(CNS) -- Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles
will be among dozens of U.S. church leaders convening in June to address the troublesome
polarization that marks church and political life and develop steps to work toward achieving the
4-6 gathering at Georgetown University, "Though Many, One: Overcoming
Polarization Through Catholic Social Thought," is meant to be a starting
point to bring about Pope Francis' vision of the church responding to human
hurts and social challenges by living out the joy of the Gospel, organizers
The two prelates,
at times perceived as representing "liberal" (Cardinal Cupich) and
"conservative" (Archbishop Gomez) perspectives in the American Catholic
Church, will be part of an emerging dialogue that planners hope will build
stronger relationships and overcome long-standing divides.
is a much-needed step to help overcome the polarization we see in our church
and in our country," said Kim Daniels, a planner of the gathering who is a
consultor to the U.S. bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty and a member of
Vatican's Secretariat for Communications. "That polarization hurts our
evangelizing and witness for the common good."
John Carr, director of the
Initiative on Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, which is convening
the gathering with other church organizations, echoed Daniels' concern.
is an attempt in a more focused and strategic way to look at how this
unnecessary and unhelpful polarization reduces our ability (as Catholics) to
make a difference in a really divided country," Carr said.
not going to debate economic issues or this controversy or that controversy.
We're going to explore the causes, the costs and how to overcome polarization
which undermines (the church's) public witness," he told Catholic News
beauty of Catholic social teaching is it connects things that are not connected
in politics-as-usual and we want to help make those connections," he added.
gathering also will advance the pope's new apostolic exhortation, "Gaudete et Exsultate"
("Rejoice and Be Glad"), on "the call to holiness in today's
Participants will include on-the-ground Catholic leaders, including emerging leaders, from diverse backgrounds in
response to appeals by Pope Francis for the church to be more loving and caring
in the world, Daniels said.
trying to respond to Pope Francis' reminder that the church is a field hospital
and to work in the concrete and not the abstract and work across ideological
and political and economic lines," she explained.
is expected to draw up to 80 people from across the spectrum of church
ministries, including pro-life, religious freedom, education, social justice
and grass-roots organizations.
to Cardinal Cupich and Archbishop Gomez, a public session will feature Helen
Alvare, professor of law at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law
School, and Sister Teresa Maya, a member of the Sisters of Charity of the
Incarnate Word from San Antonio, who is president of the Leadership Conference of
Carr stressed that the meeting is about building long-term relationships among
the attendees in the hope that those links will lead to new bonds of
understanding and respect in local communities.
planners expressed concern that the divisiveness within the church and society has
become more widely apparent with the growing influence of social media. They
said such divisiveness leads to a wider perception that the church has no
standing offer guidance on public issues.
convening church leaders in face-to-face discussions at Georgetown, discussions
on behalf of the common good will move forward more rapidly, the planners said.
also will be asked to develop an action plan to follow up on when they return
to their home offices, dioceses and parishes. The idea is for each participant
to "address polarization in their spheres," Daniels said.
high on building relationships," Carr said. "It's hard to prejudge people
that you've met."
the public session will be available later.