Thursday, December 4, 2008

daily inspiration: social justice in the right places

I've mentioned in this blog previously how I'm a "Cafeteria Catholic." Without going too much into the tangled web of my spirituality, let's just say I'm one of millions out there who struggles with being a liberal and being a Roman Catholic. Stories like priest denying communion to or encouraging confession for Obama supporters and reports of the Vatican aligning itself with rogue nations to block a UN resolution on decriminalizing homosexuality, make it damn hard to "keep the faith" as it were.

I've definitely had friends try and persuade me to "switch teams" to "Catholic-Lite" Episcopalianism, to other forms of established Protestantism, even to Unitarianism. But being of Irish-Catholic descent I view my Catholicism almost like Judaism (or I suppose (just to rile some folks up) like gender, sexual orientation or skin color), as something you are born with.

I didn't even grow up in an overtly Catholic household, my mom was raised hardcore in the church and didn't want the same for her kids. However, the core beliefs, values and traditions were still there. When I entered Catholic school in 9th grade I didn't really have that hard of time adjusting. In fact, I loved Jesuit education so much that I decided to continue that path in college.

I love approaching social justice through intellectualism and cultural pursuits. I am so grateful that I had eight years of education encouraging me to challenge what was going on around me. I'm glad I went to two schools that required Christian Service and Service Learning. At the same time these were schools with only limited required Masses and well-rounded theology programs.

I've only really ever experienced a handful of times in the Church were I blatantly disagreed. And you know what? Lightning didn't come down and strike me for doing so. Also I was allowed to express my dissenting opinion, as long as I had a solid argument. At any rate, it's my personal experiences that keep me Catholic, not the negative stories that I know are true.

What does this rambling have to do with my daily inspiration?

Lo and behold, a positive story in the news about a Guantanomo Bay military prosecutor, Darrel Vandeveld, who began to struggle with the moral and ethical issues he continuously faced in his job. He ended up emailing Jesuit Peace Activist, John Dear, who encouraged him to quit.

It also seems very clear that he kept his faith and the law separate (i.e. he was prosecuting Gitmo detainees because they were "non-Christian"), but his faith helped him discern how to deal with the injustices of the situation. I am in no way arguing that someone of a different faith, or someone who has no faith at all, would not come to the same conclusion merely as a human being with a soul. However, for me as a Catholic it is very encouraging to read a positive report like this instead of all of the other stuff that discourages me.

Thanks Fr. Dear and Mr. Vandeveld for throwing me a bone of faith!


  1. synaptic southpaw (born lefty)December 5, 2008 at 2:35 AM

    Passing into my fifth decade and singly raising a 12-yr-old on the previously learned values, dropping the "church," actually freed me up to live the "catholic," life. Your statement, "However, the core beliefs, values and traditions were still there," tells me that I don't think you will be able to change that part of you, even if you try, thus keeping your true faith.

    Hint: The pope/church is not entirely infallible. They just tell themselves that to feel better.

  2. I heard John Dear speak a couple of years ago & had chills almost the entire time he was speaking. I think he is our modern day Gandhi... His autobiography just came out & as fate would have it, my publishing company printed the book! I know you were just saying you Twittered about some tickets & they fell in your lap. Well, as part of the company that published the book, I'd like to send you a copy if you wish. You can contact me at
    It's a great read....


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