I just listened to part of San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy’s address to the February 18 meeting of the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, California. It is a message to revive hope.
I am overwhelmed by the force of his words. Read them here or listen to them here, starting at about 1:21:45.
They are some of the most forceful words I have heard from a bishop. I am reminded of Monseñor Romero as well as of the Baptist prophet Martin Luther King, Jr.
I want to share a few parts, but urge you to read the whole speech.
He starts by laying out the Catholic Social methodology of See, Judge, and Act and then makes them real, in pointed remarks – that can be seen as direct rebuttals of much of the political rhetoric coming out of Washington.
Here are just a few points:
1) “see clearly the situation”:
"Never be afraid to speak the truth. Always find your foundation for reflection and action in the fullness of empirical reality. Design strategies for change upon ever fuller dissemination of truths, even when they seem inconvenient to the cause.
"This is an especially important anchor for us, in an age in which truth itself is under attack."
2) “judging with principles to foster integral development.”
“…free markets do not constitute a first principle of economic justice. Their moral worth is instrumental in nature and must be structured by government to accomplish the common good.”
“…a grave suspicion about enormous levels of economic inequality in society. Pope Francis made clear the depth of this suspicion two years ago. “Inequality,” he said, “is the root of social evil.”
To make his quotation from Pope Francis that “this economy kills” real he asked all those in attendance to do an experiment:
"I want you to sit back in your chair for a moment. And close your eyes, and I want you to think of someone you have known that our economy has killed: A senior who can’t afford medicine or rent; a mother or father who is dying, working two and three jobs, really dying because even then they can’t provide for their kids; young people who can’t find their way in the world in which there is no job for them, and they turn to drugs, and gangs and suicide. Think of one person you know that this economy has killed.
"Now mourn them.
"And now call out their name; let all the world know that this economy kills."
But it is in speaking about acting that the bishop spoke a resounding message of challenge, centered on two words – disrupt and rebuild.
"I came up with two words. The first, sadly, has been provided by our past election. President Trump was the candidate of “disruption.” He was “the disruptor,” he said.
"Well now, we must all become disruptors. We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men, women and children as forces of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children."
"But we, as people of faith, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as children of Abraham, as followers of the Prophet Muhammad, of people of all faiths and no faith, we cannot merely be disruptors, we also have to be rebuilders.
"We have to rebuild this nation so that we place at its heart the service to the dignity of the human person and assert what that flag behinds us asserts is our heritage: Every man, woman and child is equal in this nation and called to be equal.
"We must rebuild a nation in solidarity, what Catholic teaching calls the sense that all of us are the children of the one God, there are no children of a lesser god in our midst. That all of us are called to be cohesive and embrace one another and see ourselves as graced by God. We are called to rebuild our nation which does pay $15 an hour in wages, and provides decent housing, clothing and food for those who are poorest. And we need to rebuild our Earth, which is so much in danger by our own industries."
The bishop appeals not only to the faith traditions of all people but to the vision of the United States: the vision of equality.
He concluded with these admonitions:
"So let us see and judge and act.
"Let us disrupt and rebuild.
"And let us do God’s work."
I can only hope and pray that his words are heard and reflected upon by the US Catholic bishops and all people of faith.
It would be encouraging to see a church that disrupts and rebuilds - in the US and also here in Honduras.