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Letís always have civil discourse

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
August 28, 2020

WE have to convince ourselves that the best way to resolve our unavoidable differences and conflicts in the area of politics, social life, and other fields prone to contention and controversies, is for us to always engage in civil discourse, in cordial dialogue.

We have to avoid as much as possible engaging in discussions where we think our views and positions are the only correct ones, the only fair ones, etc., and those of the others have no validity whatsoever. Thatís definitely the wrong way to look at things.

Itís unbelievable that some politicians, for example, claim that they have all the truth, that they are practically infallible about their views and ways, and that their opponents have nothing whatsoever of what may be considered as true and fair.

We need to listen to everyone, no matter how different and even in conflict their views are from ours. They will also have some good reason for their opinions and we just have to learn to respect them.

Even in their clearly wrong views, as in being immoral and sinful, they can always be handled properly without sacrificing charity, since evil can only have a power that is borrowed from what pertains to its corresponding good. All we have to do to rebut evil is to appeal to the good and the truth that is being distorted or denied.

Itís important that we presume that everyone has good intentions. We have to avoid calling to question the intentions behind the views of others, unless it can be clearly ascertained that there is malice.

And even if that is the case, it should be brought up in as cordial a manner as possible. To be avoided are the ways of sarcasm and ironies, direct, frontal attacks, insults and mockeries, name-calling, etc. In other words, to respond without charity. Charity and good manners should never be abandoned.

Letís never forget what Christ told us about loving our enemies. St. Paul reiterated that point when he said, ďDo not repay anyone evil for evilÖIf it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revengeÖbut leave room for Godís wrathÖDo not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Ē (Rom 12,17-21) St. Peter also said something similar. (cfr. 1 Pt 3,9)

While we can have our partisan position in political issues, we have to remember that such condition should not undermine our universal goal for the common good that can be pursued in different and even in legitimately and morally conflicting ways.

Letís not forget that temporal matters, as in politics, can follow some political doctrines that at best can only have a tentative effectivity and varying interpretations, and are always in need of updating, purifying and contextualizing.

These temporal matters hardly have dogmas where everyone is supposed to agree and to follow all the time. Temporal matters do not have the same status as religious faith and creed. And even in the latter, their dogmas are not supposed to be forced on anyone.

We all have to create the proper environment and atmosphere for a civil discourse, a cordial dialogue to take place. This is especially incumbent on our leaders, both the civil and the spiritual. Everything should be done to keep this environment as it should be Ė clean, open, welcoming, always working for unity.

The different actors and parties should do their part. The media especially should be fair and balanced in monitoring the developments. Everyone should have a clear idea of what can be tolerated and what not in the exchanges of opinions. Everyone should agree that some compromises may have to be made to reach a certain consensus, so everyone can move on.

There has to be some set of ground rules that everyone should accept. Of course, these ground rules may also be modified as we go along, but such modification should also be done gradually, not violently!