by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Last week’s reflection centered on Pope Francis’s seven-year plan to implement his historic encyclical Laudato si’ and a companion document from Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.
It was also mentioned last week that these next posts will consider the seven goals of Pope Francis’s plan and the CNI commentary on each.
Goal 1. Response to the Cry of the Earth
“The Cry of the Earth” is a global anguished call for nonviolent solutions to the harm (violence) done to our common home. It also expands greatly our understanding of violence. From a strictly person-to-person (physical aggression) or nation-to-nation concept (war), it is clear that violence is a major cause of harm at every level of human activity. What is being done to our Mother Earth is a vivid example.
Pax Christi International’s CNI lists several examples of such violence:
- Wealthy people can cause poverty through all sorts of unjust and inequitable relationships. (Think of the violence in denying a minimum of just $15 per hour for an entry level job and the CEO of the same businesses receiving millions in salaries and bonuses.)
- Or take the American military budget viz a viz sub-standard housing. (Pax Christi has a video entitled The Cost of Nuclear Weapons, comparing the unimaginable amounts spent on them viz a viz Covid prevention.)
- Or the violent and lucrative exploitation of animals that today threatens an estimated one million species with extinction.
The Bishops of Latin America offered this analysis in one succinct phrase at their historic post-Vatican II meeting in Medellin, Colombia. They called the situation of unimaginable wealth and vast impoverishment existing side-by-side in their countries “a situation of institutionalized violence”. That is what the CNI document is spelling out in response to Pope Francis’s call to hear “The Cry of the Earth”. Our common home is suffering from massive institutionalized violence.
The Pope also cites a violence which might not be immediately apparent but on reflection has undeniable logic: the violence of indifference. Another way of describing this violence is to recall the phrase that “not to intervene is to intervene”. We have perhaps become numbed by overwhelming examples of violence all around us and experience the tendency to “look away” thinking that they are all too much even to think about, much less do something about. It’s a natural temptation but it does lead to indifference.
Even when we try to overcome our indifference, as Pope Francis says in Let Us Dream, and “open ourselves to the blows that reach us now from every corner of the globe,” we experience doubts, and questions about how possibly to respond. It’s all too much we think.
The Pope does not let us off the hook however. He insists that despite our seeming powerlessness in the face of global violence, we need to ask in prayer, (“perhaps with a lit candle”), how might I respond? What can I do? How can I help? And above all — what is God asking of me at this time? And the Pope promises that as we commit to small actions, we start to imagine another way of living together, of serving our fellow beloved creatures. “We can begin to dream of real change, change that is possible.”
In this it seems that Francis is speaking from personal experience. He mentions concrete examples of responding to global problems, for example: bringing back to Rome after his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos a few of the immigrants stranded there and the impact that seemingly token action made on the rest of the world.
We pray then: God of love, enlighten us who possess power and money to avoid the sin of indifference. (Pope Francis: A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation)
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.