Two years ago, in March 2020, the Initiative hosted its last in-person Public Dialogue. In these two very tough years, the United States has experienced:
- A global pandemic with nearly a million lives lost in the United States, lockdowns, closed schools and churches, and conflicts over vaccines and masks;
- Two presidential impeachments, one election, a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, and legislative paralysis;
- The ongoing Russia invasion of Ukraine and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan;
- Police killings of Black people in our streets and on our screens and a racial reckoning in our cities and hearts;
- U.S. Supreme Court arguments on abortion, voting rights, immigration, and the death penalty;
- Continuing anguish in the wake of the clergy sex abuse crisis; and
- Pope Francis’ moral leadership: standing alone in St. Peter’s Square at the onset of the pandemic, visiting Iraq and Lesbos, writing Fratelli Tutti, and calling a Synod to listen to laypeople.
In the last two years our Initiative has offered 44 online dialogues on COVID-19, faith and politics, racism, human life and dignity, and other issues, reaching an amazing 154,000 viewers across the nation and beyond. But we missed opportunities to be together and in-person experiences of community and solidarity – chances to listen and ask questions, to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. So, with great hope and excitement, the Initiative hosted its first in-person dialogue in two years.
In the musical Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson returns from France to find a different country and asks, “So what did I miss?” James Madison responds: “Thomas, we are engaged in a battle for our nation’s very soul. Can you get us out of the mess we’re in?” This dialogue examined our nation’s soul after what have been through and how to “get us out of the mess we’re in.” It used Catholic social teaching as a lens to look at COVID-19, politics, and faith over the past two years. What are the impacts of the pandemic and the lessons we should draw from them? Where are we now? What are hopes and fears for the days ahead? Pope Francis reminds us that we can’t go back to normal, so where should we go?
Five remarkable writers, thinkers, and emerging leaders helped us understand what we have been through, what it has cost us, and what we need to do.
Kim Daniels, co-director of the Initiative, moderated the conversation. Kim is a member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and a member of the communications commission for Synod 2021-2023.
The Initiative invited all those who attended the dialogue at Georgetown to join us for food and drinks at a special reception immediately following the event to celebrate our coming back together.
View a list of articles, books, and other resources for this dialogue.