The Norman Transcript

Columns

June 9, 2014

The pope, politics and downgrading of dogma

(Continued)

NORMAN —

If “I am no one to judge” is the headline in Pope Francis’ narrative to the world, his less quoted statement that “The first reform must be attitude” is the game-changing subtitle.

We have much to learn from reflecting on what a reform in attitude might mean for our stalemated political process and our ability to engage in constructive and collective action. Pope Francis’ “first reform” of “attitude” has done more for the relevancy of his church than anything in my memory.

“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

When we rely on ideological dogma in politics, we polarize people to the detriment of progress. We excommunicate those who aren’t perfect adherents. And we attempt to cover up our imperfections by exaggerating the imperfections in those with whom we disagree.

People claim to embrace diversity, except when it comes to diversity of opinion. People claim to embrace freedom, except when freedom is lived differently.

“When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself.”

The practitioners of purity are pushing the growing number of young people who genuinely embrace diversity and freedom to opt out of political structures.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people.”

When I was a young man, I came to believe that the essence of Catholic sacramental theology was that symbolic physical acts create the reality they symbolize. The warm embrace symbolizes a bond even as it creates one.

Have any of us ever liked anyone we didn’t feel liked us? Have any of us ever felt good about being excluded? Isn’t the failure of political institutions to communicate affection and love a fundamental flaw?

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