Editorial Comment: “See how they love one another”

The editors at CathNews New Zealand and Pacific have been saddened by some aggressive and even offensive comments that have been submitted to our website.

Not all of them have been approved for publication.

Feed-back we have received would lead us to believe we are not alone in our discomfort.

In the year 197 Tertullian imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying “Look how they love one another (for they themselves [pagans] hate one another); and how they are ready to die for each other (for they themselves [pagans] are ready to kill each other.”)

We wonder if a searcher for the truth coming across the comments in CathNews New Zealand and Pacific would say the same thing.

At CathNews New Zealand and Pacific we work hard to provide a broad range of news items, comments, features and opinions.

We select items from all parts of the faith spectrum, in the hope that knowledge might lead to understanding and understanding to bridge building.

It is not a matter of agreeing, but of seeking to get inside the skin of another person so as to understand why they think and act in the way they do.

Without this understanding, a genuine exchange of ideas is impossible.

No one changes their mind by being shouted at, let alone being labeled as evil.

Polarisation is a bad thing. Conflict need not be, and in fact in human affairs it is often vital for growth in truth.

The opening of the Good News to us, the Gentiles, depended in no small measure on the conflict between Paul and Peter in the early Church.

Pope Benedict XVI repeatedly stressed the compatibility of faith and reason, and there is a lovely phrase in the Declaration of Religious Freedom in Vatican II that says, “Truth cannot be imposed except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entry into the mind at once quietly and with power.”

So in the words of Barack Obama can we:

  • Find a way back to civility empowered by faith
  • Step out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions
  • At least be civil, by relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable

A rule of thumb could be, “If you can’t speak the truth with love, then it is better to remain silent.”

In 1997 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who was the Archbishop of Chicago, wrote:

“American Catholics must reconstitute the conditions for addressing our differences constructively—a common ground centred on faith in Jesus, marked by accountability to the living Catholic tradition, and ruled by a renewed spirit of civility, dialogue, generosity, and broad and serious consultation.”

Here is a summary of seven principles for dialogue suggested by Bernardin:

  1. We should recognise that no single group or viewpoint in the church has a complete monopoly on the truth.
  2. We should not think of ourselves or any one part of the church a saving remnant.
  3. We should test all proposals for their pastoral realism and potential impact on living individuals as well as for their theological truth.
  4. We should presume that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith. They deserve civility, charity, and a good-faith effort to understand their concerns.
  5. We should put the best possible construction on differing positions, addressing their strongest points rather than seizing upon the most vulnerable aspects in order to discredit them.
  6. We should be cautious in ascribing motives. We should not impugn another’s love of the church and loyalty to it.
  7. We should bring the church to engage in the issues of the day, not by simple defiance or by naive acquiescence, but acknowledging, in the fashion of Gaudium et Spes, both our culture’s valid achievements and real dangers.

Called to be Catholic in a time of peril

There is always a fair degree of editorial judgment in allowing and not allowing comments. In general the editors’ choice is governed by several factors:

At CathNews New Zealand and Pacific, in deciding whether or not to approve a comment we ask ourselves:

  • is the comment spam?
  • is the comment offensive?
  • is the comment libellous?
  • is the comment ad-hominem?
  • is the comment a put down?
  • is the comment a “cheap shot”?
  • is the comment on topic?
  • is the commenter repeating themselves?
  • has the point been been already made by someone else?
  • is the comment adding to the discussion?

We hope comments on CathNews New Zealand and Pacific will be expressed in a manner befitting the followers of Jesus Christ who said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37


Denis O’Hagan is the editor of CathNews New Zealand and Pacific

Image: ovenantaldivide.com

Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

8 Responses to Editorial Comment: “See how they love one another”

  1. Ruth Spelman says:

    A welcome and well expressed comment from the Editor and great to see it signed by name.

  2. John Craven says:

    Very good editorial article. Thank you and keep up the good work of Cathnews. I appreciate the wide spectrum of the debate that is presented in your magazine.

  3. Alan Fleming says:

    Hello Denis
    You don't have it on your own. Take a look at the letters to the editor in the NZ Catholic. Some are pure vitriol, masquerading as "Catholic" belief. Keep up the excellent work with Cathnews.

  4. Graeme says:

    Extraordinary that you would cite the amoral Barack Obama and the discreditted Cardinal Bernadin, Denis, in support of disseminating non-Catholic and anti-Catholic disinformation in what presents itself as a Catholic organ.
    Don't be scandalised by some aggression. Remember what Jesus did in the temple, and remember how he fiercely condemned those who mislead the young.
    The diminution of the local Church, and its increasing irrelevance, have come about because its adherents have been intimidated into accommodating a "wide spectrum" of viewpoints.

  5. John Shone says:

    Well said Graeme; I couldn't agree more. The pity is, in my experience, the average Kiwi Catholic is just not informed enough about the likes of the late Cardinal Bernadin – to appreciate just how errant their views on a whole host of Catholic doctrinal matters. Joan Chittister OSB, and Timothy Radcliffe OP are others – from a very long list – that readily spring immediately to mind in this regard. And much to the shame of the Church in New Zealand, a goodly proportion of clergy and religious in this country dine out on every word, every idea/novelty, that passes from their lips. But, dear reader, don't just take my word for it: check these things out for yourself. Read widely so as to be properly and fairly informed about what is occurring in and about the Church today that is cause for great concern; and who can doubt the shocking and disgraceful happenings in Ireland is proof a great malaise is abroad within the Catholic world. Now, more than ever before, is the time to pray the rosary; and we should do so with fervour each and every day.

  6. Joe Hannah says:

    Thanks Graeme and John. Iv'e been curious as to how long it would take to get a Catholic response. Iv'e written an opinion piece in a similar vein but don't know if it will be published.

    • John Murphy says:

      Dear Joe,

      It was my intention to reply to you privately, however since you’ve made the matter public, I think I need to respond in public.

      Firstly, I appreciate you sending in your opinion piece and the consideration you have given to ideas expressed, however having showed your opinion piece to several people with theological degrees, I have decided not to publish it.

      The decision alone is not based simply on its conservative viewpoint, which I think you would agree CathNews has and continues to be open to, but the way the piece is constructed.

      Simply stringing a raft of quotes together with no context is not quite what we are looking for.

      Also, as submitted, the material does repeat your previous opinion pieces and several of your comments you have made on CathNews.

      Joe, you quote Pope Felix III, who was pope in the 480’s AD. That’s some way back, but more’s the point the quote has no context, and is merely attributed to Pope Felix III. As we know from the traditional teaching of the Church there are different levels of papal teaching.

      That said, I spent some time trying to find the missing context, the name of the Encyclical, Apostolic letter etc but I couldn’t find it.

      One interesting thing I did find out about Pope Felix III, is that he is the grandfather of Pope Gregory I.

      With this in mind I’m less inclined to give too much credence to the quote, “Not to oppose error is to approve it; and not to defend truth is to suppress it, and, indeed, to neglect to confound evil men—when we can do it—is no less a sin than to encourage them”.

      If I was prepared to overlook Pope Felix’s situation and in the incongruity of this quote, I couldn’t overlook your comments about your fellow parishioners and the priests who have served your parish.

      I simply cannot publish them.

      If you have hard evidence for the sweeping things you wrote, could I suggest you make an appointment to see your local bishop.

      Oh, and one more thing. I’ve met most of the New Zealand bishops. In my opinion we are very lucky to have such a fine group of successors to the Apostles.

      The process they go through to be appointed a bishop is gruelling and for some small reason many an excellent priest has not gone on to be made a bishop. (I do sometimes wonder if the Church realises it modern day Apostles they are searching for and not Jesus himself, but I digress.)

      So in light of what I know about our bishops and the very carful way they are selected, I find it very hard to believe that any New Zealand bishop does not, as you allege, believe in mortal sin.

      Since this issue has been mentioned by you in your letter, and by others in comments, it may pay to jog our memories of what the Church teaches about mortal sin. It says it has to have three conditions: The matter needs to be serious, the person has to have full knowledge of what they are doing and give the action their full consent, and that for a sin to be mortal, all three of these conditions need to co-exist at the same time and in the same act.

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to say that one of the effects of mortal sin is it destroys the charity in the heart of the person.

      All pretty serious stuff, but for clarification, probably worth repeating.

      Joe, in your letter you asked for feedback, and before doing so I wanted to consult with others and today I’ve been at an out of town funeral of a very good woman, so I’m sorry if my reply hasn’t been as swift as you would like which perhaps forced your hand to go public with your comment.

      You’re welcome to continue to submit opinion pieces Joe however CathNews requests that you, like others, follow the guidelines published a few days ago.

  7. Peter Grace says:

    Your comment seems ironic, Alan Fleming — making an offensive comment in response to an article about offensive comments.
    Part of your full comment is about supposedly vitriolic letters published in NZ Catholic. I have had a quick look at all 43 letters we have published this year, and found nothing offensive, and certainly nothing vitriolic, in any of them.
    Please identify the vitriolic letters.
    Peter Grace, editor, NZ Catholic

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