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By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Fear feeds on itself and multiplies when it is shared, Bishop Thomas Zinkula said in a Catholic Messenger Conversations podcast focused on moving forward from the Jan. 6 attack by Americans on the U.S. Capitol. Out-of-control anger over political power, truthfulness and fear of the other precipitated what the bishop described as a siege.
“We need to be talking, encountering, walking together. We need to begin with ourselves, with prayer, reflection, and to be honest about things,” Bishop Zinkula said during the Jan. 13 podcast at St. Ambrose University’s KALA Radio Station in Davenport. “Seeing the plank in our own eyes before we look at the splinter in the eyes of someone else” is essential.
He told a story he has borrowed and shared before about a Native American chief teaching his grandson a life lesson. The chief describes how within each individual two wolves are battling each other. The good wolf represents beauty, kindness, love and joy while the bad wolf represents hatred, anger and evil. The grandson asks, “Which wolf wins?” His grandfather responds, “Whichever one you feed.”
Take time to ask, “Which one am I feeding?” the bishop said. “Am I feeding the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, or am I feeding the seven capital sins? Start with ourselves and then reach out to others.”
It does not help that some news and social media and talk shows focus exclusively on opinion — “people interrupting each other,” the bishop said. It happens even in everyday conversations, “we don’t hear each other out.” Social media becomes gossip.
Some bishops and priests have jumped into the fray by pressuring the faithful on how to vote. “It is an issue for us,” the bishop said.
“Word on Fire” founder Bishop Robert Barron, in one of his videos after the attack on the Capitol, talked of a need for a national examination of conscience, Bishop Zinkula said. Bishop Barron observed, “People are refusing to engage in real argument or discussion or civil discourse and resort to violence instead. … He said some of the best qualities of our democracy are grounded in deeply religious principles like equality, freedom, the dignity of the individual human person.”
Bishop Barron concludes with the observation, “All of us really need to look at the way we deal with our disputes,” Bishop Zinkula said. “He doesn’t say how to do that exactly. I’ve talked about prayer and reflection and looking at ourselves first and then encounter and dialogue.”
Begin in informal ways, Bishop Zinkula advises. “You have to try, with each other, with family and relatives, friends and acquaintances.” He reminded listeners of the “Civilize It: Dignity Beyond Debate” initiative of the USCCB, launched one year before the 2020 presidential election. The initiative offered practical tips for civility.
Bishop Zinkula also addressed accountability for individuals who stormed the Capitol. “There was a siege on our democracy. Well, in our democracy, we have consequences to pay for that.”
The divisiveness that led to the siege takes away from addressing the needs of the vulnerable in society, the bishop thinks. In the Davenport Diocese, “we’ve been focusing on evangelization, there’s the joy of the Gospel, presenting another vision, a Gospel vision.”
“You start with what you have in common, what you agree on,” the bishop said. He referred to the message of Pope Francis. “We’re all in this together. We need to be more focused on those who are on the peripheries, the preferential option for the poor.”
“We can disagree; we’re just not doing it in the right way,” the bishop said. “Our faith should inform that. If we’re truly Gospel people, then it should bring out the best in us, not the worst of us. That’s what happened at the Capitol, it brought the worst in people. Hopefully we can learn from that.”