By Lisa Hall
Contradiction and division. It’s everywhere today.
From our politics, to our practices, to our morals and ethics. “Hillary should be in jail!” “#NEVERTRUMP!” Even our homes and churches, at times, seem to be rife with contradiction and division.
How could (or should) we, as Catholics, respond? What’s a good Catholic to do?
You’ve probably heard about, or seen, the recent full-page ads taken out in 20 major-market newspapers from the group Catholics for a Free Choice (CFC). The ads feature a woman stating, “It’s because of my Catholic faith, not in spite of it, that I support women who make conscience-based decisions to have an abortion.”
Cardinal Dolan gives us a good example as a response. He challenges the ads as “deceptive.” The Cardinal informs us that “the use of the name ‘Catholic’ as a platform to promote the taking of innocent human life is offensive not only to Catholics, but to all who expect honesty and forthrightness in public discourse.” He further states, “CFC’s extreme ads promote abortion as if it were a social good. But abortion kills the most defenseless among us, harms women, and tears at the heart of families. Pushing for public funding would force all taxpaying Americans to be complicit in the violence of abortion and an industry that puts profit above the well-being of women and children.”
Cardinal Dolan’s response gives us an example about how to respond to contradiction. He points out that it is contradictory to use the name “Catholic” and then state your support for the taking of innocent human life. He’s showing us that we must be willing to discern the truth and speak the truth. John 8:32 says, “You will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Our response to contradiction? Do our best to know what Jesus and his Church teach (they are inseparable — the Bride and Bridegroom) and be willing to challenge (or dialogue with) those who seek to contradict the truth.
Pope Francis has given us so many examples about responding to division. He has declared this to be a Year of Mercy. In his document Misericordiae Vultus, which announced the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis says, “In the parables devoted to mercy, (ex: Prodigal Son, lost sheep) Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome the rejection with compassion and mercy. In these parables, God is always presented as full of joy, especially when he pardons. In them we find the core of the Gospel and of our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon.”
Pope Francis gives us further examples about responding to division by encouraging us to commit acts of accompaniment. From washing the feet of inmates to kissing babies, hugging the deformed or the differently abled, visiting the sick, caring for refugees, or celebrating with a million-plus youth at World Youth Day, Pope Francis has shown that true compassion lies in entering into one another’s lives. That love is not sterile, cold, or withdrawn. Love walks with, overcomes, rejoices, suffers with, and carries burdens.
Our response to division? Mercy, compassion, and accompaniment. We received these as free gifts through baptism and, with grateful hearts, we are called to give them freely to others.
These responses, offered with love, joy, and sincerity, will be true building blocks for the Culture of Life.
Lisa Hall is Director of the Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry for the Diocese of Syracuse.