EG 226-228: Unity Prevails Over Conflict

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, suggests we can’t avoid conflict, but neither can we let it master us:

226. Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced. But if we remain trapped in conflict, we lose our perspective, our horizons shrink and reality itself begins to fall apart. In the midst of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality.

My sense is that a good chunk of the blogosphere has imprisoned itself in the embrace of conflict. Church imitating culture, because certainly our culture has wrapped its arms around conflict like an amoeba at feeding time. It also sells.

227. When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; they lose their bearings, project onto institutions their own confusion and dissatisfaction and thus make unity impossible. But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. “Blessed are the peacemakers!” (Mt 5:9).

Can people really engage conflict with the aim of making peace? It will be difficult. The culture of conflict makes it difficult to extract oneself from the pounding. We lose face with our fellows and sisters. We worry that our defenses have been compromised.

But the reality is that if we don’t we become like the single-minded who protest against abortion, child abuse, same-sex unions, the SOA, the president, talk radio, and the like. We turn ourselves into caricatures. We become the stances we attack. Our souls have been compromised, and it turns out we are very weak and powerless after all.

What, then, is the way out? This is one of Pope Francis’ most important statement in this document:

228. In this way it becomes possible to build communion amid disagreement, but this can only be achieved by those great persons who are willing to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity. This requires acknowledging a principle indispensable to the building of friendship in society: namely, that unity is greater than conflict. Solidarity, in its deepest and most challenging sense, thus becomes a way of making history in a life setting where conflicts, tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity. This is not to opt for a kind of syncretism, or for the absorption of one into the other, but rather for a resolution which takes place on higher plane and preserves what is valid and useful on both sides.

Seem difficult? I’d agree. I think the way out begins by practicing not with the most difficult people in one’s life, but one’s own loved ones. For now, leave the big tasks for the great persons–which you can eventually become.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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