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Panelists analyze Catholic views of relationships

| Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tuesday afternoon, a group of Notre Dame students and faculty met with three panelists at Sister Jean’s Roundtable, hosted by the Gender Relations Center (GRC). The panel discussed different ways Catholic teaching can be supportive in helping understand all relationships — including friendships — thinking about the dignity of each person and being in the right relationship with an emphasis on justice, reverence and compassion.

The program featured Stacey Noem, director of human and spiritual formation for lay students in the Masters of Divinity program; Bree Haler, Campus Ministry’s assistant director of evangelization and Leonard DeLorenzo, director of Notre Dame Vision. Noem opened the panel by initiating discussion about how using a lens of justice can help build the right relationships.

“Justice means rendering each person their due,” Noem said. “Every external act, every element of how we interact with other people is either just or unjust — there is no in between.”

Overall, Noem emphasized the importance of recognizing that every person has inalienable rights and that it is each person’s responsibility to recognize those unalienable rights in others. She also explored the concept of circles of intimacy and the relationship attachment model.

“In our lives, we have different levels of intimacy and different needs based on this level of intimacy,” Noem said. “However, all of these needs are not always being fulfilled at any given time.”

Haler said humans have a tendency to idealize situations and people.

“Our great desire for connections makes us project desirable qualities on relationships and people, but this can result in us reducing them rather than seeing them as what they are,” Haler said. “When we stop seeing others as a creation of God, our posture is not really reverent.”

Haler said this idea of reverence relates to the virtue of chastity, saying that chastity represents the utmost form of reverence.

“Unfortunately, chastity is most often associated with being a prude, and this is a huge social stigma that we need to work to overcome” she said.

DeLorenzo emphasized how much interactions with other people can affect individuals.

“You are never yourself by yourself,” DeLorenzo said. “We never just exist all alone.”

DeLorenzo said individuals should recognize and honor the dependable people that influence their lives from the beginning, calling them “advanced gifts.” He said it is important to learn to care about what is important to others in order to foster strong relationships.

“The spiritual discipline of learning to care about what other people care about — truly understanding them and their preferences, is essential in the most intimate and deep relationships,” DeLorenzo said.

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