‘Have you learned nothing from Pope Francis?”
An hour into a discussion about “renewal” in the Catholic Church — centered on a book by that name by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White — this was the last question asked from the audience. The female audience member then repeated a line from Pope Francis’ impromptu plane-ride press conference last summer: “Who am I to judge?’ His Holiness was pointing to the fact that only God can know the innermost workings of the human heart.
Another audience member wanted to bypass her question, saying, “That wasn’t a question, that was an insult.” But it might just have been the most important question of the night.
The event was open-door and was decently advertised. And yet, somehow during the course of the discussion, which frequently dealt with joy and love, at least one person in the audience saw nothing but a door being closed.
I immediately thought of my friend Austen Ivereigh, who was the first to remind me what we all know when we stop to think about it: As television viewers, as radio listeners, as readers, we tend to discount factual points or well-reasoned arguments in favor of gut feelings.
When we hear the word “civil” in the context of communications, we do ourselves a disservice and get off easy if we think it simply means being “nice.” It’s got to be about seeing the people in your audience — most of whom you’ll never personally meet — as people, as children of our Creator, as brothers and sisters. That means there’s got to be love, even in the face of extreme disagreement.
I travel a decent amount and am forever popping into Catholic churches. And I rarely find an empty one anymore. There are always people hiding in the back, right up in the front, on their knees, giving thanks, lighting a candle, praying for help, seeking peace. People are feeling welcome. Come on in, because there is love, support, forgiveness and hope inside.