Several articles from personal blogs have appeared online regarding Fr. Justin Belitz, O.F.M. These articles ultimately represent social media being used and abused as yet another demonstration of someone judging from the outside looking in, seeing only slivers, hearing only soundbytes, coming to blatantly erroneous conclusions, and portraying Fr. Belitz as a caricature. It is nothing less than crass stereotyping and echoes the words to the old song: “I don’t like what I don’t understand and it scares me half to death.”
I am an Indianapolis native and former member of Friar Justin’s Hermitage (Former only because I moved out of state). I met Fr. Justin through the late Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer, a Benedictine priest, who happened to be the former director of St. Meinrad’s. I met Fr. Hilary at an art gallery showing (the 431 galley) in the late 1980s. At that time, I was a self-proclaimed atheist.
Having grown up in an abusive, evangelical church setting, I had mantled a lot of anger. Hilary and I became good friends, having countless discussions on art history, film, philosophy, and music. He even counseled me through a divorce. Slowly and astutely, I became aware that there was indeed an artistic, intellectual side to the religious life; one that did not require me to dumb down.