I can’t help feeling a bit depressed after reading around a bunch of Catholic blogs on the election of Archbishop Dolan of New York as president of the American bishops conference, a surprise departure from their longstanding practice of elevating the vice-president. Gleeful or smug reactions from fellow Catholics, such as the ones below from a National Catholic Reporter blog, greatly disturb me.
“What a blessing that the Bishops are listening. And you are kidding yourself if you think that men like Dolan, Burke, Chaput etc are not going to make a difference in the direction of the Church. The days of the seamless garment and the rainbow sash are coming to an end.”
“The young Catholics are sort of expecting the skepticism and disagreements to die out soon, as the skeptics and disagreers are getting pretty old now. Meanwhile, we are celebrating the return of a Catholic identity, one that looks like World Youth Day and the March for Life. Young priests in cassocks and young sisters in habits…. and smiling, courageous and faithful bishops like +Timothy Dolan. It’s a beautiful thing!”
“Whine all you want. My generation of young 20 year old Catholics are more loyal to the pope than ever. That is the way it will be and we want orthodoxy! “
These attitudes contrast sharply with a dialogue event I attended earlier this week at Xavier University, where people shared and discussed how they experience tension and pain in relation to the church. Speakers included a woman who feels passionately that the church’s social justice teachings receive too little attention, a gay man and a woman who feels called to ordination. Two of these were under 25 years of age.
Their stories were quite moving, but the small-group process we engaged in after the presentations was even more inspirational. To foster listening, we were asked to paraphrase what the person who preceded us had said before beginning our own remarks. Hearing others was given equal emphasis as being heard. We were guided to asking “genuine questions,” those that truly seek understanding or clarification, as opposed to questions that contain an agenda or put forth an opinion — a subtle but real difference.
This event was facilitated by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, a coalition of faith-based organizations that regularly hosts dialogue events on difficult issues. The mission for their Days of Dialogue is to promote civil discourse, to stimulate critical thinking, and to create an opportunity where people can talk with others who differ, in a safe and comfortable setting where true listening and learning can occur.
Copyright Peg Conway 2010