Many years ago I gave a talk on abortion at an ostensibly Catholic institution. The talk was well-received, but after it was over, one of the administrators of the institution suggested to me that perhaps the pro-life side would be better served if it engaged in more of an “open dialogue” with “pro-choice” advocates. When I asked what he meant by this, he responded that the “pro-choice” side might have some good reasons for advocating abortions from time-to-time, so simply condemning their position makes it impossible to reach any common ground that could be helpful.
Common ground? Helpful to whom?
I then asked the fellow how many innocent babies he would be willing to sacrifice from having such an “open dialogue,” and he quickly retorted that my response demonstrated an unwarranted “hostility” to his “reasonable suggestion” to try to find some common ground between the opposing sides in the abortion debate. Perhaps the common ground the “open dialogue” seeker thought was possible would be to allow abortions on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so then all of us would be “pro-choice” on those days, while on the other days of the week, we would all be pro-life. Kumbaya!
In recent years such calls for an “open dialogue” in the Church continue to be presented as a “reasonable request” by various groups who simply do not want to follow Church tradition, yet they want to maintain their affiliation with the Church and re-create it in their own image.
These calls for “open dialogue” never seek to ask the Church leadership to help the particular group making the request learn to lead a more faithful and Christ-like life in faithful harmony with Church teaching, nor do they seek greater wisdom to help the Church carry out its traditional mission. No indeed. The calls for “open dialogue” are extremely closed-minded and one-sided, because the “open dialogue” call is always an attempt to get the Church to abandon or diminish its traditional teachings or practices in one form or another.
And of course, if the Church does not make such a concession to a particular group because the Church must remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ, then much like the fellow I encountered some years ago, these “faithful” members of the Church will protest and unfairly criticize the Church in many public forums with an all too willing media ready to air their grievances.
Predictably the following are the kinds of comments such groups typically make if they don’t get their way:
“The Church leadership is simply not open to the fruitful dialogue that we proposed.”
“The institutional church is more concerned with maintaining its power.”
“The Church needs to mature its understanding of the world, and what we proposed is just that kind of mature understanding.”
“Rome remains hostile to any suggestion of beneficial change.”
“All we sought was common ground, but we continue to be treated like second class citizens.”
And so it goes. If you ever run into such “open dialogue” and “common ground” seekers, first ask them if the truth is open to dialogue and common ground with any kind of error. When these practitioners of relativism in a different garb reveal their opinion that truth cannot be determined, ask them if it is true that truth cannot be determined. Depending on the response and the demeanor of the person you have so engaged, you can decide if additional “dialogue” might be fruitful, or if it might be better to simply wish the person well and engage in another form of “ex-communication.” 🙂