Amid polarization, nation urged to reclaim civility through dialogue

By Catholic News Service
Thursday, July 13, 2017

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others.

In a time where such polarization threatens civility in public discourse, Catholic leaders in interviews with Catholic News Service called for respect and trust in dialogue and awareness of the opinions of those with whom one disagrees.

“There’s been a coarsening of the culture,” Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, told CNS in a phone interview. “Civility requires a commitment to common social mores and social norms that undergird the culture. It’s not something you can legislate.”

Powers, who also is coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network based at the university, explained the importance of listening to opinions that may contradict one’s own.

“In most cases, violent conflicts end through negotiation and dialogue,” Powers told CNS. “That’s why the Catholic Church has always placed such a high premium on faith and dialogue.”

Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who is executive director of Pax Christi USA, agreed that civility has declined in society today.

“I think that the media also plays into it,” said Sister Patricia. “But there’s a sense that we’re no longer responsible for each other as being our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers. There’s a sense that it’s OK to abuse, injure, destroy, damage other people.”

Pax Christi USA, Sister Patricia said, consistently facilitates dialogues between people who differ in their views.