By John Norton
I recently came across a three-year-old column by then-Oakland, Calif., Bishop Allen H. Vigneron, who is now the archbishop of Detroit, titled "10 rules for handling disagreement like a Christian." He said he wrote it while rector of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit to help students "deal with the often sharp difference of opinion we find within the Church."
What follows are his 10 rules (excerpted). Let me know at email@example.com or at the mailing address below what, if anything, you'd add or subtract.
1. The Rule of Charity: "Charity is primary." Whatever is said ought always to be offered respectfully and for the genuine service of others.
2. The Rule of Publicity: "Think with the mind of the Church." The criterion for deciding our disagreements is not one's own private opinions, but what the Church thinks.
3. The Rule of Legitimate Freedom: "What the Church allows is not to be disallowed." This rule means that in situations where the Church says that a variety of views or opinions is legitimate, I should not impose my option as a mandate on others.
4. The Rule of Catholic Freedom: "There's something for everybody, but not everything is for everybody." God has given gifts of grace in an almost dizzying variety. Nobody has to live the Christian life exactly the way I do.
5. The Rule of Modesty: "Not all of my causes are God's causes." It's right to embark on projects with a zealous desire to give God glory, but I have to remember that there are cases when it's not God's will for everyone else to join me.
6. The Rule of Integrity: "To do evil in order to accomplish good is really to do evil." If, in the service of Christ, I act in an un-Christian way, I become a highly effective ally of the very forces I set out to combat.
7. The Rule of Realism: "Remember that Satan is eager to corrupt my efforts to build up the Kingdom, and he's smart enough to figure out a way to do it." My cause may be right or my view may be true, but I have to watch that their goodness is not corrupted by my infidelity.
8. The Rule of Mystery: "Not all the habits and attitudes which belong to a society governed by a representative democracy are appropriate in the Church." The Church is neither a democracy nor a monarchy. She is the Church, the Lord's own creation, constituted according to his will.
9. The Petrine Rule: "Nobody ever built up the Church by tearing down the pope." The pastoral care we receive from the pontiff is a great grace, St. Peter's own service of his fellow disciples continuing to this very day.
10. The Eschatological Rule: "The victory is assured; my job is to run out the clock with style." There is one Savior, and it's not you or me. Our mission is to serve the Lord in fidelity and hope.
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