Says constructive dialogue does not demean, demonize

CHICAGO (CNS) — Dialogue should neither demean nor demonize those with whom one disagrees, Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, Mont., said in the annual Murnion lecture sponsored by the Catholic Common Ground Initiative.

The bishop spoke June 4 at the Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where the initiative recently relocated after the National Pastoral Life Center in New York closed.

He said constructive dialogue “never uses belief as a bludgeon” and is not “a debate in which there is a winner and a loser. In constructive dialogue, with all our convictions intact, we often are forced to rethink ‘this’ or ‘that’ position, or at least the reasons why we hold ‘this’ or ‘that’ position. We may discover that we are really not all that far apart from another person’s perspective on an issue or that the person we thought to be a demon is really not all that much a demon after all.”

The bishop said Catholics are discussing “critical issues facing the church” in a variety of contexts — “during family dinners, at dinner parties with friends, among co-workers who happen to be Catholic (or not), in parish and diocesan offices, at social gatherings at the parish, during meetings of parish or diocesan councils, at meetings of Catholic organizations.”

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