Community of Disciples

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.”

Nicholas Clifford
8 years 1 month ago
A splendid editorial, if indeed frightening its views of our possible futures if we, who constitute the Church, don't start behaving like Christians. It's similar, of course, to the piece you did some weeks ago on "sectarian Catholicism," and should help us to stop and realize that the phrase is a profound oxymoron; you can't pretend on the one hand to a Catholic universality and on the other establish narrow, man-made bounds. Certainly the history of the Church gives ample evidence of the disasters that follow a sectarian approach (whether from the right or the left).
8 years 1 month ago
It troubles me not that their idea of Church excludes me, only because my notion of Church INCLUDES them. The polarization cannot stop as long as some inhabitants strive for exclusivity.
8 years 1 month ago
This division and some of the rhetoric that attends it are sickening. The self-proclaimed "orthodox" in my parish have gone so far as to tear down notices of speakers that they disagree with. The local Catholic bookstore refuses to carry the books of a respected Catholic scriptural scholar who has a column in the diocesan paper. There is complete intolerance for anyone who deviates one iota from their own conservative beliefs.
8 years 1 month ago
Thank you. This essay should be read in nearly every parish of my home Diocese (San Diego) and twice weekly during election years.
Paul Bradford
8 years 1 month ago
“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.” These days everyone seems to imagine himself or herself competent to speak for the Church; but, sadly, not enough seem to want to be bound by the counsel offered above. How can anyone be expected to learn Church doctrine in the midst of a cacophony of half-truths, zingers and 'gotchas'?
Robert O'Connell
8 years 1 month ago
In May of 2008, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Holy See Press Office, spoke to the Catholic Media Convention in Toronto. He suggested a few specific tools for effective Catholic communications: (1) A positive attitude towards the other, towards those different from us; (2) Highlight first and foremost the beauty of the Christian life; (3) Trust in reason and have patience in communicating strong messages; and (4) Do not avoid difficult problems but have the courage to tell the truth. He also noted that after each voyage to a foreign country, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI would have an informal review about how the trip was communicated in the media. So let me add the idea of looking back ourselves to see how we did after we "exchange" views.
8 years 1 month ago
Outwitted by Edwin Markham He drew a circle that shut me out - Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout But love and I had the will to win We drew a circle and drew him in.
8 years 1 month ago
Wonderful article! Let all pulpits hear or read this on Sunday. "By their love you wll know them" is the sign of a Catholic christian.
8 years 1 month ago
Thank you for this excellent editorial. What you call for is very challengin; even as we comment here, the temptation is to speak in terms of "us" (we, the tolerant) and "them" (those intolerant others). To cultivate and practice charity amid debate and disagreement is a spiritual, moral, even ascetic practice that we find modeled too little in our culture. I agree that it is particularly difficult to be charitable in situations wherein one's very desire to practice charity and respectful inclusion is deemed grounds for condemnation or exclusion! But might such cases be invitations and challenges to even greater charity? I pray for charity and justice in our church and in our world.
John Giovanni
8 years 1 month ago
The question that every believer is ultimately confronted with is: Why do so many good,open prayerful people come to so many different conclusions? Those who ignore this question do great damange to many. Our bishops all too often have failed to set the example and show us how to behave in the public arena when we are debating an issue. When the bishops are in agreement with a particular stand, there remains too much tolerance for those who bear false witness against the other side. Where have our leaders been? I hope they can read this article and do some honest reflection. It is a begining. I will continue to pray for a willingness to honor and respect those whose prayerful discernment have brought them to a different conclusion.
JOHNPAUL LENNON
8 years 1 month ago
I could not agree more. Since coming to the USA in 1985 from Mexico, and especially since becoming active in the Fr. Maciel, Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi controversy I have been struck by the polarization of the American Catholic Church. I personally believe that POLARIZATION is the main problem of the Church, even greater than the hot button issues we "Conservatives and Liberals" are constantly and heatedly debating. Catholics, like most other Americans, seem to place pundits above thinkers. Truth appears to consist, not in the veracity of our statements but on how heatedly and passionately we express our opinions and personally attack each other. I have discovered that the Legion of Christ and its Regnum Christi lay movement contributes to this polarity by apparently siding with the most conservative and "orthodox" groups of Catholics. Only later do these families realize that they are simply pawns in a competetive game of recruiting and raising funds alient to the Universal and Unifying Church founded by Our Lord. He came "that they all may be one" and not that we all may be constantly divided, bickering and fighting among ourselves like a pack of jackals. Each enclave speaks of Charity and attributes it to themselves and accusers their "enemies" of laking it so much that the word now lacks meaning. Maybe we will have to abondon "Charity" as a dirty word, used by the angry self-righteous, until we find our Christian senses. A well written article, America. Insist, in a timely and untimely way. May St. Paul and his Letters guide us.
8 years 1 month ago
As a convert of ten years, it continues to surprise and shock me the level of acrimony that is often directed against "outsiders" by "good" Catholics. Outsiders seem to be anyone who is not a cradle Catholic and orthodox, whatever that phrase means. I thought it was all about loving our Lord and loving and serving each other and the greater world, God's creation.
8 years 1 month ago
America Response Your article reminds me of the question I have about our catholic church which is the Roman Catholic Church. My question is how can I support and be active in a church that professes to follow Jesus Christ and has: Denied women full participation in their ordained ministry: Christ was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew. In 1973 the Jewish tradition began to allow women to be rabbis. To my knowledge, the only other major religion which denies women full participation in their ordained ministry is Islam. Both Jesus and St. Paul showed great respect for women. I do not read St. Paul’s comments in his letters regarding women and men as a put down of women. I read them as an attempt by a frustrated disciple to resolve an argument that he has learned of through letters from the community that we do not have. A modern example would be a working mother trying to settle a bitter argument between her children over the telephone while she is at work. She reads them both out. Covered up the pedophilia scandal Does not give the local members a voice in the selection of their bishop: I believe the early Christians and many Christian traditions do this. Considered other Christian traditions and Catholic disciples who criticize church positions (as I have ) as second or third class disciples in need of reform. So why am I still Catholic? There are three reasons: One is that the story of God dwelling with mankind began in Israel and was continued by Jesus Christ. The Jewish tradition did not accept these clarifications of Jesus, so Jews that followed Christ became Christians, not Christian Jews. Second is that I believe the Catholic Church practices have often blocked a person’s spiritual growth and God therefore provided other churches that would minister to His people. If I had a child who had been abused by a relocated Catholic pedophile priest, could the Catholic Church continue to be a path to the kingdom of God for me? I think not. Third; we all need reform. I need reform. Other disciples need reform. The Catholic Church hierarchy needs reform. So I strive for reform and spiritual growth of myself and my church as a Christian Jew in the Roman Catholic tradition. God, as God of the Hebrew Scriptures, as Jesus of the Christian Scriptures and as the Holy Spirit of today is kind, compassionate, slow to anger and ready to forgive. Let us as disciples heed the words of St. Peter, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” ( Pet. 1:15,16) Bill Fox Chester Virginia June 15, 2009
8 years 1 month ago
I hope someone sends this editorial to Archbishop Burke in Rome whose combatative rhetoric is a major contributor to the current battle lines being drawn. The next victim of the orthodox vigilantes is the National Catholc News Service. It will be interesting to see how the Bishops respond not to attacks on individuals like Richard McBrien and Douglas Kimic but on the very news organ of the Conference itself!
8 years 1 month ago
The solidification of the American rightwing since the early 1980s and its political coalition with religious fundamentalism, is the source of the racist, xenophobic, mostly Protestant, mostly southern, bickering groups that pay the bills for Fox News. These have infected the American Catholic Church as well as American culture at-large. While I certainly agree with the article, I am not hopeful that very many of these people will see the light of reason. They thrive in an atmosphere where they are not opposed. Yes, let's keep the dialog as civil as possible, but when we're debating the likes of Bill O'Reilly, it serves no purpose to shrink from the fight in the name of courtesy.
Ilse Wefers
8 years 1 month ago
Perhaps Mr. Obama read the book "Models of Church" and many of us, including some of our bishops, have not. There is still hope...
Charlene Ozanick
8 years 1 month ago
Truly excellent article. I hope that somehow the US Bishops who are having their meeting in San Antonio this week would get this. They really need to discuss and ponder upon these points.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
leonard nugent
8 years 1 month ago
Dear editors, If you read the above comments is it not fair to say that your editorial failed?
Donald Baker
8 years 1 month ago
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.
Christopher Butler
8 years 1 month ago
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.
ROBERT ROWDEN
8 years 1 month ago
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.
CLAIRE BANGASSER MS
8 years 1 month ago
Hear, hear! I feel so sick and tired of the current debate. It definitely is not life-giving.
Vaughn Vig
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
James Lindsay
8 years 1 month ago
In regard to your article on a Community of Disciples - from your keyboard to Cardinal Rigali's eyes.
Colin Donovan
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
The irony of the comments section is outlandish, and likely lost on most of your commenters.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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.
anne southwood
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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".
Marie Rehbein
8 years 1 month ago
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.
Paul Louisell
8 years 1 month ago
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.
8 years 1 month ago
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!
8 years 1 month ago
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!
8 years 1 month ago
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'.
8 years 1 month ago
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?
8 years 1 month ago
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!
8 years 1 month ago
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!
Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
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.
HARRY CARROZZA DR/MRS
8 years 1 month ago
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!!
HARRY CARROZZA DR/MRS
8 years 1 month ago
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!!
8 years 1 month ago
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

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