August 19, 2016

Be Our Guest / The Sister of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods

The need for civility during the political season

You can tell it’s the political season, right?

Coverage of the presidential election has overtaken the television. It is plastered on the walls of social media, anyone can see political advertisements, political slogans and more, including—in some cases—a lack of civility amongst not only politicians, but citizens.

Recently, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)—of which the Sisters of Providence are a member—sent a letter signed by more than 5,600 United States Catholic Sisters urging for a call of “civility in our discourse and decency in our political interaction that promotes the common good, reaches out to others, engages in constructive dialogue, and seeks together the way forward.”

The letter was sent to presidential candidates, their running mates and political party chairs, and was signed by the Sisters of Providence leadership team.

The letter reminds the candidates that in September 2015, Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress by stating, “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”

While we signed the letter, we felt the need to expand on it; to pray for hope of a more civil public discourse among all of us as well.

In recent years, our political system has undergone a change. Gone—for now at least—appear to be the days of politicians working together for the common good. Rather, extreme partisanship has taken over our system, and this divide has had an effect—not only on our politicians, but also our citizens.

One can hear this discourse on their televisions or radios. One can also see it on social media postings: Hateful and nasty exchanges seem to have found their way into our rhetoric.

During this political season, we are suggesting that all who seek office—and all citizens, each of us—refrain from this. Try to stop using language that disrespects each other. Be respectful of political opponents. Be respectful of social media “friends” or relatives.

For 240 years, politics has—from time to time—divided America. But new technology has allowed that division to happen almost instantaneously.

Let’s join together this political season to listen and debate in a civil manner. Seek a common good. That old saying comes to mind: Sometimes, you just have to agree to disagree.

In the Book of Leviticus, the Lord says, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons and daughters of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18).

And, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul said, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).

We realize everyone differs regarding political opinion, and that is not only expected, it is fine.

We pray that we all remember that while we all may have differences, the disagreements can be handled in a much more civil manner, that the divisive rhetoric is simply not needed.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

During times like these, these are words to live by.

In Providence,

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods General Officer
Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior
Sister Lisa Stallings, vicar
Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, councilor
Sister Mary Beth Klingel, councilor
Sister Jenny Howard, councilor

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