In a recent episode of The Word on Fire, Bishop Robert Barron examines Marxism and its relationship to Catholic social teaching. Although rightly pointing out some of the contrasts, Barron neglects the ways Catholic social thought has benefited from dialogue with Marxism.
Faith is an enacted practice we live into through our whole selves, continuously laying our souls and bodies bare and vulnerable before the unknown. The consequences of this are thoroughgoing, touching every single aspect of our lives and making demands on both our loyalties and our activities in the world.
The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae proposes that humankind’s search for truth ought to take the form of dialogue, a reflection of the dialogical relationship between God and humankind.
Rather than portraying human difference as the punishment of God, Babel and Pentecost are complementary stories, each highlighting God’s intention for cultural and linguistic diversity. As we draw near to Pentecost Sunday, may we also consider the inherent value of language as a cultural identity marker and partner as advocates for language preservation.
In our own world, the Bethesda story reminds us of the fact that social and economic systems meant to assist the needy often keep them in poverty. Our story suggests that the 40 million Americans who live in poverty will need to doubt and challenge the system, and to look for help outside of it. Further, our sermons will need to speak life into death as a reminder that there is life beyond the system.
The familiar standards of “innocent until proven guilty” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” are meant to protect people from false accusations, but also contribute to the assumption that should doubt the stories of victims of assault and harassment, even when we know these crimes are depressingly common. The Christian preferential option for the poor, however, means that we should have a preferential option for victims, meaning that our presumption is to believe in and side with the victims of assault and harassment in the church and the public arena.
Since the arrival of the first African slaves at Jamestown in 1619, Eurocentric racist ideals and practices have been embedded in the culture of the United States. The Church must learn from the history of racism in the United States if it is to dismantle systemic racism.
The innate ambiguity of the political themes raised by this week’s first lectionary text should lead us to hold together both our desire for cohesion as the “people of God” and that same desire’s potential for exclusion—exclusion that we must diligently recognize and actively hold in check.
The United States Catholic bishops’ recent pastoral letter on racism shows how racism has been woven into the history of the US, and is honest about the Church’s past complicity in that racism. It says less about how Catholics today can combat systemic racism, but offers hope for fruitful dialogues throughout the country.