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Can Catholics Speak To Each Other?

A striking feature of the modern Catholic Church, from a progressive perspective, is the alarming disconnect between pronouncements and formal doctrine coming out of the Vatican and its claque, and the views and practice of the majority of real Catholics in the pews (or out of them, as so many refuse to participate in a dysfunctional church).

Conversely, from the perspective of traditional Catholics, the striking feature of the church is the audacity of those who seldom if ever attend Church, or make any attempt to follow the Catechism and teaching, in even calling themselves “Catholic”.

The two sides tend to speak only to their own sympathisers, seldom even referring to their opponents except in terms of rancour and / or disdain. Can the two sides learn to talk together constructively, in an authentically Catholic spirit of openness and charity? Phil Tanny is one Catholic who would like to make the effort.

I first came across Phil some months back, when he wrote to me (and many other Catholic bloggers) about his website, “Catholic Talk“, which was an attempt to provide a series of on- line forums for Catholics to debate a range of topical and possibly controversial subjects. He has since written again, to introduce a companion site, Catholic Unity (“Encouraging Healing and Unity Within the Catholic Community”), and  asked me to place a guest post on promoting Catholic unity at my personal blog, “Queering the Church”. That, however, has a specific focus on issues of sexuality and gender, and although  primarily Catholic, is not exclusively so.

It does seem to me that his aims are worthwhile, and so I am instead placing his piece as a guest post here, at The Open Tabernacle – together with extracts from some of his other posts, which will give some flavor of what he is about. (For now, I do so without any comment on, or endorsement of, his substantive proposals, but I do look forward to reading others’ responses. I’ll add my own, later).

At his introductory post, Encouraging Catholic Unity, Phil described the project in this way:

Greetings, welcome to Catholic-Unity.org.

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a resource for those whose primary focus is to encourage unity and healing in a too often divided Catholic community.

This blog, and the parent site  will provide research, articles, projects and tools to serve this mission.

We hope you’ll participate!

The substantive post, which I’ve placed below as a guest post, was originally placed at Catholic Unity as A Simple Plan to Heal the Catholic Community.

Also worth reading, is a follow-up post, “My Education Begins“, in which he describes some of the responses to the hundreds of approaches he made, along with the one to myself.

Yesterday (Nov 19 2012) I mailed this article regarding healing the Catholic community to about 700 Catholic bloggers and organizations.

The replies began flowing in almost immediately, and my education began.

In my email I specifically asked for feedback, pro or con, for or against, and was gratified and grateful that so many (most of whom don’t know me personally) were generous enough to respond to this request from a stranger.

The first response, which arrived within minutes, was brief but quite interesting, and helps to illustrate the evolution I will have to undergo myself if I want to be spokesperson for Catholic unity.

It was a quick email from the office of a very well known Catholic, indicating they would NOT (their emphasis) be publishing my article, and requesting to be removed from my mailing list.

From the tone of the email it seemed clear they wanted nothing to do with this particular Catholic unity campaign, which of course is fully their right.

And so God immediately presented me with the challenge that many of us will have to face if we want a healing of our community.

I find it satisfying and reassuring to know that he has at least a sense of humor. When I replied to his email with an apology for not having replied to some earlier correspondence, he mentioned in passing that he expects to have completed uniting the Catholic Church – in a few days:

You should feel guilty about feeling guilty, 🙂 as you are not obligated to me in any way.  I’m always happy to hear from you any time, but we’re not on a schedule.   I’ll write again as soon as I’m done uniting the Catholic Church.  Should only be a few days.  🙂

I look forward to following this project, with interest. What do you think?

A Simple Plan To Heal The Catholic Community

(Guest post by Phil Tanny of Catholic-Unity.org).

As you know, the Catholic community has been shaken in recent years by a regrettable wave of debate, discord and division.

This article suggests a way to bring the Catholic community together, a plan which any Catholic interested in unity can begin to implement immediately.

The solution is simple, if not always easy.

When we’re ready to heal and unite our Catholic community we have the choice to…


Shift the focus of Catholic discussions to topics that most Catholics can agree with, and act on, together.


Here are two examples of where we might begin.

Unity Topic #1: Catholic Charities

All Catholics, and non-Catholics too, respect Catholic Charities, the Church’s impressive public service wing.

This wide agreement is ripe ground for a healing, and those serious about unity will grab the opportunity to make Catholic Charities a more central part of our conversations.

The army of Catholic bloggers leading discussions across the Web can help by refocusing much of their writing away from unresolvable divisive topics, and towards celebrating and raising money for Catholic Charities, a very Catholic project that all Catholics agree on.

After all, it’s hard to make a case that arguing with our fellow Catholics is more important than feeding hungry kids, right?

Unity Topic #2: The Tobacco Companies

As Catholics we are drawn to moral crusades, it’s in our DNA.

But too often we have chosen to target each other for judgement, instead of uniting and aiming our considerable moral warfare skills at very real enemies who are far more deserving of our attention.

The tobacco companies kill approximately 100,000 of our fellow Catholics here in the United States each and every year, plus millions more around the globe.

100,000 of our fellow U.S. Catholics killed for profit. Each and every year. By people who are already very rich. And who plan to get even richer by selling us more deadly products deliberately designed to be highly addictive, and…

We ever crusading Catholics seem to have little to say about it.

We should fix that.

Instead of going to rhetorical war with each other, we have the choice to invest that same time, energy, passion and talent in to fighting those who are killing hundreds of our fellow Catholics every day.

Every time we rise to speak, put pen to paper, or type our next blog post, we have a choice.

Fight each other, or fight the devil.

A great many lives could be saved if 77 million American Catholics came together as one to confront the tobacco companies. It could be Catholics that lead the charge, set the example, and celebrate the victory.

None Of Us Need To Surrender

Changing the focus of Catholic discussion to these kind of uniting topics would not require any of us to change our beliefs on controversial issues.

Each of us can still follow our conscience in our personal lives on topics like abortion, contraception, gay marriage, Church leadership issues, and so on. Nothing changes here.

Whether we are traditional or progressive Catholics, none of us have to admit ideological defeat.

We just have to admit that repetitive emotional squabbling with our fellow Catholics on unresolvable hot button topics is not really persuading anybody of anything. Nothing is being accomplished by all the adamant speeches. Nobody is winning.

We just have to admit that endlessly arguing with our fellow Catholics is weakening our ability to address pressing here and now real world problems, where we could achieve impressive victories, by working together as one.

A Healing Solution

If we really want unity and a healing in our Catholic community, we just need to talk about topics that divide us much less, and talk about topics that unite us much more.

It’s the very same common sense plan any of us would use when our relatives arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. On such occasions sensible families try to skip the topics they’ll never agree on, because debating those controversial subjects, yet again, accomplishes little but ruining the dinner.

If it’s Catholic unity and a healing that we really want, it seems we can really have it, any time we’re really ready. Nobody is stopping us but us.

Whether we are traditional or progressive Catholics, we can rebuild our unity by working together to expand our support for Catholic Charities, and by joining forces in a historic moral crusade against the death for profit tobacco companies.

There’s plenty for us to agree on, plenty for us to work on, plenty of dragons for us to slay together. We could soon be so busy serving others that we’ll find we just no longer have time for arguing with our fellow Catholics.

Let’s redirect our considerable moral energy towards fighting those world changing battles that we can only win….

If we fight hand in hand together.

Article by Phil Tanny of http://Catholic-Unity.org.


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