Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

March 3, 2007


On January 20th, the Vatican issued a measured statement, calling for “respectful and constructive dialogue” with Chinese officials in an effort to rebuild diplomatic ties with China. The adjective “constructive” points to the goal of the conversation; the adjective “respectful” points to the necessary attitude of each participant towards the other, an attitude of “respect”. “Respect” comes from the Latin “respicere”, meaning to look at or to regard the other as he or she is. By extension “to receive a person as he or she is”, regardless of differences that underlie the need for dialogue.

Church officials maintain continuing dialogue with other religious bodies and with governmental and private agencies, accepting them as they are while seeking some commonground, if possible, or, at least, compromises that do not infringe on the essential core of each participant. Respect is the key attitude.

Respectful dialogue is frequently sought by various groups of Catholics, some quite in line with church policies, others with varying degrees of different viewpoints. If people are 80% together as allies; the 20% does not make them enemies. Political parties can work together in the Congress; husbands and wives can resolve tensions; labor unions and management, each with its own goals, can reach accommodating contracts. The Church with its persuasive powers, far more effective than authoritative power, has been a great influence in political turmoil as in El Salvador and other Latin American countries; in bringing troubled marriage partners together through its counseling agencies; in bringing about better relations between wine manufacturers and Cesar Chavez’ United Farm Workers.Each side is treated with respect.

The Church has reason for confidence in its power of persuasion. If its authorities can converse with other religious bodies, with governmental and private agencies – treating them with respect – can they not deal persuasively with the Voice of the Faithful, Call to Action, We are the Church, and similar groups. If they can treat those outside the Church with respect, can there be a problem in treating those within the Church with comparable respect, looking on them for what they are, intelligent, thinking Catholics seeking greater closeness to Jesus above all. Has clericalism destroyed the ability of some clerics to have respect for their own? As teachers, yes, but the laity not as simple listeners. They have a part in the conversation. Mutual respect is the key; to see the others as they are - with respect!