Readers commend America magazine’s commitment to lessen polarization
In our April issue, Editor in Chief Sam Sawyer, S.J., argued that the practice of “Presupposition,” found in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, offers a way out of our current ecclesial, cultural and political polarization. St. Ignatius writes “that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.” Father Sawyer explained that at America, “We commit ourselves—and we will exhort our contributors—to both imagine and acknowledge the best motives of those with whom we may disagree, especially within the life of the church.” Readers had much to say in response.
Lots of wisdom here. I especially appreciate the emphasis in trusting the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Thank you for this thought- and prayer-provoking article.
A small anecdote: A number of years ago, at least 15 (so way before the current levels of polarization in our church and country), I was asked to lead an “ask the deacon” adult faith formation session in our parish. It was a well-attended, lively session. I was peppered with lots of good questions, to which I tried to give thoughtful answers. At home later in the evening I received two strong emails from parishioners who had attended. Each one said, “How could you answer [question X] THAT way?!” One was from a very “traditionalist” parishioner, the other from a very “progressive” parishioner. I could only chuckle at the irony and then lament how much of what I was trying to say fell on, maybe not deaf, but at least unwilling ears.
This is a compelling commitment to communion, and I certainly applaud America’s leadership to pursue the “gift of communion.”
This is a bold and optimistic, if fragile, prolegomenon. May God bless Sam Sawyer, S.J., in his new role and let him bring some peace to our discourse.
I hope the ideas of this article are embraced by the full editorial staff and content moderators of America. Father Sawyer, you have your work cut out for you!
I tried (in my own poor way) to point out this as a deficiency over these past months, frustrated at seeing two articles in three months by Cardinal Robert McElroy. I hope that the true hard work of listening to contrarian views is something America is still willing to commit to. There are more than 190 bishops in the United States. Focusing on only two or three who all think alike doesn’t seem to be in line with the ideas behind this article. It also doesn’t come across as very inclusive.
This is a compelling commitment to communion, and I certainly applaud America’s leadership to pursue the “gift of communion.” It is little wonder that the rest of us have such difficulty in putting “a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement” when institutional leaders pursue polarization.
This is the best article I have read on polarization. Having shared many heart-to-heart conversations with adult Catholics, I have found that the divisions in the church are not as hard to break through as we imagine them to be. The key, as Ignatius said, is to concentrate on discovering the good in others. It is also another reason why, as the U.S. bishops said decades ago, we need to concentrate our efforts on adult formation since we cannot go back to a pre-Vatican II church of primarily undereducated parishioners. I would also add that our adult formation must be a synodal experience for participants if it is to be effective in building up the church for its mission to evangelize.
These are really challenging times for conversation/communication/community. I recognize the stress you refer to as cross-pressure and also the constant temptation to talk past others because listening is challenging and even threatening at times. While we may intend to converse in order to clarify, the result may be further confusion and instability, which is difficult to endure. So the temptation is to claim the higher ground or talk over, refusing to hear the other. Honest conversation calls for humility and a deeply prayerful life to maintain equilibrium and to continue to stay close to the Lord during these stormy times.
Maureen O’Riordan Lundy