Ong discusses how many Catholics have failed to perform their faith and why such cases exist. Ong describes how some groups are prone to look on other groups with hostility. One reason for such hostile behavior can develop out of an economy of scarcity where the lack of material goods makes the "out" group compete with the "in" group. Persecution of others can also be promoted when a group member believes that deviating form the groupís beliefs/actions would disrupt the groupís existence. These are both cultural conditions.
Ong explains that regardless of church doctrines and beliefs, Catholicism and Catholics exist in a culture that influences behavior. In the United States, Catholics live in the culture of the U.S. (this culture is also discussed in "The Intellectual Frontier" and "That American Way"), a culture that has been blessed with abundance rather than scarcity and is very pluralistic. Pluralism, through communication, can alleviate misunderstandings, but even this particular culture has its dangers. Pluralism can lead to indifference, which contradicts the belief that Catholicism is the one true faith. Such circumstances leave the Catholic in a difficult situation as one must stay true to oneís faith while remaining respectful to anotherís acts of good faith.
What remains important, according to Ong, is the communication that pluralism produces. By using the National Conference of Christians and Jews as an example, Ong shows that communication can do two things. First, communication sets areas of agreement and disagreement between the participating parties so that true understanding is achieved. Second, communication can develop cooperative efforts among the parties that serve the larger population. Ong concludes that as the world continues to implode into one massive community, understanding, cooperation, and good will are ever more necessary for the betterment of the entire world.
Mark E. Johnson
University of Dayton