Catholicism in the trenches

Fear not those who argue, but those who dodge. – Dale Carnegie

Consider this for a moment. What if (and I know this sounds crazy) but just what if our society allowed honest-to-goodness debate? What if, when someone asked you a polarizing question like “Do you support same sex unions?” or “What do you think of women clergy?” they were genuinely interested in your point of view, and preferred you to have a different moral code so as to enjoy the ebb and flow of a good conversation? Can you imagine that? I can’t.

I just finished watching a forceful and unbecoming YouTube video mandating all women to support same-sex unions and it occurred to me that the women making the video weren’t trying to be persuasive, they were instructing you which way (theirs) was the right way. Any opinion other than theirs is homophobic, hateful, and absurd. A differing opinion can only mean fear and animosity because it cannot possibly mean anything else, can it?

Now I must admit that I’m not a big fan of argumentative discussions. I don’t think well on my feet (which is why I write, because I’ve got all the time in the world to think). Not only that but I’ve had my share of “cornering and spewing”—which is the “drawing and quartering” of the conversational world—so I usually back away when the lines are drawn in the sand. Because, lets face it, the opinions of the Catholic Church aren’t very popular. In fact, to the world they’re downright abominable and despised—perhaps because the Church speaks the truths that those steeped in sin not only do not want to hear, but absolutely abhor? You can be sure that there’s usually no listening going on; there’s only a demanding of acquiescence. So I keep quiet.

But the truth is I often feel guilty for not stepping up in conversation more. I feel as if I have an obligation to speak the truth, even though it’s extremely unpopular and may get me branded as a “Jesus Freak” or, worse, a “Fundamentalist Extremist.” But on the other hand, we are not to throw the pearls of our Faith to the swine. So what to do?

I can only offer two general suggestions. Keep an active prayer life, paying close attention to the whispers of the Holy Spirit when those conversations hit you out of the blue. And if at all possible, establish some ground rules first like, “Before I answer anything, can you acknowledge that differences of opinion are not synonymous with animosity and hostility?” or “Are you genuinely interested in my thoughts?” Because if the answer is yes, then lets go to it. For “it is better to debate a question without settling it,” says the French philosopher Joseph Joubert, “than to settle a question without debating it.”

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