To Overcome Polarization:

Go Evangelical

Most people see church polarization as the opposition between liberals and conservatives. I see it more generally as the opposition between church wisdom and popular wisdom. Can one be a good Catholic without going to Mass? The answer of popular wisdom might be: “the Sabbath is for man and not man for the Sabbath” and “I want mercy not ritual.” Can one be a good Catholic and reject many aspects of the official sexual morality? Yes. A teaching cannot be binding in conscience when one cannot make sense out of it. Are there attenuating circumstances for abortions? There have to be, because in all nations crimes are judged according to motivation and circumstances, not just by the letter of the law. For the faithful, the sensus fidelium is the wisdom (fides qua) they find in their own faith, independently of church teaching because usually they are unaware of it or do not understand it. Of course the magisterium has its own wisdom about these issues (fides quae). The two often seem irreconcilable.

Initial question:
How do you reconcile official teaching with the sensus fidelium (or common wisdom of the faithful) that: a good Catholic does not necessarily have to go to Mass every Sunday; a good Catholic can divorce and remarry ; a good Catholic can reject natural law morality when deemed incomprehensible; there are attenuating circumstances in abortions, etc.

Overcoming polarization

Every five to seven years, the Latin American bishops meet to reflect on the situation of their churches and offer pastoral recommendations. From the conference of Medellin in 1968 to that of Aparecida in 2007, they never raised the issues of Mass attendance, divorce and remarriage, birth control, intrinsic evil acts, homosexuality, or controversial aspects of sexual morality. Moreover, in the document of Aparecida we find no mention of original sin, Adam and Eve, Satan or the devil, redemption as ransom, the sacraments as necessary for salvation, the Eucharist as sacrifice of the cross, revelation and Tradition, authority in the church, and the authority of the sovereign pontiff. They avoided these issues not because they did not uphold them but because they created unnecessary polarization besides being not central to he gospel. What did the bishops write about, then? About Jesus Christ, of course, and "missionary discipleship." The general editor of the document of Aparecida was the relatively unknown Bergoglio from Argentina.

What did Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Russia talk about on February 12 in Habana? The topics about which they disagree like papal infallibility, divorce, or birth control? No. Theology? Not mainly, but unity in faith and how to bring liberty to captives and food to the hungry, as stated in their Joint Declaration: the persecution of Christians, violence in Syria and Iraq, peace in the Middle East, the end of extreme poverty, solidarity with those who suffer, preaching the gospel, overcoming hostility in Ukraine, and "gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding."

If the program of Isaiah proclaimed in the synagogue of Nazareth about liberty to captives and the spirit of the Beatitudes are the new agenda of the papacy, how more evangelical can you get?

Reflection question: How can "Go Evangelical" help overcome polarization in the church and society?


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