Is this timely or what?
77. The power of evangelization will find itself considerably diminished if those who proclaim the Gospel are divided among themselves in all sorts of ways. Is this not perhaps one of the great sicknesses of evangelization today? Indeed, if the Gospel that we proclaim is seen to be rent by doctrinal disputes, ideological polarizations or mutual condemnations among Christians, at the mercy of the latter’s differing views on Christ and the Church and even because of their different concepts of society and human institutions, how can those to whom we address our preaching fail to be disturbed, disoriented, even scandalized?
The Lord’s spiritual testament tells us that unity among His followers is not only the proof that we are His but also the proof that He is sent by the Father. It is the test of the credibility of Christians and of Christ Himself. As evangelizers, we must offer Christ’s faithful not the image of people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church. This is a source of responsibility and also of comfort.
At this point we wish to emphasize the sign of unity among all Christians as the way and instrument of evangelization. The division among Christians is a serious reality which impedes the very work of Christ. The Second Vatican Council states clearly and emphatically that this division “damages the most holy cause of preaching the Gospel to all (people), and it impedes many from embracing the faith.”[Ad Gentes 6; Unitatis Redintegratio 1] For this reason, in proclaiming the Holy Year we considered it necessary to recall to all the faithful of the Catholic world that “before all (people) can be brought together and restored to the grace of God our Father, communion must be reestablished between those who by faith have acknowledged and accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord of mercy who sets (people) free and unites them in the Spirit of love and truth.”[Bull Apostolorum Limina, VII: AAS 66 (1974), p. 305]
And it is with a strong feeling of Christian hope that look to the efforts being made in the Christian world for this restoration of the full unity willed by Christ. St. Paul assures us that “hope does not disappoint us.”[Rom 5:5] While we still work to obtain full unity from the Lord, we wish to see prayer intensified. Moreover we make our own the desire of the Fathers of the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, for a collaboration marked by greater commitment with the Christian brethren with whom we are not yet united in perfect unity, taking as a basis the foundation of Baptism and the patrimony of faith which is common to us. By doing this we can already give a greater common witness to Christ before the world in the very work of evangelization. Christ’s command urges us to do this; the duty of preaching and of giving witness to the Gospel requires this.
While Pope Paul was speaking of a lack of harmony between Christian traditions, what we writes seems very apt for the divisions within the Roman Catholic Church today. One challenge is the segregation of interests. Not only do Christian groups worship separately from one another, but within the Roman tradition, there has grown a clear splintering of parts. Bishops chum with bishops. Priests with their own. Deacons have their groups. Lay ministers. Lay people with different ideologies fall together online. What we miss is priests fostering true relationships with parishioners. Bishops with their diocesan clergy. Conservative and liberal Catholics coming together to address real life parish issues.
In this climate, is it any wonder the witness of Christianity to non-believers can be laughable?
I think escalation is the inevitable consequence of the Right’s decision in many quarters to “let’s finally take the gloves off” as I read one Catholic commentator suggesting. (Like it hasn’t been so for years …) I often see the meme cited by the Right when resisted, “But I thought you were advocating for civility?!” And as my favorite internet foils will tell you, I don’t think I have a particular reputation for being liberal-polite. The internet, by its very design or by our choice, is an aggressive venue. We don’t see faces. We’re not afraid of being punched out. So we’re pretty free about what we write, and we don’t care often if someone takes offense. From what I see, some liberals will call the other side names. Some conservatives will go after the other side’s jobs. Either way, blood will simmer.
According to the NCRep, the USD faculty have upped the ante with their president.
In a meeting of their academic assembly Tuesday, the University of San Diego faculty agreed to ask (President Mary) Lyons to reinstate (Tina) Beattie’s appointment immediately or face a possible vote of no confidence in her leadership.
“The will of the faculty has made it very clear that they consider this matter a matter of extreme importance and a matter that requires our immediate attention,” said (executive committee chair Carlton) Floyd, an associate professor of English at the university.
While Floyd said the official count of the vote was not yet available, he said the vote was “overwhelmingly” in favor of the move. Another faculty member present at the meeting put the tally at 117 in favor, two against and three abstaining.
Faculty can’t fire a president. But there’s no doubt they can make a professional life on campus very difficult. Presidents serve a community always looking for new hires. Universities are not insular communities, promoting professors from the student ranks. Not usually, anyway. New faculty may just be looking for a job, any job. But veteran professors in any discipline, not just theology, will pass over USD without a thought.
An administrator may opt to cede to the wishes of an outside group. That is a possible choice. But the choice is not without consequences. And either way, it must weigh heavily on an otherwise talented leader who must balance more concerns than particular faculty appointments. Consider that in the long run, such episodes, if repeated, will discourage good candidates from seeking important leadership positions. President Lyons likely wants to function in a harmonious environment where she can lead and guide the institution she was hired to serve. But the best of leaders may gravitate to other institutions where the politics are more subtle and manageable. Or they will stay in the classroom, and schools will start getting fourth- and fifth-best choices. It seems there’s a lesson to be learned somewhere. You can be sure that activists on either side, especially the gloves-off conservatives don’t give a darn about a particular school. They just want to feel the warm fuzzy of angry accomplishment.
As for the internet, I will confess a degree of concern about myself. I see involvement in escalation as being increasingly less fruitful, if indeed it ever was. I’ve started to delete regular conservative sites from my browser favorites.
I used to combat the tendency to reinforce my own beliefs by visiting and commenting liberally (literally) on Catholic sites over the years. While I’ve been persuaded to see things in a different light here and there, I’ve also found it good to sharpen my own positions and to engage the best (and sometimes the not-so-good) arguments of people who disagree with me. Count me as deeply suspicious of the situation in which I’m surrounded exclusively by supporters. Like every human being, I need positive reinforcement from time to time. But I also need the spiritual and emotional challenge of interior confrontation. The anguish and angst, I think, is often better placed internally than among individuals. In the spiritual life, we should have a steady stream of challenges. Hopefully not an escalation into chaos.
I’m seriously considering taking my own advice to the political pro-life movement and for my own good health stepping back from various forums. It’s a reflection of my own political experience this past year. No good choices for federal office in Iowa. Better choices for local government, where people are under the radar of the crazies (usually) and can make serious inroads into improving life as we live it.
And among local persons, I think we need the personal interaction and the substrate of friendship. Or at bare minimum grudging respect. James Martin wrote about an admirable approach within the Jesuits in his book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, in which he described the community formation process of his novitiate. There were people whom he disliked. But when, in community life, one knows the particular trials of people, one can come to understand and appreciate their lives and what they bring to the Church. Increasingly, I don’t think the internet brings much of great value to the Church at all.
I was noticing 8400-some posts on this site. Nine years active now. And I used to think I was coming on board to blog on the downslope of the effort. I suspect I’m on the downslope here. How far down, I’m not sure. It may be that I still have things to say, but I’d rather say them in a different setting, and with things other than words. I think you can count on my finishing out these documents that are in progress. I may tackle others.
After our church’s fire, things have been rather busy, and I’ve put some musical projects on hold. We may be only one-third of the way through our exile from worshiping at church, and more work is ahead. But I picked up my next musical again this week, and it was a lot more life-giving than the internet I can tell you. More later, I think.
Another interesting reflection about the way the institution sometimes doesn’t accomplish things–through persuasion and invitation to encounter God, not arm-twisting.
§ 151 § Artists respond to the demands of art, actualizing in aesthetic form their ideas, feelings, and intentions so that when artists activate their imagination, their intentions and inner life are expressed in their work. In working with a parish, artists will also express the intentions, faith, and life of that community. A truly worthy and beautiful artwork can transform the artist and the community for which it is intended. The dialogue with God that an artwork mediates can persuade and invite; however, it does not force its meanings upon individuals or communities.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.