Robert McClory, over at NCR, has written a blog post after my own heart. Can We Talk? is a reflection on the responses he received on a previous post titled Dissent? Don’t You Dare!
In the first post, McClory explored the stifling of “thoughtful and earnest dissent” within the Catholic Church since Humanae Vitae. He believes that, “The curtailing of all dissent in this era does not serve the good of the church. Rather it leads to disruption, disintegration and disaster.”
The ensuing discussion from readers on his blog is a microcosm of the larger, vitriolic style of debate present in our church today. The loud voices on the right challenge any and all dissenters to unquestioning obedience to church teachings – or please leave. The loud voices on the left speak out for the right of each conscience, “without adding any qualification.” And, of course, there are the off-topic comments “perhaps influenced by the Republican presidential debaters”!
But there are other voices that offer hope. McClory writes,
These are thoughtful, searching folks who read, pray and ponder thorny problems like dissent without coming to rancorous or absolutist positions. The hang-up here is that these searchers, like the proverbial choir, talk only to like-minded associates, so their balance doesn’t get into the discussion. More often than not, it’s the extremists who frame the debate.
So can we talk?
I have this idea of a debate on dissent in the church, or better, a series of debates between qualified representatives from left and right — no grandstanding, no polarizing, no gotcha questions, no yelling.
Undoubtedly, the result would not lead to mass conversions from either camp, but it just might lower the decibel level, even set a tone of respect we haven’t seen in a long time.
Somehow, we’ve got to get out of this quagmire that has turned Catholicism into the quintessential dysfunctional family of the 21st century.
A big AMEN!!!