Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 25: Dialogue, Part 5, Church And Its Members

Final thoughts on dialogue:

The church engages in dialogue for reconciliation also through the bishops in the competency and responsibility proper to them, either individually in the direction of their respective local churches or united in their episcopal conferences, with the collaboration of the priests and of all those who make up the Christian communities. They truly fulfill their task when they promote this indispensable dialogue and proclaim the human and Christian need for reconciliation and peace.

Not a surprise that Pope John Paul II starts with the clergy and sees the promotion of peace through dialogue moving into the laity from them. “In communion with” is the operative phrase.

In communion with their pastors, the laity who have as “their own field of evangelizing activity…the vast and complicated world of politics, society…economics…(and) international life,”(Evangelii Nuntiandi 70) are called upon to engage directly in dialogue or to work for dialogue aimed at reconciliation. Through them too the church carries out her reconciling activity. Thus the fundamental presupposition and secure basis for any lasting renewal of society and for peace between nations lies in the regeneration of hearts through conversion and penance.

If the Church will be a player in the world effort away from war and unrest toward reconciliation, it will have to be through the laity. Too many prelates have muddied the reputation of the institution. Too many small voices in the Church picking at them and heckling the efforts.

Lay people are more free to utilize the moral and spiritual heritage in concert with the human sciences to achieve what is needed.

It should be repeated that, on the part of the church and her members, dialogue, whatever form it takes (and these forms can be and are very diverse since the very concept of dialogue has an analogical value) can never begin from an attitude of indifference to the truth.

Treat others like adults:

On the contrary, it must begin from a presentation of the truth, offered in a calm way, with respect for the intelligence and consciences of others.

An important reminder:

The dialogue of reconciliation can never replace or attenuate the proclamation of the truth of the Gospel, the precise goal of which is conversion from sin and communion with Christ and the church.

To a degree, reconciliation and conversion from sin have a lot of overlap. A good amount of work and ministry is a different dialogue: introducing people to the person of Jesus, and inviting that initial conversation. That conversion from sin is an ongoing concern, not only for public sinners outside of the Church, but for all of us within. When we can demonstrate by our actions what it means to repent, confess, and make amends, then our witness will be seen as more credible.

It must be at the service of the transmission and realization of that truth through the means left by Christ to the church for the pastoral activity of reconciliation, namely catechesis and penance.

My usual caution on catechesis: it’s not just book learning. Even a good book like the catechism or even the Bible. It must be mentored, and people must be seen as more apprentices rather than students.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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