We have just finished a series of Lenten Renewals that have taxed us to the limit, traveling several thousand miles, five renewals in six weeks, and lots of ongoing preparation as we tried to cater to different congregations. However, they have also been very rewarding.
For the last renewal the parish asked us to spend the morning sessions introducing a book by Fr Albert Nolan O.P. – “Jesus Today – a Spirituality of Radical Freedom” In the first four Chapters Fr Nolan gives a sort of social analysis, describing the world of today, emphasizing both the good and evil aspects of that world. I had to introduce this section, and felt he did a powerful job.
But one section made the audience distinctly uneasy. He spoke of the present USA as an “Empire”. He said: “the empire has become so overconfident, so arrogantly sure of its own righteousness, so blind, so undiplomatic and so busy with “overkill” that it is unwittingly generating its own opposition thereby ensuring its own demise – as the apartheid regime did in its final years. Not only has the American Empire given rise to militant Muslim formations and to suicide bombers and other forms of terrorism, but its war in Iraq has created the strongest and largest anti-war peace movement in human history…the new peace movement is universal and is destined to become a powerful pressure group. Closely linked to this is the globalization of compassion for victims – all victims.”
The criticism stung, and some voices wanted to emphasize all the USA was doing world-wide and how this accusation was unfair and untrue. We ended up with a good, but emotional interchange between those on one side and those on the other.
Among the points I tried to make were that the Catholic Church was loud in its criticism of the war in Iraq, both from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Also that the Church has been constantly warning the wealthy nations of the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor nations and that this is a moral issue because the poor are being denied human rights, suffering violence and being killed off, especially the children and women.
I have also been reminded of something our former Dominican Master General, Damian Byrne, spoke about in the 1980’s, the danger of nationalism. The phrase “American self interest”, could also be “Australian self interest”, and it prevents us accepting responsibility for groups of people like refugees, and those suffering persecution in parts of the world that do not economically interest us.
Fr Nolan concluded: “In reading the political and economic signs of our times, what we notice most of all today is this globalization from below. We have noted the globalization of anti-war and peace movements and the globalization of compassion for all victims. In the world forum we see the globalization of the struggle for justice. It is impossible to predict how and when the American empire will come to an end, but in the not too distant future the international groundswell of resistance in the name of peace, compassion and justice will undermine and dismantle the structures of power and domination.” The book was written in 2006, maybe we are seeing signs of this already!