buy the others any time she wanted to (and the glasses even individually marked down were more than $1.50...)... I won't be holding my breath for that to happen, because I don't believe that she ever had any intention of paying for them...

And I went home, feeling kind of brave... and kind of stupid.

I spent the rest of the afternoon troubled... and now, after giving my rather long winded explanation of what happened, will ask for advice.

If you caught someone in your home, with the clear intention of stealing, and you knew that this person had very recently been given the keys to your parish because they had volunteered to "help out," would you say something to your pastor?

I tend to be over scrupulous about "gossip" (would privately warning our pastor fall under that category?) and tend to examine and over examine everything that I say (except apparently on my blog...). At the same time, I would feel very, very guilty if things suddenly start disappearing from our parish (wine, for example) and I, knowing what I know, had refrained from saying anything...



  1. I would tell your pastor about the incident as in something that is troubling you. That you are concerned about Mrs. X's strange behavior lately and are not sure what to do. Since he knows that she has been stealing, he can decide for himself if it's necessary to take away her keys. He might already be knowing that things are missing and you explaining your concern might lead him to confront her. I would not make it a warning about her stealing from the church but rather a concern that her otherwise normal behavior has changed.

  2. You sure can dig up a lot of trouble for living in a tiny out of the way place nobody ever heard of.

    Any possibility of having a heart-to-heart with Mrs. X? You may want to visit with another priest first, perhaps one will reply here. Any chance of Mrs. X's husband's job transferring to another state/planet?

  3. Your concerns are valid, and I would tell your pastor and then let him decide what to do in regards to her helping out at church. That way your conscience is clear.I am impressed by your charity given the circumstances. I would not have been so kind.

  4. I would share your story with your Priest as you havewritten it here. After all to withold the information might provide an opportunity for this lady to sin. And it's not gossip, it's what you have experienced personally.
    Just my thoughts!
    Autumn :)

  5. I would say something. I don't think that falls under gossip...

    Very cute picture btw!

  6. It sounds to me like you have a history of dealing with this woman and her "shifty" ways. Gossip seems to me to be telling someone something unnecessarily to just spread bad things about her and that would be bad. But since she has the keys to the parish that seems like good reason to me to tell the Parish priest about your history with her. You aren't telling your priest what to do he will then make his own judgment on what to do.

  7. It definitely seems a legitimate cause for concern. If you are worried about even the appearance of gossip, perhaps you could approach him with the scenario but not extremely specific details and no name. Tell him that you do not want to gossip and allow him to decide whether he would like more specific information about the person. "There is someone who has recently been given some authority over parish property but with whom I have had some troubling experiences. I do not want to damage this person's reputation but I think I have enough information to warrant legitimate concern. I'm not sure what to do with the information, Father. Would you be comfortable hearing more?" That's off the top of my head but something similar to that maybe. I bet he'll want more info.

    Actually, I have a similar situation and would love input for it. There is a person at my parish who is active in a couple of adult parish organizations and also serves at daily morning Mass. I just discovered that he is a registered sex offender and has his photo and info listed on line. His crime (a serious one) was against a 6-year old. He is on probation for another 2 years.

    My dilemma is that I feel like I ought to trust that he has made things right with God and must assume that he has made a proper confession and such. I don't see him hanging around any kids at the parish. I believe he ought to have a chance to love and serve the Lord with the new life that God grants. The difficulty is that this crime and punishment are public and quite serious. With all the problems of this sort in the Church today, I do have a problem seeing this man serving at the altar publicly in front of a community already so burdened with the scandals of the past years. Most people do not know his crime and punishment. I do not want to damage his reputation. But I don't necessarily think that every person who is reconciled with God should be able to return to all of their former activities. I do not know whether to approach Father, who I believe does not know since the conviction happened before his time at the parish.
    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I don't want to post the question on my blog in case anyone who knows him would be able to place details and identity. Any advice?

  8. It doesn't strike me as gossip, however it sounds like talking to your priest would help alleviate some of the anxiety you're feeling. How he opts to handle the situation as far as the church building goes is up to him.

  9. Habitual theft is very serious. I know speaking from experience. There is a high associated with everything you do and when you get caught you don't feel guilty for taking what isn't yours but only for getting caught. This is not something you'll be able to patch up because she has a bigger problem than you can handle. I would suggest taking it to the confessional where you can express your frustration and anger. You can also ask for advice on what to do about reporting her history to the parish. Information given in a confessional cannot be acted on by that priest and he can't even act on it, but you can ask for help in dealing with the situation. I know it's horrible being the victim of Mrs. X's sin. She needs help and you would be doing her a favor in the long run by getting her that help.

  10. In this case, I'd confront Mrs. X. The Bible talks about speaking with the sinner first, then bringing in witnesses if that doesn't help, then approaching the church. Tell her your concerns and mention that if she does not voluntarily resign her key to the parish, that you will speak with the parish priest. Write a letter to the parish priest and sign your name. The right thing for the priest to do is to listen to you and allow Mrs. X the opportunity to defend herself.

    To the other poster re: sex offender... Take a printout of the sex offender register [public knowledge] and submit to your parish and cc to the person designated at your diocesan office for children's safety. This is not only public information but information that's necessary for the priest and diocese to make a decision regarding his suitability for certain duties around the parish. This is not gossip.

    ~ A canon lawyer


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