Monday, April 14, 2008

Benedict on How to Live

Father Lombardi has confirmed that Benedict will suggest the golden rule to the nations of the world and particularly to the United States during his stay here.
"In the assembly of representatives of all the peoples of the world, in the heart of a nation that has a huge weight in the destiny of the humanity of today and of tomorrow, Benedict XVI wants to offer to all his service of religious and moral authority, enlightening, with his habitual clarity, that of which today we have more necessity: the basis, the solid and common point of support, upon which to build together the answers to the historical challenges we find ourselves facing."

"Together," he added, "because as Pope John Paul II already said precisely to the United Nations, we form a family of peoples."
I am excited to see here that Benedict is continuing to pick up JP II's message of global solidarity. Of course, this is not the first time that Benedict has done this. In still one of his most important talks on the celebration of the World Day of Peace he had strong remarks concerning the familial nature of the global situation.
The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth.

The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family. We need to say our own “yes” to this vocation which God has inscribed in our very nature. We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters. Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others. By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family.
While JP II used to cite more frequently the philosophical roots of global solidarity, Benedict has stressed the transcendent roots that humanity has in God. Or, another way to put this is that while JP II placed the burden of solidarity on common human dignity - which is also cited above - and on our common imaging of Christ who reveals man to himself, Benedict, possibly following Gabriel Marcel, has stressed that we are only a common brotherhood if we have a common Fatherhood. But there are older brothers and sisters and younger ones. Benedict is expected to stress to the United States its status as an older brother, as JP II used to frequently do. And if he stresses the golden rule, there is always a good chance that something about that disaster going on over there in the Middle East may come up.
Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.

In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions.... One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency. The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.
This begins to sound a lot like the United States, and it is a message we can take closely to heart as the universal pastor comes to visit us. I like especially his language of "sensing" that the earth is our common home. This sensing is not common to all. It is not a matter of knowledge in the way that we usually think of it. There are many, particularly formed and trained by technocratic and capitalistic societies, who cannot sense the world in this way, but prefer to sense it as a common resource or money pool. From Descartes through empiricism to our time this way of thinking about the earth has held particular sway in the United States. I think of sensing here more closely to what Newman meant by the illative sense, a discovery and understanding of something that is akin to recognition. It is similar to a detective seeing a series of clues and suddenly piecing them together. Not everyone has the gift for such sensing. Cardinal Dulles has used Newman's illative sense to describe the moment of recognition in faith. It is not common sense, it cannot be proven, but only demonstrated. In the same way, the world badly needs the Church to offer its illative sense concerning the world that is our home. The Church has a sense for the environment that the world does not have, whether on the Right or the Left. It is this true and proper "understanding" of the world as our home that Benedict is asking Christian's to share with others.

Benedict asks us to convert from the path of unilateralism and to embrace the path of dialogue. This applies not only in reference to war, but also in regards to the use of resources that are common because the world is a family and a home and its resources come out of the common pantry. In this way of thinking, solidarity no longer becomes a supernatural virtue that only a few can live, but a necessary virtue imposed upon all by virtue of the familial situation. Just because I am an older brother does not mean I can raid the pantry and eat anything I want at anytime. And it is nothing special that if the youngest brother or sister has not eaten, I am not allowed to have seconds. We are not talking charity here but simple duty. And so only having one car and living simply in the United States is no longer a matter of charity but duty: to the environment as a common home, and to the world as a common family. There is no justification for luxurious living anywhere in the world in our times. I see no other way to take the Pope's message.

Markel, SJ

2 comments:

GiGi said...

I have just found your blog and have added it to my very short blog list. I have not read it all, by any means but what I have read looks interesting and worth pursing.

Markel & Mason said...

Gigi,

Welcome, we are always glad to have new readers.

Mason Slidell