Massimo Faggioli has an interesting article here at America magazine on the polarization of Catholicism in the United States.

While European intellectuals rarely understand the United States, it is still good to have the perspective from the outside. Faggioli is certainly better than most Europeans in observing and commenting on American Catholicism. The pope’s pal, Fr Spadaro, for example, hasn’t got a clue.

Massimo Faggioli rightly observes the two wings of American Catholicism. I have commented on it here and commented on the theological roots of the problem.

This is a short blog post, not a complete answer to the problem, but I recognize the problem with Faggioli and would like to propose some simple solutions.

The solutions are based on the simple formula that unity would be achieved if Catholics on both sides were to attempt the virtue of obedience.

By “obedience” I do not mean blind, robotic obedience–although sometimes absolute obedience hand in hand with devout faith is necessary. Instead I mean we should get to the roots of the word “obedience” and the root word is “to listen.” To listen not only with our ears, but with our mind and intellect engaged and with our heart of prayer and longing.

Furthermore, that listening is not only listening to the Church, but listening to one another.

With that in mind I would propose these simple solutions to Catholics on both sides of the divide:

  • That both sides read and study the Sacred Scriptures. These really are the words of eternal life. It seems that too many Catholics will read anything BUT the Sacred Scriptures.
  • That both sides read and study the Catechism of the Catholic Church and fully embrace its teaching both in theory and practice.
  • That both sides accept and listen to the real words and teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The real words and teachings–not your preconceived agenda driven biased ideas. Go back and read the documents. Study them and see what is good and positive and powerful about them. Also go back and ask which parts you are deliberately ignoring, explaining away or dismissing because of your prejudice.
  • That Liberals listen and learn from the Conservatives in the matter of liturgy. Conservatives love traditional music, liturgy, art, architecture and worship for some very good reasons.
  • That Conservatives listen and learn from the Liberals in the area of social conscience. Liberals care deeply about changing the world for the better. That is also part of the Catholic calling.
  • That Liberals listen and learn from Conservatives about pro-life issues, family and sexual morality. They’re more likely to be fully Catholic on this one. Their views are likely to challenge you.
  • That Conservatives listen and learn from Liberals about compassion, the difficulty of pastoral situations and the need for flexibility and forgiveness.
  • That both sides try to view American political debates through the lens of Catholic Church teaching rather than viewing the Catholic Church through the lens of American politics.
  • Instead of finding some theoretical via media (this is a notoriously bad Anglican idea) both sides try to embrace what is beautiful, good and true about the other side.

On this last point, why can’t our parishes take the time and effort to build, maintain and glory in beautiful churches, reverent worship, excellent music, transcendent traditionally styled liturgy and an awareness of the supernatural abundance of grace on Sunday… then roll up our sleeves and get to work being the salt and light of the world for the rest of the week–doing what we can with what we have where we are to live out and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is that so hard?