This column is a response to a piece written by a priest in a diocesan newspaper, essentially arguing that we must always seek common values and common views with all people who disagree – a false irenicism. While it is true that “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Prv 15:1), there are also times when appropriate TOUGH verbal LOVE can be required. Appeals from Rodney King – “Can’t we all just get along” – and talk from Norman Vincent Peale – based upon the “power of positive thought” – have their place, but so does properly pejorative language. Our Lord, for example, referred to Judas as the “Son of Perdition” (John 17:12; cf. 2 Thess 2:3), and Jude strongly warned us against “ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness” (1:4). Peace must never be purchased at the price of truth, which requires straight-from-the-shoulder speaking and preaching. As Deitrich von Hilderband already observed decades ago, “the valuing of unity over truth plays a central role in the crisis of the Church.”
“Peace, peace,” this priest might have said, echoing Jeremiah; but “there is no peace” (8:11,15). He lamented that our hearts are often angry and divisive. If we understand what others mean and find their key value, “we can then gently go from that value to other values that need to be taken into account. We [must] seek to understand rather than jump to judgment.”
The priest means well. Weakly.