The Church is most credible when it is a listening church, engaging in dialogue and allowing society to see the face of Jesus.
The bishops’ conference secretary, Anne Dickinson, told the Palmerston North colloquium this was evident in the work of the Sisters of Compassion at the Soup Kitchen.
The church is most often defined in media terms on issues of sexual morality. But Dickinson said to build credibility, the church needed to define itself in a broader sense.
She talked about the various dimensions of credibility including the hidden ones which were accessed through experiences and engagement with others.
Was church teaching seen to be credible in the light of the gospel, she asked. How do we spread our message? We cannot impose our beliefs in a pluralistic society but we can exercise influence.
For example, Dickinson cited the influence that the Catholic Women’s League is able to bring to bear by making submissions to the government on various pieces of legislation. This has been especially true in the area of bioethics.
The reason why the League is a credible influence is because they are a large, well organised, representative group of women who do not focus on a single issue. The league also speak from their experience as mothers and grandmothers.
Dickinson gave the colloquium two questions to ponder:
‘What hidden dimensions of credibility do you see? How do we do credibility in a multi-dimensional way in a multi-dimensional world?’