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Amid polarization, nation urged to reclaim civility through dialogue


  • Protesters show their opposition to supporters of conservative author Anne Coulter and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, Calif. Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others. (CNS photo/John G. Mabanglo, EPA)
  • A burned-out limousine and debris are seen following a Jan. 20 protest in Washington after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others. (CNS photo/Tracie Van Auken, EPA)
  • John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, speaks during a 23-hour prayer vigil June 29 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others.

In a time where such polarization threatens civility in public discourse, Catholic leaders in interviews with Catholic News Service called for respect and trust in dialogue and awareness of the opinions of those with whom one disagrees.

"There's been a coarsening of the culture," Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, told CNS in a phone interview. "Civility requires a commitment to common social mores and social norms that undergird the culture. It's not something you can legislate."

Powers, who also is coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network based at the university, explained the importance of listening to opinions that may contradict one's own.

"In most cases, violent conflicts end through negotiation and dialogue," Powers told CNS. "That's why the Catholic Church has always placed such a high premium on faith and dialogue."

Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who is executive director of Pax Christi USA, agreed that civility has declined in society today.

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