Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 25, 2008
Common Ground comes from the Spirit
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Concerned with an ever-intensifying polarization within the Church, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin made a proposal for something he called Common Ground, an ecclesial space within which persons of different ideologies could meet.
Looking at this, it is important to note what he did not propose. He did not, as is often the assumption, recommend centrist ground, but common ground. There is a difference.
As Jim Wallis, who is very sympathetic to Bernardin’s proposal, recently put it: “We certainly don’t want to sacrifice prophetic politics for a mushy middle.”
His is an important insight. The common ground that is so badly needed in the Church is not what is achieved by a skillful negotiator who gets two sides to make compromises. That would leave us precisely with a mushy middle, mediocrity, the lowest common denominator, ground devoid of prophecy, oatmeal served-up with camomile tea.
Common ground is to be achieved on the basis of each side beginning to hear and accept the truth the other is bringing.
Common ground should not be fantasized as the melt-down of two extremes, the left and the right compromising enough with each other so as to produce a reality saltless enough so that everyone can live with it. The left and the right each bring an important prophecy and real common ground must include the salt of each of them. Hence common ground is to be achieved not so much on the basis of compromise, but on the basis of each side, right and left, beginning to hear and accept the truth that the other is bringing.
- Common ground will be found when left takes seriously what the right is saying about personal responsibility and accountability, even as the right takes seriously what the left is saying about communal rights, racism and gender equality. When the left can meet the business community with enough nuance and admit that government isn’t the answer for everything and the right can see what our present government and business practices are, in fact, doing to the poor, we will be standing on some common ground.
- Common ground will be found when, in the area of sexuality, the right takes seriously what the left is saying about the place of passion, even as the left takes seriously what the right is saying about how central is the role of chastity in the structure of any stable society or personality.
- Common ground will be found when the left begins to hear what the right has been saying about how important the institutions of marriage and family are to the very foundation of our culture, even as the right begins to admit that heterosexual dysfunction, and not any concession made to a gay or lesbian rights, is at the root of divorce and family breakdown in Western culture.
- Common ground will be found when the right begins to hear what feminism says about how the present economic and social structure of Western society is anti-family and anti-child, even as feminists begin to hear what the right has been saying for a long time, namely, that a woman’s right to choose is not the only moral issue involved in the question of abortion.
- Common ground will be found when the deconstructionists of hierarchy on the left begin to hear what the right is saying, namely, that the eclipse of hierarchy is not only doing in patriarchy, but also matriarchy as well, and is leaving us at the mercy of a new set of commandments who answer to no God and whose demands that we be significant are infinitely more crippling and dehumanizing than ever were the hierarchial imperatives of the past.
But this can only be heard when the right hears more clearly what the deconstructionists of hierarchy are saying, that is, that the world and the Church are full of many bad, mostly male, leaders and institutions.
- Common ground will be found when the right begins to take the place of chaos, creativity and ambiguity more seriously, even as the left begins to understand how important are stability, order and clarity.
As a current Sojourners’ slogan puts it: Not from the right, not from the left, but from the Spirit.
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