America’s Three C’s

While surfing to the Anchoress this morning, I saw a reference to Matt Malone’s recent editorial in America. The whole piece by the new editor-in-chief is worth reading. His conclusion:

“Love manifests itself more in deeds than in words.” America makes the following commitments:

1. Church. The church in the United States must overcome the problem of factionalism. This begins by re-examining our language. America will no longer use the terms “liberal,” “conservative” or “moderate” when referring to our fellow Catholics in an ecclesiastical context.

2. Charity. How we say things is as important as what we say. America seeks to provide a model for a public discourse that is intelligent and charitable. In the next few months, America will announce a new set of policies for the public commentary on our various platforms.

3. Community. America will appoint a community editor who will moderate our public conversation, ensuring that it rises to the standards we set for thoughtfulness and charity. We will continue to provide a forum for a diverse range of faithful, Catholic voices.

A few things.

1a. Personally, I’ve never objected to being called a liberal or progressive Catholic. Over the years, and in particular places, I’ve made a point of explaining what that means to me. In brief, I see it as essentially an approach to faith that is optimistic, open, patient, and unconventional. Liberal in a sense of the freedom God offers believers. Progressive in the sense that I can do better today than yesterday, and that believers can, despite our getting in our own way, expect to make the world a better place tomorrow than it is today. In this sense I don’t mind the political term being coopted as long as we’re clear on what it doesn’t mean.

1b. What I do object to is the smarmy undercurrent directed at me, but mainly my sister and brother Catholics who might be considered liberal and/or progressive. This undercurrent supposes less of a commitment to virtue, justice, morality, prayer, spirituality, loyalty, and faith.

1c. This is just plain silly. And it flies in the face of what the Church teaches as the proper approach to people we’re not sure about. I believe the Anchoress mentioned the political motto, “Trust, but verify.” That’s not an acceptable affirmation of CCC 2478. But it doesn’t, for the record, make the person less virtuous, just, moral, prayerful, spiritual, loyal, or faithful for saying and advocating it.

2. I hope I’m getting better in this regard. Sometimes I wonder. Recently I’ve been reevaluating and mostly declining to use my favorite terms from the past decade: MaChurch, the (various) Ones, and the like. The intent has mostly been to raise a mirror to other people’s commentary around the Catholic blogosphere. But I was surfing around to some old sites earlier this week. A lot of them have shut down, turned off lights, and moved on.

3. Community is more than a single web site. Like it or not, many of us are the more-or-less public e-face on Catholicism for the world. I think a bit more cooperation across site boundaries would be somewhat helpful, constructive, or otherwise worthy in witness.

It seems like personally I could do more. Fr Malone is right. Deeds are always better than words. But sometimes personal words are a start. I do read correspondence. Sometimes, the more heated discussions are better continued in a more private place. People can find my email and cell phone number easily enough. But if you would prefer to publicly challenge me to a higher standard of behavior, the comboxes will be open on this site as long as they are manageable. And as always, any essay or contribution will be considered.

Maybe the words seem inadequate to me. At some point, internet Catholics won’t be able to transcend until we begin to make real friends among one another. Who knows if that step is near or still far off. But deeds will be needed at some point.

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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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4 Responses to America’s Three C’s

  1. John McGrath says:

    “Do not bear fasle witness against your neighbor.”

  2. Thanks for this. A FB friend asked me what I thought about this and my reply centered more about my feelings about it, rather than content.

    Honestly, I am more liberal than not, but I ended up feeling like it was a source of a kind of pride that I am not comfortable with today. Both liberal and conservative got used to define one in a particular vein. Both can be used with a lot of pride, and both can be used with a lot of derision. So I stopped wanting to use either one.

    If I had to “tag” you, I’d go with progressive, not liberal. But hey, that’s just me.

    In the end, I have to ask others how can church be Church if all we want to do is excise the other to make it what we might think is finally OK?

  3. FrMichael says:

    “1b. What I do object to is the smarmy undercurrent directed at me, but mainly my sister and brother Catholics who might be considered liberal and/or progressive. This undercurrent supposes less of a commitment to virtue, justice, morality, prayer, spirituality, loyalty, and faith.”

    I’m not sure at this point what constitutes an undercurrent on this blog since most posts don’t elicit many comments. I think your larger point is that progressive Catholics are seen as having less commitment to virtue, justice, morality, et al, by their conservative Catholic brethren. Guilty as charged. For example, when many progressive Catholics (and I don’t mean you specifically on this particular issue) openly dissent on the biblical and apostolic teaching that same-sex acts are intrinsically evil, what is a conservative Catholic supposed to think? At best, that the progressives are naive dupes of the GLBT movement or overly influenced by their friendships with people with same-sex attractions. At worst is the thought that progressives have proven cowards in the face of evil and have shamefully abandoned our Lord in imitation of the Apostles in the Garden.

    Actually, there is one thing worse than cowardice: the raising of false hopes that God will change His Mind and once-perverted acts will now be considered by Him as good and holy. This pernicious evil is galling to my deadened sensibilities. I wonder how the Almighty feels having His immutability challenged?

    That being said, in things liturgical IMNSHO educated progressives and conservatives still have areas of commonality. We all want high quality in liturgy: good music, good proclamation and preaching, appropriate environment, attentiveness to the texts and ritual movements. We all see good liturgy as the the source and summit of the Christian life whether we cite Vatican II directly or use Fr. Z’s “Change the liturgy, change the world” dictum.

    In any case, it has been awhile since I have thanked you for this blog. It provides an invaluable (and unique) service in reviewing the documents you so diligently post. I know myself not to have the discipline to review these on my own. And even though I may not comment on the majority of the document citations or your comments, they do provide food for thought and reflection.

    Have a blessed and safe July 4th!

  4. FrMichael says:

    “But if you would prefer to publicly challenge me to a higher standard of behavior, the comboxes will be open on this site as long as they are manageable.”

    Personally, you are a good host and allow for differing opinions. Quite refreshing for the blogosphere and its echo chambers. Whatever else is wrong in the Catholic web, I don’t think you are participating much in the negativity here. The only suggested improvement in tone is less reliance on the short pointed barbs that sometimes appear as the concluding lines of your posts. Of course, in hundreds of comments at this blog I have demonstrated that I have the same exact fault, but to a greater degree than you. Mea culpa.

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