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UPDATED – Expressing ‘dissent’ with Christian charity

By Br Mark O'Connor FMS, 30 June 2020
Pope Francis during the General Audience. Image: Vatican Media/Vatican News.

 

‘They did not complain about Peter; they prayed for him. They did not talk about Peter behind his back; they talked to God. We today can ask: “Are we protecting our unity, our unity in the Church, with prayer? Are we praying for one another?” What would happen if we prayed more and complained less, if we had a more tranquil tongue?’

Pope Francis is spot on! Rampant complaining about our leaders instead of praying for them is a major problem in our Church today.

That is why, unfortunately, it is occasionally necessary to ban some commentators on our Diocesan Facebook page and other social media because of the manner with which they express themselves. Sadly, extreme views are all too common in our over-opinionated superficial culture.

READ: Pope Francis’ homily from the 29 June on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

It needs to be clearly stated that it is never acceptable on a Catholic site to make uncharitable accusations about fellow Catholics and even worse to use ideological and political labelling.

Accusing people of being ‘left-wing or ‘right-wing’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’ in comments are meaningless labels clearly used to wound and damage the Body of Christ.

Of course, there is a legitimate variety of theologies and spiritualities within our Catholic Church.

But there is no room on our Facebook page or other Diocesan publications, for embittered complaining about ‘dissent’ being ‘suppressed’ – when the very same commentators angrily insist on using abusive language and showing disrespect for the local Ordinary and far too often, our Holy Father Pope Francis.

Such Catholics seemingly have the mistaken belief they have been ‘appointed’ as ‘guardians of orthodoxy’ and are the only ones acting with integrity.

As Vicar for Communications and Editor of Catholic Outlook, my guides are the Gospels; our rich heritage of Catholic Social teaching; the Ordinary and Papal Magisterium; our local Bishop/Ordinary; the Universal Catechism and most importantly (because as ‘Peter’ he is the living ‘Vicar of Christ’ for all us Catholics and has the special charism of the Holy Spirit to interpret the Gospel for our times) – the witness, encyclicals and teachings of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Initial responses to my posting on our Facebook page have proven my point. Whilst a vast majority of responsible Catholics concur with the need for more charity: some few still belligerently rage that they alone are in possession of the ‘truth’.

Some local Catholics clearly have basic problems with religious literacy and lack a basic knowledge of solid Catholic teaching. For example, one man angrily denounced the proposition that: there is a legitimate variety of theologies and spiritualities within our Catholic Church.

Apparently, he was unaware of the existence of many Eastern Churches in union with Rome such as the wonderful Maronite rite! He could not be convinced to accept that that there are many valid theologies and spiritualities operative in our Church. Catholic unity is always in diversity.

Another took exception to the fact that the Successor of Peter has the most important role for Catholics in our times –  because Catholic doctrine insists that all interpretation of Scripture and the Tradition is safeguarded by our bishops in union with Pope Francis.

We have a Papal magisterium for a very good reason, and it is to safeguard our faith from ideologues who believe they alone are ‘orthodox.’

Catholics who refuse to accept our current Pope’s leadership are religious fundamentalists overly influenced by evangelical protestant fundamentalism.

I reiterate my invitation that any member of the Diocese who would like to make an appointment, to discuss how we can best communicate our common mission as Catholics in the contemporary world, I am always available to discuss such issues in person.

I can always be emailed at comms@parracatholic.org to request such an appointment.

Let’s all take to heart the words of Pope Francis yesterday:

“They did not complain about Peter; they prayed for him. They did not talk about Peter behind his back; they talked to God. We today can ask: ‘Are we protecting our unity, our unity in the Church, with prayer? Are we praying for one another?’ What would happen if we prayed more and complained less, if we had a more tranquil tongue?”

Br Mark O’Connor FMS
Vicar for Communications
Diocese of Parramatta

 

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