Do you know of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative?
It got started with a letter of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago to his priests in 1992. In the words of CCGI, the letter encouraged priests to “combine fidelity to church teaching with deep pastoral sensitivity,” and encouraged “a ‘both/and’ approach to issues that could be divisive, for example, concerns about liturgical life, parish devotions, and approaches to religious education.”
Then Msgr. Philip Murnion talked things up with Cardinal Bernadin, and small groups of pastoral leaders came to meet for conversations over the next four years. Eventually a statement was produced, “Called to Be Catholic: Church in a Time of Peril.”
A committee was gathered to model and foster constructive dialogue. The Catholic Common Ground Initiative was born. This was in 1996.
Here are the Principles of Dialogue of the CCGI. I think they have held up very well, and in fact are more useful than ever at this moment in the life of the U.S. Catholic Church. What do you think?
We should recognize that no single group or viewpoint in the church has a complete monopoly on the truth. While the bishops united with the Pope have been specially endowed by God with the power to preserve the true faith, they too exercise their office by taking counsel with one another and with the experience of the whole church, past and present. Solutions to the church’s problems will almost inevitably emerge from a variety of sources.
We should not envision ourselves or any one part of the church a saving remnant. No group within the church should judge itself alone to be possessed of enlightenment or spurn the Catholic community, its leaders, or its institutions as unfaithful.
We should test all proposals for their pastoral realism and potential impact on individuals as well as for their theological truth. Pastoral effectiveness is a responsibility of leadership.
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. We should not substitute labels, abstractions, or blanketing terms–“radical feminism,” “the hierarchy,” “the Vatican”–for living, complicated realities.
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. We should detect the valid insights and legitimate worries that may underlie even questionable arguments.
We should be cautious in ascribing motives. We should not impugn another’s love of the church and loyalty to it. We should not rush to interpret disagreements as conflicts of starkly opposing principles rather than as differences in degree or in prudential pastoral judgments about the relevant facts.
We should bring the church to engage the realities of contemporary culture, 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.