Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Pope speaks of dialogue - in a good way, I think.

Although dialogue has nearly become a dirty word amongst some faithful Catholics.

I can think of some groups who have been pretty much shut out.  How often do you hear or read something like, 'this person cannot call himself a Catholic if he _____'?  I try not to say things like that, but there are times I think it - or I just don't want to hear what 'they' have to say - again.  Dialogue can at times seem like a dog chasing his tail.  So why does the Pope encourage it?

The Pope is very Vatican II - no doubt about it.  Yet he expresses himself more clearly, more straightforwardly than those who espoused the 'spirit of Vatican II - I think.  I suppose comparisons to Bl. John XXIII are appropriate, especially when he says:
Your fidelity to the Church still needs you to stand strong against the hypocrisies that result from a closed and sick heart. But your main task isn't to build walls but bridges. It is to establish a dialogue with all persons, even those who don't share the Christian faith but “who cultivate outstanding qualities of the human spirit” and even with “those who oppress the Church and harass her in manifold ways. … Through dialogue it is always possible to get closer to the truth, which is a gift of God, and to enrich one another.” Pope Francis reiterated that dialogue means “being convinced that the other has something good to say, making room for their point of view, their opinion, their proposals, without falling, of course, into relativism. For dialogue [to exist] it is necessary to lower the defences and open the doors.” - Lower the defences and open the doors

Although in another context, he repeats the words of Paul VI:
In this context, the Bishop of Rome quoted the words of Paul VI's address to the College of Cardinals in June of 1973: “The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man. For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity.”

I would like,” Pope Francis added, “to encourage the entire ecclesial community to be evangelizing, to not be afraid to 'go out' of themselves to proclaim, above all trusting in the merciful presence of God who guides us. The techniques are certainly important, but even the most advanced ones couldn't substitute the gentle but effective action of He who is the principal agent of evangelization: the Holy Spirit. It is necessary to let yourselves be led by him, even if He takes us along new paths. It is necessary to let yourselves be transformed by him so that our announcement might be made with words that are always accompanied by the simplicity of our lives, our spirit of prayer, and our charity towards all, especially the lowliest and poorest, by our humility and self-detachment, and by the holiness of our lives.” - At Service of Church's Mission and Communion
Nevertheless, the Holy Father is Francis - he is his own person, he is the Pope of the present time, and he speaks directly to the Church:
This people's mission,” the Pope continued, “to bring God's hope and salvation to the world: to be a sign of the love of God who calls all to friendship with him … It is enough to open a newspaper to see that the presence of evil is around us, that the Devil is at work. But I want to say out loud: God is stronger! … Let's all say it together … God is stronger! And I want to add that reality, which at times is dark and marked by evil, can change if we first bring to it the light of the Gospel, above all with our lives. If, in a stadium … on a dark night, one person lights a light, it can barely be seen. But, if over 70,000 spectators each light their own light, then the stadium lights up. Let us make our lives the light of Christ. Together we will bring the light of the Gospel to all of reality.”

The goal of this people is “God's kingdom, begun on earth by God himself, and which must be further extended until it is brought to perfection, when Christ, our life, shall appear. The objective [of the people of God], therefore, is full communion with the Lord, familiarity with him, entering into the divine life itself, into his family, where we will live the joy of his boundless love.”

Being the Church, being the people of God,” Francis concluded, “... means being God's leaven in this our humanity. It means proclaiming and bearing God's salvation in this our world, which is often lost and needful of having encouraging answers, answers that give hope, that give new energy along the journey. May the Church be the place of God's mercy and love, where everyone can feel themselves welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And in order to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged, the Church must have open doors so that all might enter. And we must go out of those doors and proclaim the Gospel” - Keep the door open.

I wonder if people aren't a little gun shy?  What we have learned since the Council is how easy it is to misinterpret that mission, how easy it is for abuses to creep in, for heterodoxy to infest and confuse.  Many in the Church remain confused.

Providentially, Pope Francis knows how that happens - and warns against it - calls it out.  I think with Pope Francis steering the ship, things will work out this time, provided the agenda-driven do not take advantage of his kindness.

Pray for the Holy Father and the Church.



  1. Dialogue is great when it allows each side to declare who they are and what they are about in order to see if there is A.) common ground and B.) reasons for leaving one's side or staying. I think some Catholics dislike dialogue because for far too long it has meant jettisoning Catholic identity in order to pander to an outside group...or to merely fit in and say, "hey! we're not that weird! we're hip and cool too!" Or especially the, "hey, we're not really different, except for that minor stuff!" That type of thing doesn't do anyone any good.

    I love to dialogue with Protestants and non-Christians in a way that shows Catholicism in its fullness and with its clear boundaries (oh no, Meatloaf! "I would do anything for ecumenism, but I won't do that!"). I think it is more honest that we dialogue as Catholics who are not afraid nor ashamed to be Catholic. Our interlocutors are not looking for pandering but, instead, want to know what they are up against. Who is this person? Why does he believe that? What is this Catholic Church all about?

    The Truth sets people free, we have been told. And the Truth is Jesus Christ. IF we really believe Him to be God, why would we dialogue anything else? The answer, I think, has to do with our fallen nature. We want to win, or at least to not lose our arguments. We want to walk away having "conquered a soul" by selling out the Truth - the Church. That is not ecumenism. That is not truthful.

    We need to dialogue in a way that shows who we really are and what we are really about. Not everyone will accept Catholicism. Look at Jesus in Nazareth. That is our example. Let the Holy Spirit do the heavy lifting and let us be who we are.

    I think the Holy Father has been doing that better lately than when he was a Cardinal. It is amazing how the office does change the man.

  2. Jericho - that's brilliant. You explain it very well - thanks very much. God bless you.

  3. Ecumenism or dialogue only works when we share who we really are as Catholics, being open about what we really believe. The martyrs died and continue to die for being who they really were and are. Men and women we will not ever hear of on this earth continue to be imprisoned or martyred for being really Catholic-it just doesn't get in the news. As long as we hide the whole truth of being fully Catholic, it isn't really authentic dialogue, just pretend gibberish-I will like you if you will like me stuff.

  4. I should have explained myself better - I wasn't really thinking of ecumenism but rather of Catholic dissidents who claim the Church needs to change it's teachings on homosexuality, gay marriage, reproductive rights for women, and so on. They complain that the bishops will not dialog with them.

    Jericho - MB comes to mind.


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