There is always an interesting reaction when I tell people that I work for the Catholic Church. Often I get the “Oh, that’s nice …” and then the enquirer moves onto the next question.
Sometimes people will share how they went to a Catholic school, but going to Mass was definitely something they didn’t do! Occasionally people will quiz me on some theological dilemma they have, or seek advice on how to organise a funeral or a church marriage.
Over the last couple of months I have found that acknowledging I work for the Catholic Church has brought reactions that are, on occasions, quite challenging. From hairdressers to trades people, to other mums and dads at my son’s weekend sport and in my friendship groups, each person has an opinion on the right to die, the right to live, the right to marry, the right not to marry and so on. Some will share stories of their gay son, daughter, brother or sister. Others will tell me about dealing with the slow or agonising death of a loved one. Many have no qualms in giving me some strong advice about how the Catholic Church should be responding to these very tough questions. Colleagues and acquaintances who also work in Catholic institutions have shared how they have been abused by people who have been upset by the contents of literature distributed in our Catholic schools and parishes.
In the midst of these conversations I often wonder what my response should be. Is it ok to defend the church’s view and hold onto what I believe as true? Is it ok to say that I’m not sure what the solution is? Is it ok to say nothing, but respectfully listen to an alternate view, and to imagine what it might be like to walk in another’s shoes? Some of the stories in this issue speak to how we can live, and live well, with diversity. It does not mean that we have to give up our own views, but it does mean being open to true dialogue and a genuine effort to understand and respect another person’s view or way of life.