The recent visit of Cardinal Parolin to Madrid to deliver a conference on the politics of the meeting, following the magisterium of Pope Francis, deserves some reflections on the practices that favor authentic dialogue in the civic conversation of a pluralist society and the works that they are done for the common good from the Gospel. It is a propitious occasion to think about the mission of the Church in the world, focusing on the culture of the encounter.
Because of the Incarnation of the Son of God, Catholic individuals, communities and institutions cannot renounce to contribute their moral guidance on what affects human dignity; but neither can they willingly accept an ‘agnostic pluralism’ that gives
freedom to hold religious convictions on condition that they remain confined to private life. The Church cannot renounce the search for truth in the public sphere and the faithful are called to share our understanding of the justice that springs from faith in the public square, to spread it, to subject it to the risk of encountering other beliefs and ideologies in an open debate, and the risky undertaking of discovering what belonging to the ecclesial community means in totally new circumstances, within multicultural and multireligious societies. But all this has to be done in a ‘good spirit’; any form is not valid, only those that direct the common good.
I know that some think that today is not the meeting, but the confrontation lasts the most certain and appropriate way because of how the people and institutions of the Church are silenced and ignored. However, the Pope asks that, with greater contempt, more perseverance in the art of dialoguing, listening, proposing, justifying, persuading…, without losing belonging to the ecclesial community. It does not want fanatics or sectarians or accommodating consensualists, but rather personal, community and institutional subjects of spirit and with the solidity of various dialogical virtues: to become intelligible, accessibility and integrity.
First, there is the willingness to make oneself intelligible in public, that is, the ability to elaborate one’s position in a way that is understandable to those who speak different religious or moral languages. The effort to translate one’s position into understandable language does not mean – far from it – that we have to renounce biblical symbolism or religious language; yes to sectarian or fundamentalist uses. Jürgen Habermas has understood this very well. It is one thing to say that all citizens -religious or not- have to use all the means so that their participation in the public debate is understandable to others, and it is quite another to go on to defend that intelligibility always supposes arreligiousness in the background and the form of public argumentation. This assumption privatizes religion and reduces it to temples, considering it irrational, forgetting that human reason is deep enough to capture the justice that comes from faith and broad enough to be intelligible to all men and women, of any belief. or worldview.
Second, there is public accessibility, which is the common practice of defending diverse points of view so that arguments used in public discourse are open to public scrutiny and scrutiny, so that they can contribute to mutual understanding and understanding. mutual respect, essential for the development of civic ethics in a pluralistic society. When one understands the reasons of the other, even if they do not convince him, normally he remains in mutual solidarity and thus the bridges of meeting are not broken.
Third, civic dialogue always requires moral integrity in a triple sense: a) that one’s position on public policy issues is not determined by pure private advantage or partisan interest; b) that the interlocutor can be recognized in the interpretation that is made of their position and even that the dialogue is established between the best of one and the other; and c) that the interlocutors proceed with coherence between speech and life, the most effective basis for generating a truthful narrative on dignity and human rights and the way to provide effective responses. Many times they will be humble initiatives, rooted in the local area and of encounter between people of different cultures and religions, but they will act as a solidarity stimulus for civil society and public administrations.
The commitment to dialogue will not prevent that, on certain occasions, members of the ecclesial community – especially pastors – have to raise a voice of prophetic denunciation of injustice and evil. In accordance with the understanding of herself that she acquired at the last Council, the Church feels called by God to be “light” and “salt” in the midst of the world. They are images that point towards a discerned understanding and not a naive identification: the Church learns when it is capable of living and interpreting human experience in the light of the Gospel; and the world learns from the Gospel, if it does not arrogantly despise its beneficial power and allow itself to be challenged by it.
In a world as complex as the one that touches us by chance, Christians are obliged to face reality as it comes, without losing the prophetic and countercultural character that springs from the Gospel and moving between poles in tension: that of not losing our own cultural identity , moral and religious, in favor of a mythical neutrality, and that of not giving in to the sectarianism that isolates us from the world. We live between utopia and realism, between tradition and innovation, between the local and the universal, between the lack of power and the significant presence, between the need to use expensive material means and the sobriety that generates solidarity, between desire to form the most capable in a Christian way and the desire to open ourselves to the poor, between trying to involve those who can exert the greatest influence and not losing the understanding of power as service … In the midst of these dilemmas, thanks to discernment we can navigate in the stormy waters stirred by tensions.
Staying in the contrasts without polarization or dogmatism is the arduous task of discernment, the heart of which is both spiritual and moral. Converting tensions into contradictions that polarize society and prevent human encounters is not evangelical courage, even if some want to sell it as such; it is a sign of mediocrity.
The Christian commitment is not to impose the Truth on others, or to dissolve in a magma of syncretism, or to retreat to havens of cultural resistance. It calls, from the undisguised identity, to dialogue and argument, to seek meeting points with everyone, also with those who do not share Christian convictions, but do share the social friendship that comes from being fellow citizens. We want to be intelligible and accessible without losing the Catholic identity of our whole voices.
Julio L. Martínez, SJ he is theologian