Catholic ifs, ands and buts
Catholicism has a lot of weighty words such as transubstantiation, catechetical, and canonization. But one of the best ways to understand Catholics, and especially Catholic social teaching, is to see the importance of the three-letter words “and” and “but.”
Those attending last Saturday’s diocesan Catholic Social Ministry Institute in Morton heard a wonderful explanation of short-word theology from John Carr, a man with a rather long job title. Carr is Secretary of the Department of Social Development and World Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also spoke to priests and deacons of the diocese on Friday.
A prime example of the importance of “and” is found in next Sunday’s Gospel, in which Jesus answers a question about the greatest commandment by saying we must love God and our neighbor. Carr also cited teaching that stresses both human life and dignity, rights and responsibilities, family and community. Still another excellent example of the “and” aspect is outlined below in the statement urging Catholics to oppose abortion on demand and provide help to mothers facing challenging pregnancies.
The word “but” also appears often, said Carr, as in teaching that all life is sacred, but not all issues related to it are considered equal — a key component of the bishops’ document “Faithful Citizenship.”
What would happen in these days of polarization even in the church if we Catholics tried harder to know and live the teachings on both sides of “ands” and “buts?” We’d probably find ourselves answering God more often, as did Mary, with another powerful three-letter word: “Yes.” — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post