Real listening when facing opposition to Church teaching doesn't require acceptance in the sense of agreement, writes Youth Speak News' Mae Fernandes. Photo/Pixabay

Speaking Out: How to respond to opposition to Church teaching

By  Mae Fernandes, Youth Speak News
  • May 5, 2017

Recently, a friend of mine told me about a conversation she had with a classmate at college. To make a long story short, the topic of abortion came up and once this classmate realized my friend was pro-life, she started to get angry.

My friend stayed calm and presented the logical, scientific reasons she has for her beliefs, but her classmate just stopped listening. I’ve definitely heard of more than one situation like this and you probably have, too. Maybe you’ve even been on the receiving end of that anger.

Topics like pro-life issues, gender identity and Catholicism in general seem to provoke this indignation in our “opponents” that prevents a rational dialogue from taking place.

Why do some people respond to reason with anger?

I think we have to remember that we are living in the “age of authenticity,” as Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor called it. The one absolute good for our contemporaries is self expression. Hence, those favourite buzzwords, “choice” and “identity.”

Despite all the talk about “critical thinking,” they see reason as threatening their belief that reality is self-defined. Our Catholic idea of reality as something given rather than something we create doesn’t make any sense to them. So any attempt to reason with them is seen as an imposition.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we abandon our tradition of embracing the light of human reason. But as a first response to opposition to the Church’s teaching, carefully reasoned arguments seem to fall flat.

So how should we respond?

It can be tempting to view these people as enemies, rather than as the lost. But we can’t just be indifferent to our classmates, co-workers, friends or even family and leave them trapped in harmful error. Nor can we just get angry or give up when we are shouted down (literally, sometimes), giving ourselves victim status and viewing them as persecutors.

I suggest we turn for some guidance to a very strategic person, Pope Francis, and in particular his quite practical letter, Evangelii Gaudium.

He talks about “accompaniment,” a relationship built with time and patience that goes beyond our usual everyday chit-chat. We need to listen to the other person share his deepest joys and hopes as well as his deepest pain.

That includes trying to understand how others see the Church as imposing rules without compassion.

Real listening doesn’t require acceptance in the sense of agreement, but we do have to be able to take seriously the importance of another’s struggles. If we truly listen, without arguing, then trust can grow so that the other person will listen to us when we share the joy of the Gospel.

Because it is only once people have encountered the love of God that they can understand and even want to obey His laws. As Jesus said, “If you loved me, you would obey my commands.”

(Fernandes, 17, is a Grade 12 homeschool student in Dundalk, Ont.)

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