"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

January 30, 2021

Defending the Catholic Common Ground Initiative

The Catholic Common Ground Initiative promoted by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin turned out to reveal divisions within the hierarchy of the United States. The controversy soon involved theologians as well, two of whom, Fr. Avery Dulles and Prof. David L. Schindler, strongly criticized the notion of dialogue they believed to underlie the Bernardin proposal. Fr. Dulles’s essay was delivered as the McGinley Lecture at Fordham University on November 19, 1996, and then published as “The Limits of Dialogue” in Crisis (February 1997): 16-19, and then again, much later, in Church and Society: The Lawrence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007 (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008) 221-233. Professor Schindler’s critique was published as “On the Catholic Common Ground Project: The Christological Foundations of Dialogue,” Communio, 23 (1996): 823–5.

It may be that it was an article by Jim Cosgrove, “The Common Ground Project and the Art of Dialogue,” which appeared in the National Catholic Register, on April 6, 1997, that led me to get involved. I dimly recall that I communicated with the editor of the newspaper, Joop Koopman, who invited me to write about the controversy. The result was the following long essay which he published in full in the pages of a journal that had always been rather conservative editorially and in 1995 had been bought by the Legionaries of Christ. In my accompanying letter, dated April 25, 1997, I wrote to Koopman: “I thank you for the invitation to contribute this. I appreciate it that the Register is interested in this kind of ‘dialogue’.” It was not long afterwards that he was replaced as editor of the newspaper, and I wondered whether his publishing of my critique had anything to do with his departure.

JAK – In Defense of the Common Ground Initiative

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