By Fr. Rich, O.P.
As we continue to come to terms with a new reality in our Church, the time has come to move from contemplation to action. There is available to us a process whereby we can move into that phase. It is grounded in an encyclical written by Saint John XXIII: Mater et Magistra. Reaching back to Pius XII’s expression the ‘signs of the times,’ John challenged the Church of his day to a renewal in its own life and in its involvement in the world.
In Mater et Magistra, St. John affirms the process of See, Judge, Act as a way of reading and responding to the signs of the time:
There are three stages which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice. First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgement on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: observe, judge act.
Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961 (# 236)
I learned these principles when I was studying theology at Aquinas Institute. They are a solid ground on which to move in a direction that addresses and offers proactive, thoughtful, and compassionate action. Here they are:
Seeing, hearing, and experiencing the lived reality of individuals and communities.
Naming what is happening that causes you concern
Carefully and intentionally examining the primary data of the situation. What are the people in this situation doing, feeling, and saying? What is happening to them and how do you/they respond?
We have had this given us by the Pennsylvania Report and all the other data over the years as a result of the ongoing scandal.
The word ‘judge’ is used here in a positive sense — to analyse the situation and make an informed judgement about it. The analysis consists of two critical elements: 1) social analysis and 2) theological reflection. The last years, months, and weeks have given us more than enough information to make an “informed judgement.”
The time has come now to
Planning and carrying out actions aimed at transforming the social structures that contribute to suffering and injustice.
Victims have been encouraged to report their abusers; those who have been aware and were negligent in reporting are being held accountable. Education and awareness are being offered to those who are in a position of caring for our children and young adults. Knowledge is power, and that power can serve us well as we move forward to create environments in which our children feel safe.
This process of “See, Judge, Act” is not once and done. It requires vigilance,and ongoing engagement of the world around us. Complacency is the enemy; it allows evil an entrance, and it will take advantage.
Bishop McKnight, in his letter, wrote that it will be a different Church. We can make it a Church of compassion and God’s love. We can make it a Church grounded in faith, nurtured by hope. Let us begin.