Our world is being reshaped socially, politically, in the startling changes of climate. We can be involved – or withdraw to negative lives of “how things used to be” when we need to be encouraging one another in how the world might become better. Think of our young people. The only world they know is the present one. We can’t advise them to go back in time – but they can encourage us to come forward, for their sakes and ours. Look around the world. People are becoming more involved, challenging those in power, knowing and fearing the consequences but ready to be brave. We could see a brave new world where the totalitarian views of leaders like Putin, Xi Ping, Kim Jong-un, the frightening tribal voices of race, class, caste, religion will be defeated by the frail goodness and courage of the United Nations, World Health Organisation, International Aid for Refugees and Migrants and so many other organisations offering extraordinary and dedicated inspiration and help.
The human heart is made for love. Good people everywhere follow their hearts to care for others; but the heart can also be perverted to a false narrow love and loyalty for one’s own and hatred for anyone opposing. The human mind is wonderfully intelligent but can be corrupted to establish ruthless control and power. We can name countries and some of them name us. There is mutual distrust and enmity rather than patient understanding; exclusion of others unless they are useful, reducing people to work units; allowing old prejudices to rule our lives: but we are also aware of new world visions, wanting to save what is good, to let go what is not, seeking peace and justice.
Antonio Guterres is an inspiring Secretary General of the United Nations, Pax Christi a courageous small voice against international militarism, Donald Trump a startling warning against megalomania parading for populism – as were Amin and Mugabe and as are the Sandinistas and Ortegas. There are few people in world religions to inspire us. They did not reach their positions by being loving men but by being political and organisational men, playing the usual games of being spotted and selected. We even still want to know the truth about our Pope Francis and why some of his Jesuit brethren despised and distrusted him. Why was he silent when the Triumvirate ruled in Argentina, its leader Videla a daily mass-goer, but political prisoners drugged, bound and dropped into the ocean whilst their mothers walked daily in Buenos Aires mourning their children’s disappearance.
The silence of the Church at that time is frightening, its support for the USA and Vatican politics shaming, as was its share in condemning Liberation Theology and the preferential option for the poor. The Church in Central and South America saw a choice between Americanism or Communism, as earlier in the century it had seen Communism or Naziism/Fascism. Many churchmen are men before they are church, they think from their guts before they think from their hearts. Read the pastoral letters of European bishops in World Wars I and II. They are nationalist. Europe’s Christian countries were ruled by national fervour, the bishops were loyal to their people and governments.
Read and cringe at the choices made by the popes of the 20th century. The recently opened Vatican Archives confirm Pope Pius XII never did intervene in favour of the Jews rounded up in Rome in October 1943, nor before, nor after. Papal concordat diplomacy bought time for Catholics in the 1930’s and 40’s at the cost of silently watching minorities suffer, especially the Jews.
Fear of Communism was absolutely understandable, supporting Naziism and Fascism less so. Political expediency is a short-cut solution, following God and the divine command to love one’s neighbour is the true path. Twenty thousand Catholic priests suffered at Dachau for God and their people. Not one bishop. Any bishop could have volunteered to suffer there. None did.
“The old men sent the young men to die,” says Wilfred Owen, our best and best known English poet of World War I. He could have been speaking of the bishops of Europe, none of them imprisoned, nor conscientious objectors.
The Church, Synagogue, Temple, Mosque are empty buildings until they fill with women and men of loving hearts. Loving hearts can shape our 21st century world. We have been invited. I’m accepting. Are you coming?
God bless us,
(4th September 2022)