Editorial: Civility, clarity and compassion

Marnie McAllister

The U.S. bishops are calling on Catholics to be civil to all people, root their convictions with clarity in the Gospel and encounter all people with compassion.

These are the foundations of “Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate,” a campaign sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It begins Nov. 3 — two days ahead of this year’s elections and exactly one year ahead of the next presidential election.

In announcements about the campaign, the bishops note the vitriolic language that has overwhelmed political discourse — and they note, we still have another year to go.

Promotional materials, available at civilizeit.org, begin with a question, “What does it mean to love our neighbors in the midst of such a divisive climate?”

The bishops go on to explain, “Catholics are called to bring the best of ourselves and our faith to the public square — and yet today, many shy away from such involvement because our national and local conversations are filled with anger and harsh language, often directed at people themselves.

“When personal attacks replace honest debate, no one wins. This kind of attack, no matter the reason, only serves to further divide our communities. As Catholics, we must model a better way.”

That bears repeating: As Catholics, we must find a better way.

As Thanksgiving approaches, and the spectre of dinner-table conversations with extended family loom with it, keeping things civil is more important than ever.

The “Civilize It” campaign comes with several tools for parishes and families. It includes a pastoral aid for parishes, bulletin announcements, social media images and a prayer.

It also provides a pledge for families, individuals and communities to take, commiting themselves to honoring human dignity. It goes like this:

I pledge:


To recognize the human dignity of those with whom I disagree, treat others with respect, and rise above attacks when directed at me.


To root my political viewpoints in the Gospel and a well formed conscience, which involves prayer, conversation, study and listening. I will stand up for my convictions and speak out when I witness language that disparages others’ dignity, while also listening and seeking to understand others’ experiences.


To encounter others with a tone and posture which affirms that I honor the dignity of others and invites others to do the same. I will presume others’ best intentions and listen to their stories with empathy. I will strive to understand before seeking to be understood.

Parishes, families and individuals alike should consider taking the pledge.

The campaign is very similar to a local initiative sponsored by Catholic Charities of Louisville called Be Golden. This initiative urges people to employ the Golden Rule — to treat others the way you want to be treated.

Jesus modeled this behavior for us. He treated his society’s lowliest people with compassion. And he called on the powerful to do the same. It stands to reason, as followers of Christ, that we would strive to as well.




Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace — A Prayer for Civility

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where uncivil words prevail, show me how to model love.

Help me remember the God-given dignity of all

        and invite others to do the same.

Show me how to build bridges and not walls

        and see first what unites us rather than how we diverge.

Let me seek to understand before asking to be understood.

Give me a listening heart filled with empathy and compassion.

May I be clear in sharing my own position

        and respectful and civil in describing those of others.

Let me never tolerate hateful ideas.

May I invite all to charity and love.

Lord, help me to imitate your compassion and mercy.

Make me an instrument of your peace.                    Amen

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Marnie McAllister
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