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MODESTO, Calif., Feb. 18, 2017 – The Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, today delivered the following comments at the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements during a panel discussion on the barriers marginalized people face in housing and work.
For the past century, from the worker movements of Catholic action in France, Belgium and Italy to Pope John XXXIII’s call to re-structure the economies of the world in “Mater et Magistra,” to the piercing missionary message of the Latin American Church at Aparecida, the words “see,” “judge” and “act” have provided a powerful pathway for those who seek to renew the temporal order in the light of the Gospel and justice.
As the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace described this pathway, it lies in “seeing clearly the situation, judging with principles that foster the integral development of people and acting in a way which implements these principles in the light of everyone’s unique situation.”
There is no greater charter for this gathering taking place here in Modesto in these days than the simple but rich architecture of these three words: “see,” “judge” and “act.” Yet these words -- which carry with them such a powerful history of social transformation around the world in service to the dignity of the human person -- must be renewed and re-examined at every age and seen against the background of those social, economic and political forces in each historical moment.
The social and historic shifts impacting our societies test something essential for the future of our humanity: transmission. Due to the extreme diversification of individual profiles and their great mobility, the usual means of transmission are helpless and the institutions that have traditionally ensured that transmission have become extremely fragile. According to Michel Foucault’s famous saying, we can say that we are going through “the shift from a society of prescription to a society of inscription.”
In the past, transmission was carried out as a form of prescription, i.e. “instructions” to be followed. Institutions as family, school, communities would prescribe individuals their rights and duties, that is to say the rules of living together. They would also give them the codes and practices, the meanings and rites concerning their growth in humanity that would help them forge a strong identity. This is no longer the case.
See, Judge, Act: A process for social justice groups
The year 2011 is the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra, and the decade-based anniversaries of several other encyclicals. In honour of these anniversaries, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has prepared educational materials which will be made available throughout the year to parishes, social justice groups and schools in Australia. These materials are titled Reading the Signs of the Times.
In our world, in our Church, and in our movement, there is much talk about the need for a deeper spirituality. People are faced with many frightening realities: poverty, inequality and unemployment; violence, domination and abuse of power at all levels; exploitation and corruption; the growth of an individualist, consumerist and competitive culture; and the difficulty in forming deep and lasting relationships. These leave many tormented by a sense of insecurity, fear and hopelessness.
In response, the world is being flooded by many types of spirituality offering some form of consolation and hope. Unfortunately many of these spiritualities are either reinforcing these realities, or are inviting people to escape from them! It is increasingly difficult to talk of a gospel that calls for a radical commitment to engaging with, and transforming this world in a spirit of love, openness and dialogue.