it is … a religious and human duty to confront untruth in … society with (one’s) own witness in order that falsity may become evident to everyone.

Thomas Merton, in Gandhi on Non-Violence

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Fr. Bill acknowledged in his homily yesterday that fewer and fewer people seek Christ and that he/we had no idea why that was the case.  Then he asked that we pray that people return to Christ.

Not terribly encouraging, unfortunately.

His candor is appreciated.  Yet, the inability of many of our priests to comprehend why it is that Christ is not sought out is precisely why fewer and fewer people, particularly in the West, seek Christ or find solace in Christianity.

Many of our clerics are not especially insightful when it comes to the world around them.  They understand little about intellectual history, not much about cultural criticism nor about analytical psychotherapy which chronicles at any given time the nature of human discord and suffering.  And, few seem to have delved into mystical theology which provides knowledge or the spiritual dynamic inherent in human beings as the central part of their psychological composition.

If one does not understand the world one lives in, one can do little to minister to it, and without that knowledge Christ is diminished.  Obviously, this does not apply to all priests or all bishops or all cardinals, but it does apply to many.

In this context think about Gandhi, not that I propose our clergy anchor themselves in politics.  Rather, we do far better keeping our distance from it.  Yet, Gandhi does reflect the value of understanding the world in which he lived and speaking to people about that world in ways that would have them grow and see a right and good path.

Above all, Gandhi had a cultural criticism and spoke from it.  He knew, as a consequence, where and when to caution people about separating themselves from the aspects of Indian culture which were unhealthy.  He was a guide to others in this.

He could comment and inform on the disorder and moral confusion in his culture in ways that clarified.  He gave people an understanding of where they were best to reject injustices, and most importantly separate from untruths.

Indeed, isn’t it the fundamental case that those who miss the significance of Christ are missing truth and, by default, living untruths.  Is not a life of untruths the cause of all sorts of disorder – personal and interpersonal?  Individually and collectively?

In a culture where faith is diminished untruth is dominant, and conflict and inconsistency is too.

Clerics would do well to understand the contradictions of their culture, its untruths and deliver an understanding of Christ which offers both insight and an alternative.  I find very few clerics in my religious life who are equipped for this, however.  Short of this, they have little useful to say, little insight to share – and we suffer as a result.

We must do far better.

Shalom.

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