Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Courting Controversy

There are certain ways of asking questions - "Have you stopped embezzling money from your company?" "Have you admitted you were an alcoholic yet?" - that deceptively invite a simple yes or no answer while concealing the fact that, however answered, either response incriminates a person in doing something wrong. That is, to answer yes admits past wrongdoing; to answer no means that you've not yet quit whatever you were doing. 

It is simply the case that, within the Catholic Church today, it is nearly impossible to engage in a public discourse in a way that doesn't risk tremendous collateral damage. There are numerous topics - women's ordination, the role of homosexuals, abortion, relationship of Church and state, matters of voting, etc. - that are politically charged and divisive. While much conversation is needed on these topics, and there are many views to be represented and discussed, the sad fact of the matter is that it's very difficult to do so. 

So, when a reader requests that the topic of abortion, or homosexuality, or married priests be addressed, it must be remembered that the author stands in a precarious position. In my case, I know that I stand as a representative of the Church and whatever I say is imputed to it. Regardless my stance, the nature of my life and vocation places me within the Church and I am accountable for and to her in my writing. This does not mean that I sit silently or idly by, mind you, but it does entail that if I take up challenging issues I must do so in careful and nuanced way so as not to give rise to scandal or misunderstanding. In short, I have to be responsible.

So, returning to my first point above, it must be kept in mind that asking me to blog about my thoughts on a controversial topic carries with it some type of incrimination: it's going to alienate, rather than integrate, various groups. We need to move beyond divisive "yes/no" "right/wrong" dichotomies and begin to dig deeper into the divisive issues in an attempt to find common ground and greater mutual understanding. To that extent - finding common ground - would I be willing to court controversy. 

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