God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Truth, facts and lies

Living together as society means compromising on the way, we want to live together; it means tolerance towards the life design of my neighbour and to acknowledge the boundaries of what is still acceptable and what not.

For this to happen and for society to function we need to agree on some facts or truth, which build the base of every exploration of boundaries and limitations, freedoms and expectations.

The advent of social media and global connectivity via the internet has given rise to an ugly side of these advances which we call fake news, conspiracy theories or simply lies. This has brought us as societies, but also as human mankind in a danger zone.

For example Donald Trump lies regarding election results jeopardizes the US democracy with consequences for other countries and their safety and well-being. His lies and fake news about climate change has serious consequences for Mother Earth and the future of human mankind. His denial towards Covid-19 costs thousands of human beings their lives.

The denial of truth and the ignorance towards facts is not only in the political arena dangerous, also other organisations weaken themselves because of it. Look at the Catholic Church and its dealing with the topic “abuse”. Not acknowledging the facts brings besides pain and hurt also disrepute and a silent withdraw from many, looking for a new home for their belief system or drifting into the fake news corner and hoping that denying facts and changing the narrative rescues somehow their faith. We see this in so many instances in the USA even much broader than only in the cases of abuse or only the Catholic Church, looking at the Evangelical churches and major parts of the Catholic Church where meanwhile ideology, focusing on one aspect while actively ignoring or fighting all other not so convenient parts of reality trump (in the real sense of the word with a big T) religion and transform it into a blindly followed ideology.

Obviously fake news, lies, blind ideology have a shelf life, which is definitely prolonged by the use or better abuse of social media, the bitter flip side of something which was aimed to connect people and ended up to divide them in ways we never thought we will see. Do you recall the enthusiasm of entering a new millennium, the dream of a global village, the possibility to communicate and foster peace and dignity around the globe and the belief, that digital communication will bring all the positive goodies to the world we live in?

We are doing a detour now regarding truth and common grounds – and maybe as human mankind we are allowed to do so. But I would argue that the silent majority has now seen enough to determine the dead end and the destruction caused. Now is the time to stand up for the truth, for valid discernment and reasoning and I believe that especially religion – and religion does not mean necessarily church institutions – has a major role to play: the tradition of mystics (think Karl Rahner) and Global ethics (think Hans Kueng) and yes, the encyclicals and universal writings of Pope Francis are waiting to be more – or again – discovered and put into practice.

At the end truth will prevail – the costs to get there – that is the only thing we can determine as human beings and influence as part of societies.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Can a Catholic vote for Trump?

I know:
This might be a strange or even outrages question to ask but it is one which drives me since month being a Catholic priest and watching US politics from afar, talking to US American citizens and seeing the ripple effect of US American politics changing the way the world used to work and the value system attached to it.
This might also be a strange question insofar as religion or faith should not prescribe for any voter whom he or she in her conscious decision decide to vote into office. Politics can be a dirty business, there is no one in this field who can claim for himself or herself a halo of sainthood during holding office. And it is good practice in many countries, that pastors or churches can’t give and should not give guidance to their flock whom to vote for in the sacred duty of electing office bearers.

There are indeed often many different political solutions and most of them have a sort of bloom hovering over them – there are so many different ways to see a matter and to decide a matter.
So my question is not touching on policies of a party; it does not question superficially the party affiliation of Catholics. For me the question is much deeper located as the current President of the United States has proven to  use lies and distortion as tools of governance, and he is clearly living in a world of his own – accused of racism and being a womaniser. Reading his tweets paints a perfect picture of the man in office.

So the question is:
How much of lying and self-absorption is allowed for the highest office, a democratic country has to offer?
Where is the limit when those faculties interfere with the greater good of a democratic society in a way damaging exactly these goods and the values attached to human decency, democracy and human rights?

I took note in the last days on social media that prominent Catholics for Trump argue his stance of pro-life as the all overriding factor – in my humble opinion ignoring that being pro-life not starts and ends with pregnancy but should include the track record touching on environment, asylum seekers, death penalty, racism and many more topics where life is threatened. Honesty, respect are other pro-life values not to be missed out.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church gives the state a positive moral function as an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good. Its purpose is to assist citizens in fulfilling their responsibility to others in society. In today’s complex society citizens need the help of government to fulfil these responsibilities and to promote the common good.
In the times of Covid-19 the role of government has even become more crucial in guiding and unifying people and sectors of society. The ethics of solidarity will become in the future a much stronger pillar of Catholic social teaching – a solidarity which will have to override purely national interests in the connected world of today.

So once again the questions:
Where do we draw the line as Catholics believing in the sanctity of life, in encountering Christ in every fellow man and women, seeing the imprint of the divine not only in every brother or sister of the human race, but also in our environment, in nature and creation with all the diversity it entails?

Where do we draw the line observing abuse of a position in a society with democratic values, when exactly those values are undermined, annulled and circumvented – while at the same time God is invoked numerous times and a way forced to get a photo op in front of a church using police, tear-gas and force – bible firmly hold in hand?

There should be a line in the sand…

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Out of touch with reality

Sometimes there comes blow after blow and one wonders about the trauma triggered in oneself and how to digest those, work through them and still keeps walking straight and with hope.
While still trying to absorb and digest all the chaos here in South Africa, this week also saw the publication from the Vatican on instructions on pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the church – issued by the Congregation for the Clergy.

And if you, as the valued reader, now wonder what a Vatican’s instruction has to do with the situation in South Africa, the answer is simple:
in both cases it seems to me in my humble opinion, that the touch with reality has been lost somewhere and somehow.
And in both cases, it seems that history and ideology are playing the major roles.

While in South Africa the governing party has lost the plot and even appears to be destructive in what it claims to have liberated, the Vatican’s publication shows similarities, as it takes its arguments out of a history long gone in current times and partly draws arguments which don’t hold water under the bridge.
It is generally amazing to see in the context of the global village, that many, facing crisis and uncertainty, are moving back and trying to hold on systems, faith systems and social constructs which worked in the past. Nationalism, reminiscent mood, anxiety and the unwillingness to embrace an uncertain future is an interesting mix telling the story of human mankind in current times. Or maybe that others are right in saying, that the digital revolution has overstrained human mankind, exposing our weaknesses and triggering a yearning for safety and security given by what we know and hold dear.

And for those taking a step back and observing, the mix is interesting: in the case of the church we have a real revolutionary style of leadership in comparison with the last popes in Pope Frances contradicting backwards showing instructions, while in South Africa we have the most modern constitution while working with ideologies coming out of the Cold War times. It is those unspoken contradictions which adds to the trauma of living in current times.
While South Africa is yearning to heal from Apartheid and the unbelievable and unashamed corruption till present times, the Catholic Church is yearning to heal from the unbelievable and unashamed abuse of children cushioned by clericalism and a partly abstruse medieval view on sexuality.

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Greta and the voice of the church

Listening to the debates about the now famous Greta – all the questions asked and criticism voiced, praises sung – I certainly have formed my own opinion but what really get me thoughtful is a complete other question I am asking myself: The hype around a topic which the Roman Catholic Church has on her agenda since ages – 1.2 billion faithful of this denomination were not able to make it a headline worldwide over decades. Why? Since ages the church is looking into the question of environment and protection of the creation.

Is it because of the social media possibilities alone? The means in our days to put your energy and dreams in tweets, Instagram, Facebook and other means of internet communication – triggering so the worldwide hype? Even if the real consequences of such a hype is still questionable – in Germany the amount of people flying is increasing despite protesting on a Friday for the future – the question remains: Why were 1.2 billion Catholics not able to bring a topic to the forefront?

Or is it that most Catholics did not care – that all the information, booklets, declaration of bishops and popes have no real voice anymore – maybe heard, but immediately put aside as impractical or far away from reality?

Or was it too prophetic – too early to really catch the eye of the public and those in charge of society and politics?

Whatever it is – I find it amazing how little impact a billion strong community has on essential questions of human mankind in our lifetime – and it seems to me so different from the old times where church was minting questions and values in a way, which lingers even today almost genetically in people. I sense changes we still not have realized with all the consequences for our institutions, for our life and that of our societies.

There is more to reflect …  signs of the times…

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , ,

2018 – Reflections

2018 has been a tough year for many people – and indeed this now ending year has had its challenges in private and in the public sector.

Globally populism and ignorance seem to have taken over the political scene in many countries – the turmoil of US politics triggered by a self-absorbed and mafia-like operating president and poised political stand-off between the major political parties swaps like a tsunami over the global village. Populist governments in Poland, Italy, Austria, Turkey as well as Hungary endanger more and more the future of the European Union. The question how to deal with refugees and immigrants and how to share resources trigger anxiety and right-wing ideology – a poisonous mix not assisting in advancing the development of the human race and society.

In South Africa the ruling ANC struggles to clean up the mess years of corruption and cadre deployment as well as looting have created – to admit guilt and to come clean is difficult for a liberation movement turned political party without having arrived mentally and structurally there yet. Additionally poverty and hopelessness as well as entitlement obviously aid those parties and movements in the country which try to exploit the situation for their either racist, fascist or communist dreams of a society far away from the rainbow nation and the dreams of Madiba. We have difficult years ahead…

The churches made also headlines – and certainly in the case of the Roman-Catholic Church it hasn’t been the ones one would like to take note of. The child abuse cases mounted and whenever one thought to have reached the peak new bad news emerged. One German Bishop mentioned that the abuse is part of the DNA of the church – trying under all circumstances to keep the picture of a holy church with hierarchical structures not allowing to be tempered with. And I guess he is right – if we really take the message of the unconditional love of God towards each and everybody serious the structure of the church, the gaps between laity and clergy, the attitude of those up the ladder, the way the church is structured and the way the church is operated has to be reflected on and ultimately change towards more participation and a real sense of being sense to simply and only pronounce this unconditional love. It’s not about a revolution to bring the structures up-side-down, but on a level where we are all on the same level looking eye to eye with respect giving others the same dignity and importance. A deep reflection of our teaching about human sexuality will definitely help too.

I could go on to list more challenges but it would be unfair to 2018 not also to mention all the good things having happened, all those who worked to build up more humanity, to create more love, to stipulate more joy and to make sure those less fortune have a chance to more life and fulfillment.  All those volunteers, those working with NGO’s and foundations, those who seriously assisted and helped fellow neighbors, welcomed strangers, stood up against discrimination and upheld the human dignity for all. Not to forget initiatives to keep creation in balance and to fight for the future of mother earth. And there might be the one or other politician and leader having the plight of the people at heart, who did the utmost to uplift his fellow men and women.

I guess, modern technology, social media and advanced possibilities of communication make us more aware of what is going on in the world – but all these advances can also be used to create more possibilities for political leaders and movements to control society and suppress different opinions. China is an example of a dangerous modi operandi which will make Orwell’s 1984 a cheap copy of a future reality.
It also helps fundamental militant movements to recruit followers around the world and manipulate them to become violent attackers within so-called free or perceived hostile societies. Words matter – therefore I believe we should never combine the words “faith” and “fundamentalism” – because if faith is mainly fundamentalism and militant it has developed into an ideology – and it is ideology which makes people blind for realities. Faith only supports more life, supports more love, supports more hope – ideology kills people.

May 2019 be a year of reflection and turn around strategies – populism, ideologies and ignorance will bring us nowhere – and let’s be clear: mother earth is not depending on us human beings – we depend on her for survival.  Let reason rule and insight into the Divine in whom we live and prosper. There is always hope I guess…

A blessed New Year – don’t forget to be a blessing for others around you.

 

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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