Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As a young boy, I remember watching many reruns of family programs from the 50’s and early 60’s, shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver. Many of those TV programs were idealistic, and unlike real life, conflicts were usually resolved easily. One thing many shows had in common was demonstrating, and hopefully teaching, the virtue of courtesy; of being civil and respectful to one another. As I reflect on this, I am sure that I view those days through a nostalgic lens.
In recent weeks there has been a renewed call for greater courtesy, civility and respect in our political discourse and in society at large. Sometimes we do not speak well of one another while discussing various political and social topics.
The call for a more civil public discourse is appropriate and necessary, but, unfortunately, the call can also be used as a tactic to suppress legitimate opposition to unjust policies and practices. To be civil does not mean to be silent in the face of injustice, or to water-down our witness to the Gospel. Far from it! Guided by Church teaching we speak up to shed light on injustice, champion human rights – first among them the right to life – and we advocate for and serve those who have diminished voice especially for people who are poor, homeless, refugees, sick, immigrants and many others.
Civil discourse begins with solidarity even with those with whom we vehemently disagree. Those who hold an opposite point of view, however egregious and morally wrong those views might objectively be, are first and foremost men and women with inherent and intrinsic worth and dignity.
As Catholics, we believe that inherent dignity is grounded in our having been made in the image of God. Our communion in Christ enables us to see our own faults, failings and sins with greater clarity and acknowledge our own need for forgiveness. And in the midst of conflict and division to be a sign of God’s justice and mercy.
No doubt as a people we have our significant disagreements, but hopefully, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will choose to resolve them through courteous, civil and respectful discourse.
Sincerely in Christ,
+Andrew E. Bellisario, C.M.