Re-post from 2011.

Here’s a fragment of an idea that came to me a week ago. I jotted it down in haste on a wrinkled piece of paper as I waited for my oil to be changed. I had recently taught a workshop on Catholic social teaching, reflecting on the practical import of Francis Cardinal George’s call to renounce the partisan “liberal-conservative” labels that severely constrict rich, nuanced, complex understandings of reality. George challenges us to experiment by completely removing those ideological labels from our faith vocabulary and instead engaging in reasoned arguments.

Nothing new or sophisticated. Just intriguing to me as I thought of it all.

…we need now to move past that strange ideological hybrid concocted in the 20th century: Justice advocacy defends and promotes the rights of weak, voiceless, powerless and poor humanity. Yet how has this noble cause entered into a sinister covenant with those advocates who defend and promote the right to extinguish the life of weak, voiceless, powerless and poor humanity still in the womb? If this is a war between radical conceptions of autonomy (this is my body given to me) and equally radical commitments to solidarity (this is my body given up for you) — and I believe that is the war — solidarity has been dealt a mortal wound. Only a suspension of logic, or a capitulation to the very arguments that give rise to so many injustices decried by justice advocates, could transform champions of helpless victims into victimizers of the helpless.

We Catholics must don again our Christo-logic, re-claim the “word of the cross” and “cry out full-throated and unsparingly” (Isaiah 58:1) to give voice to the silent children of our age. We must nail to the cross of Jesus tropes the culture of death uses to justify unspeakable crimes. The cross is the world as seen through the lens of divine mercy, revealing beauty in deformity, ability in disability, power in weakness, redemption in suffering, sheer grace in uselessness, riches in poverty, trust in fear and hope in hopelessness. We must apply this logic from womb to tomb, proclaiming in word and deed the Christ who sanctified every nanosecond of human life from his conception in the womb of Mary, to his agonizing death, to the burial of his butchered corpse that would be swept up into the deathless glory of the eternal God. In Christ, everything of human life, whether comely or grotesque,  weak or strong, has been rendered capax Dei, capable of revealing the wisdom and folly, strength and weakness of our merciful God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:25).

3 comments on “Christo-logical

  1. Jennifer says:

    After I read your reflection this morning I turned on the radio and heard a fascinating interview on CBC with Kevin Ashton (co-founder of the MIT Auto-ID institute) . His premise is that it is a myth that some people are “creative geniuses” responsible for all the great ideas and technological breakthroughs and that the rest of us are just cogs in the machine. He argues that in reality all advances are a team-effort requiring several preceding steps.

    He discussed the relatively recent co-opting of the term genius to describe certain “special” individuals from its original sense of being a soulish property of each person. He proposed that this was a necessary precursor of the eugenics movement. (It made me think of Jean Vanier’s “Becoming Human” and the great and very real gift that those with profound disabilities offer the community.)

    I was stuck by Ashton’s talk as I pondered your reflection on autonomy vs. solidarity as this stood out to me as a great example of the consequences of such an individualistically-focussed culture.

    Also, I was wondering the other day when I watched an interview with a young middle eastern Christian girl who was living in a refugee camp why in some cultures both now and historically there is such a strong passing on and allegiance to the faith (regardless of any specific religion) while here and now in North America that is just not the case. (It surely is an indictment of us that people are willing to die and suffer great persecution for their allegiance to Our Lord while many of us skip even Sunday Mass for the most trivial excuses) I am sure there are so many reasons, but what I was really curious about the role of the values of autonomy vs. solidarity in these same cultures… something that has been pointed out to me by several immigrant friends and acquaintances who were all struck by what they saw as the coldness of the Canadian culture (and no, not just the snow – thought that tended to be striking too!),how everyone just keeps to themselves hidden inside their own houses and private worlds.

    So what is the practical solution? I think in at least some part it comes back to the family, doesn’t it? That great incubator! Being our brother’s keeper. So, with all that I will resolve to not complain about the time wasted performing tasks associated with caring for my family – especially those unexpected ones like the laundry post-stomach flu or the extra messes that only a toddler can generate and instead thank God for these tasks as great opportunities to practice some self-sacrifice and develop some good virtues and to give my kids opportunities to care for one another in selfless ways. Reminding us all to depend on one another and more so to recognize that the others depend on them, and that we don’t exist as automatons but that their very essence, their identity is tied up in their relationships to others both here in the family cell outwards to the mystical Body of Christ.

    Enough rambling. We had a blizzard here yesterday and today schools are closed as the city digs out. Kids are home so it’s a great time to put my money where my mouth is! Wish me firm resolve!

    Have a great day!


    • What a rich reflection! Thank you. It’s a great summary of Familiaris Consortio, especially paragraphs 42-48 where he lays out the role of the family as a school of civic virtue, which would include immersion in the virtues that cultivate solidarity…as you said! Thank you for writing. I hope you recover fast and make it to Spring soon! Peace

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thanks, we are all feeling much better and the calendar is promising spring in one form or another next week!

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