Guest blogger Fr Harvey Nicolaitan SJ, is a master of modern media. With a degree in Communications, he is a well known author and guest on reality TV shows, Fr Nicolaitan is the author of My Little Rainbow Bridge- a children’s story about being kind to trolls. He has been invited to speak at many of our nation’s greatest Catholic intellectual powerhouses. A member of the Vatican Confectory for International Dissimulation, he advises bishops on effective mis-communication. Fr Nicolaitan is contributing a series on “Rules for Radicals or How To Be A Successful Catholic Dissident Today”. 

This course has been so affirming and welcoming! All are welcome!

If you are just catching up on our course on “How to Be a Successful Catholic Dissident Today” you are welcome! You can find links to the first six sessions here.

In today’s session we want to stress the importance of dialogue in dissent. As we have done before, it is necessary to stress how nice the idea of dialogue is. What is dialogue? Dialogue is a discussion not a debate. It is gentle and affirming. Dialogue meets others where they are and accepts them exactly as they are. Dialogue begins with genuine listening and avoids pre-judgement.

You will see, I hope, how useful this is for our aims. When we say “accept everyone as they are without pre judgment” this means we not only accept the person, but we accept their beliefs and behaviors as well without judgement. Of course you must never state this explicitly–until the time is right.

The main thing is to begin the process of dialogue. Very often no discussion or dialogue every takes place. Never specify with whom you are going to dialogue and what the subject will be. Never specify what the objective of the dialogue will be. Dialogue is good for dialogue’s sake. In fact, the idea of dialogue is better than dialogue itself. Real dialogue and discussion with opponents will often end sadly. It is much better to keep one’s spirits up by talking about the need for dialogue.

This tactic has a couple of very positive side effects. First of all it makes you look good. You are, in fact, the dissident, but you come across as the one who wants to discuss and reach out to the other side. You present yourself as the one who is honest and open and sharing and listening and real. The second side effect of this tactic is that you immediately wrong foot your opponent. If he is one of these rigid types he will come across as such. He will present as the sour old Scrooge who is set in his ways and is mean, harsh and judgmental.

When he doesn’t sit down to dialogue you can then blame him for the failure. You never really wanted to dialogue in the first place, but no one needs to know that. You wanted a forum where you can talk and talk and talk until the other side is worn down with your talking. You never wanted a debate about truth. You wanted a session where you could distract the other person with sentimental and utilitarian arguments that turn his so called “truth” into a mess of gooey mush.

So friends, use the appeal to “dialogue” wherever you can. Avoid debate. Debate begins with the premise that there is such a thing as truth and that it can be discovered by reasonable, rational and civil discourse. If you can paint “debate” as being all about close mindedness, irrational arguments and anger. Portray debate as being a shouting match between two old bigots. Debate must never be understood as have an intellectual basis and it must never be seen as civil and polite exchange in an attempt to discover truth.

Dialogue (if real dialogue ever takes place) will allow both parties to come away either angry and frustrated with each other or more likely, with a warm feeling about themselves. They will think they have done something good and genuine when all they have done is help to further your agenda.