Dives in Misericordiae 12d: Moral Permissiveness

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4This last paragraph of section 12 sums up much of what we have discussed recently:

The Church, having before her eyes the picture of the generation to which we belong, shares the uneasiness of so many of the people of our time. Moreover, one cannot fail to be worried by the decline of many fundamental values, which constitute an unquestionable good not only for Christian morality but simply for human morality, for moral culture: these values include respect for human life from the moment of conception, respect for marriage in its indissoluble unity, and respect for the stability of the family. Moral permissiveness strikes especially at this most sensitive sphere of life and society.

Events in the years after this have also shown us that permissiveness, or perhaps blindness, has also struck at the ecclesiastical culture. This is not a matter of clergy pointing fingers at laity, or lay people decrying the moral lapses of their spiritual leaders. The complete picture is difficult, but true: all fall short of perfection, virtue, and morality. We can do better to help one another, rather than conducting a dialogue of the deaf that only serves to frustrate everyone.

Do our interpersonal relationships root in honesty? This condemnation has afflicted us no less than immorality:

Hand in hand with this go the crisis of truth in human relationships, lack of responsibility for what one says, the purely utilitarian relationship between individual and individual, the loss of a sense of the authentic common good and the ease with which this good is alienated.

And this:

Finally, there is the “desacralization” that often turns into “dehumanization”: the individual and the society for whom nothing is “sacred” suffer moral decay, in spite of appearances.

I’m not sure what the point is on this last one. I do agree that a lack or loss of respect for the sacred also harms human beings. Perhaps the psalmist’s lament that the evil that flourishes thumbs its nose at God too easily. I think it is necessary to carefully discern where “desacralization” is more about religious leaders than about the Deity. When justified, a lack of respect for human authority is biblical. The real test is the respect for God in context of the poor and the needy among us. When they are trampled, God is often mocked by such actions.

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Hope and the Examen

As you read this, I will be motoring through Iowa and South Dakota today. But thanks to the technology offered by WordPress, I write this several days ago as part of my observance of a month of Ignatian spirituality, in honor of the founder, whose feast day is Friday.

We talk about hope a lot. I hope I get to my new home safely by Wednesday night. I hope my wife will find the Pacific Northwest a healthier environment for her physical well-being. I hope the young miss will find a life’s purpose. I hope serving a new community will be an opportunity of grace.

I liked Marina McCoy’s post last Fall on hope and the Examen. Newbie practitioners focus on the review of the day. I know I did. But Professor McCoy reminds the reader that the full Examen asks us to notice present, past, and future in that order. Consider:

One great reason for hope for the future is recalling how God has been with us in the past. We cannot see into the future and know exactly how God will bring good out of difficulty. However, we can remember when and where God has brought good out of past suffering. This is the centerpiece of the Gospels and the heart of the Christian story: the transformation of the suffering and death of Jesus into the Resurrection and new life.

My daily lectio has me close to the end of the book of Sirach. Last week, on my last weekday in the office, I was struck by this passage:

Then I remembered your mercy, O Lord,
and your kindness* from of old (51:8a)

New opportunities await, old kindness will be maintained through the present recollection of it, and strengthened as God presents his mercy anew in small ways and great.

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Laudato Si 43: Decline in the Quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. In Section IV of Chapter One, Pope Francis turns his attention to the “Decline in the Quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society.” After all, we are mortal beings living in a physical world. We are affected by circumstances around us. Our own wastes return to torment us.

43. Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.

Sections 43-47 will address this topic as we move into human concerns spawned in large part by environmental issues.

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Good-byes and Busy

Light live blogging ahead. The family’s westward expansion begins tomorrow. There are three daily posts in the active series: Laudato Si’, Dives in Misericordiae, and the month of Saint Ignatius–these are written and scheduled for the next five mornings. While you read and keep Max and Dick busy, I will be motoring through the upper Plains, then up and over the continental divide. Be nice to them, please.

My wife finds farewells difficult. It has surprised me she has been as willing to look far and wide with me for a new ministry assignment. But she is as excited as the young miss and I are.

I find old driving paths tedious: Ames to Kansas City, Ames to the Twin Cities, Ames to Chicago–all roads I’ve driven before. Many times. I know the exits to get fireworks (not that I do), or gas without ethanol, or reliable food. Once I turn west at Sioux Falls, it will all be new. I’ve never before driven my own car west of Lincoln, Nebraska. So each new mile will add to the expanse of the planet I’ve visited. I hope that feeling will get me through South Dakota by tomorrow night.

I’ve said good-bye to many students over the past six years. Now I know how they feel, more closely. One grad student I’ve known for five years is heading almost to the East Coast. I told her that this time next month we’ll be 3,000 miles apart. This, after a lot of guitar or piano and flute duets over the years.

New adventures beckon. Y’all behave yourselves.

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Dives in Misericordiae 12c: When Justice Is Distorted

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4St John Paul suggests not everything that gets off to a good start realizes the true justice of the original intent. We are only human.

And yet, it would be difficult not to notice that very often programs which start from the idea of justice and which ought to assist its fulfillment among individuals, groups and human societies, in practice suffer from distortions.

What is described next is simply sin. People lose sight of the goals. And newcomers or agitators or good people with good intentions can knowingly or unknowingly run an effort off its rails:

Although they continue to appeal to the idea of justice, nevertheless experience shows that other negative forces have gained the upper hand over justice, such as spite, hatred and even cruelty. In such cases, the desire to annihilate the enemy, limit his freedom, or even force him into total dependence, becomes the fundamental motive for action; and this contrasts with the essence of justice, which by its nature tends to establish equality and harmony between the parties in conflict.

St John Paul speaks of ends justifying means. It takes great discipline for us mortal beings to eschew short-cuts. Such should be viewed with great skepticism, especially when justified by the premise that our opponents use them as well.

True justice will take the high road, and that might often seem a wandering path in the wilderness:

This kind of abuse of the idea of justice and the practical distortion of it show how far human action can deviate from justice itself, even when it is being undertaken in the name of justice. Not in vain did Christ challenge His listeners, faithful to the doctrine of the Old Testament, for their attitude which was manifested in the words: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”(Mt. 5:38) This was the form of distortion of justice at that time; and today’s forms continue to be modeled on it. It is obvious, in fact, that in the name of an alleged justice (for example, historical justice or class justice) the neighbor is sometimes destroyed, killed, deprived of liberty or stripped of fundamental human rights.

Let’s remember at this juncture that DiM is a document more about mercy than its subset, justice. Mercy is a far greater force, and we must tap into it before letting our personal slant on justice allow us to run roughshod over others.

The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions. It has been precisely historical experience that, among other things, has led to the formulation of the saying: summum ius, summa iniuria. This statement does not detract from the value of justice and does not minimize the significance of the order that is based upon it; it only indicates, under another aspect, the need to draw from the powers of the spirit which condition the very order of justice, powers which are still more profound.

Any comments?

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Jesuit Philately

lemaitre stampAfter nearly a month with mostly daily posts on Ignatian spirituality, here’s something different: Jesuits on stamps.

Right, Belgium honors one of their own, Georges Lemaitre, “Father of the Big Bang Theory.”

Not the tv show, but the actual theory.

Disclaimer: I have always been a coin collector–philately was more my older brother’s province.

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Laudato Si 42: The Need for Ecological Research

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

42. Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment. Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family. This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with a view to developing programs and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction.

This is likely one aspect with which all players should be able to agree, that more research is needed. While it is nearly impossible to deny a warming trend in the climate, likewise it is easy to see many environments in the world are endangered by human activity. How life works in complex environments: this is something that deserves further study.

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