By Sixto García
“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?-- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!--All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live free through all time, or die by suicide.”
Abraham Lincoln, Address before the Young Men´s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838
Lincoln´s words sound eerily prophetic today. As a matter of historical continuum, whether consciously or not, they echo Edward Gibbon´s final remarks at the end of his “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”: Gibbons muses that,although the official date for the demise of the Western Roman Empire is given as 476 C.E., Rome had already died in the hearts of the Romans long before.
In a personal note, William Thompson-Uberuaga (whose essay appears in this issue) has spoken of the “downward spiral into fascism” that seems to be sweeping through the social and political canvass of the U.S. Thompson-Uberuaga reflects Eric Voegelin’s disappointingly bitter experience with his fellow Germans: upon briefly returning to Germany in 1964, Voegelin found the people of Germany had seemingly not unencumbered themselves from the Nazi delusion. In his eleven Munich lectures, Voegelin bemoans how a significant percentage of the post-war Germans remained seduced by the rhetoric of mindless hatred and anti-semitism, blurted out by a man whose physical appearance betrayed the very ideal he proclaimed of a blond, tall, superior Aryan race.
How could, indeed, a nation who, before Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, boasted of 38 Nobel laureates, more than any other Western nation – France, 28; United Kingdom, 22, United States, 14 - allow itself to free fall into the dark abyss of racism, genocide and political perversion?
Suspicion of the democratic process and the perverted desire for autocracy, which many of us had the right to assume had been buried forever in the necropolis of the sick and inhuman ideologies of history, has experience a recrudescence. It is frightening to witness how MAGA (Make America Great Again) has perverted the minds of so many people. Perhaps the answer lies, as Voegelin comments, in the hollow, seducible caverns of minds who have forsaken their sacred duty to think and reflect, and who, in the process, have jettisoned as Hitler’s Germans did, all sense of the Common Good.
I have asked myself the question many reflective Catholics have: Where is the Church – and more specifically, where are the pastors of the Church – in all this? Sadly, a not inconsiderable number of them seem to have capitulated or sold their souls to the demons of power, wealth and control. Sacraments and doctrine constitute their main arsenal in their war against one of the most precious Catholic traditions: the organic intimacy between faith and reason,
The so-called (and much written-about “weaponizing” of the Eucharist is probably the most glaring example. The best answer to the dubious practice of denying the Eucharist to political enemies has been compellingly put forward by Francis Moloney, in his book Broken Bread for a Broken People: Marriage, Divorce and the Eucharist. Moloney offers a compelling argument that all the eucharistic New Testament texts tell us that the Eucharist is a sacramental celebration for fragile and sinful disciples – all of us! Pope Francis has echoed this in his Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 47: “The Eucharist – he argues – is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” In simple terms, that means that seemingly flawed politicians have as much right to the Eucharist as their ecclesiastical prosecutors.
Recent changes in local state laws regarding immigration and care for immigrant seem to reinforce the lethal prejudice and racism against those seeking to flee poverty and violence – situations often generated by the foreign policies of the nation whose citizens are being brainwashed against their plight. The rank of the U.S. in the arms trade is a faithful reflection of the weak laws that have been produced to presumably curb the proliferation of mass shootings.
All of the above seems to describe a rather gloom future for democracy. And indeed, democracy is under serious threat: it has been menaced by a process that began before the 2016 elections: the blunting of a sense of the Common Good, the exacerbated individualism that seeks personal interests before those who suffer hunger, poverty, discrimination . . . Hunger, did I say? Conservative estimates released by public research institutes tell us that over 12 percent, that is, in a population of about 320 million, about 50 million people go to bed hungry in the land of plenty – 1 out of every 6 children.
But Christians are people of hope, not gloom. Deeply embedded in the consciousness of the Christian churches is what Bonaventure, the Franciscan doctor, described as the “living furnace” of the Trinitarian Mystery (cf, his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, VII). Rooting the intimacy of defining, creating and redeeming love, Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Christ, unveils and reveals a consuming fire of love that burns within the hearts of all those who, mindful of their own imperfections and sinfulness, still dare to witness and proclaim the ultimate reality of a love that always has the last word.
Pope Francis has written about the trilogy that defines Jesus’ own style: compassion, nearness, tenderness. This, indeed, is a faithful echo, a masterful synthesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – of the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself.
El Ignaciano seeks to assume, witness and communicate this irrepressible Christian hope. In this issue, William Thompson-Uberuaga, following the Fathers of the Church, Eric Voegelin, Vatican II, pope Francis and the genius of his own Episcopalian tradition, discusses how a people can discern the capacity to rule themselves. Lorenzo Pérez ponders upon the challenges of the pandemic to the world economy and the responses elicited in light of both sound professional analysis and Catholic Social Doctrine. Raúl Arderí probes the tension between the Kingdom of God and the Church, and how such tension bespeaks a commitment to the poor and the marginalized from his perspective as a Catholic Jesuit theologian and priest living in Cuba.
Siro del Castillo and Alfredo Romagosa meditate, from different perspectives on the promise and demands of Catholic Social Doctrine. Maria Teresa Morgan dives deep into Teresa de Jesús´ mysticism of prayer and its reverberations within the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution “Gaudium et Spes” and the Declaration “Dignitatis Humanae.” The latter was indeed a revolutionary and fiercely debated document on religious freedom, that is a mirror reflection of the Jesuit John Courtney Murray’s political and social theology; Antonio García-Crews shares his views of democracy from the vantage point of his personal experience as a political prisoner, and his response as a Catholic immigration lawyer.
We, the contributors and editors of El Ignaciano, invite you to join us in this often-convulsing but ever joyful and graced journey of witnessing and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the political and social spheres of our societies and communities. We thank you for joining us.
Sixto J. García, Ph.D., is the Editor of El Ignaciano. He holds a Ph.D. in Systematic and Philosophical Theology and New Testament from the University of Notre Dame. He taught at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary for 30 years. He remains as a Senior Lecturer at SVDP. He has contributed to theological anthologies and journals.