Given our understanding of Catholic Social Teaching, what is the appropriate role of Secular Franciscans in confronting speech which dehumanizes or demonizes others?
In general, Secular Franciscans–and other people of faith–should rightly strive to be peacemakers and dialogue facilitators, especially among groups and individuals that have deeply felt and diametrically opposed views to ours. This is, admittedly, a very difficult–and challenging–mission.
Franciscans should feel free and able to engage in dialogue, as long as emotions can be fettered. However, we should avoid debate, and certainly not engage in diatribe. Our effort should be aimed at a rational discussion of positions, and certainly not ad hominem attacks on those expressing views contrary to ours.
Of course, it is far easier to avoid opportunities to engage those with divergent views lest we offend them, or they us. Prior to engaging those with different views, it makes sense to ask them whether they are willing to listen to another side.
An important mission of Franciscans is to stand up for the poor and oppressed. To that end, we should not condone expressions or actions involving hate. For some people, coarse language and poor regard for “the other” are ingrained in their personal culture. One of our roles is to hold up a mirror to those who harbor and express such views. This should be done in a non-judgmental way, and in an effort to further mutual understanding.
As Franciscans, we should be life-affirming and express joy in our dialogue with others. We may not always agree, however, we should not be disagreeable.