Connecting with today’s reality the struggle goes on

For most Christians who are engaged in the struggle for social justice, the struggle started in 1891 with Rerum Novarum.

Too often, the Catholic view of history leaps from mountain top to mountain top without nary a look down in the valley where history is being made and the “kingdom” of solidarity is being constructed.

It is this type of history that carries within it the virus of triumphalism.

Fortunately, the workers who with the coming of the industrial age entered history, did not have the freedom nor power to fly over history. They were locked into the mortal struggle of making a living for their growing families.

PEASANTS BECOME WORKERS

The start of the industrial age was marked by billions of peasants leaving their “eternal” villages. They were forced to leave.

The powerful energy that pushed and pulled them out of the known into the unknown was generated by an incredible miracle of the lowering of the infantile mortality rate.

In the 1860s or so, my great grandmother in a village only 90 miles from Rome brought 11 children into the world and only three survived to get married. My grandmother, in the 1890s brought the same number of children into the world and the grave did not call one.

This miracle was rooted in the pasteurization of milk and simple hygiene.

And indeed, it is the same basic energy that is sweeping through the Third World and which will result in a population of 10 billion or so by the year 2050.

Some are still rooted in past history when 80% of the population lived in these “eternal” villages, claim that the peasants move into the cities “lured by the dazzling of an opulence beyond their reach.”

This is the pull theory of history but one has also to see the push theory of history.

Literally, the old wineskins could not hold the new young life beating off early death and so the new life spilled into the city. The incredible growth power of cities moved our world into a state of accelerated history.

MEMBERS MOVE FASTER THAN INSTITUTIONS

In a speeding world, every institution is in grave danger of moving in first gear while its membership travel in overdrive.

Even when an institution does speak, its membership has moved ahead to the new trenches of history. They hear the words that bring an echo of courage amidst their continuing struggle. And even then, how long does this echo take to reach the sinews field of action.

In the early 20’s, my dad started to work in the railroads in Canada.

A union organiser approached him to join. When my dad paid, he was told not to tell anyone because secrecy was all important. After a few months, silence was total.

So dad asked his fellow-worker if he had joined the union, “yes, but I have heard nothing.” They then realized that they had been “conned.”

This did not stop them from saying yes to a new union organiser.

This persistence did not come from any ideology rather it came from the fact that there was no going back. The hiring practices were such that the foreman decided who would be hired.

Survival was the name of the game. Whenever my dad got tired of the struggle, he would fall back into his old culture of “God made the rich and God made the poor” which often was also the thought of many churchmen of his day.

It was within this status quo of culture that the struggle for justice was fought.

Robert Crichton, who loved to write micro-history, in his book “The Camerons” describes the start of the labour movement in Scotland alongside the opposition of the Church.

Imagine the union leaders going to church on Sunday and having to listen to the following sermon.

“There is a ladder in this world stretching all the way to eternity and on that ladder there is a rung for everyone. In his infinite wisdom God placed each person on his proper rung. Knowing one’s place on the ladder is the fount of true happiness. The great sin is that of false aspirations.”

In the end, it could only lead to failure and the one out of step with the ordained rhythm of the world. Sooner or later life would shake the false aspirers to pieces.

Crichton continues: “One of the union leaders was a miner who had lost his legs in a mine accident and as he came out said: ‘Where do I stand on the ladder, with no legs to stand on?’”

HISTORY CAN GIVE US COURAGE

The struggle for social justice was and will remain forever a struggle swimming up stream. This very quick look in the rear view mirror of speeding history is all important so as to feed on the courage of those that went before in this struggle.

We will need all the courage that we can get if we want to face the challenge of building up justice for a world of 10 billion people just around the next curve of history. Call it imperialism, internationalism or globalism, this new phase of history means that we are all in the same boat moving into an unknown future beyond the artefact, not to say idol, make by human hands.

The sweet taste of past victories is but the nectar of the coming battles. It is not wrong to celebrate victories like job security.

A quick look at any collective agreement shows history etched in layers of struggle.

It shows workers winning better wages, a share in decision-making lessening the “divine right” of managers, seniority rights, holidays, methods of promotion, health insurance and more. All of this did not drop out of the sky, rather it is rooted in the struggles of workers to civilize and humanize industrial society.

THERE IS NO REST FOR THE GOOD

For a split-second of history, in the bright and short-lived light of a firefly, the worker movement like Moses could rest on the mountain and taste victory. Yet those that sit on their laurels and keep looking in the rear view mirror will either lose their way or worse, end up in a crash.

In the United States, just a few decades ago, the labour union movement had arrived. They had nearly 32% of the work force organized. Suddenly, like a summer thunderstorm, the growth came to a grinding halt and since then, they have been in a free fall. Presently, they are down to 16% and not exactly holding. Hidden in this statistic is the fact that only 7% of workers in manufacturing are in unions.

The major strategy of the unions was the bargaining table and now suddenly the bargaining table has been removed by the corporations moving south to the non-union part of the country, tomorrow Mexico and then the Third World.

In Canada and Europe where unions bargained but also played a strong social role with their political parties, the fall has not happened but the same pull towards lower wage areas of the world is a fact of life. In our modern world, there is an “infallible” law that money travels faster than people.

One can and does move billions with a soft touch of a computer key.

How much more difficult it is to move people geographically, culturally and spiritually! It is this “law” that turns part of the country into a “rust belt” and allows another sector to grow.

The workings of this “law” is well described by Jeremy Rifkin and Randy Barber in their book “The North will rise again.”

“The highly unionized, highly taxed and antiquated region is being systematically abandoned by the private capital market. The banking community has turned off the vital flow of capital in a regional ‘red lining’ campaign. The powers that be have instead turned their attention and resources towards the sunnier pastures of the low wage, non-unionized states of the sun belt.”

The most ironic twist of this new strategy of capitalism is that this flow of capital is made up mostly of pension funds of workers that are losing their jobs. This get away economy is fuelled by the nearly $800 billion pension funds.

Rifkin and Barber write: “While one could say that working people now ‘own’ the greater part of the American economy, ownership without control, is no ownership at all. And working people do not control their pensions nor do their unions nor their politicians. The day-to-day control had been ceded to a handful of banks and insurance companies to use as they see fit.”

Workers must run to keep up with their savings. Corporate capital calls the shots in the post-industrial world. They exercise the ceded power, over unions that have to compete with low wage regions and even over state and federal governments. He who creates jobs calls the tune. This non-elected power raises questions as to the viability and usefulness of political democracy.

WHO ARE THESE ECONOMIC FORCES?

Too often the social teachings of the Church explains how an economy should work and tends to finger communism and treats capitalism with a slight slap on the wrist. With the demise of philosophical communism which took ten years to deliver a Lada car, now the spotlight shines on the “victor,” unipolar global capitalism. Words are not sufficient to thwart their strategies.

To understand its strategies, it is imperative that one breaks the codes of their highly paid myth makers. If one listens to them, the mom and dad corner stores (before they were franchised) are the soul of the free market economy.

The spinmakers are forever talking about the 11 millions small businesses made of farmers, small partnerships and small businesses and millions of small corporations with less than $1 million in assets. According to them, this is the American reality.

The “big lie” boys (and to use inclusive language) and girls are forever praising free enterprise, initiative, risk and service of the business world. These are all good words but is it for real.

A closer look shows that 400 corporations control 80% of the country’s production and the other 10,999,600 produce the other 20%.

It is the small producers that practice the values of risk and creativity and enterprise but for what end.

Some sneak between the legs of the elephant and survive and some become elephants themselves like McDonald’s which have become the “saints” of the system by mating computers with youth minimum wages. Others like Apple have to join IBM to survive. 

Outside these few, the rest are but fodder of the real planners of the global economy, the corporations which in the last few decades have become global. Beyond governments, they are planning the future of the world. The corporations despite their smooth talk try their hardest to assure that their professed virtues are kept in their place and not in the boardrooms.

The great virtue of competition is mutated into bargaining for market share. Risk is submerged in long ranging plans from natural resources in the Third World, to the shopping malls of the First World. What is virtuous for the small becomes suicidal for the big dedicated to growth.

WAR AND CORPORATIONS

One cannot hope to understand the modern global economy without understanding the plans of the global corporations. The recent Gulf War can be traced right back to corporate planning. War is not in their planning but accidents do happen.

In the early 80’s, both Canada and the U.S energy policies were discarded. These policies were designed to conserve energy and develop new sources of energy. Autos had to move further on less energy.

Two major auto corporations refused and so going into the 80’s owed governments over $1 billion in fines. With the installation of the new governments, the fines were cancelled and the policies discarded under the premise that governments should not be meddling in corporate affairs. 

We are now back into the early 70s with corporations planning energy and dependent on their resources in the Near East. Suddenly, the newly created “Saddam, the Frankenstein” decided to take over corporate resources.

Dependency on corporate plans leads directly to war. Shareholders can sell their shares but never can they vote on the board.

This is the first time, at least in Western history that such a non-accountable energy is on the loose.

Even the most powerful kings of the past were accountable to God. Now you have most of the 400 largest corporations accountable to the State of Delaware.

The basic urge of power is to control. The corporations must have control of capital, technology, natural resources, markets, small businesses, media, unions, and governments. One cannot hope to plan growth which means investment of billions of dollars without control over all these instruments.

Capital is controlled by exercising power over prices. In a planned economy, competitive pricing is a no-no.

Pius XI wrote in Quadragesimo Anno in 1931: “Free competition is dead.”

A reading of this encyclical would list it as the hardest hitting social letter by a Pope, even though the six lines on corporatism sank it. When pricing is controlled, the corporations take over taxation, and in some ways takes these powers away from governments.

Corporations are rarely found looking for loans except in take-over bids. They generate their own capital.

CONTROL IS THE NAME OF THE GAME

Technology must also be part of the control package. The strategy is to get the latest technology at the cheapest possible price.

A recent issue of Atlantic magazine describes how the military budget is the fulcrum of research. This, of course is “good” intervention by the government! With this control over technology, they stopped their export to the communist countries and so all their planning without technology led nowhere.

With modern technology, the global corporations can buy into new operations like the North Sea oil discovery but will refuse to sell it. They will sell technology only when they have more modern machinery to compete with the old technology.

One can say that the Gulf war was between 1980 technology and the 1991 variety. Arms like cars are sold to the Third World when they are used. Resources, both mineral and petroleum, must be on call at a price that fits into the planned economy. The price is controlled by assuring that the supply is always more than the demand.

When demand starts to catch up with supply, the World Bank, an instrument of the corporations will extend loans to third world countries to increase supply. If the velvet glove control fails, then gun diplomacy is the last refuge.

MARKETS MUST BE THE END OF PLANNING

What is the good of planning if the markets are not available. Today real economic power lies in the hand of those that control the market place. Nothing can be left to chance. Before even the production line starts to hum, the market research “doctors” are out there moving people away from needs to wants. The creation of wants leads directly into the inner spaces of persons.

If the Church cannot see itself struggling for a just economy, can it avoid the struggle when the very inner spaces of people are being raped. It is within the very mystery of the person that the economic system is fashioned into an idol which is now competing with the faith in a way that no other religions has even done in the past. Marx is dead! Long live Freud!

Our so-called progressive theologians have caught up with Marx but are still to discover the power of Freudian thought in the market place.

As the kings had to control the town crier, so must the corporation control the modern media. They have captured the very air waves which carries images and ideas incarnated in real life.

People no longer have to make efforts to plant the idea rather the whole image is implanted in that part of the brain that is called to make decisions. Even the sub-conscious is not safe.

Recently, in Canada, a judge ruled that tobacco companies should be allowed to restore their ads as “after all it has not been proved that advertising leads to increased sales.” Common sense would say that spending incredible sums on a product should lead to increased sales. The post judgment reaction proves the judge wrong, the day after, the price of tobacco shares reached for the sky.

How detailed must this planning be, can be seen by actions of CBS. CBS ratings had been on the way down so they hired a new programming person. In less than three years, this new director was able to increase ratings and in turn advertising revenue. Yet this very success led to his dismissal. A closer look showed that adult ratings had increased and youth ones had gone down.

Advertising demands that the media “hooks” youth, after all, the old can only drink beer for just a short time more. Most TV programs are aimed at population under 30. In fact, new ads are being designed to reach children for they have discovered the “buying power” of children.

CORPORATIONS AND POLITICS

With youth in the fold of the new computer idol, the process of domesticating governments and unions must move apace. The process is but an extension of selling goods. Study the fears of people and then associate oneself with the exorcism of these fears. Elections are no longer won by detailing policies but rather by the better ads that pierce the fear curtain of the populace.

The winning of elections is but the first step in the control process. The next step is to artificially create huge government deficits by cutting back taxes on the rich and the corporations and then blaming excessive spending for the deficit. This freezes any new social programs. Anyone who proposes such programs will have to increase taxes.

Who will propose this cure?

Governments have been returned to their 19th century model “keep your nose out of the economy.” At the same time, they want taxpayers to produce a human product that fits into the corporate culture from the production line to the board room. They want a knowledgeable product with only directed knowledge, not a knowledge that may want to change corporate structures. Art is out science is in. 

Again the power of corporations can be seen in our own Catholic colleges. In the last few months, I was in two universities and was lodged in two residences dedicated and built by funds from corporations. I would call these, monuments to the church’s “knowledge strategy” in building up the kingdom. I fear that corporations are hijacking the educational system!

Meanwhile, state governments and unions are controlled by jobs. Their vocabulary is no longer about a just redistribution of power in the economy but rather how many jobs will this new corporate plan bring into the area.

A few years back, the provincial government of Ontario announced that they were making a grant of $70 million to a new Ford plant valued at over $500 million. The opposition attacked strongly but the government silenced them by pointing out that this new plant would provide 2000 new jobs.

Two years later, just before opening the new plant, Ford closed a plant with 3200 jobs. New technology does not need as much labour.

What does the government say? We did save 2000 jobs which would have gone to Indiana if we did not make the grant.

Technology is designed to make jobs scarce and so the one who delivers jobs has the power. The last element of real power is the power of the corporations to remain invisible.

In early industrial history, the corporation was dominated by the cult of the personality which made Henry Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller etc. household names. We have now entered an age of facelessness.

Can anyone here tell me the name of the president of Exxon? I must admit that I cannot. He did appear before a Senate committee for two hours (North appeared for nearly 20 days) to explain the Valdez disaster. This earned him a one minute space of PBS and then a return into the fog of power.

The faceless power is what Paul called the “powers and principalities” or maybe closer to the truth would be John’s image in Revelations “the dragon with ten heads.” When corporate power dominates the “fodder” economy, the media, global trade, education, governments and unions, this power becomes the “soul” of a culture.

Yet beneath the lid of power, the pot is full of nothingness.

A culture, no matter how powerful, if fact, its very power leads to nothingness must, as all cultures do, create people in its image of nothingness.

This is the central problem of the day. The vast pain of nothingness has given birth to the drug culture. Drugs do not come from outside rather it is the inside calling to relieve the pain of nothingness.

DOES THE CHURCH HAVE A STRATEGY?

The strategy of the Church in my day was to keep me within the fort and teach me the answers that other Christians may ask me. My frustration was that the questions were never posed.

In my youth, the Young Christian Workers movement came out to meet me in the desert and by their deeds and actions, I came to understand my dignity as a worker.

What is the role of the church in this post-industrial world? We are in a deadly combat with a powerful economic system cum religion. In this religion, we are but objects. The only and single mandate of the Church in this age and all ages is to reveal that God is master of history and who designs history by a continual act of love.

It is only the energy of love that can make the person whole again and become his/her own unique self.

This love cannot be contained by family frontiers rather it must be the very essence of our economic, social, political and cultural life. If love is present only at the end of the line picking up the broken people, it will give witness to a certain love but love must be the whole reaching all sectors.

One cannot contain God at the end of the inhuman chain. We must serve also the so-called successful people embalmed in a culture of nothingness. In this culture, there are no successes.

HOW DO WE VIEW THE MODERN WORLD?

Some look at the world through the prism of morality and call for a restored morality. Others see is as a social and economic problem and plead that the church become more active in the task of social justice. Still others see how culture is imposing its image. It is all of this and more.

We face a world that is deeply wounded in the deepest part of its spirit. When the spirit is wounded nearly to death, all words remain just words. The spirit must be healed by a holistic analysis which should lead to a holistic strategy.

Words do not have the power to get corporate power to change their ways. Encyclical follows encyclical, exhortations step on the toes of other exhortations, without much impact on history. It is imperative that we go beyond social and even cultural analysis, to develop a holistic analysis. We are still far from this. In fact, we are in the midst of sending out mixed messages.

In March, the latest social encyclical Centesimus Annus was issued. The respect for the human person was mentioned 15 times. Then just as the social drum beat was reaching a peak, the Pope called for a special meeting of the Cardinals to discuss “the respect of life.”

Unfortunately, this was limited to the beginning of life and the end of life, abortion and euthanasia. As grave and important as these issues are, they cannot be separated from the culture of nothingness.

Birth and death, entry and exit have always been treated as special sacred times by every culture. When these sacred times are threatened, it is that the rest of life has already been dominated by the new culture.

It follows that if we are living in a culture which spreads nothingness then this culture cannot but combat the last outposts of the dying culture.

The respect of life must be a seamless garment moving from the womb through the office, factory, cinema, TV, boardroom all the way to the tomb and beyond.

If there is any one that can penetrate the new walls of Rome, if so, please send the following FAX message: “Your proposed statement on the respect of life should be holistic, one going from birth through life to death. As the present Pope can be categorized as the Pope of the person, every encyclical he writes, includes specific passages on the dignity of the person. All one would have to do is to bring together there varied passages into a coherent whole and add the respect of the unborn and the dying. This type of seamless thinking would be well received by all.”

WHERE DOES ONE START?

Where does one start to transform a culture of nothingness into the Kingdom of God? In Christifidelis Laici, Pope John Paul II gives us a hint where to start and at the same time, the depth of the spiritual crisis of the day.

He writes under the heading: Promoting the Dignity of the person. “To rediscover and make others rediscover the inviolable dignity of every human person makes up an essential task, in a certain sense, the central and unifying task of the service which the church, and the lay faithful in her, are called to render to the human family.” §37

There is always a danger of reading too much in a paragraph, especially, as it was my royal road back into the church. I can still remember the sign soon to become a scream “Hey man I am important.” The real words that lead me to wonder are the words “in a certain sense, the central and unifying task of the Church.”

The simplification of this letter by the Grail does not include these words. Could it be that the restoration of dignity is necessary before one can even understand the gospels. One does not throw pearls to swine and when a person believes that he is nothing, does one not become less than a swine.

How can one understand the perfect love of Jesus when one cannot love the “nothingness of oneself”?

The more than dead stones of a past Christian culture must be resurrected to living stones with the cry “I am important.” Can the spiritual crisis be so profound that the process of catechetical, liturgical work etc. has to finds its roots in the restoration of dignity?

All I can say, is read Christifidelis Laici and meditate especially on paragraph 37.

HOLISTIC STRATEGY

If dignity is the only door to consciousness, then consciousness must necessarily lead to wholeness. Any cohesive and living culture must penetrate like yeast all the crannies of life from birth to death. The death of Christian culture started when we isolated the yeast from the dough of everyday living. The new culture, by its very nature must penetrate life from the womb to the tomb.

If a new Christian culture is to come forth out of the tomb, it must necessarily be holistic.

It really matters little by what door we enter consciousness. Some enter this state by the realization of the struggle against death of the child in the womb, others find a breakthrough in fighting for the dignity in death, others will enter the door of social justice, others aiding the poor at the end of the production line, and still others walk through the green door of the environment “there are many rooms in my father’s mansion.”

The opening of any door must lead into the whole mansion and cannot be contained in one room. The initial spark of consciousness must lead us to the whole light. If one enters the door of social justice, one cannot remain isolated in the negotiating room rather one must find out what is happening in politics, advertising, third world and other aspects of the culture.

The environmentalists cannot remain contained behind the national frontiers as the air, water, forests etc. know no frontiers. We must all grow to see what is happening in all rooms of the mansion. Those struggling against the horror of abortion must come to realize the power of an unjust economy on many persons making the terrible choice of aborting. Those struggling for social justice must come to realize that the present growth and job policy must necessarily conflict with the “greenies.”

We must all heed the call to wholeness so that we learn to be wholly in every aspect of our lives. We must grow to become what John XXIII wrote in Mater et Magistra: “Our age is marked by a clear contrast between the immense scientific and technical progress and the fearful human decline by its monstrous masterpiece transforming man into a giant of the physical world at the expense of the spirit, which is reduced to that of a pygmy in the supernatural and eternal world.”

THE UNDISCUSSED “HOWS”

Very little is written on the hows to transform the spiritual pygmy into a spiritual giant. The church must face the reality that we know little on how to do this. How does one bring a person not just to consciousness but also to develop persons who are passionately in love with creation.

How does one bring persons to the belief that the more one penetrates creation, one gets closer to the creator? The beauty of the creator is etched in the very molecules of life. Very often, those of us, who are in pilgrimage into the atoms of life are faced with a God who is in a place but this place is never explained.

I would like to believe in the words of the Gospels that say that the Trinity has taken up residence in the person, in the created consciousness of creation.

SOCIAL TEACHINGS ARE BUT NICE WORDS

Without this loving embrace of creation, the words of the social teachings remain sterile. Even knowledge of these teachings do not automatically lead to commitment. Too often, these teachings have had difficulties penetrating the knowledge curriculums of our schools. Yet even if they do, we must humbly admit that education is but part of the culture and it is culture that finally forms the person in its image.

THE SEE, JUDGE, ACT METHOD

The beginning of all real knowledge is by seeing reality. We must see the ghettos in the midst of the plenty of our suburbs. It is in the seeing that the social teachings can come alive.

In the field of history, we have arrived at a time when the victims of history are starting to educate the historians. Maybe the time has also arrived when economists may start to learn the real economy by listening to the victims of the system.

In some ways, we are prisoners of our experience. Our own “hows” may be useful for the whole Church. I present them to you for your thinking. My “how” started with the see, judge and act process of learning.

Later, I was to learn that is the dialectical method of formation, I was told in a confession in St Peter’s in Rome that it was a Dominican method (the priest was a Dominican) whatever, it worked for me.

I have my own way of explaining the “how.”

One comes to see reality when one discards one’s cultural eye glasses, culture always dictates our sight, and see things as they really are, often in their very ugliness. It would seem that one has to walk through the shell of ugliness to discover beauty. One then puts this ugliness on the anvil of beauty, the gospels then one confirms this discovery by action.

It is only action that turns knowledge into commitment. It is only loving that begets love.

THE POWER OF ACTION

Action starts, like an infant taking its first step, for the infant, it is normal, for the parents, it is a “miracle.” I remember well my first action that moved me into consciousness and outside my culture. It all started with ten young workers discussing life. Real commitment can only develop in small groups.

Our first inquiry was on the family. The following are some facts about family life in the late 40’s.

“No I don’t stay home evenings.” “No, we do not go out with our parents.” “No, we never visit our fathers place of work.” These insights were starting to flesh out the reality of a disintegrating family life. This reality was put on the anvil of a possible new vision of family life. This vision had made an end run around seeing reality through cultural eyes.

Our first line of defense against the reality was “there is nothing wrong, everybody does it.” We were prisoners of horizontal morality. But a doubt gave birth to a new vision, “it would seem to be that you know the corner store owner better than your parents.” “That’s right, he is our guru.” “Is this normal?”

From this little doubt that maybe there was something beyond the culture, we started to think about acting. If doubt finds its way into the mind, it is confirmed by action. Today, the actions sound like the prattling of infants. One said that he would stay home for a few evenings, I decided to ask my dad out to a movie.

Easier said than done, especially if you had not gone out with your father for a good 14 years.

Within the see of this action were all the elements of a new life. The action, unleashed the courage necessary to ask my dad. It unfurled my first genuine prayer to receive the courage to carry out the action.

When I asked my dad to go out to a movie and the answer was yes, we went and saw John Wayne in Red River. In those days, movies ran continually, so my father asked me if we could see it a second time. My joy was total. My peace was whole. This infantile action brought me, through my father, to embrace the whole of my Italian culture.

It had cured one of the major spiritual problems of the day, the sterile gap that divides son from father.

This gap is the real discontinuity of history. Even more, it brought me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the village culture of my parents. How clearer does one see one’s own culture through the mirror of another.

Maybe I am trying to read too much into this first action but then the running of the mile in less than four minutes started with the first baby step. Another baby step, was an inquiry on youth unemployment, it was a serious problem then and even more today. We discovered that unemployment was willed by the system as a good control over wages.

This ugliness of made to measure unemployment was worsened when one heard the youthful victim blaming oneself. I discovered the worker movement and the social teachings of the church on the anvil of our judgement. The pain and hurt of reality must be discovered before looking for a cure.

CONCLUSION

To sum up, the social teachings of the church are alive and well but, too often, they remain safe on the library shelves of our lives. They must take on the flesh of “witnesses.” Words without flesh are not sufficient.

The very powerful words of the Prophets could not penetrate the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites. The owner of the vineyard had to send his only son and even then the hardness of heart murdered the son. How powerful is the evil of a hard heart! Evil does not fear words but it cannot face up to the incarnation of the word.

I would like to end this talk with a modern day psalm which sums up reality and summed up the life of Robert Kennedy. He was a moralistic Irishman and was dedicated to rooting out evil. He had never really thought through the parable of the tares.

From this, through the assassination of his brother, he came to feel despair. And in the blackness of despair, he read all of Albert Camus’ books which brought him to the hope of “lighting a match in the midst of darkness.”

Two weeks before he died he gave the following psalm to a political rally.

“Let us be clear at the outset that we will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them.

 “The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads. And it even includes research on the improved dissemination of the bubonic plague.

“The Gross National Product swells with equipment for the police to put down riots in our cities, and though it is not diminished by the damage these riots do, still it goes up as slums are rebuilt on their ashes. It includes Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife and the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.

And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and that safety of our streets alike.

“It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public or the integrity of our public officials. It allows neither for the justice in our courts, nor for the justness of our dealing with each other.

The Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America – except whether we are proud to be Americans.” (Newfield)

June 25/92 Milwaukee, Wi. Sacred Heart Seminary.

Celebration of centennial of Rerum Novarum.