The art of civilized decency and scholarly discourse is diminishing, giving way to tactics aimed at shaming the faithful. I must admit that I was concerned about this year’s college graduation ceremonies. I wondered if they would be a repeat of last year’s debacle when it came to the treatment of certain commencement speakers. We live in an age where terms, such as ‘hate speech’, ‘bigotry’, and ‘intolerance’ are distorted and misleading. These abuses serve as attempts to force silence among those who believe in the more straightforward (and necessary) form of dialogue, leading to a mutual respect regardless of views.
1 Peter 3:15 encourages us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within. This lies at the heart of being a member of the Catholic Church. This opportunity also provides for meaningful dialogue. Why is it that in today’s social climate, only one side that gets most of the attention, while the other is sliced and drowned out?
The fact is many progressives find it challenging to defending relativistic views amidst objective truth. To make matters worse, many in authority recognize this and cater to them. ‘Safe spaces’ and the suppression of equal representation are just two examples that hasten division. Sadly, this occurs at both Catholic and secular colleges.
Moments such as these undermine the Church’s innate desire to engage in fruitful discussion. Furthermore, they create greater levels of animosity, making reconciliation ever more challenging. I realize that many feel a sense of duty to support others. This is understandable and albeit, commendable. However, the vitriol towards Church teaching, coupled with a refusal to ‘tolerate’ differing views proves that their actions are disingenuous. They do not serve to unite but to divide.
When I taught Moral Theology, I witnessed, firsthand, that the Church’s teachings made some students uncomfortable (even angry). Issues regarding marriage, human sexuality, cohabitation, contraception, and abortion created many ‘spirited’ discussions. They felt the Church was too condemning and too judgmental. And they had their reasons.
They considered family members and friends, who were (or had previously been) involved in these situations. They believed that because these are good people, how could I (or the even Church for that matter) condemn or judge them? I explained to them that this was precisely the problem the faithful must deal with constantly.
“Go and Sin No More”
Many are familiar with the story of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). What one must realize is that Jesus neither condemned nor judged her ‘being’. Rather, he condemned and judged her ‘doing’. He extended compassion, love, and mercy to her humanity. But, He rendered a verdict on the actions she had committed. Our Church instructs us to do likewise. We are called to provide guidance to rightfully judge actions; actions that are contrary to her teachings.
Holy Mother Church does not teach based on subjective entities. Rather, she instructs on logic and objective truth. The Church’s use of reason does not disseminate views based on popular opinion or public demand. This includes an authentic understanding of natural law in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
By telling the woman to no longer commit sin, Christ brought full attention to the immoral and unrighteous act, itself. We can assume that her recognition and contrition were automatic as her eyes were opened and she understood. This allowed her to vanquish her previous ways of sin.
Understanding Real Love
Christians are obligated to judge actions, but with charity as their motivating factor. By exercising love, compassion, and mercy, one can begin the process to engage in meaningful dialogue. This is a delicate process that requires time and effort (as well as a willingness on the part of both parties). This is why society lacks interest and why we must embrace the challenge to faithfully and prayerfully discern how and when to approach certain topics.
Pope Francis once said, “I cannot constantly insult, provoke a person continuously, because I risk making him angry, and I risk receiving an unjust reaction, one that is not just. But that’s human.” Love, conducted in a manner that demonstrates care and concern for the other, views them as a special person created in God’s image and likeness. Once this is understood, the conversation can continue as ‘neighbors’ (despite our differences). This succeeds in establishing a community, which is at the heart of Christianity.
Faith is No Laughing Matter
The Catholic faith inspires us to accept and challenge one another to become a witness to the truth. Therefore, those who counsel and advise are called to do so with prudence, sincerity, knowledge, and conviction.
Archbishop Charles Chaput addressed these problems within society that have resulted from bad catechesis. He warned of “faddish” theology, and emphasized the need for real knowledge and truth saying, “Knowledge of the truth expands our freedom to love.”
How often are the faithful misled by blatant displays of hypocrisy, double-standards, and rationalizations? How often do they become victims of it, themselves through ridicule and mockery due to their perceived knowledge, values and traditions? Such acts are all committed without any formal interest in dialogue. Society has a problem with accepting truth as it has been divinely revealed. As a result, there is now a desire to distort truth through what Pope Francis calls “ideological colonization”
An Uncompromising Love
Holy Mother Church calls us to engage and enlighten, but to refrain from bragging, boasting, and condemning. She provides clarity for her teachings and extends compassion and respect to all. However, this level of affection is never meant to compromise truth. The methods used to confront sin must live as a testimony to our reliance on Christ’s teachings, along with His life, His love, and His mercy. We are all sinners and will be held accountable for all of our actions.
Those in authority must put aside their methods of censoring religious and traditional values and instead foster a mutual sense of respect and open communication among all. This is a noble effort to help reduce the clouds of adversity and create avenues for deeper understanding and human decency.
May we continue to live out, courageously, the words of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, “To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live but to ‘get along’; we must never just ‘get along’”.