Different Opinions Can Be Illuminating

New York Times
June 12, 2012

How might we understand this moment in time as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious meets with the bishops who lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Where can we find common ground that honors the doctrine of our church while inviting dialogue?

The role of our Catholic Church's authority is to protect and cherish the heritage of our treasured doctrine. But doctrine needs to be considered in connection with what is happening in our world.

What many women religious desire today is an open exploration that respects current doctrine while making room for new thinking and new ministries to respond to the needs of our world. In fact, while most sisters are quite faithful about doctrinal issues—it's not what is most urgent to us in serving those who are poor.

Doctrine and pastoral response are both critical to the life of a vibrant church. Today, sisters continue to keep that dialogue alive by acting as a bridge between valued principles and contemporary experience, especially the experience of those who are suffering. We are the voice of those who are poor and marginalized. Seeing the world through their eyes influences how we think and act.

The moment we find ourselves in now as a church — struggling to explore differences of approach and opinion among leaders and finding ways to build bridges between our faith and our world — is not unique. These conversations date back to the first followers of Jesus and are universal to every era. For me and for other Sisters of Mercy, this moment in church history should illuminate for us our congregation's clarity of purpose. It should also fortify our resolve to respond to the needs of people wherever needs emerge — which is exactly why religious congregations began in the first place.


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