What is Pope Francis’ dream for our world? It is a world engaged in and committed to “dialogue,” which means (for him) “Approaching, speaking, listening, looking at, coming to know and understand one another, and to find common ground” (#198). Is this dream utopian, idyllic, Edenic, impossible? If we think so, why?
His notion of “dialogue” is clearly at odds with what we typically see in the media—shout-downs, insults, interruptions, half-truths, lies, remarks intended to make the other person look foolish… in other words, partisan politics as usual in our country for the last number of decades. The vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was 52-48—will anyone in the Senate say he/she voted pro/con on the basis of her competence instead of on the basis of party affiliation? Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia were both diametrically opposite in terms of judicial philosophy, they were both confirmed by overwhelming majorities (both with 90+ votes), and both were the best of friends. Why then and not now? Is it because it’s easier to be self-serving and less important (seemingly) to be principled but fair? “Authentic social dialogue involves the ability to respect the other’s point of view and to admit that it may include legitimate convictions and concerns” (#203). When is the last time we’ve engaged in ‘authentic social dialogue’?
“If you want peace work for justice,” Pope St Paul VI told us long ago. So, Pope Francis reminds us “Social peace demands hard work…” (#217). Dorothy Day told us this longer ago—“Love is hard work.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky taught us this longer ago than this (in The Brothers Karamazov): “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in dreams.” Are we ready to love? Of all things, Pope Francis wants us to cultivate kindness (##222ff)! Are we ready, even for this?
He understands that kindness is rooted in the truth, and we must tell the truth about ourselves and others and our historical relationships—this is the essence of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in post-apartheid South Africa; it’s the basis of acknowledging the reality of the Shoah and its horrors in Nazi praxis. What did we do, and how do we need to be held accountable for it, and how can we move through where we were to where we need to be?
This is why we talk about reconciliation rather than simply about forgiveness—the latter is the initiative of the one, no matter what (and surely sometimes that’s the best that can be achieved); the former involves face-to-face encounter and (please God) healing. But let’s save this issue for the next (and, I believe, the last) installment of my analysis of Fratelli Tutti.