The Associated Press reports: Pope Francis has sharply criticized climate change doubters, saying history will judge those who failed to take the necessary decisions to curb heat-trapping emissions blamed for the warming of the Earth.
Francis was asked about climate change and the spate of hurricanes that have pummeled the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean recently as his charter plane left Colombia on Sunday and flew over some of the devastated areas.
“Those who deny this must go to the scientists and ask them. They speak very clearly,” he said, referring to experts who blame global warming on man-made activities.
Francis said scientists have also clearly charted what needed to be done to reverse course on global warming and said individuals and politicians had a “moral responsibility” to do their part.
“These aren’t opinions pulled out of thin air. They are very clear,” he said. “Then they (leaders) decide and history will judge those decisions.”
Francis has made caring for the environment a hallmark of his papacy, writing an entire encyclical about how the poor in particular are most harmed when multinationals move into exploit natural resources. During his visit to Colombia, Francis spoke out frequently about the need to preserve the country’s rich biodiversity from overdevelopment and exploitation.
For those who have denied climate change, or delayed actions to counter it, he responded with an Old Testament saying: “Man is stupid.”
“When you don’t want to see, you don’t see,” he said.
Noah Feldman writes: Senator Dianne Feinstein owes a public apology to judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett — and an explanation to all Americans who condemn religious bias. During Barrett’s confirmation hearings last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein, the California Democrat, insinuated an anti-Catholic stereotype that goes back at least 150 years in the U.S. — that Catholics are unable to separate church and state because they place their religious allegiances before their oath to the Constitution.
If a Catholic senator had asked a Jewish nominee whether she would put Israel before the U.S., or if a white senator had asked a black nominee if she could be an objective judge given her background, liberals would be screaming bloody murder. Feinstein’s line of questioning, which was taken up by other committee Democrats, is no less an expression of prejudice.
The thrust of Feinstein’s questioning was that, as a believing Catholic, Barrett couldn’t be trusted to apply the Constitution and laws objectively should she be confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Feinstein repeatedly used a term with a long history as a dog whistle for anti-Catholicism in America: dogma. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein asserted. She went on: “Dogma and law are two different things. I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different.”
And the senator topped it off with a classic form of bias: the irrefutable imputation. “Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling?” she asked.
The word “dogma” that Feinstein deployed is specifically connected to the Protestant critique of Catholicism, and to its particularly nasty American version. A dogma is an article of faith laid down by an authority. One of the classic Protestant polemical attacks on Catholicism was the allegation that Catholics are obligated to believe what the church teaches them is incontrovertibly true, whereas Protestants are called on to form their own beliefs on the basis of individual faith and judgment. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Pope Francis warned leaders of the world’s top 20 economies meeting in Hamburg against forming dangerous and distorting alliances that could harm the poor and migrants, in an article in Italian daily la Repubblica on Saturday.
“The G20 worries me, it hits migrants in countries in half of the world and it hits them even more as time goes by,” the Pope was quoted as saying in a conversation with the paper’s founder Eugenio Scalfari.
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, said he was afraid of “very dangerous alliances among (foreign) powers that have a distorted vision of the world: America and Russia, China and North Korea, (Vladimir) Putin and (Bashar al-)Assad in the war in Syria.”
He said the greatest danger concerned immigration, with “the poor, the weak, the excluded and the marginalised” juxtaposed with “those who… fear the invasion of migrants”. [Continue reading…]
Justin Catanoso writes: On May 24th, a grim-faced Pope Francis handed a signed copy of Laudato Si to President Donald Trump during his visit to Rome. The United States president, who has called climate change “a hoax,” promised to read the papal encyclical, a spiritual and secular plea to save the Earth from environmental destruction.
A week later, Trump announced plans to yank the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, whose prologue was influenced by the principles embodied in Laudato Si. In doing so, Trump repudiated 195 nations’ pledges to reduce their carbon footprint to mitigate the worst effects of climate change; he repudiated Pope Francis and his encyclical as well.
Two years after the release of Laudato Si—and long after its intense global attention has faded—it’s worth asking: is the uncompromising and unprecedented Catholic teaching document fulfilling Vatican expectations by uniting leaders of all faiths, along with their billions of congregants, to take decisive climate action “in care for our common home”?
The answer is a qualified “yes”—based on evidence from interviews with a range of faith leaders, recent conferences, signed pledges, and a host a concrete actions, large and small, in congregations and seminaries around the world.
“There is an assumption that if religious leaders let the pope talk about [environmental protection], it will usher in rapid, large-scale change,” said Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, a U.S.-based interfaith environmental activism organization with an international reach.
“That’s magical thinking. It’s not how the world works. What matters is discipline in determining long-term work by faith groups. It’s not happening as fast as I’d like it to, but it’s underway,” he said. [Continue reading…]
Bloomberg reports: Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday.
Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study.
Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration.
“Thank you, thank you,” Trump told Francis as they shook hands after the meeting. “I won’t forget what you said.” Trump has said climate change might be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
For his part, Trump gave Francis a special edition of the works of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King. [Continue reading…]
The Daily Beast reports: If you think faith and science can’t share common ground, think again. Experts in both realms met last week at the Vatican Observatory to prove their theory that you can’t have one without the other. “If you have no faith in your faith, that is when you will fear science,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno the Vatican’s chief astronomer, whose works include such titles as “Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial?”
Brother Consolmagno led the three-day conference called Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Spacetime Singularities at the Vatican Observatory’s Castel Gandolfo labs outside of Rome, the former papal summer residence that is remote enough to allow for clear stargazing with minimal light pollution.
He challenged astronomers, cosmologists. and other experts in the field who also believe in God to “come out” and talk about the intersection of faith and fact. What he ended up with are talks like, “The Internal Structure of Spinning Black Holes” and “The Big Bang and its Dark-Matter Content: Whence, Whither, and Wherefore.” Not once in the whole program does the word “God” or “religion” even appear, which is rare for a conference sponsored by the Vatican.
The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences is also absent from the scene, although it has sponsored similar events in the past to try to sort out the murky waters between hard facts and blind faith. The academy’s chancellor, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, told The Daily Beast in 2013 that the two are not mutually exclusive. “If we don’t accept science, we don’t accept reason,” said Sánchez, “and reason was created by God.”
On the question of climate science and climate change, Pope Francis is not only convinced, he’s vehement. After the election of Donald Trump’s climate-change-skeptic administration last year, the pope noted that politicians had “reacted weakly” to the needs of humanity on this score and deplored “the ease with which well-founded scientific opinion about the state of our planet is disregarded.” [Continue reading…]
The Observer reports: One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. That is the stark view of the world’s leading biologists, ecologists and economists who will gather on Monday to determine the social and economic changes needed to save the planet’s biosphere.
“The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” say the organisers of the Biological Extinction conference held at the Vatican this week.
Threatened creatures such as the tiger or rhino may make occasional headlines, but little attention is paid to the eradication of most other life forms, they argue. But as the conference will hear, these animals and plants provide us with our food and medicine. They purify our water and air while also absorbing carbon emissions from our cars and factories, regenerating soil, and providing us with aesthetic inspiration.
“Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate,” said biologist Paul Ehrlich, of Stanford University in California. “We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones. We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have triggered a major extinction event. The question is: how do we stop it?” [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Pope Francis has offered his unequivocal support to grassroots organisers and activists who are fighting for social justice, migrants, and environmentalism, saying he “reaffirms” their choice to fight against tyranny amid a “gutting of democracies”.
“As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanisation which would then be hard to reverse,” the pontiff wrote in a letter that was read to organisers this week.
The remarks can be viewed as a clear endorsement by the Argentinian pope of resistance against populist and xenophobic political movements. While he did not name Donald Trump, and stressed his remarks were not targeted at any individual politician, the letter, read at the opening of the US Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, California, seem to speak directly to protests against the Republican president.
“The direction taken beyond this historic turning point – the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved – will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements,” Francis wrote. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Pope Francis on Wednesday issued a fresh rebuke against Myanmar over its repression of the Rohingya minority group, just days after a United Nations report concluded that security forces had slaughtered and raped hundreds of men, women and children in a “campaign of terror.”
“They have been suffering, they are being tortured and killed, simply because they uphold their Muslim faith,” Francis said of the Rohingya in his weekly audience at the Vatican.
He asked those present to pray with him “for our Rohingya brothers and sisters who are being chased from Myanmar and are fleeing from one place to another because no one wants them.”
The pope urged Christians “to not raise walls but bridges, to not respond to evil with evil, to overcome evil with good,” and added: “A Christian can never say, ‘I’ll make you pay for that.’ Never! That is not a Christian gesture.”
The remarks were widely seen as a reference to President Trump’s vow to make Mexico pay for a wall along its border with the United States, though the pope did not mention Mr. Trump by name.
The New York Times reports: When Stephen K. Bannon was still heading Breitbart News, he went to the Vatican to cover the canonization of John Paul II and make some friends. High on his list of people to meet was an archconservative American cardinal, Raymond Burke, who had openly clashed with Pope Francis.
In one of the cardinal’s antechambers, amid religious statues and book-lined walls, Cardinal Burke and Mr. Bannon — who is now President Trump’s anti-establishment eminence — bonded over their shared worldview. They saw Islam as threatening to overrun a prostrate West weakened by the erosion of traditional Christian values, and viewed themselves as unjustly ostracized by out-of-touch political elites.
“When you recognize someone who has sacrificed in order to remain true to his principles and who is fighting the same kind of battles in the cultural arena, in a different section of the battlefield, I’m not surprised there is a meeting of hearts,” said Benjamin Harnwell, a confidant of Cardinal Burke who arranged the 2014 meeting.
While Mr. Trump, a twice-divorced president who has boasted of groping women, may seem an unlikely ally of traditionalists in the Vatican, many of them regard his election and the ascendance of Mr. Bannon as potentially game-changing breakthroughs.
Just as Mr. Bannon has connected with far-right parties threatening to topple governments throughout Western Europe, he has also made common cause with elements in the Roman Catholic Church who oppose the direction Francis is taking them. Many share Mr. Bannon’s suspicion of Pope Francis as a dangerously misguided, and probably socialist, pontiff.
Until now, Francis has marginalized or demoted the traditionalists, notably Cardinal Burke, carrying out an inclusive agenda on migration, climate change and poverty that has made the pope a figure of unmatched global popularity, especially among liberals. Yet in a newly turbulent world, Francis is suddenly a lonelier figure. Where once Francis had a powerful ally in the White House in Barack Obama, now there is Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon, this new president’s ideological guru. [Continue reading…]
The Huffington Post reported on June 23, 2014: Pope Francis made a poignant appeal on behalf of the world’s refugees during his Wednesday general audience, reminding all listening that Jesus, too, encountered times of hardship and danger.
“We believe that Jesus was a refugee, had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary, had to leave for Egypt,” Pope Francis said, according to Zenit. “He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady who knows the pain of refugees.”
The pope made his petition to the Church, which he defined as “all of us,” not limited to “priests, bishops, or the Vatican,” reported Asia News.
World Refugee Day is on June 20. “The number of these brother refugees is growing and, in these past few days, thousands more have been forced to leave their homes in order to save their life. Millions of families, millions of them, refugees from many countries and different faiths, experience in their stories tragedies and wounds that will not likely be healed,” said Pope Francis. “Let us be their neighbors, share their fears and uncertainty about the future, and take concrete steps to reduce their suffering.” [Continue reading…]
Amanda Erickson reports: As the man bobbed in the water, onlookers pulled out their smartphones.
“Go on, go back where you came from,”one man yelled. “Africa!” shouted another. “He is stupid. He wants to die,” said a third, caught on film. Someone in a nearby water bus threw out a life vest, but the man in the water didn’t grab on. Spectators began to wonder if he was suicidal. One woman suggested to a neighbor that he was just pretending.
Finally, tourists at Venice’s Grand Canal began to laugh as 22-year-old Pateh Sabally of Gambia drowned in the canal’s icy waters.
Sabally came to Italy two years ago and was living in the country legally. Last year, according to Italian media outlets, he traveled to Switzerland to look for work. He wanted to travel closer to his family in Mexico, but Swiss officials sent him back to Italy.
💫His name was Pateh Sabally. 💫 pic.twitter.com/QAFUgY0kHq
— S A N Ä A (@sanaak) January 27, 2017
His death, which has rippled across social media, is a bleak reminder of how deep tensions run between local citizens and migrants, particularly in countries like Italy and Germany, which are on the front line of Europe’s refugee crisis. Last year, 181,000 migrants traveled to Italy’s shores, a 20 percent jump from 2015. Some come from Syria, others from Libya and Eritrea. [Continue reading…]
— Brian Kibler (@bmkibler) January 26, 2017
In reaction to President Trump’s Executive Order to effectively prevent refugees from seeking resettlement in the USA, Salil Shetty, Secretary General at Amnesty International said:
“President Trump’s Executive Order effectively blocking those fleeing war and persecution from war-torn countries such as Syria, from seeking safe haven in the USA are an appalling move with potentially catastrophic consequences.
“Some of our worst fears about the Trump administration have already been realised. With the stroke of a pen, President Trump has put his hateful xenophobic pre-election rhetoric into action by singling out people only of the basis of their religion.”
In his Christmas message to the City of Rome and to the world, Pope Francis says: Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.
Peace to men and women in the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled. Above all in the city of Aleppo, site of the most awful battles in recent weeks, it is most urgent that assistance and support be guaranteed to the exhausted civil populace, with respect for humanitarian law. It is time for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution, so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country.
Peace to women and men of the beloved Holy Land, the land chosen and favoured by God. May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony. May Iraq, Libya and Yemen – where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord.
Peace to the men and women in various parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, where fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children in order to perpetrate horror and death. Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all people of good will may strive to undertake the path of development and sharing, preferring the culture of dialogue to the mindset of conflict.
Peace to women and men who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where there is urgent need for a common desire to bring relief to the civil population and to put into practice the commitments which have been assumed.
We implore harmony for the dear people of Colombia, which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue and reconciliation. May such courage also motivate the beloved country of Venezuela to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current tensions, and build together a future of hope for the whole population.
Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice. May Myanmar consolidate its efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and, with the assistance of the international community, provide necessary protection and humanitarian assistance to all those who gravely and urgently need it. May the Korean peninsula see the tensions it is experiencing overcome in a renewed spirit of cooperation.
Peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, and to those who have sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.
Peace – not merely the word, but a real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.
Peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.
Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all. [Continue reading…]
Christopher Hale writes: Last week, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly had good news for his viewers — the war on Christmas had finally ended. “We won!” O’Reilly declared.
What were O’Reilly’s metrics for measuring this great victory over the secularists who he saw as so hell-bent on ruining Christianity’s great feast? Simple: The number of stores using “Merry Christmas!” instead of “Happy Holidays!” has increased in the past decade.
But as O’Reilly noted, there are still some companies out there who won’t oblige with the victor’s demands that Christmas greetings be done the right way. Don’t worry, O’Reilly assured his viewers, there’s a new president in town, “and that’s bad news for them, because Donald Trump is on the case.”
In one sense, O’Reilly is absolutely right. The president-elect has made renewed Christian strength in the public sphere a key underpinning to his shocking victory. Trump told us time and again that when he’s president, Christianity will have power again in the United States. “Christians don’t use their power,” Trump has complained. “We have to strengthen. Because we are getting — if you look, it’s death by a million cuts — we are getting less and less and less powerful in terms of a religion, and in terms of a force.”
In typical Trump fashion, he thinks this starts in the marketplace: “I’ll tell you one thing: I get elected president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ [at department stores] again.” He continued, “Because if I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power. You don’t need anybody else. You’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well. Remember that.”
Unfortunately for O’Reilly and Trump, there’s still one person they must defeat in this self-perpetuating war on Christmas. It’s Pope Francis, the 80-year-old leader of 1.2 billion Catholics across the globe.
“Christmas is a charade!” Francis said last year.
These aren’t exactly words you would expect from a Christian during the holiday season, much less the pope. But that’s exactly what the troublemaker Pope Francis told a group of us gathered for Mass in 2015. “Christmas is approaching: There will be lights, parties, lighted Christmas trees and manger scenes. … It’s all a charade.”
Why would the pope wage war on Christmas? “The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” Francis said. “We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it. God weeps; Jesus weeps.”
In other words, the meaning of Christmas isn’t strength and visibility in the public sphere. The central claim of this holiday has always been that the rejected, crucified and executed Jesus Christ is still somehow Lord of the entire earth. In Trump’s world, those like Jesus Christ are the losers. In God’s world, these are the victors. [Continue reading…]
Catholic News Agency reports: Pope Francis has encouraged Europeans to welcome refugees, calling authentic hospitality “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.”
Francis Saturday spoke to alumni of Jesuit schools in Europe who were in Rome for a conference on refugees.
The pope said: “I encourage you to welcome refugees into your homes and communities, so that their first experience of Europe is not the traumatic experience of sleeping cold on the streets, but one of warm welcome.”
He said each refugee “has a name, a face and a story, as well as an inalienable right to live in peace and to aspire to a better future” for their children.
“At this place and time in history, there is great need for men and women who hear the cry of the poor and respond with mercy and generosity,” the pope told a group of Jesuit alumni Sept. 17.
He noted how there are “tragically more than 65 million” forcibly displaced persons around the globe, calling the number “unprecedented” and “beyond all imagination.” [Continue reading…]
Crux reports: Catholic leaders in the Middle East say that the United Sates has the “moral responsibility” to help stop the savagery against Christians in the region, and to provide assistance to help them stay in the region, because it was the U.S. that unleashed the chaos in the first place.
“They were the ones who invaded [Iraq] in 2003 and changed the whole region, and they had the moral responsibility to fix the situation before leaving the country,” said the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, Bashar Matti Warda.
Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Greek Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, the “martyred city” of Syria, said that the U.S. has a two-fold responsibility. On the one hand, he asked the U.S. government to ensure that the aid being sent to the region is also distributed among Christians, which, he said, means entrusting a portion of it to the churches.
As the system is set up, he said, all the aid goes to the refugee camps. Yet Christians see their lives at risk there, so they generally choose to seek shelter at churches and convents instead.
“If the help went to the churches, it wouldn’t mean that they’re giving special rights to Christians, but that they’re actually helping everyone,”Jeanbart said at a press conference held on Wednesday during the Knights of Columbus’s 134th Supreme Convention, which took place in Toronto, Canada.
The many Christian churches in the region – in Syria, there are six different Catholic rites alone – fund schools, hospitals, and provide shelter to all refugees, without distinguishing between Muslims, Yazidis or Christians, he said. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Pope Francis has said it was wrong to identify Islam with violence and that social injustice and idolatry of money were among the prime causes of terrorism.
“I think it is not right to identity Islam with violence,” he told reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome after a five-day trip to Poland. “This is not right and this is not true.”
The pope was responding to a question about the killing on 26 July of an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest during a church service in western France. The attackers forced the priest to his knees and slit his throat. The killing was claimed by Islamic State.
“I think that in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group,” he said, adding “We have them,” referring to Catholicism.
“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptised Catholics,” he said.
“If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent,” he said.
He said there were various causes of terrorism.
“I know it dangerous to say this but terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made a god and it, instead of the person, is put at the centre of the world economy,” he said.
“That is the first form of terrorism. That is a basic terrorism against all humanity. Let’s talk about that,” he said. [Continue reading…]
AFP reports: Pope Francis on Sunday warned of the “Balkanisation” of Europe in the wake of Britain’s shock vote to quit the EU and urged the bloc to chart a new way forward by giving member states greater freedoms.
“We have to come up with a new kind of Union,” the pontiff told reporters on a plane heading back to Rome after a controversial visit to Armenia, as the European Union grappled with the unprecedented task of having to negotiate a divorce from a member state.
“There is something that’s not working in this massive, heavy Union. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water,” Francis said.
He warned that places like Scotland and the Spanish region of Catalonia could push for “secession” following the seismic Brexit vote, which he said could lead to “the Balkanisation” of Europe. [Continue reading…]
“Any religion worth talking about is essentially political and any politics worth talking about has some vision of transcendence and of the mystery of human life,” said the Jesuit priest, antiwar activist and poet, Daniel Berrigan, at the time of the trial of the Plowshares Eight in 1981. Berrigan died on Saturday at the age of 94.
In 2006, noting that the “short fuse of the American left is typical of the highs and lows of American emotional life,” Berrigan said: “It is very rare to sustain a movement in recognizable form without a spiritual base.”
This absence of a spiritual base, expressed through commonly held values, can be seen as one of the defining characteristics of the politics of dissent in the post 9/11 era.
The commonalities around which shifting forms of unity have emerged and dissolved have invariably come in the form of shared outrage and hatred.
We decide who we stand with by flagging what we stand against:
- American Empire
- Western Imperialism
- Corporate power
- National security state
- Mass surveillance
- Mass incarceration
- Police brutality
But the affirmative common ground gets far less clearly defined if articulated at all.
Where humanitarianism and internationalism once prevailed, anti-interventionism has become one of the most frequently voiced principles.
Opposition to America imposing its values on the world, has come to mean the plight of people who lives and basic rights are in peril can often be ignored.
It seems we have less responsibility to make this a better world than to merely claim we have done it little harm.
It is as though the measure of a life well lived be that it is of no consequence as we each swear to a political Hippocratic oath.
Indeed there are those who now view the concept of human rights as so tainted that it functions as nothing more than a justification for war.
Out of this emerges for some a libertarian insularity where the least harm each of us might do is to mind our own business, and for others an isolationist social-justice realism which says, take care of the folks at home instead of trying to fix the world.
In a political context where it’s much safer to assume an adversarial posture and stand up against our nameable enemies, what’s much harder is to move beyond divisions and to focus instead on the greatest deficits in our world: a lack of love and kindness and the absence of a widely embraced vision of a better future.
It’s much easier to unify around what we stand against.
Bring love and kindness into the equation and most of the boundaries we use to define our political identities become less secure; our opponents cannot so easily be made other.
Consider, for instance, the issue of Palestine.
If viewed through a dispassionate political lens, we can talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of self-determination, social justice, and anti-colonialism and yet as a human concern, empathizing with Palestinians being bombed in Gaza by Israelis is surely no different than responding with empathy to atrocities being carried out in Aleppo.
For those on the ground, the outcome of the bombing is no different and yet the fact that the former provokes global outcries while the later is met largely with global indifference speaks to something that few observers will dare state: their hatred for the perpetrators of the violence is more deeply rooted than they sympathy for the victims.
* * *
To recognize the political and social influence of Daniel Berrigan did not require that you shared his pacifism or his religious beliefs and yet his striking integrity derived from the fact that he was a living expression of religion and politics made indivisible.
In 2006, as Berrigan turned 85, he was interviewed by Chris Hedges for The Nation:
All empires, Berrigan cautions, rise and fall. It is the religious and moral values of compassion, simplicity and justice that endure and alone demand fealty. The current decline of American power is part of the cycle of human existence, although he says ruefully, “the tragedy across the globe is that we are pulling down so many others. We are not falling gracefully. Many, many people are paying with their lives for this.”
“The fall of the towers [on 9/11] was symbolic as well as actual,” he adds. “We are bringing ourselves down by a willful blindness that is astonishing.”
Berrigan argues that those who seek a just society, who seek to defy war and violence, who decry the assault of globalization and degradation of the environment, who care about the plight of the poor, should stop worrying about the practical, short-term effects of their resistance.
“The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere,” he says. “I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where. I don’t think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”
“We have not lost everything because we lost today,” he adds.
A resistance movement, Berrigan says, cannot survive without the spiritual core pounded into him by [Thomas] Merton. He is sustained, he said, by the Eucharist, his faith and his religious community.
“The reason we are celebrating forty years of Catonsville and we are still at it, those of us who are still living — the reason people went through all this and came out on their feet — was due to a spiritual discipline that went on for months before these actions took place,” he says. “We went into situations in court and in prison and in the underground that could easily have destroyed us and that did destroy others who did not have our preparation.”
During an interview in 1981, Berrigan was asked how he came to the “deep waters” — the spiritual perspective — that enabled his activism.
It’s a question of coming from somewhere, having some tradition available to you — some symbols, some worship, some common life… coming from somewhere better than America, because I don’t think America is anywhere to come from.
In a world where it has become so easy to denounce America and point to the extensive harm this nation has done as its imperial power ungracefully unwinds, the politics of outrage nevertheless evokes little sense of somewhere better than America.
The collapse of empire is nothing to celebrate if we lack a vision of something better to take its place.