Finding a united voice in a diverse church

Scott Alessi| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how Catholics are coming together over their opposition to the government mandate for contraceptive coverage in health care, with the tone generally implying just how unbelievable such a proposition sounds.

The Catholic community has been divided over a large number of social and political issues, and sometimes getting Catholics to agree on anything seems impossible (look no further than the heated disagreements over liturgical questions that we’ve had right here on our website for proof). This morning’s plenary session of the USCCB Catholic Social Ministry Gathering laid out a difficult challenge to Catholics who serve and minister within their communities: to work toward being one church with one agenda.

Arturo Chavez, president of the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, discussed ways that we can shift our point of view as a Catholic community to work toward common goals and a shared vision. Chavez used examples from his own experiences of witnessing the divides that often exist between the English-speaking Catholic community and the growing Hispanic Catholic population as evidence that we have many divisions to overcome.

Using the themes of Catholic social teaching, Chavez pointed to a number of issues Catholics need to address with a unified voice, such as decreasing the number of unintended pregnancies without compromising church teaching on contraception, providing more opportunities for children of Hispanic families to attend our Catholic schools (and eventually college), recognizing the differing needs of the poor in diverse communities and strengthening the safety net, and fighting unjust immigration laws that limit the church’s outreach to people regardless of their documentation.

That’s a great to-do list, but it is easier said than done. It is going to take a lot of work to get the Catholic community on board and to put aside political disagreements, personal prejudice, differences in our economic status and ethnic backgrounds, and other barriers that keep us from working together.

The good news is that we already have common ground to start from--our shared faith. Now the challenge becomes building on that common ground to work toward the common good.