Challenges of finding common ground

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 Knights 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. 

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JR Cosgrove
7 years 11 months ago
What is a Catholic ''Left'' and a Catholic ''Right?''  These are political terms based on the economics and politics of distribution of resources.  Any attempt to extend them to Catholics seems to want to align certain religious positions with political positions.  That should be a non sequitur unless we are talking about 18th century Church/State relationships.
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 11 months ago
Isn't this all part of a general loss of liberty which has taken place since 9/11?  We have become a surveillance state.  Detention and killing of suspects without due process is now acceptable.  Our police are overmilitarized and react strongly and then violently to political demonstrations that are threatening to the interests of the oligarchy.  Obama continued and enhanced these trends started by the Republican administration, giving them bipartisan validation.  If the bishops' opposition to the HHS mandate were bundled with opposition to these other bipartisan diminishments to liberty, I'd give it attention.  Otherwise, I see it as just protecting institutional power and, personally, I can't get excited about that. Would that the bishops had gotten as exercized about the abuse of children but that doesn't click when your thinking is centered on the institution and not the living members.
Tom Maher
7 years 11 months ago
This article shows only examples of awkwardly expressed and widely different points of views.  But where are the examples of common ground if such a middle gound position exists ? 

Clearly we are at a point in the nation's history where we at a crossroads in chosing how are nation is governed, financed, secured and how our faultering economiy can be strenghtened.  This ihappens to be an either-or choice.  There is no real common ground tht addresses our serious economic stagnation and runawway national debt.  The 2012 election will be about correcting thae national economy and reducing the widespread and growing unemploymnetit and underemployment.  We can either continue to do the same failed economic policies that have not worked or we can do something different that does work.  We can either grow the goverenemnt sector of economy as we have for the last four years as a percentage of our GDP or we can allow and encourage the  private sector to grow and expand.  By definition you can not have both the governemnt and the private sector as the prime economic engine of our economy.   And yes it does matter mightly whether the government or the private sector of the economy has more economic resources to grow our economy and create new jobs.  So realistically we do have to make stark choices. Do we want private enterprise to be more of a player in our national or do we want to continue to sideline private eneterpriese in favor of more governemnt management of our economy? In the 2012 election as often is the case in real life there is no middle gound. People must chose from two very differnt approaches to governing our economy.
7 years 11 months ago
This string is supposed to be about seeking common ground in the church, not the lack of it in civil society. However, the more things we approach with an either/or attitude the harder we make it to find common ground.

For instance, the sentence (in #7) "We can either continue to do the same failed economic policies that have not worked or we can do something different that does work" should read: "We can either continue to do the same failed economic policies that have not worked or we can go back to the failed economic policies that did not work." Since no one has budged, those are voters' choices. No wonder so many of us feel like Mrs. Robinson sitting on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon.

If I understand Michael O'Loughlin, he is trying to get our conversations past the impasses that have to arise when we can't hear the other guy because we are making so much noise describing what we think he is.
Tim O'Leary
7 years 11 months ago
Sr. Gottemoeller used a completely false equivalence here, missed by Michael O'Loughlin's reaction. The Knights show a cover of an upcoming movie on the real Christeros historical event, as a sign that religious liberties can be lost. And the other side is ''Fr. Doug'' who calls the investigation, “the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance.'' 

A good way to see the difference is to imagine attributing the references in the reverse. Say the sisters had a cover saying ''freedom is our lives'' and the CDF had said the LCWR was “the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance.'' 
JR Cosgrove
7 years 11 months ago
I am sorry to make another comment but this one got to me.  

''its not too difficult to make the jump from early 20thcentury Mexico to the American bishops’ current assault on certain Obama administration policies.'' 

Shouldn't it read

''its not too difficult to make the jump from early 20thcentury Mexico to the current assault on certain Catholic positions by Obama administration policies.'' 

Isn't the analogy best when it compares government attacks on religious liberty.
7 years 11 months ago
The Knights, or the Grand Knight (sometimes it is hard to tell the dfference) have money invested in that movie, hence the effort to make it a box office success. Our chancery office has urged us by flyer and email to see the film. It looks like family fare, so I was shocked Friday to learn (from the godless secular media) that it has an R rating (violence, not sex of course). I can't take the family unless some movie theater is willing to wink at our attendance, which in normal times would bring a blast at it from the pulpit.

The connection between the flick and the Fortnight of Freedom is inescapable. Second Amendment Catholics will be heavily invested in both. The rest of us, not so much I think.
Gabriel Marcella
7 years 11 months ago
JR (3):
Excellent point. Let's hope that the unfortunate construction:

"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."

does not reflect the editorial judgment or the command of history of America Magazine. The "violence and warfare" in Mexico in the 1920s bears absolutely no resemblance to the bishops stance and conduct against the HHS mandate.
Tim O'Leary
7 years 11 months ago
Tom #8
Common Ground initiatives work best when there is a shared goal despite different outlooks. So, the ''Evangelicals and Catholics Together Initiative'' or the ''Manhattan Declaration'' are two instances of very successful Common Ground Initiatives, since the shared goal is broadly Christian morality and belief in Revelation as divinely inspired. The fight against slavery and the civil rights movement also were successful at uniting disparate groups. They all had/have specific and measurable goals. However, it doesn't work well when there is no shared goal beyond a superficial ''can't we all just get along.'' 

It used to be the case that both sides inside Catholicism were in full agreement on the evil of abortion (you can see many prior statements of democratic Catholic politicians where they switched after many years in the pro-life camp). But I think that is gone.

I would have thought that religious liberty and freedom of conscience would have fit the bill, and it did for a few weeks, but then one side gave up and joined the ''enemy'' in this case, probably because sexual liberties rank higher to them than this specific instance of freedom of conscience. There is also the problem that people join in a campaign for Common Ground when they really mean to win for their side, in a manipulative way. This didn't really happen in the first 4 examples described above as the goal outweighed the differences.  

I am looking forward to the movie ''For Greater Glory'' and I might try to see it during the Fortnight for Freedom, as Michael O'Loughlin wryly suggested. Maybe, you could find a friend and see the movie that week, just to see how hard walking the talk might be.


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