We, as Catholics, are called to unity. This was Christ’s prayer on the eve of his death, that we may all be one (Jn 17:21), as he and the Father are one.
Sadly, we’ve been doing a lousy job of answering this call, especially in the last few years. I hope that once the dust finally settles from this election, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to think about how we relate to one another, what we think of each other, and how we judge one another.
My heart is broken after weeks of seeing so many people I love and respect—many of whom are deeply committed Catholics—hurling public accusations and profanity at one another on social media. Yesterday I wrote about the blind contempt so many of us appear to have for others. Some are taking an almost “all-or-nothing” approach towards each other—an approach that suggests that dialogue or movement towards reconciliation will never begin unless our opponent succumbs to our demands.
In Genesis, the human race was fractured by differences in language at the Tower of Babel. Now it appears that the Church is being torn apart by the Tower of Bubble. We’ve become so intolerant and so locked into our insular ideological bubbles that we can’t even see that those at whom we’re enraged are human beings.
Isn’t it self-evident that this isn’t working? We’re tearing ourselves apart over issues and ideologies and candidates. Surely you can see the hatred simmering and boiling over. Real families and real communities and real friendships are being torn apart. Many seem perfectly fine with letting go of self-control, and some are even arguing that it’s justified. Some Catholics at the extreme end of the ideological spectrum even seem to welcome the possibility of civil war.
My fellow Catholics: Stop it.
The only solution to this hostility and division is to somehow find a way to put our anger aside and work towards the unity that every well-catechised Catholic knows deep down that we are called to build.
And where do we find that unity? Well, the Catechism says “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful” (CCC 882).
I know a lot of people who dislike Pope Francis often “hate read” this website, and maybe you are one of them. If you are, whether you like it or not, for Catholics, we cannot fix the polarization in the Church or heal the divisions in our society until we unify with the Successor of Peter. My sole agenda—the entire reason this website exists—is to call Catholics back to the unity around the pope that our faith requires. If you are immediately turned off by this idea, I’d recommend that you try and take a step back to take stock of the discord and chaos that the opponents of Pope Francis have exacerbated over the last seven years. Is this something you are committed to perpetuating? How do you realistically see this playing out? To me, this looks like nothing more than a deliberate effort of trying to turn Catholics against the pope, and many good people have gotten caught up in this without thinking it through.
I’m also talking to those of you who support this site. People with whom I generally agree on matters of doctrine and Church affairs and have demonized and made cruel and uncharitable accusations about people who—even if they’re wrong—are sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing. Anger isn’t the answer. Stop losing your temper. Start reconciling with your brothers and sisters, and try listening to them without condemning them. You know you are called to something much different:
“Unity in faith, hope and charity, unity in the sacraments, in the ministry: these are like the pillars that hold up and keep together the one great edifice of the Church. Wherever we go, even to the smallest parish in the most remote corner of this earth, there is the one Church. We are at home, we are in the family, we are among brothers and sisters. And this is a great gift of God! The Church is one for us all” (Pope Francis, General Audience, 25 September 2013)
Pope Francis said this early in his papacy, and in the same address he also challenged us to ask ourselves these questions:
“As a Catholic, do I feel this unity? As a Catholic, do I live this unity of the Church? Or doesn’t it concern me because I am closed within my own small group or within myself? Am I one of those who ‘privatize’ the Church to their own group, their own country or their own friends?”
Let’s try to make the period following the election (whoever wins) better than the period immediately leading up to it. Let’s strive for dialogue, fraternity, and unity.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.