“My dear Hollywood,
I have a little extracurricular assignment for you, one which will provide not only a welcome change of venue, but quite a bit of pleasurable socializing. I would like you to represent me at the next conference of the Common Ground Initiative.
A word to the wise is necessary, however, about this excursion. Once the news gets out about your trip, you will no doubt encounter all manner of harsh criticism of this project from certain members of your parish, who will unfailingly take every opportunity to revel in rigidity. For example: “Common Ground is just a means for liberals to obtain prominence and legitimacy for their positions.” Or, “the Church already has common ground in its Scriptures and Traditions, as reflected in the Catechism.” Or, “dissent cannot be dialogued away, and to attempt to do so is to engage in mutual deception.”
We may safely dismiss these criticisms as not only mean-spirited and polarizing, but completely inconsequential, as they are parroted by people of no influence who cling desperately to outmoded patterns of thought. You must not allow their petty nagging to wear you down, but you will be required to arm yourself against them in a convincing manner – not only to maintain harmony in your parish, but, on a much more important level, to demonstrate to our little network that you have the intellectual capacity to be successful in our Conciliar world. After all, my real purpose in sending you as my emissary is to introduce you to the highest levels of our brotherhood, a move which will ultimately accrue benefits for us both.
Toward that end, I want you to prepare a homily on this topic, approved by me beforehand, which you will not only deliver to your parish, but which I will forward to the Common Ground Committee. In this homily, you will elaborate on the following themes:
§ The Church is in crisis because the modern world has swept by her;
§ The Church must respond to this crisis with honesty and imagination, not with rigid defensiveness and internal bickering;
§ This honesty and imagination is the basis for rebuilding a venue within which our differences may be addressed constructively;
§ All dialogue will take as its starting point a consensus about “the big picture” – i.e. the essentials of our faith – and our accountability to those essentials.
Now, if I have gauged your subtlety of perception correctly, you will have already discerned my use of the phrases “honesty and imagination” and “the big picture,” and the term “accountability.” None of these are typical of the traditional Catholic lexicon, which instead hobbles about on such archaic terms as “Scripture” and “Tradition” and “fidelity.” Your task and ours, my dear Hollywood, is to gently coax the Church, festina lente, away from this Neanderthal orientation and towards a process and a terminology to which the real world can relate. Only by adapting to the world can we be a leavening force in that world!
I will have more to say on this once I have reviewed your draft.
Your affectionate Shepherd