The National Catholic Review
The Editors

St. Ignatius Loyola suggests that in any exchange, “it is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.” To this call for charity, St. Ignatius added that if correction is necessary, it ought to be delivered with respect and kindness. Those qualities of respect and kindness have at times been hard to find in many of the heated arguments in which American Catholics have found themselves embroiled over the past 12 tumultuous months.

Can a Catholic in good conscience vote for Barack Obama? For John McCain? May pro-choice politicians be given Communion? Should the legal fight to overturn Roe v. Wade bear the full weight of Catholic political energy; or are there other, more effective strategies for combating the culture of death? Should the University of Notre Dame award an honorary degree to President Obama, or even invite him at all? Should there be more frequent celebrations of the liturgy in Latin; and if so, what version of the Mass texts should be used? Issues like these have always sparked much discussion in the Catholic community, but they are now often dominated by a tone that is decidedly dangerous—harsh and often lacking in respect or courtesy.

This rhetoric has threatened the credibility of the church, as the Catholic tradition of trust and toleration has been de-emphasized. Even a few bishops have made statements like “We are at war” and “Tolerance is not a Christian virtue,” suggesting that any notion of the common good has given way to a sharply defined “us versus them” mentality. Such rhetoric also subtly undermines the Catholic principle of subsidiarity first put forth by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno, according to which a pluralistic social structure allows and encourages constructive input from a variety of groups on the grass-roots level.

This polarization must stop; otherwise our identity as a faith community will be torn asunder and Catholicism will cease to be an elevating force for change. How can we decrease the polarization? A vital first step is to seek out our common ground in the major civic areas where almost all Catholics agree: religious liberty; the sacredness of all human life; the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating abortion; support for social programs that provide a safety net for the poor; the elimination of segregation, racism and discrimination; and respect for differing religious and social traditions and diverse cultures. Few are the Catholics who do not share these principles, which provide a ready-made common ground.

We also need to find a way to foster civil debate and dialogue on how to incorporate and share our values in a pluralistic society. Recognizing the distinction between moral principles and their application, we can disagree in good conscience on the way such principles are prudentially applied in the public sphere. Even when disagreeing over the concrete applications of moral principles, we also must respect the good will of those with whom we disagree. Tolerance, charity and respect are not “weasel words,” nor are they excuses to paper over legitimate differences among Catholics. Rather, they are essential elements for a church in which members work together toward common goals, by supposing, as St. Ignatius wrote, that everyone is striving to act for the greater good.

Our bishops must take the lead in this conversation in the Catholic community. As the Second Vatican Council noted: “Bishops should make it their special care to approach men and initiate and promote dialogue with them. These discussions on religious matters should be marked by charity of expression as well as by humility and courtesy, so that truth may be combined with charity, and understanding with love.” As many have noted, our bishops also need to be careful that they do not overstep their bounds when they prescribe specific policy recommendations, lest they sacrifice their spiritual authority by appearing to be partisan political figures.

In his book Models of the Church, the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., highlighted the image of the church as a “community of disciples.” This image from the early church (Acts 6:1-2) sees every Christian united in learning from and following Christ. Here the church is always a learning church led by the Spirit, not yet in full possession of the truth. A disciple is by definition one who has not yet arrived, but is on the way to full conversion. This more humble view of a pilgrim church always in need of purification and improvement may help to tone down the rhetoric and encourage Catholics to work together in addressing the great issues of our day, especially those involving the culture of life. True dialogue, as Cardinal Dulles noted, enables the church “to understand its teaching better, to present it more persuasively and to implement it in a pastoral way.”

Comments

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Sean Denniston | 7/21/2009 - 2:51pm
I have to echo what a few others in this thread have noticed.  Based on the tone of the majority of comments, the purpose of the editorial failed.  There is a lot of talk about tolerance, followed immediately by intolerance of those with whom the writer disagrees.
I do think the editorial makes a very good point.  But it also falls into a common pitfall.  We need to be charitable in our interactions with people.  We need to believe that they act and speak from good intentions.  But tolerance of people does not mean tolerance of ideas.  And respectfully listening to dissenting ideas does not mean remaining silence if they are wrong.  To address the common reference:  It is true that Jesus dined with sinners, but he also told them to sin no more.
The problem is that tolerance truly is *not* a virture.  Charity is a virtue.  And while they often coincide, sometimes tolerance is an immensely uncharitable thing to do.  And that is the difficult balance to acheive.  We must act truly charitably and not take the comfortable out of tolerance.  We have to dine with sinners (and recognize that we are the sinners with whom others are dining), but we must also tell them to sin no more.  If a person espouses sin, or ideas contrary to Truth, we risk tolerating them right out of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Salvatore Ferrara | 7/3/2009 - 8:27pm

I have found that many biships and cardinals are partisan politically, especially when a president is up for election. In any parish I have ever been a member of ,I doubt if I ever have heard one homily or sermon on abortion vs pro-choice during the whole year until election time, then our parish gets a letter from the bishop of our diocese or a short film shown at all the masses as to the evil of abortion.  I have been a member of parishes in New York City, Long Island and now Florida.  Several have been large parishes with different income  and probably educational levels.  The letters literally are telling you in no uncertain terms: vote republican.

Not to long age while reading  the letters to the editor column in a monthly Catholic magazine one of  the writers send they were horrified that the magazine dared show a parishoner receiving the host in her hand . They asked the magazine to end their subscription,  How do  you deal with Catholics who think like this. I had read an article in America some time ago where I believe a Father O'brien who taught in a Fordam. that he believed himself a middle of roader as a Catholic , but was having a rough time finding the middle of the road. I don.t believe he will have any trouble now.

Salvatore Ferrara

 

 

 

 

         

The Pope's men? | 7/2/2009 - 12:54am

Saint Ignatius trained his men to defend the Faith and to use their intellect to defend the Church against erroneous teaching so I find it sadly ironic that this article instead of defending and supporting the Bishops for coming out strongly in defence of Church teaching in regard to abortion and same sex attraction it dismisses their courage as cowardly conservatism and accuse them of causing disunity.It seems to me that some religious forget that Christ did not alter His message to suit the world. He also warned us we must be salt and He had no time for the lukewarm.Being loved by the world is no measure of faith.Yes there is room for diplomacy and gentleness but we have different temperaments and gifts and it is wise to remember it is not our individual strength that spreads the faith but our allowing the grace of God to work through us. A very wise old priest once said to me the only difference between the saints and you and I is that the saints reduce their ego and pride so God's light is able to shine through them.

David | 6/28/2009 - 7:58am

Today, my partner and I will celebrate Gay Pride in NYC and we will begin it by attending Mass at St Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan, the very church where we met over 26 years ago.  At that point, Dignity, a group of gay Catholics, was allowed to meet there and in other Catholic churches around the country.  Regreattably, that soon changed on instruction from Rome.  How sad that Catholics were evicted from their own church!  That said,  over the years, we have found some parishes that meet Cardinal Dulles' vision of a pilgrim church where people try to see the good, find common ground and work to build the kingdom and we have also found parishes where we clearly did not fit in as an openly gay couple.  Whether Rome or anyone one else may like it or not, we are a big church in a big tent and God has welcomed all of us on the day of our Baptism.  The good news is that  the Spirit is moving and that tend is getting ever-larger. Thank you, America, for a great piece!

Vince Wisser | 6/24/2009 - 2:19pm

 What I take away from the comments that are critical of the editorial  is a belief that, before the mid-1960s, the Church was an static, top-down institution where the hierarchy dispensed with unchanging doctrine that the faithful in the pews absorbed in an obedient and uncomplicated manner. This just isn't an accurate history of the Catholic Church.  At best, it captures  the nostalgia for Catholicism in the period just before Vatican II that many today use in the service of partisan politics.  The liberal Catholics I know don't fit the descriptions I read here either: far from being  "feel-good" relativists who could easily be worshipping in any church, they are deeply committed to their faith and struggling to address the large moral questions of the day.

JOANNA IONESCU MS | 6/23/2009 - 11:26pm

The problem, as it appears to me, has to do with unavoidable cultural influences. In the manner of discourse, there appears clearly that today, people are driven more by sentiments and feelings rather then reason. This indicates a failure of education going back to primary school. I met a worrysome number of Catholics who equate the will of God with their feelings and emotions. Even more who equate nice, worm, fuzzy feelings, with love. Many cannot carry on arguments, let alone refutations, in the spirit of the great classics, without grudges or emotional upheavals. Add to this the rapidly moving landscape typical of the last thirty years, the lack of rootness and stability and voila...The separation of Church and State served the Church well. Perhaps, a partial solution to the problem might be the separation of schools too.

Joseph Franklin | 6/23/2009 - 3:22pm

 

Maybe we need two Catholic Churches: The Roman Catholic Church whose members would believe in the faith handed down by it and follow this faith, trusting in the Shepherds to oversee and guide it. This church would be based on a hierarchy and its members would share and follow its beliefs. This church would not be a democracy. The second church could be called the American Catholic Church: This Church would be a democracy: it would elect its Bishops and vote on its doctrines and core beliefs. There would be dialogue. I suspect that the second church would eventually divide into a multitude of churches as their protestant brethren did over the centuries. The Catholic Colleges and Universities who practiced their Catholic identity and taught and followed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and obeyed their Bishop could retain their RC Church identities. These colleges would hire teachers that were members of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Colleges who subscribed to the current beliefs and philosophies of secular society would be renamed American Catholic Church identities and could do it their own way. As it now stands everyone is unhappy and there will never be unity.
Jim | 6/23/2009 - 9:13am
Who dares to take up a contrary position for the pleas of this editorial essay for "dialogue," "respect," "civility," and so forth? A clever rhetorical slight of hand to say, in essence, "Please stop making the rest of us Catholics who seek assimilation, and the approval of non-Catholic elites, look like wierdos. 'Catholicism' is something we do for an hour on Sunday, but we certainly don't intend for it to be taken THAT seriously, nor do we want to appear out of step to anyone on any of the wedge/social issues of the day. Furthermore, we want a 'strict wall of seperation between Church and State' when the Catholic goes into the voting booth." I encourage the fans of this op/ed piece to read "Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice" written by the Episcopalian historian, Phillip Jenkins. It's sad when "The Nation's Catholic Weekly" feels the need dress down the nation's Catholic bishops for being . . . too Catholic.
MARY DUNHAM | 6/21/2009 - 9:30am
Excellent article-hopefully the Bishop of Scranton reads it.
Elaine Tannesen | 6/20/2009 - 11:47am
During the 1980’s, I ran a home schooling learning center serving mostly fundamentalist families of various Protestant denominations. I was always the only Catholic in the group. We treated each other with respect, loved each others children, and found that in our basic values and in many, many ways we were in agreement. We may have differed in the voting booth but our personal respect for the integrity and thoughtfulness of our differing opinions was integral to our relationship. As Catholics we have so much in common, so much to respect in each other. Lets stop circling the wagons and name calling. Thank you for this excellent and timely article.
Daniel McGrath | 6/19/2009 - 3:09pm
Christ is the Shepherd and we are His flock. But in our modern age, the sheep all have blogs or Twitter accounts, and they are tweeting on about all kinds of things about which they are unqualified to opine. For centuries, the learned men (and women) of the Church debated the big ideas among themselves, and we followed their authority. But a funny thing happened on the way to the kingdom of God. The debate became public, and now anyone, regardless of their qualifications, can challenge the teaching and authority of their churches (or anything else for that matter). So we line up behind one loud-mouth or another, or we get online an yammer on about whatever thoughts are on our minds. But we're still sheep. And the Shepherd has been removed to heaven, leaving us with His words, the Holy Spirit and these usually well-intentioned men who can forgive our sins or hold us bound by them. God bless those of you with years of religious formation and education, with advanced degrees in theology or divinity or the history of the Church, those of you who can read and write in Latin. I pray that you all are given the Grace to teach us. I pray that we are given the Grace to learn and understand.
Brad L Farr | 6/19/2009 - 1:52pm
Political loyalty is obviously taking precedence over the search for Truth. There can be no legitimate reason for advocating the murder of innocent human life. That is one of the most serious violations of God's commandments.
Randy | 6/19/2009 - 1:08pm
The trouble with avoiding polarization is you also avoid any chance of doing any good. You make the church irrelevant. It simply affirms what we already beleive and does not call us to anything better. It is a call to cowardice. Catholics have never accepted consensus as the goal. Holiness is the goal. That is not something we get without a fight. Were all the martyr's bad Catholics because they obviously offended somebody? That seems to follow from you line of reasoning.
Lucius | 6/19/2009 - 12:52pm
If you don't recognize what you call "polarization" is in fact a rejection of the authority of the Church to teach and bind Catholics on doctrine and morality, then you will never reach the roots of the alleged polarization. This debate is not about polarization but fidelity. While all this polarization-talk is a result of the strong negative response to ND and Obama, it is interesting that the negotiables seem to be abortion, and contraception, and homosexuality. Would we be having this talk about polarization if the issue were one of a politician and racism, let's say? From your perspective I doubt it. I always get the feeling reading your publication that the interpretive lens is orthodox liberalism/pc ideology rather than the Jesuit tradition and the Catholic Faith. I doubt St.Ignatius would be on board with any of this.
medardo chua | 6/18/2009 - 9:15pm
The suggestion of St.Ignatius you put in the opening of your piece applies also to those who disagree with the bishops. I am belaboring this obvious because your essay is subtly against our pastors. However much we try to be objective, our biases always find a way to shine through.
Missing the point | 6/18/2009 - 9:08pm
I find this article disconcerting it is basically accusing those bishops who have come out and vigorously defended the Church's teaching as the problem when if truth be told the problem has been that too many poor bishops have been shy and timid in defending and articulating Catholic teaching and have allowed academics and Catholic publications to usurp and take over in this area leading to confusion in the laity-particularly when some academics and publications have been advocating positions which undermine or flatly contradict the Church's teaching. We must be salt in this world or we are worthless. We must be in this world but not of it.Of course when the Bishops begin to speak out we will be disliked but Jesus was hated by many for speaking His truth If you want everyone to love you in this era give up being a Catholic.We have entered an era where we will be mocked and ridiculed and even persecuted for being Catholic. We should think back to earlier generations who were denied work and faced rental rejection because of their faith They held onto their faith and remained true we can do the same with the help of God's grace.It is not the straight talking bishops whom we have to fear but those who are afraid of losing worldly approval
HARRY CARROZZA DR/MRS | 6/18/2009 - 1:44pm
Usually America gets it right even if there is a several week delay. By referring to those Catholics who opposed the action of Rev. Jenkins as sectarian Catholics was somewhat over-reaching in that I believe that the majority of individuals including the 80 plus Catholic Bishops who publicly signed the petition are fair minded good people & were merely expressing the truth as their consciences dictated. Now it seems that the editors of America have come in at the ninth inning to save the day by stating that the polarization of all true believing Catholics must cease & their recommendations are praiseworthy but only after examining the true root cause of the disagreeing sides & this goes to the heart of who we believe Jesus is,namely, if we can all agree like Peter that He is the Son of the Living God who pre-existed the Incarnation & all accept the Creed in truth, then we can come together united in promoting & protecting the major human life issues that the Gospels espouse. Spiritual belief & prayer first then peaceful civic action!!
HARRY CARROZZA DR/MRS | 6/18/2009 - 1:43pm
Usually America gets it right even if there is a several week delay. By referring to those Catholics who opposed the action of Rev. Jenkins as sectarian Catholics was somewhat over-reaching in that I believe that the majority of individuals including the 80 plus Catholic Bishops who publicly signed the petition are fair minded good people & were merely expressing the truth as their consciences dictated. Now it seems that the editors of America have come in at the ninth inning to save the day by stating that the polarization of all true believing Catholics must cease & their recommendations are praiseworthy but only after examining the true root cause of the disagreeing sides & this goes to the heart of who we believe Jesus is,namely, if we can all agree like Peter that He is the Son of the Living God who pre-existed the Incarnation & all accept the Creed in truth, then we can come together united in promoting & protecting the major human life issues issues that the Gospels espouse. Spiritual belief & prayer first then peaceful civic action!!
Vince Killoran | 6/18/2009 - 1:39pm
The three "teachings" that Robert Leach identifies specifically capture conservative priorities: artificial birth control, abortion, and homosexuality. I don't believe his priorities are correct, and I don't share his cramped, top-down perspective of how one arrives at an understanding of their Catholic faith. There is a fundamental divide in our Church today. A good way to address that divide might be to begin a dialogue about how exactly we as Catholics understand basic issues such as how individual Catholics form their conscience. Given the fact that most parish priests don't allow parish venues to be used for open-ended discussion I'm not optimistic that this will occur.
bill deen | 6/17/2009 - 10:32pm
A great article-more importantly it has been published-the sentiments are those of so many hearts. Surely we must always ask "what would Christ say- here to-day". Christ it seems to me found a way to be inclusive, forgiving, challenging always to see a way to set a path of love of others in respect of His love of each one of us!
Robert Leach | 6/17/2009 - 9:08pm
The article "Communuity of Disciples" is excellent and no-one could disagree with anything the writer has said. However, it is what has not been said that is the source of division in the church. If interchurch disagreements were over minor matters the need for tolerance, charity and courtesy would be more easily realised. However , we have Catholics opposing church teaching on artificial birth control, on abortion, on homosexual practices, on a whole range of church teachings. The list, as you all know, is long, tedious and disconcerting for those who believe in what the church teaches, who believe that the magisterium is guaranteed by Christ, who believe that we must be faithful servants of truth and love. So I am not arguing against the need for courtesy and mutual respect. But surely, those who oppose church teaching on this or that issue must understand that those who love the church, who struggle to remain faithful, who strive to live up to its high standards... pray that their children will not be confused and/or corrupted by the widespread dissent from church teaching that surrounds us on a daily basis. I think Jesus himself would be a strong outspoken opponent of the dissenters and dissemblers amongst us - wolves in sheep's clothing - if He were here in the flesh. If you doubt me - read the gospels!
Littleone | 6/17/2009 - 8:13pm
This part of the commentary is disturbing "Here the church is always a learning church led by the Spirit, not yet in full possession of the truth. A disciple is by definition one who has not yet arrived, but is on the way to full conversion." "not yet in full possession of the truth."? The Church is the Mystical body of Christ He is the vine we are the branches. He is the Head .The Church is Truth but its adherents are on their individual journeys to full conversion-in other words we each have to grow in holiness but Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit to guide His beloved Church and protect Her from error. As for politics what was Jesus' response when some tried to trap him into giving a political endorsement?-render unto Caesar... All the bishops need do is state very clearly the Church's teachings on an issue and then the voter should vote for politicians who will relect that teaching in their political efforts.No political party or ideology was endorsed by Jesus. Perhaps the first step towards reducing heated rhetoric would be if all commentators stopped using labels such as conservative or pro Vatican or fundamentalist or liberal.Next would it not be more honest if some people stated the real status of their connection with the Church eg this commentator was born and raised a Catholic but is now estranged from the Church because of its teaching on the issue of ...instead of passing themselves off as a Catholic commemtator?
TJ Lawson | 6/17/2009 - 7:24pm
Unfortunately, I suspect, Catholicism is in our very dark days, clouded by religious fundamentalism and Christian extremism. There are religious police and Christian ‘Jihadists’ literally going from parish to parish like vigilantes hijacking one community by one community, using words as stones to throw at people they defined as ‘sinners’, condone by some members of the church hierarchy. Australian Catholics are hurting, as the hierarchy takes the side of fundamentalist by using coded language of 'Orthodoxy', 'Traditionalists' and 'Conservatism'.
Robert Leach | 6/17/2009 - 7:01pm
The article "Communuity of Disciples" is excellent and no-one could disagree with anything the writer has said. However, it is what has not been said that is the source of division in the church. If interchurch disagreemnetns were over minor matters the need for tolerance, charity and courtesy would be more easily realised. However , we have Catholics opposing church teaching on artificial birth control, on abortion, on homosexual practicess, on homosexual practices, on a whole range of church teachings. The list, as you all know, is long, tedious and disconcerting for those who believe in what the church teaches, who believe that the magisterium is guaranteed by Christ, who belive that we must be faithful swervants of truth and love. So I am not arguing against the need for courtesy and mutual respect. But surely, those who oppose church teaching on this or that issue must understand that those who love the church, who struggle to remain faithful, who strive to live up to its high standards... pray that their children will not be confused and/or corrupted by the widespread dissent from church teaching that surrounds us on a daily basis. I think Jesus himself would be a strong outspoken opponent of the dissenters and dissemblers amongst us - wolves in sheep's clothing - if were here in the flesh. If you doubt me - read the gospels!
Boreta | 6/17/2009 - 2:23pm
I was fortunate to be present at U. of Notre Dame on the weekend of this year's graduation. Father Jenkins, the president of the Univeristy, spoke eloquently about the use of faith and reason. I think that Catholics are great about practicing faith, but may be a bit fuzzy when it is combined with reason! President Obama's speech should be read in full by all who are concerned regarding his views on abortion. It was unfortunate that some students chose to boycott the graduation, yet, the University allowed them to have their own ceremony on the grounds of the campus. I even wonder if those students realized the significance of that desire by the University to encourage unity? During his term in office, President Bush spoke at the commencement at Notre Dame. Could there have been some concern among the pro-life advocates over his war policies which are "anti-life?" Somehow, as President Obama said, Cardinal Bernadin was a great advocate of finding common ground. Could we not all do the same? Being pro-life does not mean attending only to abortion- it truly means "womb to tomb." I found that whole incident regarding ND as another example of the extremes which the Church is exhibiting in its members. Paul said that "there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free- all of us are one in Christ Jesus." The search for unity is increasing in difficulty!
Paul Louisell | 6/17/2009 - 7:55am
As long as social programs don't equate to government programs enforced at the point of a gun, I wholeheartedly agree with the article. What is the role of government in society? It can't be the redistribution of wealth. It is to ensure each individual has the freedom to be as productive as he or she chooses. Its purpose must be to protect each individual's life, liberty (including property rights) and the pursuit of happiness. To the extent that the Church seeks an expansion of government intervention in personal choices, I will continue to voice my opposition. However, that does not mean I will condemn those who believe government and its further expansion and interference with an individual's right to choose are "evil" or must be silenced. As a Christian who believes in the good that results from freeing markets from government interference, I recognize this magazine's right to espouse a statist vision of America. I just hope the day comes when a more balanced editorial viewpoint prevails.
Marie Rehbein | 6/16/2009 - 10:56pm
It's not just that there is a lot of bickering in the Church, but that there is so much over which to bicker. Take a step back and put things into perspective. Are there any controversies with regard to the Divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, or the Ressurection, even the Real Presence? I think not. So why not just let a few things go for a while and see if anything changes? You do know the worst instigators of controversies are the ones who do it for a living. If it stops paying, they will stop doing it.
Christa | 6/16/2009 - 10:04pm
Our institutional church does not give an ample opportunity or an inviting place or an encouraging word to discuss those theological or moral issues that are begging for discussion. Our institutional church does not respectfully welcome the thoughts and opinions of all. Where is there a parish that would encourage a research and discussion group on the topic of women's ordination or global peace initiatives or optional celibacy or the writings of theologians like Hans Kung, Karl Rahner, Charles Curran, Donald Cozzens, or Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ? Where do intelligent, theologically astute Catholics go to have cogent, respectful discussions on controversial issues without having a member of the hierarchy dispatched to sanction or excommunicate? The church will never move forward respectfully unless and until the medieval hierarchy sheds its power-hungry commitment to preserving ancient dicta and mistrusting current thought. There are many of us out here who could run rings around our pastors and bishops when it comes to theology because we have fostered the developing nature of intellectual thought and the growth of faith. Most of those holding power - whether parish priest or bishop - show by their insipid homilies and their easy retreat into devotionalism that they are mired in the sentimentality, superstition, and magic of a bygone era. "Have devotions! Have novenas! Get the people in the church - then we'll show how Catholic we are! Then we won't be closed!" That still seems to be the clarion call of the benighted hierarchy that shies away from respectful discussion. So, until those of us in the employ of our own Catholic parishes and schools are treated with respect when we wish to discuss issues that some bishops and priests believe are never to be spoken about, I cannot foresee any change for the better. Even here, I cannot sign my own name for fear of reprisals if someone from my parish were to read this. When I reflect on the state of the church and especially its hierarchy, I am reminded of Shelley's Sonnet "England in 1819".
anne southwood | 6/16/2009 - 5:54pm
Thank you all. I went back to read the Don Baker comment again. He does credit to his Lutheran grad school prof, arguing well for the Church as servant for the truth. He finishes with what I consider the important truth we must absorb. Demands made in acrimonious defensiveness threaten the catholicity of the Church.
David Power | 6/16/2009 - 4:31pm
The underlying argument in the article all should agree to.But there remains many questions to be cleared up.Sean Winters in a recent article offered a good reason for a strong debate and a more robust Church unafraid of argument.What the writers seem to often misunderstand is that they cannot place Bishops so quickly on the level of others because despite all of their flaws they hold the keys and any who reason differently do not reason in a catholic way.This is not a mistake that Ignatius would have made.Then there is the fact that many of these things already have a solution in the lovely documents produced by our Friends across the tiber.The answer to Notre Dame etc need not worry you as they have their place taken care of .Their is also the attempt to spiritualize the role of Bishops ,at least when it suits.If a Bishop failed to speak up for the dignity and worth of Immigrants and said he was too busy doing cathechism many would rightly be scandalized.Perhaps the Jesuits should do their job and leave the Bishops to do theirs.These letters of tolerance often have the effect of bringing an avalanche of anger against "good" catholics as opposed to those who are open and while everyone is so busy patting themselves on the back the plank stays put.If the effect is so and people in authority are not really invited to a discussion but to an earbashing can the editors really be aiming at the objectives outlined here.The Jesuits and America have a lot to offer and One only has to spend some time reading this Magazine or speaking to most Jesuits to be struck by the movement of the Holy Spirit.But also perhaps they need a really good Examen before they lecture the Bishops.
Deacon Mike Evans | 6/16/2009 - 12:34pm
It seems like Cardinal Bernadin had a solution to this - the Common Ground Initiative. However, he was roundly and soundly rebuked and ignored by the Vatican and his fellow American bishops. It does not serve well the ambitions of those who need media face time to promote their own (and not necessarily the Church's) agenda.
James | 6/16/2009 - 12:15pm
The irony of the comments section is outlandish, and likely lost on most of your commenters.
Colin Donovan | 6/16/2009 - 12:05pm
On what has the Church failed to dialogue? A more pertinent qustion is on what subjects have members of the Church failed to listen to the Church? I find the latter obligation in the Gospels, but not the former. The instruments of communion in the Church are the Faith communicated intact by the Magisterium, the sacraments devoutly and licitly celebrated and the bond of charity with the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. The standard so often espoused today are those of communion with this passing world not communion with the Church. It raises a legitimate question regarding WHO is an actual cause of division in the Church in America, the Archbishop Burkes or the Fr. Jenkins of our nation.
Michael Bindner | 6/16/2009 - 11:38am
In regard to your article on a Community of Disciples - from your keyboard to Cardinal Rigali's eyes.
Deanna Maginnis | 6/16/2009 - 11:10am
Respect for one another and kindness in the face of disagreement. This kind of behavior starts at home. It is modeled, expected and rewarded. And I believe we should expect it in our churches as well. My home parish has had a priest for the past several years who has managed to oust 10 employees and maybe twice as many volunteer lay ministers during his short stay with us so far...sometimes because of disagreements over liturgical issues, sometimes because he just doesn't like the sound of their voice or the look in their eye, or maybe they had a close relationship with the previous pastor...all big insecurities on his part and totally unnecessary in my opinion. But just reasons are not required as part of the pastor’s power to dismiss his perceived enemies. He is unapologetic and has said those who disagree with his leadership "style" can find another church. His bishops, who have been written many times, turn a blind eye because, after all, our pastor has not done anything illegal and he needs to feel comfortable in his surroundings. If our own priests, people who have committed their lives to Christ's teachings, cannot model the desired behavior described in this article...and our bishops, priests who have been elevated to a greater position of authority, do not find it something worth striving for, where are we to turn? Here’s another microcosm for you: We have a new seminarian assigned to our parish. As he introduced himself recently to the congregation with a small speech, he told us his best friend was his mother. And it suddenly struck me…when the parish office staff goes out to lunch for various celebrations our middle-aged pastor invites his mother to go along as part of the group - something any other middle-aged executive would consider inappropriate, childish almost. Our seminarian, a 25 year old man, also appears to have his apron strings intact. The future looks to be more of the same. The hierarchy is insecure…too insecure to leave their mothers, too insecure to welcome female priests, too insecure to allow themselves to marry, too insecure to even fraternize with priests who have left the priesthood…the hierarchy is just too insecure to allow mature dialogue. I look for a healthy spiritual environment and can only find it amongst the laity. The laity loves their faith. Those willing to stay amidst the turmoil, to worship within the beauty that is the Mass and to reach out to others with a helping hand and a kind word - they are the true keepers of Catholicism.
Dennis Winschel | 6/16/2009 - 10:59am
What a great article that has stirred a lot of thought and reaction. As I reflect again on the article and the comments, I believe that these polarizing ideas, by that I mean different interpretations and perceptions are and will remain our starting points for entering a conversation and life. The challenge is to see this as starting points and not final and absolute points. The journey is to find the center, what is it that which holds these seemingly opposing ideas together. We focus more on being right as the starting point than being connected. This is the core of being on a spiritual journey- the ability to hold opposites together (human and divine; saint and sinner). What we in the Church seem to have misplaced or forgotten is the tradition path to find the center, the bring forth the old and the new - the willingness to let go of my starting point to hold the other's view in charity and good faith. Instead of seeing our perceptions as starting points, we see them as ends- absolute ends in themselves, which keeps us from personal conversion and focuses the need for conversion onto others. This creates a safer religion of self-justification rather than one of bridge-building that is based on forgiveness. Isn't this in part the mystery of the cross? This works only if I am willing to let go. And it is not easy to let go.
Tom Howarth | 6/16/2009 - 9:59am
Jesus told us that you should not put new wine in old wine skins yet we continue to do precisely that. There is something being born in our church and it promises to be quite beautiful, but there is also something dying, something that must die if the new church is to emerge. The struggle of the old to hang on, to remain in denial of its death, could well deny the nurturing that the new requires killing it in the womb. Many are drifting away no longer able to live with integrity in the church or simply no longer wanting to be where they feel unwelcome. They say that the last kick of the mule is the hardest. Indeed this dying mule has done so much damage.
Bill Shields | 6/16/2009 - 8:07am
What a refershing perspective! Would that we all take a lesson from St. Ignatius's subtle wisdom. I sincerely hope that some American bishops read this article.
Peter Martial | 6/16/2009 - 4:50am
Dear editors, your editorial was eminently reasonable, very middle of the road, very Rodney King, i.e., "Can't we all get along?" But, by God's design, human consciousness evolution doesn't work that way. It works by a death to the old worldview and a rebirth to the next (which always presents its own new challenges). As Jesus said, "I am the sword who comes to divide." In the last 50 years, scholars of human consciousness evolution have identified three levels of mental development, three major shifts in human consciousness which, transculturally, always occur in the same order - fundamentalism, rationalism, and multicultural pluralism. Your editorial was at the rational level. As the above comments show, you may tolerate fundamentalism, the level below, but its adherents will not tolerate you for they are convinced they have the truth and, to betray what they think is truth, is to betray God and risk eternal damnation. No amount of reasoning, editorial or otherwise, will convince them absent an inner spiritual death and rebirth. As Jesus said, "ears to hear and they just can't hear." For them your editorial falls upon deaf ears. For those who have evolved beyond rationalism, however, your editorial is not sufficiently nuanced. You talk about spiritual principles vs. how such are applied, a very rational distinction. But as one commenter asks, what does that mean with respect to women priests? Is that a principle or a practice? Same applies to gay marriage. Postmodern pluralistic multiculturalism has shown that much that was assumned to be rational or even natural law has been nothing other then the idolization of cultural prejudices as supposedly "God ordained." I do agree that all of the people at all of the above described levels are honorable and honest and well meaning. Unfortunately, however, we will never "get along" anymore than Jesus did with his religious opponents, the Pharisees and Sadduccees. Finally, you seemed concerned with "Catholic identity" in a sectarian sense when "catholic" by definition refers to universal truth. You also seem concerned with the Church as an agent of change, which seems a silly hope since the Church, by and large, has been a reactionary force for at least 500 years. The Church exists to create saints, people who consciously realize unity with God, a level of consiousness far above the mental levels described above. The rest, in the bigger scheme of things, is nonsense.
Vaughn Vig | 6/16/2009 - 2:46am
I liked how this article opened with the beautiful quote from St Ignatius and closed with the reference to Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J.. Dulles was indeed prophetic in his "Models of the Church," when he warned that of the six models he that he had proposed, the greatest danger was in reducing the mystery of the Church to the visible institutional model. I think that our division and lack of charity shows that we have not heeded Dulles' advice.
CLAIRE BANGASSER MS | 6/16/2009 - 2:12am
Hear, hear! I feel so sick and tired of the current debate. It definitely is not life-giving.
ROBERT ROWDEN | 6/16/2009 - 12:53am
Nearly a full generation ago the late Cardinal Bernardin called for dialog based on common ground to reduce the polarization in the Church. He was immediately and relentlessly attacked by the most powerful bishops in the nation. I fear that not much has changed in the intervening years.Nevertheless we must continue the effort.
Christopher Butler | 6/16/2009 - 12:09am
This fine editorial brought to mind a column by Paul Krugman in which he wrote that California, in its inability to come to terms with our budget problems, was degenerating into a banana republic. This my be an injustice to our neighbors to the south, but the threat that CA will become ungovernable is real. The same may well become true of the Roman Catholic Church, for the same reason. A lethal combination of ideologues and self promoters can kill a social unit just as surely as an uncontrolled outbreak of ebola. We hate/condemn/vilify each other at our own peril.
Donald Baker | 6/15/2009 - 10:42pm
Back in grad school, a professor (Full disclosure - a Lutheran professor) used to speak half-jokingly about the "protestant principle" - in his words: "There is no one holy but me and thee - and I am not so sure about thee". He wished to criticize Protestantism's fractiousness and also to highlight its tendency to seek a church which is true because it has the truth. This bespeaks a view of the truth as propositional - something you can formulate and possess - and then judge others as heretical who do not. The Catholic Church is not immune from this tendency. But when the Church calls itself Catholic, it is not labeling itself as a "denomination" over against others. It does not canonize a particular theological approach - Thomism is the current favorite, but there are many others. This breadth and depth of Catholic thought might spring from such admirable traits such as tolerance - but perhaps it really springs from an epistemology which does not see the truth of the Church as the formulation of a proposition but as the encounter with a person - Jesus of Nazareth. This is a fundamentally different orientation. You can memorize a doctrine but the encounter with a person is always mysterious. And yet that is precisely what the Catholic tradition asserts about the Church - it is the mystical body of Christ - a kind of sacrament which reveals Christ and invites the world to enter into a relationship with him. The possession of correct truth statements isn't enough to enter into this relationship - One must pray and study, think and worship, ask questions and seek answers. In short - get to know him in and through the Church. The great wisdom of Catholicism has been its claim to be a faithful witness to the truth about Jesus.Thus the Church which is Catholic sees itself as penultimate to the truth - and never to be completely identified with it - how could it be? God is the fulness of truth - to claim that fulness as the Church's possession would be a violation of the First Commandment. This is not to say that what the Church teaches is thereby false - that is sloppy epistemology - it is simply to say that the truth of the Church is Jesus - and if we can always learn more about one another - how much more is there to learn about him? The article states that there are some bishops who say tolerance is not a Christian virtue. This is true. But humility is. And the Church which is Catholic is by nature humble - because it recognizes its proper relationship to God as servant to the truth and not its master. My professor sometimes spoke of a "Catholic substance" as opposed to the protestant principle. He didn't elaborate, but my thoughts above are a reflection on what he (and other professors) might have meant by the term. If it is true, then the growing number of people in the Church claiming to be true Catholics are in fact faithful practitioners of the "protestant principle" and their belligerent defense of the truth actually endangers its true Catholicity.
leonard nugent | 6/15/2009 - 10:09pm
Dear editors, If you read the above comments is it not fair to say that your editorial failed?
Kathy Pesta | 6/15/2009 - 10:07pm
Thank you for this important and thoughtful article. It hits the nail squarely on the head. What gets lost in all this polarization is the spirit of Jesus and his teachings. In Islam, Muslim's respond to the hadith, the words and teachings of Muhammed, but also to the sunnah, the example of his actions, to aid them in their spiritual journey. I think that's the part we're missing. As we all try to understand and respond to the gospel teachings and to current Church directives, all words, each of us claiming that our interpretation is "correct," we sometimes forget to look at how Jesus himself acted and responded to family, social, religious, and political issues of his day. "What would Jesus do?" was a popular catch phrase a few years back; it's a vitally important question, but it stems from an even more important one: what DID he do? It amazes me how lost his example seems to get in all the furor.
Fr. Tom Kjnney | 6/15/2009 - 9:19pm
Unfortunately, I feel it is too little too late to save the Roman Catholic Church from self-destruction. The Church is to busy trying to save the institution and not the real church, the People of God. Estimates show that between 15-20 million members of the Roman Church have left for greener pastures. Will the last one out, please turn off the lights.

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