Can we talk (and listen)?

On Monday NPR’s “Fresh Air” featured an interview with Jorge Ramos, the anchor from the Spanish-language network Univision, who was ejected from a press conference by Donald Trump late this summer. He was asked about an interview that he had on the new English-language channel, Fusion, with Ann Coulter, in which she said that Americans had more to fear from Mexican immigrants than from ISIS. It was a rather heated exchange, to say the least.

NPR’s Terry Gross was most surprised because after the interview Coulter and Ramos ran into each other in the airport and exchanged a fist bump greeting. Gross asked Ramos why he would interact in a friendly manner with someone who was so hostile to his native land (he is now an American citizen). Ramos said that he and Coulter showed that disagreeing about ideas does not have to include hating each other and he said that comprehensive immigration reform can never come about if there is no dialogue with people opposed to it. 

Our reason for mentioning what Ramos said is that it speaks to the divisions which exist in our Church and our society. As you can read on the facing page, there is a lot of hue and cry about whom the pope met privately with during his recent stay at the nunciature in Washington (with some liberal Catholics even saying they’d leave the Church because the pope met Kim Davis, while some conservative Catholics think that they cannot trust the Holy Father to be faithful to Christ because he hugged an old student of his who is in a relationship with another man).  

In terms of the anger on the left, some of it stems from the rejection and alienation which people attracted to the same sex have faced for centuries, often from religious people. They felt that finally Pope Francis had shown a compassionate attitude towards them and feel that the meeting with Davis was skullduggery, hiding a hateful attitude that the pope harbors to those who call themselves gay or lesbian.

Ramos is “straight” (he has been married a few times and presently lives with a woman), but describes himself as an “agnostic.” He told NPR that he left the Church in his native Mexico due to the corporal punishment, administered by priests, that he experienced as a boy. Terry Gross asked if he has thought about returning to the Church during his decades in the U.S. He told her no, due to the hypocrisy which also exists here and due to the Church’s inability (according to him) to explain why innocent people suffer. Ramos has also written about his disgust about the clergy sex abuse scandal.

If Ramos and Coulter can be civil to each other, why can’t Catholics who have different opinions on “gay marriage” and Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics be respectful of each other?

We should be. However, the more conservative folks would point out that we’re talking about people’s immortal souls, therefore no compromise should be brooked. The more liberal folks would discuss the emotional hurt, sometimes leading to substance abuse and even suicide, caused by overzealous ways of teaching the Church’s position (although, at present, any mention of the Church’s teaching is considered being a bigot).

As we’ve said before in the editorial column, if the conservative goal is people’s Salvation, the message somehow has to be heard, or else the goal has little chance of being achieved. Pope Francis understands this (we’ve pointed this out repeatedly and we support him).

If the liberal goal is people’s emotional, psychological and Spiritual health, then browbeating anyone who disagrees with a more progressive approach to couples not in a Sacramental Marriage will not really win over hearts to their side. It will just make their opponents hide their opinions, while resenting the new society which requires this acquiescence.

In his homily this Sunday, Pope Francis noted, “Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom. The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.”

Neither the conservative goal (eternal Salvation) nor the liberal one (feeling more at home with oneself in this life) are advanced in such a world. Actually, the lack of warmth and love that the pope described is, in part, what leads to divorce and alienated children. It contributes to the cycle of violence which we saw demonstrated in Oregon last week (we can discuss that at another time — but here, too, we need people to be able to speak with each other respectfully, not just assume the other side is preparing for a dictatorship or a civil war).

Ultimately, Pope Francis wants both goals — and he knows that feeling loved in this life will help people to be able to accept an eternity full of love. He preached Sunday, “In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. 

“To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the Sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.

“The Church is called to carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centeredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. ‘Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love’ (here Pope Francis was quoting Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate, 3).

“And the Church is called to carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but — faithful to her nature as a mother — conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a ‘field hospital’ with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of Salvation.”

To do that we need to be able to talk to (and listen to) each other. May the Holy Spirit guide us to do this.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts