On Friday I went to a lecture at the Catholic University of America sponsored by the Catholic Common Ground Initiative (CCGI) that explored the themes of Vatican II, focusing on reconciliation and Gaudium et Spes.
CCGI, a friend who serves on the board told me, was established to bring together those from the Catholic left and Catholic right to seek, what else, common ground.
Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, a senior vice president at Catholic Health Partners and a former leader at the now embattled Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), offered a brief reflection about reconciliation that touched on the current battles polarizing the church in the US.
Gottemoeller began her talk by lamenting the cover of Columbia magazine, the publication of the Knights of Columbus (pictured to the right). The cover features a crucifix-adorned cowboy atop a black horse with gun in hand, with the headline “Freedom is Our Lives” in red below. The accompanying story is actually about a newly released Mexican film, one that just so happens to deal with a nation fighting to reclaim its religious liberty. Sound familiar? Perhaps you can find a screening for your Fortnight for Freedom party later this month. The image recalls violence and warfare, and its not too difficult to make the jump from early 20th century Mexico to the American bishops’ current assault on certain Obama administration policies.
Admittedly I was tickled that the magazine’s image was condemned. The Knights, as an organization, sometimes behaves more like a bully than a saint, so I was heartened to have a strong sister say she was disappointed in its choice of cover art.
But I was jarred by the next example Gottemoller pointed to as a disappointing sign of the times in the church. A pastor in Ohio recently wrote a column in his parish bulletin that has been making its way around the internet the last few weeks, in which he condemns the Vatican and US bishops for their treatment of American nuns. The priest calls the investigation, “the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance.” When I first read the piece I thought it was a bit harsh, but because I agree with the general sentiment, I was willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt. But Gottemoller was having none of it; she said the vitriolic language was upsetting, and instead praised the quiet, respectful way that the LCWR has chosen to respond itself.
Gottemoller’s talk was short and to the point, but it was a strong reminder of the need for respectful dialogue on both sides. I’m not convinced many leaders in the Catholic Church are open to true dialogue or the attempt to find common ground, but being reminded that the goal remains worthy in itself is helpful.