God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Turn of an era?

We are living in interesting times; we also could say we live in dangerous times or exciting times. However, one defines emotionally current times, it is increasingly becoming clear that humanity faces difficult decisions to make on a variety of questions flocking together in one moment in time.

The Coronavirus has brought us the message, how quick our big and small seemingly stable world can crumble because of a small little virus taking over the world. The way we densify areas to accommodate more people in spaces and the way we extend our habitat into the last pockets of real nature should be reflected on if we as the human species want to have a future on this planet.

Add to this the climate change which becomes increasingly dramatic looking at the so-called eternal ice, the glaciers, the weather patterns which will not go away while elected or authoritarian politicians try to make sense of it – always having in mind that the sacrifices must be on the other site of the fence.

The Ukraine war has shown the people on the “island” Europe the realities of the rest of the word, where violence and war is a much more frequent occurrence. But it also shows how interconnected the world is now and people all around the world are suffering because one leader runs amok for reasons one can analyse, but it does not mean they make sense.

Trump, Johnson, and their likes have brought a culture of lies and fake news to the table. Amplified by social media and as predicted by warning voices, that the amount of information and communication will overwhelm our brains, we have created the best environment to create a fictional reality besides the real reality. And millions, overstrained and anxious, flee into the madness of such fictions. Looking at the USA and its current affairs – the plan of the Christian right together with those wanting to keep the white macho monopoly comes dangerously to conclusion: racism, the upcoming decision “Roe v Wade” has ramifications far beyond the USA. A country and society which is at war with itself and therefore giving rise to others like China, which is posing the biggest threat to human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.

Looking at the overall politics, many democratic systems need an overhaul to arrive in the 21st century, but it is impossible to do with the culture of professional politicians who would never survive in the real world and who have mostly their re-election at heart instead of the people. Our democracies are a shadow of what it meant when the idea was born. It is still often the best we can, but it will not be sufficient to move forward in the next years to come.

And this applies also to international organisations like the UN, being stuck in a post II World War idea and clearly not being able to develop into a tool needed in our times. Alone the fact, that a country, being the aggressor and committing war crimes has a veto power is on all imaginable levels simply wrong.

Social media and democratic structures are also more and more in competition – reading Elon Musk’s announcement that he most likely will unban Donald T from the newly purchased Twitter, looking at the power of a company like Facebook to determine what you are allowed to say or not, the logarithm and AI increasingly and often silently starting to manipulate our lives: we are at a point in time when we collectively need to come to decisions how to proceed as human beings and what values we put first.

There would be so much more to list – the role of religious institutions and their failures, questions of how the global economy is working, questions of the interaction of so-called “developed / developing” countries in relation to the so-called “first world” – whatever that really means when looking at it more in detail.

We need to have more conversations – and when I say conversations I mean really engaging with each other, listening to each other and recreating a culture of engagement. Social Media should assist and stop creating millions of keyboard warriors and bots pushing their point of view in a way which defies the word “communication” and triggers rather aggression and violence.

We need to realise that putting average or professional politicians on pedestals because there are no better ones, or because they have a specific gender, sex or skin colour does not really help but often obfuscate the wanted outcome.

The world of our days offers so many tools and possibilities to reach out and connect; we need to make more out of it, and we have to learn to use it wisely if we really want to come out with a perspective for us humans as part of this world we are living in. We owe it to the next generations that we turn this obvious transition time into something which is worth living.

Filed under: Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You reap what you sow

You reap what you sow – this saying also applies to the “greatest democracy in the world” as it is often labelled. The obvious pictures of a sitting president encouraging violence while the official representation on Capitol Hill is starting the process of certifying the normally peaceful transition of power after elections and the aftermath of storming the halls of democracy and interrupting the process shocked the world and many lawmakers in the USA – except people like Senator Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley who continue to disrupt the process by means of objections. While this is legit, the concern here remains that all those objections are based on lies and fake news; those objecting knowingly and willingly hurting and damaging the process of democracy and are enablers for a president who brought to light one of the ugliest face representing democratic USA. Four years of destruction of democratic rules and traditions came to conclusion – or to a point of no return for the time to come. The USA is split in its midst – the consequences could determine the years to come.

Using the cover of democratic rules and the freedoms associated to hurt the core of democracy and to transform it to a hollow shell or cosmetic whitewash is not unique to the USA; worldwide there is a tendency to empty the shrines of democracy for power and rule with impunity. The Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Russia are only some examples of a growing number of states trying to erode democracy and with it human rights and human dignity. Add to this the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a perfect reason to introduce measures diametral to democracy or parliamentarian democracy; the danger of which is seen in South Africa with the National Covid-19 Command Council and the seemingly endless extension of the state of disaster which gives ministers predispositioned to authoritarian habits enough space to indulge in their favourite sports.

Unfortunately democratic rules are not a guarantee that always the noble people are standing for election and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown almost worldwide, that human mankind is very much susceptible to crazy theories and fake news as well as a black/white world view. It seems that there is a collective tiredness to go for freedom, which includes the responsibility to weigh choices every day. It is easier to be told what to do and not to do; it is easier to submit to an order and run with the crowd, it is easier to look away when those, who are “not me” falling prey to unjust actions or coming short.

Democracy, freedom and the rule of law are virtues to be guarded every day – it has a reason why the US American Constitution determines the day and even the hour when the sacred duty of certifying the results on national level has to be executed. Ceremonies in this sense are not old-fashioned, but a reminder how fragile the achieved way of governance, how fragile societies and self-determination as a people are.

May the pictures we saw yesterday on TV streaming from the USA be a reminder how quick certainties can vanish – add this to the Covid-19 pandemic and even the most laziest thinker should start to realise the wake-up call of our times for humanity, dignity and human rights, but also the well-being of the human race as such. Honesty, truth and other agreed shared values must be back as fundaments for the way forward.

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A fool as distraction?

Four years of tweets, lies and impossible behaviour are still not coming to an end – defeat is not one of the words used by Donald Trump and as it has been for the last four years; the press indulges in commenting and reporting on all the new lies, false facts, sexist remarks, insults and other neurotic patterns, this man brings on a daily basis to the table of news outlets.

Almost in the background it is currently noted that others are too afraid to speak out, especially after the lost election – and emphasis is put onto the fact, that Trump has such a standing in the Republican Party which hinders the righteous elite to reign in and stop the latest charade.

Maybe there is another story line to tell – the story of Mitch McConnell, Graham Lindsey, Rupert Murdoch and others who let the political fool dance in the front to the amusement or embarrassment of the political audience and electorate while those gentlemen pulling the strings, trying to keep an old world order in place: a world order which is white, male and racist.

For those having this world order in mind, Trump was a gift from heaven, easily to be manipulated via Fox News and lots of praise, slowly installing a reign of an egomaniac puppet delivering the right judges on so many levels. Governments coming and going, but to maintain a system, other levels of society have to be looked after and the right people positioned. And as Obama has used social media to garner the support – the political white racist right in the USA has quickly learned to adapt to the new tools available as well. For people like McConnell and Lindsey, Obama was a mistake not to be repeated and now Harris the next in line of those kinds of errors.

Democracy as the rule of the people for the people is an ongoing process of trial and error for most Americans – and even if it is an internal affair for this country, the consequences for the rest of the world have been felt the last years. Our global village is meanwhile so connected, that the faith of a major player is not an affair not noted by the rest of the world. Human mankind’s challenges are piling up, and they need new answers not forthcoming from those now pulling the strings in Washington.

Human mankind and the world order is in the process of changing – we live in times of an interesting and challenging battle of minds, which is even sped up by a small little virus called Covid-19.

Donald Trump should not be allowed to be a distraction in this process – too much is at stake for this world we call home.

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, 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, , , , , , ,

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