Thursday, March 25, 2010

In All Things, Charity

The heat in the aftermath of passage of health care reform reveals the depth of feeling among those for and against the landmark bill that affects all Americans. Such heat, however, cannot justify the verbal and physical violence that has ensued.

If we needed health care because of the crisis affecting the sick, especially the weakest among us, we need even more a move toward civility, if not for our own betterment then at least for the betterment of our children.

Politics has become a kind of blood sport. News junkies over the weekend heard reports of crowds shouting racist remarks and individuals spitting at African American lawmakers, including John Lewis, who suffered violence years ago when he marched for Civil Rights. Surely he – and all of us – has a right to expect that that chapter of despicable, racist violence long over.

We’ve seen reports of homes and offices of lawmakers vandalized and heard of death threats. Anonymous messages are being left on voicemails – I even got one from a nun, for goodness sake. If that isn’t proof that we’ve gone astray I don’t know what is.

The wonderfully unedited Web may share some blame as it gives free reign to those who say whatever suits their strategic purpose, truthful or not. Their presentations – usually anonymous – underscore a significant failing of the Web, lack of editors and accountability.

We’ve seen columnists write with vitriol as they demonize those with whom they disagree. There’s a viciousness which goes beyond what can be called acerbic writing.

We need to address this climate.

The intolerance and incivility did not begin with legislation passed Sunday night. It is not unrelated to the divisions that exist in our country and, sadly, even in our church.
It starts with how we view others – as enemies rather than as fellow travelers on the journey of life. It includes whether or not we’re willing to give another the benefit of the doubt, accepting that their intentions are good, even if their goals differ from ours.

It involves accepting the fact that each of us is a child of God and precious to Him and our brother or sister.

It involves how we speak and terms for one another.

Last Tuesday, March 23, Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted the bishops’ disappointment that the health reform legislation did not include all they sought, especially adequate protection of rights of conscience and guarantees that federal funds would not go for abortion services. But he also noted that politicians on both sides of the aisle had worked nobly for the protection of life and decried those who would vilify them. Even in disappointment, the bishops were civil and generous. Their position is worth emulating.

In 1959, Pope John XXIII, in his first encyclical, "On Truth, Unity and Peace," in a Spirit of Charity, quoted a maxim attributed to St. Augustine, “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity."

In all things charity surely is the message we all need today. It’s not a bad start to Holy Week.


Brian said...

Thank you for these important reflections and reminders of what our calling as Christians and as Americans is: to promote life and justice in a manner that is life-giving and just.

John said...

Thank you, Sister! The USCCB might consider a sustained response to this "communication-breakdown" at an even deeper level, especially if our Bishops, God guide and protect them, are going to continue collectively wading into the swamp of politics.

Paul Snatchko said...

Here, here. Everyone needs to calm down. There are sane, peaceful ways of approaching this.

Message to the angry and frustrated -- run for office. Or, help a candidate. Channel your energy into strengthening the democratic process.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Sister, and thank you for saying it. We Christians, especially, should be keen to behave as Christians, as Christ bearers, and to love our neighbor and our "enemies" as ourselves. Christ demands it of us.

matt coutinho said...

yes sister - your words truly come from the desire to bring charity back into the world...all of us need to remember the importance of charity especially in our disagreements...i am a catholic priest from india who has been closely following the debate...i have seen the same murky tendency to shoot the messenger in 'political discourse' in different parts of the world...your words are a reminder to all of us never to abandon charity...God bless the work of all Catholics in the US no matter where they stand with regard to this bill - I can see that all were moved by the Christian ethic of service and care for the weak and the poor...

Captain Equality said...

Dear Sister Mary Ann:

Thank you so much for standing up in the image of the Christ against intolerance and hate.

As a gay Catholic I know first hand the physical, emotional, mental and yes ... spiritual damage such things can have not only on our fellow brothers and sisters, but on our society and even within the Holy Mother Church.

Yours words give me hope and make me proud that I've been able to withstand the attempts by our bishops to shame and opress me, and that I've kept close to my heart my strong Catholic upbringing.

Thank you also for your courage in standing up against our bishops in extending health care to those with preexisting conditions, and those who are not employed by fortune 500 corporations. Jesus, I'm sure, is looking down upon you and smiling. Please know you have our thanks as well.

Yours in the Christ, and in the united stand for equality,

+ Phil Attey,
Washington, DC

YJ said...

Dear Sister,
You are to be commended for such timely words. Thank you.
Every good wish to all there,