Hi,

This is another guest blog, of sorts.  Possibly the only thing I like about winter is I slow down and can get caught up on things.  I’m currently tackling a number of small projects I would not be able to when busier.   When I can, I go to a bar on Tuesdays and have several friends there.  Ed I’ve know for 6 – 8 years and Rich just a year or two.  Last fall we were having a discussion about our current president and Rich said anyone that doesn’t see all the good DJT is doing is just stupid, Ed agreed.  I don’t consider myself stupid and decided other than getting into a heated exchange to just stop conversing.  About two weeks later, Bishop Zubik’s article that I am quoting below was in the Post Gazette, I saved it on my kitchen desk to re-read at a later date and came across it when cleaning off that desk and thought it might be good to quote him directly.  I am a recovering Catholic.  I was impressed with Francis when he was elected pope.  Not enough to restore my faith in that faith, and to keep my intro from being too long, I will leave it at that.

“We all know that something is gravely wrong with our public conversation. The lack of civility is so pervasive that it is pointless to assign blame. We each have a responsibility to change the game, to treat each other better, especially when we disagree.

I’m not pointing fingers at secular society, because partisan divisiveness infects my own church. It doesn’t even have to be about significant social or theological issues.

This year, when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday in Lent, I granted a dispensation so that those who wished to partake of corned beef could do so. My inbox was swamped with nasty responses, accusing me of destroying Catholic tradition, purposely undermining the faith and paving someone’s journey straight to hell.

This is a failure of our social discourse — and of Catholic religious education. I apologize to any reader who has ever been treated disrespectfully by someone trolling in the name of Catholicism.

Catholic tradition actually teaches a lot about civility. The starting principle is that every human being has God-given dignity and is worthy of respect. Or, in the words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Civility is a way of speaking and acting that takes seriously what I believe and what others believe. It includes a robust and passionate engagement with those who hold differing views. Civility assumes that the ties that bind us are far more important than the differences we hold on important social and political issues.

Civility requires a “civil tongue.” When we direct insults toward another human being, we degrade ourselves even more than we degrade that person ”  and we display an impoverished vocabulary.

Recently, a friend of mine couldn’t help but overhear a man in a restaurant making an angry, obscenity-laden phone call. He used one obscenity repeatedly as subject, object, adjective and verb in the same sentence. My friend was shocked that two young women nearby showed no reaction, especially as it became clear that this man was talking to his wife.

I believe there is a direct link between such routine obscenity and the vileness of our public discourse. Vulgar language isn’t the cause, but it is a link in the chain. The coarseness of everyday language numbs us to the frightening degradation of our public conversation. Racial and sexual slurs, bigotry, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and hatred in general have uncoiled from under rocks and slithered into the public square.

We need to recapture the sacredness of language. Our words are intended to express life, love and all that we fundamentally believe. Our vocabulary should reflect the best that is within us.

So let me suggest nine “Civility Rules for Faith Communities and Everyone Else.”

• 1) In a healthy, civil dialogue, we listen to one another. Listening is more than hearing. It requires time and energy to appreciate where a person or group comes from, what they believe and why they believe it. Empathic listening takes to heart the feelings of another’s heart and builds bridges.

• 2) Civil conversation presumes that we are each working for the common good. We nearly always have areas of agreement and disagreement. Instead of zeroing in on points of divergence, we should first acknowledge where we can stand together. Then we can address our differences more effectively.

• 3) Any civil public discussion recognizes the validity of contending groups in society. My goal cannot be to shut down another voice. Democracy and freedom guarantee differences of convictions and conclusions.

Yet not every cause is worthy of respect. For example, we have recently seen the importance of naming the evils of white supremacism, Nazism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. These ideologies must be heard for what they are — efforts to deprive some human beings of the dignity and respect that is theirs as children of God. Even as the First Amendment allows these hateful ideas to be expressed, we must condemn them firmly and nonviolently.

• 4) Civility shows respect for the person with whom I differ. You and I can do this, even while we try to persuade our interlocutor of another perspective.

• 5) Civility works for the inclusion of all members of society. Civility is especially sensitive to minorities and marginalized persons. Sometimes, we will have conflict over what “inclusion” requires, but we can disagree in ways that do not denigrate the other person.

• 6) Civility distinguishes between facts and opinions. Let facts speak for themselves where possible. (The quote from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is more pertinent today than ever: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”)

• 7) The flip side to this rule is that facts can take us only so far. Disagreements about values are difficult, and we cannot and should not avoid passionate discussion.

• 8) We should not impugn motives. People often turn to bad solutions out of a desire to do good, and we should assume this is the case.

• 9) We must be willing to be self-critical. Honest dialogue helps us to examine the roots of our own positions, leading us to clarify — and sometimes modify — our convictions.

Civility is a virtue, a habit of choices and conscience, which shapes the way we encounter others. It does not come to us automatically. Like any virtue, we have to work at it day after day after day. And we must work on civility — if we are to help move forward policies that support human dignity, human rights, human life.

Each of us has the responsibility to recognize the dignity of every human person, regardless of whether we believe in a God who requires it. We in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, with our rich history of treating each other as good neighbors, should lead the way toward new levels of social respect and civil behavior.”

As I read that again, there were several things I considered editing, but that is not my place.  I think over all he has many good points to consider.  Lets all work on being a more sensitive, inclusive and civil society.  It starts with each of us.  THIS MEANS YOU.  🙂

Thanx guys, gals and you in between,  🙂

ed

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