January 14, 2022

Editorial

A resolution for the New Year

New Year’s resolutions outline actions that we believe will be most productive in helping us achieve a better experience this year than we had the previous year.

Looking back, an argument can be made that in 2021 “factionalism” was the most serious problem we experienced as a society and as a Church.

The many issues we were confronted with—a seemingly endless pandemic, deep-seated social unrest that too often erupted into violence, poverty, homelessness, social anxiety, political divisiveness and more—were all made worse by our tendency to isolate in groups of like-minded (closed-minded) intolerant factions.

Instead of coming together to face our problems squarely, we too often found ourselves on opposite sides of an ideological divide hurling insults at one another and refusing to even consider any forms of compromise.

Even in the Church, we too often forget the unity that was won for us by our Lord’s victory over sin and death on the cross.

Acting like our own religious faction has the only true understanding of Church teaching, liturgical practice or the demands of social justice, we reviled our opponents and circled our wagons against the feared encroachment of our religious enemies.

Perhaps this ugly truth is what prompted Pope Francis to proclaim a synodal process dedicated to genuine encounter, attentive listening and discernment of God’s will for the Church. Unless we come to see ourselves as God’s people walking together on a journey of faith, hope and charity, there’s no way we can be authentic missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, writing on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, co-patron of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said:

“The synod process that we have begun here in our archdiocese, and in dioceses throughout the world, has a profound missionary character. We are being asked, in the words of Pope Francis, ‘to move beyond ourselves’ as individuals, families and communities. We are being challenged to look at one another with new eyes and to listen attentively to the voices of those who are different from us. The objective, ultimately, is to help all of us—each in our own way—to encounter the person of Jesus Christ as he comes to meet us ‘where we are’ on our life’s journey.”

Looking at one another with new eyes, listening attentively to the voices of those who disagree with us, may be the greatest challenge we face as 2022 gets underway. For us Catholics, “synodality,” a strange, unfamiliar and difficult to define word, may well be our best opportunity to set aside differences and discover common ground.

There is no comparable term in secular discourse. Here in the United States of America, we have been so focused on “rugged individualism” that we tend to forget one of the most important principles that our founders built our nation on: United we stand. Divided we fall.

So much of what we hear in political discussions and in the media is unreal. Identifying the truth in any given situation is an increasingly difficult challenge today. All too often, we listen to the “truths” we want to hear, and we seek out the “facts” that serve to prove the opinions that we already hold deeply. The end result is wishful thinking (at best) and a distorted view of the world we live in.

A movie review of West Side Story 2021 by Barbara Nicolosi makes this point beautifully: “We’re never going to stop this hateful red Montague-blue Capulet cycle we are trapped in culturally if we don’t acknowledge that everyone has some truth to share.” West Side Story is a powerful film, a plea for unity, or at least mutual respect, that challenges us to reject factionalism and search for ways to live together in peace.

“Everyone has some truth to share” doesn’t mean that truth is whatever anyone believes it to be. It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have firm beliefs or strongly held convictions. But it does mean that we should listen to each other—even, or especially, those who think differently than we do. And acknowledging the human dignity of all people, including strangers, political opponents and people with vastly different ideas about religion and spirituality, is necessary if we ever hope to solve (or at least survive) the enormous challenges we face in 2022 and beyond.

“Committing to overcome factionalism by respecting one another” might well be the substance of a New Year’s resolution that can really make a difference in our society and in our Church. At the very least, it’s worth a try.

—Daniel Conway

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