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Recent very pleasant exchanges with readers and writers here and elsewhere have caused me to want to make explicit what I hope has always been implicit.

There are a great many people in St. Blog's with whom I do not agree on some things, in some cases on many things. Nevertheless, I enjoy the company of people with whom I do not see eye-to-eye. Part of the reason for this is that I am enriched by multiple viewpoints AND I learn a new sensitivity and respect for the views of those who differ.

Respect for a person is always important. Each person is a child of God, an image of God, a chosen one of God. To show disrespect to a person is, in some small sense, to show disrespect to Christ who dwells within. While our viewpoints may differ, it seems to me that the most important thing is to respect the person and probe the reasons for our disagreements. In many cases, I have discovered, the differences boil down to nuances and to subtle flavors given to words and word meanings. In some cases the differences are more substantive, originating from personal experiences that one has not and perhaps cannot share.

When someone disagrees with me I see an opportunity for growth. Sometimes I'm aggravated and frustrated (more often with myself for the lack of precision in my writing and in what I am trying to say), so this may show. I hope it does so infrequently. I think we all bristle a little when someone disagrees. But the important thing to remember is that a disagreement is not necessarily, or even most often, a statement that YOU are wrong and I am right, but rather a demonstration of emphases. This is how I view the same object, and this is how it looks to me.

Surely there are some things on which there are categorically right and wrong responses. I do believe in absolutes. In these cases I am almost always whole-heartedly on the side of Church Teaching. There are some places in Church doctrine in which I have tendered my intellectual assent, but in which I find it very difficult not to have reservations, questions, and a certain degree of puzzlement. Nevertheless, I assent awaiting the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I entered the Church with any number of misconceptions and misunderstandings, but I entered not with the idea that I would start as a perfect Catholic, but with the idea that with the aid of the Holy Spirit I would grow into a more perfect Catholic. Over time the Holy Spirit has spoken to me about the Blessed Virgin, about certain magisterial teachings, and I am pretty much convinced that He will not abandon me now to figure out my own way. Therefore I assent, knowing that He ultimately will lead me in right paths for His name's sake.

One of those right paths is to listen and to hear what others say. When they are patently wrong, to attempt to correct with charity; and when we merely disagree, to attempt to express with the greatest possible care and concern how exactly we may differ.

I have my hot buttons as does anyone else. Press one of them and my reaction is likely to be firing off a stormy tromping of whatever "idiotic notion" inspired it, followed by swift use of the delete key and a period of reflection--why did that statement provoke the reaction it did. More often than not, the Holy Spirit speaks through those words and illuminates yet other dark areas in my soul.

So, what I would like to convey to everyone who visits is, although my words and my way of saying so may at times fail, I really do respect the sincerity and the integrity of the person who comments here. If I inadvertently offend, I beg your pardon. I will say that I try very, very hard never to offend deliberately. Sometimes this is seen as "being soft" on certain notions with which I do not agree; but I see it rather as the simple fact that I do not now, nor ever will have all the answers. My opinion on any given issue is just as likely to be wrong as to be right.

Respect is something that I think we should probably go out of our ways to make a point of. I don't think we should respect every viewpoint--hate speech directed toward ANY group for ANY reason is particularly repugnant. Hatred is not part of the Christian canon and cannot enter it except as directed toward sin. (That is, the hatred of sin is mandatory.) However, this is not a license to hate sinful people--in part because I am chief amongst them but in part because Jesus explicitly told us not to time and again.

Respect is so important to my way of thinking that I've written this to remind me when I'm not feeling particularly respectful. People are important. People are to be loved, valued, and cherished for themselves and for the Creator Father of whom they are the Children. Respect is actually very, very easy to show and often we will find the use of the delete key in our correspondence will help us on the way.

I am so grateful that the majority of places I visit in the blog-world require that participants be respectful to one another. Places that do not require this are often places I only visit upon urgent recommendation of a trusted fellow-blogger. I need not wade into those waters because I am so weak that I am too ready to succumb to them at the slightest excuse.

So, once again I find reason to thank God and to thank all of you who are so patient as to bear with me through both this long post and through the many passages in which I struggle with respectfully framing my disagreement. You all are a really great group of people to know (even if only in cyberspace) and to grow with.

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What he said from Fructus Ventris on February 16, 2006 4:24 PM

Flos Carmeli: Respect... Read More


But Stephen, this almost sounds like heresy! ArenĀ“t we supposed to get all wound up and excited and irritated ...

One of the great things that I have always enjoyed about ur site is that there is indeed a calmness, and respect.


What a wonderful post! If everyone in the blogosphere, on discussion lists, and, dare we dream, everywhere elese, practiced such respect for each other, the world would be a much better place. I simply do not find that our Lord Jesus calls for us to battle for "truth", as we understand it or as our church does, by speaking negatively about or to others. Thanks!

Steven - Sorry it has been so long since I dropped by. I heartily agree with your take on respect. And I've found that most times when someone has a problem with what I have said or written, it doesn't have much of anything to do with me, but is centered more in their own discomfort with the topic. I think the same applies to one's 'hot-buttons'.

And I see we're both in the running (again) in the same category for the Catholic blog awards. Personally, once I saw my blog was competing with a group of Dominican nuns, I knew I had no chance ;)

Dear Steve,

Thanks for stopping by. You're right about hot-buttons, which is why I think they are perfect opportunities to reflect on what God would have us do.

Yes, running against nuns does seem a rather futile run, doesn't it? :-D



Mea culpa...

A brilliant post. Thank you.

Hum...while I don't necessarily disagree with the intent of your article, I think you are misguided slightly about 'respect'. I'll see if I can make the case for it:

I'll start with St. Thomas Aquinas, who asserts 'Respect of Persons' is a sin. Now, it is easy for us to construe that he was talking about what could be called 'Respect of Position' being a sin - but in fact, I think the "respect" the secularists demand so much of is exactly the sot of thing St. Thomas was railing against in his context.

That is, the secularists demand that one must respect - accept, tolerate, indeed, love - every human choice, regardless of the objective morality, or indeed regardless of effects.

One is expected to respect every dumb idea that rattles around inside someone's head and makes its way down into the vocal chords. One is expected to respect every false belief, because someone else came to it. One is expected to respect every every action merely because it's taken freely. And that all these things deserve the respect of every other action (well, except if it contradicts one of the material principals, like the assertion there is no moral absolute - the much vaunted offering of 'respect' ends quickly for them then).

The respect we owe to each other is exactly this: that all the good works they do, every good and true thought they think, every prayer and spiritual good work, their true image and person - is actually the power of the goodness of God working through them - for all good comes from God, and returns to God.

We need not respect evil in any form. We need not respect untruth. We need not respect any disorder - the spirit of the diabolos who 'throws himself across the path'. We need not respect the acts of the many who say 'non serviam'. For those things do not come from God.

Indeed, I go a little further: we need not respect the simple secular goods (whether one earns more than another, has more property than another, is more or differently educated than another) as giving them special place, or authority, over against the mass of humanity in their ignorance and foolishness. But, it's what they _do_ with it that counts: if they are a doctor and heal the sick, that's respectable. If they are a doctor and kill babies, that's not respectable. A teacher who teaches truth is respectable, a teacher who lies is not respectable.

Etc. I could go on, but I think that's enough to hang one's hat on.

Dear Nonymoose,

You suggest I am misguided, but I nowhere endorse the kind of respect you suggest. I suggest that the person should be respected as a child of God and that the idea can be disputed civilly.

The respect I endorse is respect not for the ideas or notions, or occupations, or status, or worldly goods of a person, but rather, as I note, respect for "a child of God, an image of God, a chosen one of God."

This means that while an argument or idea is open for discussion, debate, or demurral, one does not resort to name-calling the person holding the idea, most particularly if the idea is a matter of prudential judgment, but, in fact, ever. It is enough to say, "You are in error, this is what the church teaches." One need never say, "You are a moron."

That is the essence of what I am discussing here and as such, see nothing that conflicts in your clarification above. Indeed, I appreciate the elaboration, but I'm uncertain how you read my post to endorse wayward notions or ideas. If you'd care to elaborate, you would help me greatly in redrafting this for subsequent use. I would be most appreciative.



In fact, to say "you are a moron" instead of "you are in error, this is what the church teaches" is paying too much attention to the person anyway. It doesn't matter whether the speaker is a moron or not. He might still be right on this issue.

To attack the speaker's intellectual prowess indeed shows excessive respect for persons, in the sense that St. Thomas Aquinas was talking about. All men are dust, so what point is there is talking about the pedigree of this or that clod?

I have NO idea what all those abbreviations mean as this is my first time on any blog site! I "accidentally" entered as I thought the title was interesting! Your idea of respect is quite beautiful, of course because it comes close to mine. As a nursing student our nun-instructors always taught us to treat our patients as God Himself so that we would remember each person's connection to our Creator. I was moved by your note.

The documents of Vatican II are as clear as they are (personally) challenging:

"Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.

This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.

Since all men possess a rational soul and are created in God's likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition."

Dear TSO,

Thank you so much. I love it when THAT happens. THAT being, that while I was probably aware of that passage (or perhaps not) it was not consciously in my mind as I wrote. What this says to me is that the shaping effect of Catholic Doctrine is slowly working! There is hope for this former protestant!

Again thank you for the affirmation.



Great post. To respond to the comment earlier, there is a difference between respect as in equality of ideas and in charity. Even though one might be wrong, it still does not mean that they deserve to be treated like a jerk. Itotally agree with you and your point was clearly made. Sadly though in this time, we must watch out for those whose theology revolves around the "God loves everybody" mentality. As a result, I can understand the reaction of the person when they saw "We must respect everyone". Again great job.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 15, 2006 11:40 AM.

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